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OntarioBack to Home

Big Cities, Big Wilderness
 
 
        
 

SPECIAL EVENTS

JANUARY
Niagara Icewine Festival  

JANUARY - FEBRUARY 
Winterlude, Ottawa

APRIL   
Festival of the Maples, Perth 

MAY  
Canadian Tulip Festival, Ottawa  

JUNE
Luminato, Toronto
TD Ottawa Jazz Festival

JULY   
Honda Indy, Toronto
RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest, Ottawa
Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival, Toronto

JULY  - AUGUST   
Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival

AUGUST
Fort Erie Siege, Old Fort Erie 

AUGUST - SEPTEMBER 
Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto

SEPTEMBER 
Toronto Food and Wine Festival
Toronto International Film Festival

OCTOBER
Algoma Fall Festival, Sault Ste. Marie

Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest
International Festival of Authors, Toronto
Pumpkinferno, Upper Canada Village, Morrisburg
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, Toronto 

NOVEMBER 
Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Toronto

NOVEMBER - JANUARY
Winter Festival of Lights, Niagara Falls 

www.festivalsandeventsontario.ca


Writer:  Laura Byrne Paquet



One-and-a-half times the size of Texas, and larger than Spain and Germany combined, Ontario offers visitors an enormous range of landscapes and experiences. Whether you’d rather be casting your line at a fly-in fishing camp hundreds of kilometres from the nearest road or shopping for designer fashions in a boutique at the base of a skyscraper, you can do it in Canada’s second-largest province.

Toronto is a great place to start exploring Ontario (www.seetorontonow.com). Events such as the Toronto International Film Festival (www.tiff.net) bring the world to the city’s doorstep. You will also find superb attractions such as the Ontario Science Centre, the Toronto Zoo (www.torontozoo.com), the Aga Khan Museum of Muslim culture (www.agakhanmuseum.org), and the landmark
CN Tower (www.cntower.ca).

Ontario is also home to Canada’s capital, Ottawa. Thrill to the Changing the Guard ceremony on Parliament Hill (www.parl.gc.ca). See live insects and dinosaur skeletons at the Canadian Museum of Nature (www.nature.ca) and learn about Canada’s military history at the Canadian War Museum (www.warmuseum.ca). Take in one of the city’s many festivals, ranging from the Ottawa International Buskerfest (www.ottawabuskerfestival.com ) to the RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest, a rock festival that Billboard magazine has deemed one of the planet’s most successful outdoor music events (www.ottawabluesfest.ca).

But there’s much more to Ontario than Toronto and Ottawa. Within an easy day’s drive, you can tour wineries along Lake Erie, in Prince Edward County or on the Niagara Peninsula (www.winecountryontario.ca). If outdoor adventure is more your style, you can camp in breathtaking Killarney (www.ontarioparks.com/park/killarney) and Algonquin (www.algonquinpark.on.ca) provincial parks, or kayak or canoe along the Grand River (www.theheartofontario.com). 

SLOW DOWN IN SMALL TOWNS

Amble along lanes lined with locally owned shops. Linger over dinner at a table over-looking a waterfall, lake or canal, then unwind in a quaint B&B. Ontario’s many small towns and cities are havens of relaxation.

Take in a play or build a sandcastle on the beach in Bayfield (www.villageofbayfield.com ). Explore charming shops and an historic mill in Elora (www.grandandgorgeous.com), enjoy a spa day in Cobourg (www.cobourgtourism.ca ), or browse for maple treats in Perth (www.lanarkcountytourism.com).  And delve into Ontario’s intriguing history at sites like The Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum in Carp (www.diefenbunker.ca) and the Canadian Transportation Museum and Heritage Village in Kingsville (www.ctmhv.com).

HEAD TO THE LAKE

When Ontarians say “cottage country,” they generally mean any of a number of rural regions dotted with clear lakes perfect for canoeing, kayaking, swimming, waterskiing . . . or just admiring from the shore while ensconced in a comfortable hammock. Bring your camera and binoculars, as you may well spot deer, loons or coyotes. Popular cottage areas include Muskoka (www.discovermuskoka.ca), the Kawarthas (www.thekawarthas.ca), Ontario’s Highlands (www.ontariohighlands.ca) and the Rideau Valley (www.rideauheritageroute.ca). Pamper yourself with a restful weekend at one of Ontario’s summer resorts (www.resortsofontario.com).

WHAT’S NEW?

Parkbus, an express bus service to key Ontario outdoor destinations, recently expanded its roster to include the Elora Gorge and Albion Hills (www.parkbus.ca).

The St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market has opened a new main building, 40 percent larger than the previous building, which was destroyed by fire (www.stjacobs.com/farmers-market).

The new Union Pearson Express (UP) train whisks travellers between downtown Toronto and Pearson International Airport in 25 minutes (www.upexpress.com).

For those flying into Billy Bishop Airport, a new tunnel links the island gateway to the shore (www.bbtcatunnelproject.ca).

Ottawa’s redeveloped Lansdowne Park complex offers diverse restaurants, a popular farmers’ market, and sports and music events (www.lansdownepark.ca).

CITY LIGHTS   

As Canada’s largest metropolis, Toronto is a magnet for cosmopolitan travellers. Browse for merchandise in flagship international stores along Bloor Street and luxurious shops in Yorkville (www.bloor-yorkville.com), or unique boutiques and galleries in the restored Victorian-era buildings of the Distillery District (www.thedistillerydistrict.com). Teeter 116 storeys above the city on the CN Tower’s EdgeWalk (www.edgewalkcntower.ca). Relax on the shore of Lake Ontario at Harbourfront Centre (www.harbourfrontcentre.com) or on the green parkland of the islands across the city harbour (www.torontoisland.com). Luxurious hotels, noted restaurants, and major-league baseball, hockey, basketball, football and soccer—Toronto has it all.

In Ottawa, the first stop for many is Parliament Hill, where you can enjoy everything from a sound-and-light show to yoga on the lawn (www.parl.gc.ca). The Hill overlooks the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that draws cyclists, boaters and skaters (www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/on/rideau/index.aspx). Nearby, farmers’ stalls, independent boutiques and popular nightclubs keep the ByWard Market humming from morning to night (www.byward-market.com). TD Place at Lansdowne Park is home to the city’s Canadian Football League franchise, the Ottawa REDBLACKS (www.ottawaredblacks.com), as well as the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League (www.ottawa67s.com ). And Ottawa will be a focal point of the country’s 150th birthday celebrations in 2017 (www.ottawa2017.ca).

Don’t miss the excellent attractions in the province’s smaller cities, which range from the Art Gallery of Hamilton (www.artgalleryofhamilton.com), the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough (www.canoemuseum.ca) and the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre in Sault Ste. Marie (www.bushplane.com), to historic public markets such as the Kingston Public Market (www.kingstonpublicmarket.ca) and the Covent Garden Market in London (www.coventmarket.com).

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

Whether you’re a nature novice or a seasoned outdoor adventurer, Ontario has a wilderness space for you—and many ways to help you enjoy it.

Unspoiled landscapes vary from the rugged Canadian Shield in Pukaskwa National Park on Lake Superior (www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/on/pukaskwa/index.aspx) and the remote lakes and rivers of fly-in fishing camps (www.northwest-ontario.com) to the quaint cottage country of Thousand Islands National Park of Canada (www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/on/lawren/index.aspx).

The Ontario Parks’ Learn to Camp program offers hands-on practice in pitching a tent and cooking outdoors at several of Ontario’s provincial parks (www.ontarioparks.com/learntocamp). 

Wherever you go, you can choose from an incredible range of adventures. Train your binoculars on migrating birds at the Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary (www.stlawrenceparks.com/bird-sanctuary). Delight in a zip-line ride at Scenic Caves Nature Adventures (www.sceniccaves.com) or Long Point Eco-Adventures (www.lpfun.ca ). Walk high above the forest floor in the Ganaraska Forest (www.treetoptrekking.com) or the Haliburton Forest (www.haliburtonforest.com ). Hunt for rare stones in Bancroft (www.hastingscounty.com/visit/rockhounding) or hike an outstanding long-distance trail (www.ontariotrails.on.ca). The Canadian Canoe Route (www.thecanadiancanoeroute.ca) starts in Toronto and finishes in Ottawa. Go cross-country or downhill skiing near Collingwood, on the scenic shores of Georgian Bay (www.visitsouthgeorgianbay.ca), or dive among 22 shipwrecks at Fathom Five National Marine Park near Tobermory (www.pc.gc.ca/eng/amnc-nmca/on/fathomfive/index.aspx). Or try cycling, sailing, kayaking, rock climbing, spelunking, snowmobiling, dog sledding, ice fishing, snowshoeing or snowboarding!

HERITAGE AND CULTURE                    

Theatre lovers are spoiled for choice in Ontario. Toronto alone offers blockbuster productions by Mirvish Productions (www.mirvish.com) and a wide range of plays presented by other theatre companies; check T.O.Tix for cut-price tickets (www.totix.ca). Elsewhere, noteworthy theatre festivals include the Stratford Festival (www.stratfordfestival.ca) and the Shaw Festival (www.shawfest.com). Classical music fans can revel in performances by Ottawa’s National Arts Centre Orchestra (www.nac-cna.ca/orchestra), the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (www.tso.ca) and the Canadian Opera Company (www.coc.ca), while dance aficionados have the National Ballet of Canada (national.ballet.ca). 

Fine art has many homes across the province, including the Art Gallery of Ontario (www.ago.net ), the McMichael Canadian Art Collection (www.mcmichael.com) and the National Gallery of Canada (www.gallery.ca). Learn about Ontario’s Aboriginal peoples at Petroglyphs Provincial Park near Peterborough (www.ontarioparks.com/park/petroglyphs) and the Museum of Ontario Archaeology in London (www.archaeologymuseum.ca). Aboriginal history is also one of many topics covered by the world-renowned Royal Ontario Museum (www.rom.on.ca).

History buffs can choose from meticulously preserved historic sites and living history museums, including Fort Henry (www.forthenry.com) and Upper Canada Village (www.uppercanadavillage.com) in Eastern Ontario; Fort George (www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/on/fortgeorge.aspx)
and Old Fort Erie (www.niagaraparks.com/niagara-falls-attractions/old-fort-erie.html) near Niagara Falls; Fort York (www.fortyork.ca) and Black Creek Pioneer Village (www.blackcreek.ca) in Toronto; and Doon Heritage Village (www.waterlooregionmuseum.com/doon-heritage-village.aspx) in Kitchener.

MUST SEE, MUST DO

Discover an underwater wonderland of some 16,000 creatures at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in downtown Toronto (www.ripleyaquariums.com/canada).

Take a guided tour of Prince Edward County’s thriving winery scene (www.pecwinetours.com). 

Thrill to the thunder of North America’s most powerful cataract, Niagara Falls, where nearby attractions range from great shopping and family fun to glittering casinos (www.niagarafallstourism.com). Travel to the base of Niagara Falls on a catamaran with Hornblower Niagara Cruises (www.niagaracruises.com).

Revel in Ontario’s glorious fall colours aboard the Agawa Canyon Tour Train, which departs from Sault Ste. Marie
(www.agawacanyontourtrain.com).

Cutting across Southern Ontario from Windsor to the Québec border, the over 1,600-km (1,000-mi.)  Waterfront Trail—open for cycling, hiking and other types of non-motorized transport—links 75 communities and over 400 parks and natural areas (www.waterfronttrail.org).

Learn about everything from the earth’s crust to the far reaches of the galaxy at Science North in Sudbury, which features a planetarium, a butterfly gallery and a wetlands lab, as well as Dynamic Earth—home of the Big Nickel (www.sciencenorth.ca). 

Delve into Canada’s fur-trading history at Fort William Historical Park, a living history site in Thunder Bay (www.fwhp.ca).

SCENIC DRIVES

The 1000 Islands Parkway winds along the St. Lawrence River, where you can kayak, canoe, scuba dive or take a boat tour (www.visit1000islands.com).

Driving routes through the Ottawa Valley focus on everything from logging history to Group of Seven artist, A.Y. Jackson (www.ottawavalley.travel).

The Apple Pie Trail winds through scenic landscapes in the Blue Mountains region (www.applepietrail.ca).

The Loyalist Parkway between Trenton and Kingston traces Ontario’s late 18th century history (www.pec.on.ca/lpa).

There’s a scenic route in Southwestern Ontario for just about every interest, from birding to beaches (www.ontariossouthwest.com). 

Theatre, antiquing and pretty villages are on the itinerary between Stratford and Lake Huron (www.visitperth.ca/shakespeare-to-shoreline.php).

Enjoy rugged, dramatic vistas and superb camping along Lake Superior’s north shore (www.northofsuperior.org/tourism.asp?pgid=70).    

FAMILY FUN

Little ones will love the Legoland Discovery Centre in Toronto (www.legolanddiscovery centre.ca/toronto). For thrills, try Canada’s Wonderland (www.canadaswonderland.com), or take your toddlers to Centreville Amusement Park (www.centreisland.ca). Majestic Casa Loma offers activities and events for all ages. Give curious minds free rein at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa (www.casmuseum.techno-science.ca). Take nature lovers to the Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservatory (www.niagaraparks.com) or African Lion Safari near Hamilton (www.lionsafari.com). Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, a 17th century Jesuit mission to the Huron Wendat tribe in Midland, offers demonstrations by costumed staff along with children’s workshops for making candles and corn husk dolls (www.saintemarieamongthehurons.on.ca). For more inspiration:
www.ontariotravel.net

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