Living in Montreal—the city with the second-highest number of restaurants per capita in North America (#1 is NYC)—you probably feel like you’ve got it made.
But big-city life can be…well, busy. And sometimes, you may find yourself wishing for something quieter. Something quainter.
Luckily, Montreal is just a quick jaunt away from the U.S. border, so idyllic New England locales and eastern Canadian cities alike make for easy vacation destinations. These destinations include some legit busy cities, sure, but even those are overrun with history, old-timey architecture and the type of fun that’ll make you feel like a little kid again. You’ll be so up to your eyeballs in “quaint” you won’t know how to handle it all.
For those times when that frigid, French-speaking metropolis makes you yearn for a weekend getaway, we have 10 locations you can visit from Montreal by bus or train for under $110 each. (That’s Canadian dollars. That would be about $80 in U.S. dollars.) Check out these routes plotted out on the map below.
While these excursions from Montreal may fluctuate in duration, the beauty is that while traveling by bus or train, you can fill your time however you please.
Unlike driving your own car, eyes glued to the road for the full trip, you can drift off to sleep with peaceful views of lush forests and tranquil rivers. Added bonus: Bus and train are the most eco-friendly ways to travel—we crunched the numbers.
Most bus and train carriers—including Greyhound, VIA Rail and Amtrak—offer free Wi-Fi, allowing you to stream YouTube vids, Slack GIFs to your co-workers or relax to the new Khalid single on the way to your destination.
Even better: These buses and trains have bathrooms! Meaning you don’t have to decide to hold it until that next rest stop in rural Vermont, only to find out it’s 30 miles away. (Not that we’ve done this before or anything.)
Now, without further fanfare, here are 10 cities you can flock to from Montreal, each one well worth your while. All bus & train fares listed below represent the average price for a one-way ticket for the featured route.
1. Burlington, VT
You’ve heard it on “Queer Eye” from Montreal–native Antoni Porowski: Vermont makes good cheese.
If you, too, want cheddar that’s “actually from Vermont,” Shelburne Farms near Burlington has walking trails, educational experiences and, most importantly, sweet cheesy goodness.
Check out the Burlington Farmers’ Market for some of the best local farm-to-table offerings, including even more cheese (#cheesecoma). Other food options include cozy Hen of the Wood for a true Vermont dining experience, and “local” ice cream shop Ben & Jerry’s for “The Vermonster” if you’re feeling up to a brain freeze brought on by 20 (!) scoops plus toppings.
Enjoy the city like a local by renting bikes from Local Motion or North Star Sports, and trek up the Camel’s Hump Trail. Who knows—maybe you’ll get lucky (or unlucky) and Champ, the legendary lake monster of Lake Champlain, will join you for waterfront activities.
Or if you’re the kind that’s eagerly awaiting winter (all my White Walkers in the house say, “Heyyy”), Burlington is close to some of the best ski resorts in all of New England.
2. Concord, NH
For more of the great outdoors, visit Concord for canoeing on the Contoocook River, apple picking at Carter Hill Orchard, and hiking along a number of wooded trails.
For even more U.S. history, stop by Pierce Manse to tour the home of Franklin Pierce (also one of the stops on our itinerary of President’s Homes). Pierce may be one of the least memorable presidents, but the museum includes at least two interesting artifacts: the dress he wore as a child (yes, we said dress, it was 1804), and a banner displaying his campaign slogan: “We Polked You in ’44. We Shall Pierce You in ’52.” (Yes, he really won with that slogan. No, we’re not sure how.)
To really immerse yourself in the past, head just outside of Concord to Canterbury Shaker Village, where you can view demonstrations of traditional crafts like woodworking, weaving, broom-making and more.
For something a bit more modern (meaning less than 100 years old), see the full-size replica of the Redstone Rocket at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, which launched the first American into outer space in 1961.
3. Boston, MA
Boston is the ideal spot to learn about U.S. politics (wait, this doesn’t sound like a relaxing vacation) without actually having to think about modern U.S. politics. (OK, that’s better.)
There’s no better city for a crash course in the peculiarities of American history, especially if you’re a fan of tea parties. We take that to mean both learning about the Boston Tea Party, and supporting the legacy of its ringleader at the Samuel Adams Brewery for a tour and tastings.
Boston museums are some of the most storied in the country. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was the site of a famous heist in 1990, and continues to hold a spectacular collection in corridors that surround a soaring, plant-filled courtyard. The Museum of Fine Arts is another spot that shouldn’t be missed, housing such iconic paintings as John Singleton Copley’s portrait of Paul Revere. (Check out our guide for even more reasons to visit the Boston MFA.)
Make sure to try some regional delicacies like baked beans (locals recommend Marliave) and hot dogs at Fenway Park. And if you don’t think baked beans and hotdogs are delicacies? Get out of Beantown—or find something more to your taste with seafood at Neptune Oyster or an oozing cannoli from Mike’s Pastry.
4. Lake Placid, NY
Indulge your childhood dreams with a visit to the Lake Placid Olympic Museum (the town has twice hosted the Winter games).
In addition to the museum, you’ll find the Olympic Sports Complex, Training Center, Jumping Complex and more. You may not take home the gold, but we bet the Bobsled and Skeleton Experiences will give you the adrenaline rush of a true Olympian.
But Lake Placid is more than just a cold-weather destination. In the summer, opportunities to swim, hike and river raft are everywhere. If you’re not in the mood to exercise, consume calories like you’re Michael Phelps at the Big Slide Brewery & Public House. Lisa G’s is also a popular restaurant thanks to its modern take on comfort foods, such as Greek–style buffalo wings and Moroccan nachos.
If you decide to go in Autumn, Lake Placid and much of northern New York is also known for its brilliant fall foliage—making this is a bus ride you may want to stay awake for.
5. Ottawa, ON
With Canada’s capital city just 200 kilometers away, there’s no excuse not to visit. (The possibility of an unexpected Trudeau sighting is just gravy on the poutine.)
For a (distant) look at Canadian politics, stop by Parliament Hill. If nothing else, you’ll want a view of the breathtaking domed ceiling in the Library of Parliament. Sure, you could just look at the iridescent version pictured on the 10-dollar note, but somehow it’s not quite the same. 🤷
In the market for a festival? Ottawa has one for every season: Tulip Festival in spring, Bluesfest in summer, the International Animation Festival in fall and Winterlude (ice sculptures up the wazoo) in, well, winter.
And if you want to see Ottawa from a Canada goose’s perspective, consider a vintage biplane ride from the Canada Aviation and Space Museum for just $65.
6. Montpelier, VT
Montpelier gives new meaning to the phrase “get away from it all.” (It’s the only state capital in the U.S. without a McDonald’s.)
Fortunately, just because there’s nowhere in town to get a Big Mac doesn’t mean the dining options are skimpy. Terrific local spots include Sarducci’s for upscale Italian, The Skinny Pancake for crepes, and the Three Penny Taproom—a destination for craft-beer fanatics.
And if geology is your jam, then rock on: The area boasts the world’s largest deep-hole granite quarry. A guide can show you the quarry itself, which you can follow up with a self-guided tour of the factory to see artisans at work.
7. New Haven, CT
The world-renowned Yale University is the crown jewel of New Haven to be sure—just ask notable alumni like Meryl Streep (multi-Oscar winning actress), Angela Bassett (talented actress who should’ve won an Oscar) and George W. Bush (former president and current dog painter).
To make your visit even more interesting, explore the rare tomes (including a Gutenberg Bible) on display at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library includes the Cushing Brain Collection—rows of preserved, tumor-ridden human brains in dimly lit jars—which is both beautifully organized and somewhat nauseating. (Type-A zombies, this one’s for you.)
New Haven is also a haven for foodies. The Cheese Truck serves mouthwatering grilled cheese, and Louis’ Lunch is birthplace of the “hamburger sandwich.” It’s nothing frilly, just a beef patty on toast, but dammit that burger is delicious.
8. Portland, ME
Portland has many of the same outdoorsy activities and seafood-centric food options popular throughout New England, but does them a little differently.
Instead of a bus, you’ll tour the city in the Portland Fire Engine Co.’s antique fire truck, or at a jogging pace with Port City Running Tours. (The three-mile scenic brewery runs every Saturday are just our speed, but you can go for longer distances if you want. We just won’t be joining you.)
If you’re feeling boujey, then sure, you can eat oysters and lobster somewhere fancy. But if you’re not intimidated by open water and a pair of pincers, consider catching your own on a Lucky Catch Lobster Tour. (You may still prefer the restaurant—locals recommend Eventide.)
As far as other attractions go: Hike out to Portland Head Lighthouse near Fort Williams Park for views of a classic Maine lighthouse, or get up close and personal with a humpback on an Odyssey Whale Watch cruise.
9. Providence, RI
The capital city of “Rogue’s Island,” as the state was originally called, is known for its arts and architecture.
As you plan your trip, think about going on a summer or fall weekend when WaterFire is scheduled. This free art installation involves illuminating the river in downtown Providence with bonfires, which is both cool and kinda eerie.
If you’re the type who likes to combine exercise with literary horror (that’s in your Tinder profile, right?), head to Swan Point Cemetery for a walk, jog or bike ride. There you’ll find the grave of classic horror author H.P. Lovecraft. It’s also where Edgar Allan Poe made an ill-fated marriage proposal. (Pro tip: Don’t propose in a cemetery.)
10. Québec City, QC
Québec City is like something from a fairytale—and by that we mean the kind portrayed in Disney movies, not Brothers Grimm–style where the ugly stepsisters get their eyes pecked out by birds. (Don’t believe us? Read our writer’s love letter to Québec City.)
If you’ve been before, it may be time for a return trip. If you haven’t yet gone, that’s practically criminal and you should book your bus ticket ASAP.
Vieux-Québec (the old town) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site thick with European charm. Attractions include La Citadelle (an active military garrison) and the Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral. Terrasse Dufferin and the adjacent Château Frontenac hotel (from the outside, it’s basically Hogwarts) make the perfect backdrop for a legendary photo.
The magic of this old-world city is best experienced during the holidays, with garland hung and lights strung. That said, the zipline over the Parc de la Chute-Montmorency waterfall is a pretty awesome warm-weather activity, proving Québec City is a prime destination year-round.
Whether you’re looking to let out your inner child, learn about your southern neighbor or simply have a weekend of fun away from the hustle and bustle of Montreal, Wanderu can help you plan your ideal trip.
With cheap bus and train tickets from Montreal to hundreds of destinations throughout New England and Eastern Canada, your next vacation can truly be done on the cheap. Save those dollars for when you you actually get there, and book your travel with Wanderu today.