Burlington - You don't have to own a smog-producing urban assault vehicle to enjoy a day's outing in the countryside. A carless urbanite can enjoy some bucolic rural atmosphere, too. A little imagination and the close examination of transportation schedules can get you out and about on a day trip without the traffic jams, fumes and noise of a jaunt on the 401.
My partner and I recently hopped the hourly GO Train with our bikes at one of Toronto's nine GO stations and headed for Burlington. There's no extra charge for your bike on GO non-rush-hour trains. (Check www.gotransit.com for details.)
If you think Burlington's all malls and urban sprawl, you don't know its hidden inner essence.
My Burlington is made up of mature-tree-lined streets and substantial houses, many without garages (unlike their poor cousins near the 401 that appear to be all garage).
To enjoy the hidden town, head south approximately 700 metres on Brant Street from the GO station. South Brant has a variety of chic shops catering to the carriage trade.
When you get to the lake, you have a choice. Take a right into the park to get on the Waterfront Trail. A left turn on Lakeshore Road leads you into the ritzy and often ostentatious neighbourhoods of south Burlington and Oakville.
I choose the Waterfront Trail, a series of rights-of-way, multi-use lanes and bike paths that when completed will meander over 740 kilometres from Gananoque in the east to Niagara-on-the-Lake, with the occasional break.
The multi-use pathway rolls by the site of the former Burlington Beach amusement park, opened in 1903 by George Hamilton (yes, he was a member of the family for whom the city was named). They pulled the last spike out of George's roller coaster in 1978.
In the shadow of the James N. Allan Skyway, you can cross the Burlington canal on the old lift bridge to the Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology. If lying on the beach is your thing, there are kilometres of the soft stuff, and safe paddling is available at Wild Waterworks.
Vegans should bring their own tofu picnic, because only carnivores will want to graze on the local fare. Those who think Elvis impersonators are a hunk-a-hunk of burning love must head over to Hutch's (280 Van Wagner Beach Road) for a dose of long-lost hamburger-joint nostalgia. Opened in 1946, the 50s-style diner's a local landmark. They say Elvis visits every August.
To take in the Royal Botanical Gardens, head west on Lakeshore Road past the hospital and through the underpass. Follow the Waterfront Trail signs through a posh neighbourhood and the middle of the Burlington Golf and Country Club.
Every season offers a different burst of hybrid flora at in the RBC, so don't forget your camera. On the way, check out the Burlington Arts Centre at 1333 Lakeshore Road.
More adventurous souls can make a weekend of it by taking a backpack or stuffing a pannier with a change of clothes and a toothbrush. Cheap hotels line the Burlington Beach strip next to the park. You can try biking the distance to the B&Bs of St. Catharines or Niagara-on-the-Lake. Or stealth-camp for free on the beach.