Looking for fun things to do in Burlington Ontario? No worries, we got you covered!
We have family in Burlington, which you’d think gives us an advantage from a local perspective, but the truth is, we’d visit our family, then head back to Toronto!
It wasn’t until we started exploring Burlington as a local we realized how awesome this city is. It’s great to get off the highway to explore while on a road trip, but it is fantastic not just for a day trip but also as a weekend getaway!
Burlington, Ontario, is a stunning city between Toronto and Niagara Falls. It’s a culturally lively metropolitan located on the northern beaches of Lake Ontario and is an easy day excursion from bustling Toronto.
Burlington has abundant family-friendly activities, quaint alleyways, trendy boutiques, and gastronomic delights. Also located in Halton Region next door to Oakville, you can combine both cities for various Oakville and Burlington things to do together. So without further ado, here is the list of top things to do when visiting this fun city.
By the way…If you’re craving a summer getaway along Lake Ontario’s shores, check out this guide to finding Ontario’s best beaches.
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This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.
History of Burlington, Ontario
Burlington City is located at the head of Lake Ontario, 50 km west of Toronto. The town first served as a beach resort and a fruit-growing center until it later developed from the northeast of Toronto in 1950.
Today, Burlington has become a lakefront residential city and is world-renowned for the Royal Botanical Gardens.
Getting to Burlington (from Toronto)
Burlington is next to major highways connecting to the Greater Toronto Area, Kitchener/Waterloo, and the Niagara Region.
It’s easily accessible by road via the ON-403 highway, and there are plenty of public transportation options, like the VIA Rail and Go transit public transportation services to Burlington. There are also plenty of taxi companies, cycling lanes, and Burlington Transit services within the city too.
Moreover, it’s within 45 minutes of major international airports: Hamilton, Kitchener/Waterloo, Buffalo, and Toronto Pearson.
The Afternoon Before Burlington Activities
Before you head off to explore Burlington in a day, there are a few things you’ll want to do the afternoon before your adventure.
1. Cottage Country Candy Outlet (Scholtens Inc)
The first thing you’ll want to do before your Burlington day adventure is to stock up on some goodies at the Cottage Country Candies Outlet. Here you’ll find some mouth-watering delights, including vegan-friendly sweetmeats, candies (and sugar-free ones), nuts and trail mixes, chocolates, and snacks.
What’s a day of activities without a handful of things to nibble on?
2. Royal Botanical Gardens
A 3-minute drive from the Scholtens Inc outlet lies the beautiful, must-see gardens. The Royal Botanical Gardens is not just any garden; it’s Canada’s largest garden and arguably one of the top Burlington attractions.
The exquisite landscapes are divided into sections and spread across 900 hectares of land. It features four outdoor gardens, three restaurants, a gift shop, and one greenhouse. Stroll around the picturesque gardens and discover the world’s largest lilac collection and over 1,000 plant and flower species.
3. Pepperwood Bistro
Once it’s time for dinner, there’s no better place for a delectable meal than the Pepperwood Bistro. It’s a local hot spot in Burlington, serving contemporary bistro fare and their own on-premise brewed beers served by the pint.
Holiday Inn Burlington
Now that you’ve stocked up on snacks, stroll around the stunning gardens; it’s time to find your accommodation for the night. The Holiday Inn Burlington has located nearby popular shops, restaurants, and attractions. It features a spa and pool; the rooms provide flat-screen TVs, wifi, a bar, and more.
What to Do in Burlington 1-Day Itinerary
What to do in Burlington, Ontario – in a day? For starters, you’ll want breakfast at your selected hotel. The Holiday Inn serves breakfast in your room with tea and coffee – what a win! Once that’s checked off your list, it’s time to dig into some Burlington, Canada, points of interest around the city.
Note: Check out my guide on what to do in Burlington on a weekend getaway for a fun and inspiring trip.
4. Sunshine Doughnuts
Compliment your day trip to the city by sampling some soft, buttery Sunshine Doughnuts in downtown Burlington’s heart. These round balls of love are handmade with fresh dough and sugary goodness.
5. Art Gallery of Burlington
Located in the heart of the city near Spencer Smith Park and a 3-minute drive from Sunshine Doughnuts is the award-winning Art Gallery of Burlington – the seventh-largest public exhibit in Ontario. The gallery has over 1,000 pieces of art in a 4,100-square-meter space.
One of the biggest attractions is its collection of contemporary Canadian ceramics, the largest in Canada. It also boasts a lovely courtyard that hosts around 20 exhibitions annually.
6. Kelly’s Bake Shoppe
Kelly’s Bake Shoppe is a must-visit if you have a sweet tooth and want to try vegan baked goods when visiting Burlington, Ontario.
Located in downtown Burlington near City Hall, the bakery is home to some of the most decadent, delicious vegan cupcakes. Sample some mouth-watering giant cookie sandwiches, award-winning Mile-High Brownies, and Nanaimo bars.
7. Village Square
And while you’re in downtown Burlington, only a 4-minute walk from the bakery, catch a hint of European charm in Village Square. It’s home to lively farmer’s markets in the summertime and the North Coal Christmas market in wintertime.
Here you’ll find an array of shops and eateries – especially when it comes to Christmas time and the holiday season. Walk along cobblestone alleyways and admire some historic architecture hugging this small square.
8. Village Cigar Company & Barbershop
Whether you’re a smoker or not, the Village Cigar Company & Barbershop is a must-visit destination. It’s home to a 100-square-foot humidor, housing the finest cigars in the city. Learn about recognizing tastes and people’s preferences, and make recommendations in the cigar world.
9. The North Coal
You’ll find the North Coal a minute from the cigar and barbershop – and no, not the North Pole. And if you’ve come during the holiday season, don’t miss the Christmas Market. From hot wings and popcorn mussels to soft shell tacos and walnut-crusted salmon, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a delicious meal and shop for gifts and apparel.
10. The Odd Spot
While you’re in the area, take a stroll around The Odd Spot. As the name suggests, you’ll come to a place filled with fun, odd, and exciting things, from Star Trek TV props to a 1970s SuperCycle Vintage bike and recycled clothing.
11. Nickel Brook Brewing
If you enjoy an ice-cold beer draft now and then, go to Nickel Brook Brewing Co and sample some of the best craft beer in Ontario. It’s a microbrewery located a short ride from downtown Burlington and a mere 6-minute drive from the Joseph Brant Museum.
The brewery serves various beers, including stouts, ales, IPAs, and sour beers – all crafted onsite in their ‘Funk Lab.’ Moreover, you can purchase other items such as apparel, glassware, accessories, and tasting kits to take home with you.
12. The Burlington Performing Arts Centre
From large-scale theatrical productions to one-person shows, the Burlington Performing Arts Centre (BPAC) is the city’s music and theatre arts hub. Located near the waterfront, the centre features an array of entertainment options.
The 720-seat main stage has had performers from all over the world, while the 165-seat Community Studio Theatre has hosted several productions that have enthralled thousands of viewers. If you’re looking for a state-of-the-art entertainment evening, treat yourself to an incredible performance at BPAC.
13. Spencer Smith Park
Speaking of strolling, why not take a 6-minute walk to Spencer Smith Park? Home to Ribfest and the Burlington Beer Festival (need we say more), it is the perfect spot for visitors looking to spend a little time outdoors as it offers green space, a playground, fountains, sculptures and more! For those looking for something more active, the paved Burlington waterfront trail is ideal for runners, cyclists, and rollerblades.
The exquisite parkland boasts several pathways, a wide promenade that hugs the lake, and benches dotted throughout. Find a spot on the expansive green lawns to relax and picnic, or take a stroll and enjoy the peaceful scenery. And if you’re taking the family on a road trip, the park also has a children’s playground and water jet area.
In addition, to Ribfest and the Burlington Beer Festival, in the spring, it’s one of the premier places in Ontario to observe cherry blossoms. During the summer, it’s about the super popular Sound Of Music festival (more details below). In the winter, the Rotary Centennial Pond is transformed into a public skating rink, and the Lakeside Festival of Lights display offers a breathtaking view of various Christmas lights.
Whatever the season, Burlington has something for everyone to enjoy!
14. Brant Street Pier
The Brant Street Pier is a 2-minute drive from The Odd Spot. Located on the shoreline, an S-shaped pier stretches 137 meters over Lake Ontario.
Walking along the pier and up the circular staircase to the elevated deck to discover exquisite views. There you’ll get to soak in the panoramic views of the lake and the Burlington shoreline.
Note: The pier is open between 7 am and 11 pm, so you can enjoy the area in the morning, noon, or night.
15. Joseph Brant Museum
Along the lakefront, 3 minutes from the park, you’ll come to find the Joseph Brant Museum. Stroll around the place and learn about Burlington’s founding, settlement, and development. The museum also features three galleries and hosts many travelling exhibitions.
Note: It opens from 10 am to 4 pm, Tuesdays to Saturdays.
16. Spencer’s at the Waterfront
Once you’ve worked up an appetite and to end off an exciting day of activities in Burlington, head for dinner at the waterfront. You’ll find Spencer’s on the Waterfront Restaurant at the west end of Spencer Smith Park.
You’ll get to savour freshly grown produce from their farm and sustainably sourced seafood. It’s the perfect place to end a beautiful day, enjoying delectable food with a spectacular view.
A Footnote on Fun Activities Burlington for a Day
The Sound of Music
One of the many reasons Burlington is one of Canada’s most beloved cities is the abundance of cultural events and festivals. And one of Canada’s largest annual music festivals, the Sound of Music Festival, is not one to miss.
It’s been held every June since the 1980s and showcases many local artists and performers celebrating Father’s Day weekend in Spencer Park.
One thing is for sure – the city of Burlington manages to captivate its visitors year-round.
Whether you want to enjoy a pleasant stroll along the waterfront promenade, sample some delectable vegan cookies, or visit Canada’s largest botanical gardens, Burlington has you covered.
So there you have it, the top attractions and things to do around Burlington within a day. If you’ve visited this city, what’s your favourite thing to do and see here? Please share; I’d love to know!
When the weather gets too hot, and the air is too humid, Burlington Beach is a great place to cool off or sun tan. Also known as The Beachway, it covers 6.8 acres of park space and has two kilometres of paved walking trails connected to Spencer Smith Park. In addition, Burlington Beach has one of the biggest baymouth bars in Ontario, the only dune habitat in Halton and home to rare plants such as seaside spurge and sand dropseed.
It’s especially popular on weekends, and between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, parking fees are in effect at $2.50 per hour or a flat rate of $20.
Mount Nemo Conservation Area
If you’re looking for tranquillity, the Mount Nemo Conservation Area is just outside of Burlington. Located 15 minutes from Burlington’s downtown, the park showcases 5 kilometres of trails with impressive views, looking as far as Toronto (on a clear day).
Nature lovers flock to Mount Nemo for its remarkable escarpment-edge ecosystem and astounding biodiversity. Everything from observing turkey vultures in flight and unique plants to interesting insect and animal species.
Please note that reservations are required, which you’ll find HERE
Accommodations + Map
Places To Visit Near Burlington
As we mentioned, Burlington has so many things on offer that it can be a weekend getaway in its own right, especially when combined with other cities within the Halton Region.
Crawford Lake Conservation – Out in the Milton area, you can explore the history of Indigenous peoples at Crawford Lake Conservation Area, home to 11 Longhouses. Spend time understanding their traditions, art, and culture.
Bronte Creek Provincial Park – North of Oakville, near the border of Oakville and Burlington, is Bronte Creek, which offers a wide range of activities everyone can enjoy, from hiking and biking to playing disc golf and swimming in its large outdoor water park.
Ireland House Museum – The Ireland House Museum is a fantastic way to combine history with fun activities. Here, you’ll find original artifacts from the original settlers of the area, which were donated by the descendants of the Ireland family.
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