When the holiday season approaches, figuring out what to buy someone on your list can add unnecessary pressure. What if they have it already? What if they don’t like it? Well, you won’t go wrong with these 100 unforgettable Ontario gift experiences.
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Gifts can cause unnecessary stress during the holiday season. Forego the physical gifts and give someone the gift of an unforgettable experience. These memorable gifts are sure to please anyone of any age. Ontario has several of these gift experiences, from wine tasting to cruises to cabin escapes; that way, it’s easy to stay local and still have a memorable experience.
Check out these unforgettable Ontario gift experiences for everyone on your list – the adventurer, the foodie, the outdoors person, and the photographer.
2020 update: Many of these places have restrictions and safety measures in place, but please do your research and follow public health guidelines. Many of these places also offer gift certificates so that your gift recipient can go on these experiences whenever they want.
Thrilling gift experiences for the adventurer on your list
There’s always that one person on your list that seems to be doing that crazy thing, like going bungee jumping, sky diving, diving with sharks. Well, you don’t have to travel abroad to have a thrilling adventure. These exhilarating gift experiences in Ontario are perfect for that adventurer on your list.
Scenic Helicopter Tours in Ontario
Ontario makes for the perfect backdrop for a scenic helicopter ride. There are several scenic helicopter tour operators in Ontario. Tours start around $100 and range up to $600, depending on the package you get.
Niagara Helicopters is based in Niagara Falls, Ontario and takes you along a scenic aerial tour of the spectacular Niagara Falls and rapids.
Based in Parry Sound, Georgian Bay Airways takes you on a seaplane, rather than a helicopter, but you’ll see the incredible scenic 30,000 islands area. A popular trip is the fall colours over the gorgeous Georgian Bay.
Based in Gananoque, Fly 1000 Islands will take you soaring over the Thousand Island region, the famous Boldt Castle, and the historic city of Kingston.
Heli Tours is based in Toronto. See Ontario’s city as you’ve never seen it before with their helicopter tours over Toronto and Lake Ontario.
Big Blue Air, based in Collingwood, takes you up, up and away above the southern Georgian Bay region. Soar over Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Beaver Valley and more on these incredible scenic tours.
Canal or River Cruises in Ontario
There’s something so relaxing about taking a lovely river cruise. In the land of lakes and rivers, Ontario is the perfect place to explore a new area by water. Several of these cruises also include dinner, so it makes it a captivating gift experience.
Take a relaxing river cruise of the historic Grand River with Grand River Cruises starting in Brantford and heading south toward Lake Erie. Go for lunch or take a romantic dinner for two while you take in the Carolinian forest around you.
Discover the historic locks of the Trent-Severn Waterway with Liftlock Cruises, based in Peterborough. You can see just how these national historic sites work up close and personal with a lunch, dinner or sightseeing cruise.
Explore a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a cruise along Rideau Canal or explore the Ottawa River’s historic waterway. You can do both with Ottawa Boat Cruise.
Get soaked on Canada’s most famous cruise, the Hornblower, which takes you right up to the base of the spectacular Niagara Falls.
Discover the Thousand Islands on a historic riverboat with 1000 Islands Cruises. These trips will give you a chance to explore this region the way it was meant to be seen, by boat.
Take a peek into what lies below the surface with Blue Heron Cruises. This sightseeing boat tour takes you from Tobermory to Flowerpot Island, stopping to see a shipwreck and cruise Fathom Five National Marine Park.
Surprise day trip in Ontario
I’m a type-A planner, so taking a surprise trip that I had no control over was so out of my comfort zone, but man, it was so much fun! I discovered so many great things that I didn’t know existed in my home province. It was wonderful.
Surprise day trips are such a great gift experience for anyone on your holiday list.
In Ontario, you can go on a surprise day trip with Guess Where Trips. There are so many trips that they currently offer, and they are always adding more. It’s a great way to discover new places, support local businesses and have fun while you’re doing it!
The best scenic train trips in Ontario
I love travelling by train. There’s something so romantic about it. While Canada doesn’t have the same train infrastructure as Europe, there are quite a few scenic trips you can take in Ontario, and so many of them make great gift experiences.
Agawa Canyon Tour Train, in Sault Ste. Marie, takes you through a beautiful canyon to the Agawa Canyon Wilderness Park, where you can check out several waterfalls and the lovely trails.
York-Durham Heritage Railway lets you travel to a different time on a historic train that travels through the Oak Ridges Moraine between Uxbridge and Stouffville. You can also visit their Christmas stores and Wizard Emporium stores in the GTA.
All aboard the South Simcoe Railway, in Tottenham, a restored 1920s train that takes you on a round trip from Tottenham to Beeton through the Beeton Creek Valley. They also have special excursions for Easter, Fall Colours, Halloween and Santa Claus Express.
Visit the Muskoka Heritage Place in Huntsville to ride the Portage Flyer, a 1904 steam train, for a scenic trip along the Muskoka River to Fairy Lake Station. After your trip, check out the museum and take a step back in time.
On the Waterloo Central Railway, in St. Jacobs, you’ll pass farm fields, rivers and Mennonite farms. You can take a round trip to or from St. Jacobs. And on special occasions, they bring out their steam engine to lead the way.
Hot Air Balloon ride tours in Ontario
I don’t know about you, but nothing screams romantic adventure like a hot air balloon ride at midnight. Going on one of these scenic trips is high on my bucket list.
You might think you have to travel to Albuquerque, New Mexico; Cappadocia, Turkey; Bagan, Myanmar or Tuscany, Italy to take one of these memorable hot air balloon rides. Well, you can take a ride right here in Ontario. This has to be one of the most unique gift experiences you can give.
There are several places to check out, including:
- Air Display Hot Air Balloon, Barrie
- Ontario Hot Air Balloon Rides, Kitchener-Waterloo region
- Skyward Balloons, Cambridge
- Sundance Balloons, Kitchener, London and Ottawa
- Upward Bound Adventures, Elora
Tasty gift experiences for the foodie on your list
For the food-lover on your list, these gift experiences will make them smile. From wine-tasting to food tours to cooking classes, these Ontario experiences are the perfect gifts.
Wine/ Beer Tasting Tours in Ontario
For those wine lovers and beer lovers on your list, there’s a gift experience for them. These Ontario Wine and Beer tours make an excellent gift for them (and you!)
Niagara-on-the-Lake is the most famous wine location in Ontario, and Niagara Vintage Wine Tours knows precisely how to show it off. This tour operator has four daily tours that take you to some of the region’s best wineries. They also have private tours for special events.
Prince Edward County is the other region known for its wine. Prince Edward Country Wine Tours takes you on a tour of the best vineyards in the area. You can even travel by limo or go on a private two-person tour.
All aboard The Beer Bus, a Collingwood-based beer tour, will take you to the best spots in the South Georgian Bay region. It covers more than just beer since there are some tasty wineries and cideries along the way too.
The Niagara Region might be known for its wine, but Niagara Craft Brewery Tours has 10 different tours that take you to local and unique spots for craft beer, ciders and wine!
Explore the beer belt with Hamilton Beer Tours, with tours in Hamilton, Cambridge, Niagara and beyond. They have a vast list of breweries that they visit during their tour. It’ll be hard to pick your favourite!
Visit one of the most underrated areas for breweries and wineries in Ontario. Ride the Bine Tours will take you to hidden gems in Norfolk, Brantford, London and Hamilton.
Food tours in Ontario
What’s not to love about food tours? You get to explore an area, taste delicious food at hidden gems and meet the passionate small business owners behind these extraordinary places. Food tours make perfect gift experiences for anyone on your list, foodie or not.
Culinary Adventure Co. takes you on a stroll through two major foodie hotspots, Toronto and Ottawa. Get your tastebuds ready for these epic adventures at some of the best places to eat in Ontario’s largest cities.
I’ve written about how much I love Spicy Jan and her incredible food tours through Paris, Brant and Ingersol. Tasty Road Trips makes you savour every bite at some of the best local and unique places in the Brant County area. It is more than a food tour, but a cultural experience.
Toronto is a hub of culture and food fusion. With Toronto Food Tours, you can eat, drink and explore these incredible neighbourhoods from St. Lawrence Market to Chinatown to Little Italy and more
I love the laid-back atmosphere of small towns in Ontario. You’ll love The Good Food Tour of Almonte and Carleton Place, taking you to some excellent bites in these charming places just outside of Ottawa.
Cooking classes in Ontario
If the foodie on your list is more into cooking themselves, then these cooking classes in Ontario make the perfect gift experiences.
Get hands-on experience in an 1830’s farmhouse with From the Farm Cooking School in Prince Edward County. Learn about world cuisines like Moroccan, Tuscan, Vietnamese, Indian, Middle Eastern and more. There’s even traditional farm cooking as well as plant-based meals and all-day culinary experiences.
Learn how to make dishes from cuisines all over the world with Collingwood Cooking Academy. There are Thai dishes, pasta workshops, date night dinners and even a chocolate course!
Love Italian food? Learn to make your own at Natalina’s Kitchen near Guelph. The online school will make you a master in the kitchen!
Dive into the meat and potatoes of cooking with Toronto Food Tours. Learn from the best at a Friday night market, discover how to pair wine and cheese, perfect your barbecue skills and discover the best way to make brunch at these city cooking classes
Relaxing gift experiences in Ontario
I don’t know about you, but if anyone gifted me a spa day, I would scream for joy. It’s just something I would rarely get for myself. That is why these gift experience ideas – spa days, a day at a museum, a trip to a gallery and a visit to a botanical garden – make the most relaxing gifts for anyone who needs a little me time.
Best spas in Ontario
Ontario is home to several day spas and spa resorts that are the perfect place to escape for s facial or massage or something fun and crazy. You can purchase a gift certificate for these gift experiences for an amount or a particular treatment for the person on your list who needs some R&R.
Scandinave Spa, Blue Mountain – This spa, located just outside of Collingwood, is one of the most relaxing I’ve ever seen. You can go just for the Scandinavian baths or a massage that gives you access to the baths. The idea of sitting there when it’s all snowy outside makes my heart sing.
Grail Springs, Bancroft – This spa resort is located about 2.5 hours outside of Ottawa and offers a total escape focusing on wellness. Grail Springs has multi-day wellness packages for wellness-lovers or a single day spa experience. All this relaxation in the middle of Ontario’s pristine wilderness? Sign me up!
Ste Anne’s Spa, Grafton – A historic stone castle? Just 1.5 hours from Toronto? A ton of luxurious spa treatments? Excuse me while I go buy this gift experience for myself! The Ste Anne’s Spa has an expansive property to explore, hydrotherapy pools and an extensive spa treatment menu.
Elora Mill Spa, Elora – Awaken your senses at the Elora Mill Spa, overlooking the Grand River and the beautiful gorge. They offer everything from facials to massages to hand and foot care. There’s also a lovely sauna and an outdoor pool.
Bloomfield Beauty, Bloomfield – Take a luxurious spa day in Prince Edward County. Bloomfield Beauty is a bright and airy spa with everything from manicures to facials, massages and more. They even have a little shop that’s perfect for stocking stuffers.
Elmwood Spa, Toronto – This spa in the heart of Toronto offers treatments for a few hours or a full day. They’ve got everything you need for water therapies and relaxing spa services. Finish your day in their dining room, Bangkok Garden, for authentic Thai dishes.
Grand Wellness Centre, Brantford – Grand Wellness Centre stands out. Not only do they have a salt cave, which is the coolest thing I’ve ever experienced, but they also have a beer soak. And I’ve got to say, it’s pretty fantastic. This unique place also offers massages and other spa treatments. It’s the best thing to do in Brantford!
Visit a gallery or museum
Art, history, science. We’ve got it all in Ontario. There are so many galleries, museums and more that are the perfect place to bring someone for a discovery adventure. These gift experiences are great for families or anyone who appreciates how rich Ontario’s history is.
Looking to give the gift of a gallery experience? Here are a few art galleries I’d recommend:
- National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
- Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
- Tom Thomson Art Gallery, Owen Sound
- Art Gallery of Algoma, Sault Ste Marie
- Woodland Cultural Centre, Brantford
- The Group of Seven Outdoor Gallery, Huntsville
Looking for a fun adventure for families? Here are a few science centres you don’t want to miss:
- Ontario Science Centre, Toronto
- Science North, Sudbury
- Canadian Museum of History, Ottawa
- Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa
Museums are also a ton of fun for any age! Here are my favourite museums and historical places in Ontario to gift:
- Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto
- The Canadian Canoe Museum, Peterborough
- The Museum, Kitchener
- Grey Roots Museum and Archives, Owen Sound
- The Diefenbunker Canada’s Cold War Museum, Ottawa
- Dundurn National Historic Site, Hamilton
You might think that a gift experience at a botanical garden might not be a great holiday present, but, well, you’d be wrong. Many places have winterized exhibits, or you can wait until spring to see the gardens come alive.
Allan Gardens Conservatory, Toronto – Tucked away in downtown Toronto is this lovely little tropical paradise. Allan Gardens Conservatory has thousands of exotic plants in this gorgeous greenhouse that looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale. While it’s free to visit, this experience is worth gifting. Heck, make a day of it and check out all the incredible eateries nearby.
Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, Niagara Falls – Niagara has one of the most extensive gardens in Ontario. They’ve got a floral showcase, botanical gardens, butterfly conservatory, Niagara Glen nature area, and so much more.
Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington – The Royal Botanical Gardens are the largest in Canada. The tens of thousands of acres have trails, five cultivated gardens, and thousands of plant species. You’ll want to spend a whole day (maybe more!) in this natural haven. Also, check out the events they put on throughout the year.
Toronto Botanical Gardens, Toronto – This city garden has dozens of cultivated places for you to wander and enjoy. Pick a sunny day and head out to see the gardeners hard at work, and the blooms explode in colour.
Gift experiences for the outdoors person on your list
Outdoor adventures are some of my favourite things to do with others! They make perfect gift experiences for anyone who likes to get outside and enjoy the weather.
This year more than ever, we see the importance of our natural areas. Those in the city may have a more challenging time accessing some of Canada’s most beautiful places. Enter Park Bus. This shuttle bus transports those in the city to many provincial and national parks in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.
From Toronto, you can get a shuttle to Algonquin Provincial Park, Bruce Peninsula National Park, Killbear Provincial Park, Killarney Provincial Park, Grundy Provincial Park, Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Lion’s Head Provincial Reserve, Elora Gorge Conservation Area, Christie Lake Conservation, Rockwood Conservation, Rattlesnake Point/ Kelso Conservation Areas and Rouge Urban National Park.
From Ottawa, you can get a shuttle to Gatineau Park main parkway and Gatineau Park Lac Philippe.
Go on an eco-adventure in Ontario
Despite having the largest city in Canada, much of Ontario is still pretty wild. You can explore several places and challenge yourself in treetop trekking, zip-lines, and other eco-adventures. Here are a couple of places to check out for the perfect eco-adventure gift experience.
Scenic Caves Nature Adventures, Blue Mountain – This thrilling adventure will lead you over the longest suspension bridge in Southern Ontario, up to the treetops, down into caves and down a speedy zip-line.
Long Point Eco Adventures, Long Point – Bike, hike, paddle, zip-line and more at Long Point Eco Adventures in Norfolk County. You can also make the adventure an overnight one with their eco-cabins and glamping pods!
Eco Adventures Bruce Peninsula, Lion’s Head – Explore the Bruce in every season with Eco Adventures Bruce Peninsula. Snowshoe, ski and hike around Lion’s Head, Greig’s Caves, Bruce Peninsula National Park and more.
Skywood Eco Adventure, Mallorytown – Get high up in the sky for a guided tour of the treetops in this thrilling eco-adventure. Or fly through the trees on the eight zip-lines set up through the park!
Toronto Eco Adventures, Toronto – Gather your friends for an incredible day adventure from Toronto. These treks will take you to Ontario’s best nature spots, including Killarney, Bruce Peninsula, Algonquin, Hamilton, Muskoka, and more.
Liv Outside Adventures, Bracebridge – Live adventurously by going on a guided or self-guided adventure in the Muskoka region. In the summer, you can go paddling, biking, climbing and more. In the winter, try out fat biking, snowshoeing, skiing, ice climbing and more.
Treetop Trekking, various locations – Have you always wanted to climb trees? Bring out your inner child on these exciting treetop trekking adventures in Barrie, Brampton, Ganaraska, Hamilton, Huntsville, and Stouffville.
Gift a Parks Pass
In Ontario, we have access to hundreds of parks, from our six national parks, to hundreds of provincial parks and conservation areas. Give the gift of experience with a Parks Pass.
Grab an annual or seasonal day pass permit from Ontario Parks online or any provincial park across Ontario.
An underrated gift is a seasonal pass from your local conservation authority, which runs all the local parks and conservation areas. Places like Hamilton and Grand River have a ton of parks to visit. Find your local Conservation Authority here.
Cabin for the weekend
Last year, a few days after the new year, many of my friends and I got together for a cabin weekend in Muskoka. After all the holiday rush, it was so refreshing to escape for a few days for a winter weekend! Escaping to an Airbnb or cottage rental is such a great gift experience.
Here are a few places I’ve got my eye on for a weekend escape in Ontario:
- An A-frame cabin experience near Algonquin
- A houseboat in Bobcaygeon
- A floating wine barrel cabin in Essex
- An eco-cabin in Muskoka
- A modern off-the-grid Bunkie in Huntsville
Glamping is honestly one of my favourite things to do in winter. It’s not for the faint of heart, but you can go glamping in any season! Several provincial parks offer roofed accommodations. My favourites are Arrowhead Provincial Park, MacGregor Point Provincial Park, and Silent Lake Provincial Park.
You can also go glamping in several places around Ontario. A night away at one of these places make a great gift experience in Ontario.
For the skier or snowboarder on your list, give them the gift experiences of a day on the slopes. There are several places that you can go skiing and snowboarding in Ontario. Plus, they are other perks of hanging out at a ski resort, like hot chocolate, mulled wine and warm fires to sit by.
Here are the best places to ski in Ontario:
Blue Mountain Village – Spend the day at Ontario’s largest ski resort, with 42 runs to test your skills. Down in the village at the base of the ski hill, you’ll find shops, restaurants and other things to do for non-skiers.
Horseshoe Resort, Barrie – Enjoy your time on the 29 runs at Horseshoe Resort. During the winter months, they also offer cross country skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking, snow tubing, and skating.
Calabogie Peaks Resort, Calabogie – Located about an hour from Ottawa, this 30-run park (including four snow parks runs) is an exciting place to ski and snowboard. You can also take part in cross country skiing, snowshoeing, pond skating and nightly campfires.
Ski Snow Valley, Barrie – For newbies, Ski Snow Valley is a wonderful place to learn how to ski and snowboard. They’ve got 21 runs as well as snow tubing and snowshoeing.
Searchmont Resort, Searchmont – This resort located near Sault Ste. Marie has 21 slopes and a terrain park for snowboarding. There’s also a Nordic area for cross country and skating.
Mount St. Louis Moonstone, Coldwater – At this resort near Barrie, you’ll find a park dedicated only to skiing and snowboarding with 36 runs.
Fun gift experiences for the Photographer on your list
For photographers, a focused photography session is a great way to jolt creativity back into your work. Photography tours and photoshoots are the perfect gift experiences for any photog on your list!
I’ve been on a couple of photography tours for Worldwide Photography Walk Day around my hometown. These hour-long photography walks allowed me to get creative to take beautiful photos of things I’ve seen a hundred times. Here are some exciting photography tours that make great gift experiences.
Toronto Photo Safari – Toronto is a magical photography subject with beautiful places to takes photos everywhere. For this concrete jungle, you’ll need a guide to show you the best photography spots in regions across the city. Toronto Photo Safari offers several tours, including one in Niagara Falls!
North of 49 Photography – Whether you want to capture the northern lights, hone your wildlife photography skills or discover a new place with your lens, these multi-day photography workshops are for you. Part travel experience, part photography workshop, the photographer on your list will go nuts for these tours.
Follow Me North Photography – Capture the beauty of Muskoka and Algonquin with these photography workshops. These full and half-day photo adventures take you to beautiful spots in Ontario’s cottage country, all focusing on finding the best photography spots and honing your skills.
Airbnb Experiences also has some local photography workshops to check out, such as
Do a photoshoot in a lovely place
Sometimes it’s nice to have beautiful photos of yourself taken in the places you travel to. It’s hard to rely on non-photography friends for that, so why not hire a local photographer? Well, they can be hard to find. That’s where services like Localgrapher and Flytographer come in.
Localgrapher – find a local photographer to take you to their favourite local photography locations for some fun in front of the camera
Flytographer – get those travel photos you’ve been dreaming of with a local photographer who knows the best places to bring you to get those shots.
Check your surrounding area for Airbnb Experiences that focus on photography too, such as:
- Toronto Downtown Photography Tour
- Private Photography Tour in Yorkville
- Your Travel Photographer in Toronto
These fabulous Ontario gift experiences will have you cross off your holiday list and create unforgettable memories for everyone on your list – the adventurer, the foodies, the outdoors person and the photographer.