About this series: Wheels wants to inspire you to explore. This series of day trips and longer drives highlights great experiences you can have in the province and shows you why Ontario is “Discover Us”.
With historic limestone buildings and a riverside setting reminiscent of a European city, it’s no wonder Cambridge has become a popular filming location for TV shows and movies such as ‘Handmaid’s Tale’, ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ and ‘Red’ . In addition to his romantic architecture, an abundance of walking routes, a handful of first-class restaurants, and a casual atmosphere make Cambridge ideal for a quick day trip from Toronto.
Here’s how to best discover the best it has to offer on a day trip.
In the morning: Leave Toronto around 8am and head west on Hwy 401. It’s just over an hour to your first stop, Monigram Coffee Roasters. This small coffee roaster is housed in a century-old building in Cambridge’s legendary Galt neighbourhood. Choose from a range of coffee blends — all brewed from ethically sourced beans and roasted on site — paired with a light pastry or filling bagel sandwich.
Enjoy your coffee in the charming interior of Monigram or take your drink on a self-guided tour of Galt, one of the three small towns that merged into the city of Cambridge in 1973. A designated heritage district, Galt’s scenic location on the Grand River and 19th-century limestone buildings create an enchanting atmosphere. See the stately homes along Lansdowne Road and Brant Street, admire the beautiful architecture of buildings such as the Galt Collegiate Institute and Central Presbyterian Church, and snap a photo in front of the “Wings” mural in Ainslie Street South.
Finish your morning at the Fashion History Museum, which houses an impressive collection of artifacts from the 17th century. See more than 12,000 pieces—including a hat worn by Julia Grant, wife of U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant—and the extensive library of fashion publications and documents.
In the early afternoon: For a casual lunch, order a Holey Burger – a burger with a hole in the middle – and hand-cut fries from the seasonal hot dog shack LA Franks. It is a local institution that has been serving comfort food for almost 30 years. Or, if the mood calls for something a little more upscale, head to Cambridge Mills and enjoy farm-to-table meals served in a former mill building with sweeping river views.
After lunch, it’s time for an insect encounter at the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory, which is home to more than 40 butterfly species. You will be surrounded by thousands of butterflies, as well as small birds and plants, as you stroll through the conservatory’s 10,000 square foot tropical garden.
In the late afternoon: Drop in to Reids Chocolate, a family-owned chocolatier that has been operating in Cambridge for over 70 years. Grab some sea salt — vanilla caramel covered in chocolate and drizzled with sea salt — or the brittle beer to nibble on now or take home as a souvenir (or both).
Discover the great outdoors of Cambridge with a walk along some of the nearly 36 miles of trails. The Grand Trunk Trail, which follows the Grand River south through Cambridge for six miles, is a popular option with a picturesque waterfall, pretty wooded areas and a few interesting sites, including a 19th-century mill.
Be sure to have binoculars handy if you opt for the Bob McMullen Linear Trail, which is known for excellent bird watching. Or you may prefer the Mill Run Trail loop, which offers fine views of the river and a trio of mill runs (water channels dug into the ground to power watermills).
In the evening: By now you’ve got enough appetite for dinner. Make your reservations well in advance for a meal at Langdon Hall, which regularly ranks among the best restaurants not only in Cambridge but across Canada. Chef Jason Bangerter takes inspiration from the 75-acre estate of Langdon Hall for an excellent seasonal menu.
Vegetables, herbs and honey produced directly on the Langdon Hall grounds are complemented by other local bounties sourced from nearby farmers and foragers. A classically elegant dining room and exquisite plating complete this unforgettable dining experience.
Return to Toronto after a magical dinner or stay a little longer to catch an evening show at the Hamilton Family Theater, a modern 500-seat facility that hosts a variety of musicals, plays, and other live performances.
If you’re not ready to go yet, turn your day trip into a weekend getaway and splurge on an overnight stay in the luxury estate accommodations of Langdon Hall. Spend the second day of your trip exploring the property’s idyllic grounds and enjoy a treatment in the beautiful spa.
COVID-19 need to know
Cambridge follows Ontario’s COVID-19 guidelines. Some companies may ask you to wear a face mask. Contact individual companies to find out how they currently operate.
before the ride
Familiarize yourself with Cambridge’s past and present by listening to the ‘Explore Our Story’ podcast, which recently launched its second season. Hosted by local historian and city archivist Dan Schmalz, the podcast chronicles notable moments in the city’s history, from its establishment over 200 years ago to the present day.
• 8 am leaving Toronto
Head west on Hwy 401
• 9:30 am Monigram Coffee Roasters
• 10:00 a.m. Stroll through Galt
• 11:30 Fashion History Museum
• 12:30 pm LA Franken
• 14.00 hours Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory
• 3:30 PM Reids Chocolate
• 16.00 hours Trail walking
• 6 p.m. Langdon Hall
Note: Times are suggestions only