If the economy or this summer’s weather have kept you from travelling as much as you’d like, don’t be disheartened. There is still plenty of time to plan inexpensive trips within a few hours of Toronto — by rail.

 

For years I’ve been taking short vacations by VIA Rail and Ontario Northland. I can’t rave enough about the unexpected joys of discovering towns and cities that are close to home.

I have also travelled each GO Transit rail line and tried to stay overnight in the historic town centres that often lie at the end of these corridors. With a bit of research this can be a genuine local “stay-cation” — thanks to the reasonable rates at local bed-and-breakfasts, many of which are in century-old homes.

By car, 905 may seem full of subdivisions and malls. Trains often travel to the heart of those older, walkable town centres that are scattered throughout the GTA. Add in the coming change of leaf colours, and even a quick GO train ride can become a real excursion.

 

Toronto residents may have a hard time thinking of places like Stouffville or Milton as travel-worthy, or just how enjoyable it might be to dine in downtown Burlington and return the next morning — but just try it by train.

Thanks to recent expansions at GO Transit, southern Ontario is more accessible by rail than it has been in decades. GO has not only beefed up train service, but it’s now possible to return from most destinations by bus on weekends.

This kind of train and bus combo can also bring the Niagara peninsula or Muskoka within range of quick, inexpensive jaunts using GO, VIA, Ontario Northland as well as private bus companies.

And while modern traincars may not convey the traditional romance of rail, they can help you reach tourist trains in several Ontario towns, including a new line in Guelph.

Check my In Transit blog at metronews.ca for links to train information, B&Bs, as well as fall colour tours.