See three Iroquois longhouses, watch crazy kite boarders, enjoy fabulous art and more - without driving too far.
Crawford Lake longhouse Crawford Lake longhouse, (photo permission of conservation

The Iroquois longhouses are at Crawford Lake Conservation Area, southwest of Milton. When we were younger and more agile, my wife and kids and I would explore the park’s limestone caves. Later, we took young grandchildren to learn about Iroquois life in the area long before Europeans arrived. Now, we’d cherish a stroll along the boardwalk around the lake.

There’s so much natural beauty and so much interesting stuff to learn. For example: Crawford Lake is meromictic – deeper than its surface area. Because of this, there’s almost no water movement at the bottom, little oxygen and minimal bacterial breakdown. As a result, the sediment at the bottom provides an accurate picture of the Iroquoian village that was there. This is good stuff to know when you have to impress grandchildren.

Learn more about Crawford Lake.

My wife and I discovered Crawford Lake because we have an advantage over most of our friends in the GTA. We weren’t born and raised here. We came from Montreal in 1959. In short order we found ourselves with three kids, wondering what to do on the weekend. So we had to find places to go and things to do.

Inexpensive places, such as the Metro Toronto Conservation Authority parks, were good. Free was even better. Some of the amazing sites we found are still free. Here’s just a sample of how we now exercise our mind and body with day trips for seniors that are within a short drive of Toronto.

There are so many possible day trips for seniors, such as a visit to Port Perry’s vibrant Queen Street – a delightful place to soak up history, art and craft, fashion and the beverage of your choice.

Getting to Port Perry is a relaxing and easy drive – Highway 404 to Bloomington Road, then eastward on a series of undulating Oak Ridges Moraine secondary highways. Even on a busy Sunday, the drive is  a pleasure. And what a delightful town once you arrive!

My wife and I usually stroll down Queen Street toward Lake Scugog. (You’ll find free street parking and more behind the buildings on your right as you head towards the lake.) We case the window displays. We hang out on a park bench at the waterfront park for a while. (The town library at the lakeshore has clean washrooms.)

Generally, we pop into one or two favorite stores on our way back up Queen Street. If it’s near closing time, we may stay for dinner in one of the many restaurants and pubs in Port Perry. Note, not all stores are open on Sunday.

The romantic old Victorian homes in the town make it doubly rewarding for the eyes.

Port Perry makes for a fine, old-fashioned Sunday drive. There are, of course, many other charming towns within easy range of Toronto.

Autumn in Durham County

Autumn in Durham County

Autumn in Durham County

Unionville on a weekend is a great place for strolling, shopping and eating out. The Varley Art Gallery is built around the life and works of celebrated artist Fred Varley and has other feature exhibitions.

In Elora and Fergus, Elora Gorge has enthralled visitors for 150 years. The area is known for its arts, crafts, fine food and farm-gate fresh foods.

Should you head for a nearby farmer’s market, do your eye-balling early and your buying as close to closing time as you can. Prices will magically drop because the vendors don’t want to take home their goods. I’m not sure whether that applies to  Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market. Regardless, it’s definitely worth the visit – National Geographic has ranked it the No. 1 Food Market in the World

Have you ever thought of watching the daring kite boarders at Cherry Beach?

On a hot summer’s day, Cherry Beach must be about ten degrees cooler than being in the city. A brisk fall day might require some serious bundling up, but look out towards the lake, and you could be a thousand miles away.

Even into the late autumn, the kite boarders are out on the water – and the windier, the better. You’ll be amazed by how fast they go. You’ll be astonished by the leaps and loops they make, many feet in the air.

The sailboats and power boats that you may find  moving in and out of the Outer Harbour Marina by Leslie Street Spit are generally much more tranquil.

St. Jacob's farmers market

St. Jacob’s farmers market

If the fresh air gives you an appetite, there’s a great chip truck at Cherry Beach – although I don’t know how late into the fall it’ll be open.

Be careful about parking restrictions at and near Cherry Beach. The ticket police are serious.

Challenge: How many greenhouses are there in Allan Gardens?

Wait – can you even remember the last time you or anybody in your family thought of visiting Allan Gardens?

Well, how’s this for a free afternoon on an otherwise dull day:

Two tropical Houses with plants from orchids to gesneriads A Cool Temperate House, featuring camellias, jasmine and Australian and Mediterranean plants;

The Palm House;

The Tropical Landscape House, where you’ll find gingers and fruit trees, among other plants;

The Arid House, full of unusual cacti and succulents.

Allan Gardens is a warm and welcoming delight even on the worst day of the year. Take your camera or a sketchbook.

Doors at the marke

Doors at the market

I could go on but instead, here’s a list of links to some of this senior’s favourite day trips for seniors:

Credit Valley Conservation Area:. A boardwalk provides easy access to breathtaking marshes.

The Alex Colville exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario exhibition may interest you. The AGO is accessible

The  Gerrard India Bazaar is North America’s largest South Asian ethnic market. The fabrics, the food and the warmth are delightful.

PATH is downtown Toronto’s amazing 30 km underground shopping centre. It now stretches from City Hall to the lakeshore, with more than 125 grade-level ac cess points and about 1200 shops and services, including major department stores. PATH is a great way to get around if it’s cold and wet, or too hot, outside. Try it on a weekday or a Saturday (not all stores on the PATH are open on Sunday). You can download a map at the link abov

PATH can take you directly to or close to many downtown attractions, including Ripley’s Aquarium of Cana

Work your way through the official site of Tourism Ontario for many more ideas.

So, friends, never look at a quiet weekend as a “nothing to do” time for seniors. There’s so much to discover and rediscover in day trips for seniors within about an hour from the GTA. Don’t just take my word for it. Get out there and experience it!

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