The Top 10 Attractions in Ontario
Big buildings, big festivals and big adventure fill one of Canada’s biggest provinces. No wonder so many people come to visit.
You might think that if you’ve seen Niagara Falls once, you’ve seen it all. But the sound of the water as you approach it, the mist you feel on your face as you look up 165 feet at a true natural wonder, and the sheer power of the falls that you can feel to your bones… those things never really get old. Either way, there are a bunch of different ways to experience Niagara Falls. Taking a boat cruise for an up-close and soggy view might be the most classic approach. But you can also Journey Behind the Falls, travelling through tunnels until you’re literally behind a wall of water. Or maybe you want to take them in from above in a helicopter, or wait until nightfall when the Falls light up in color. Throw in all the attractions and entertainment in the surrounding neighborhood, and you start to realize why a classic stays a classic.
If you were to make a general list of all the outdoor activities you can think of, you could probably find a solid 90 percent of them in Algonquin Park. Ontario’s very first provincial park is overflowing with activities for every taste and preference. In the warmer seasons, you’ve got backcountry camping, backpacking, biking, boating, fishing, picnicking, swimming, whitewater canoeing and wildlife watching (say that five times fast). Then in the winter, you can add on skiing, snowmobiling and dog sledding. Over 1,500 lakes and nearly 750 miles of streams and rivers are located within the park, and you’ll find over 1,200 campsites along their shores. In other words, there’s no shortage of reasons to visit.
It isn’t always easy to time your travel to the exact dates of a particular festival you want to visit. This isn’t really an issue when it comes to The Stratford Festival, the leading classic theatre festival in North America which runs for seven months every year. Between April and October, you see a multitude of high-quality theatre productions, crossing genres and generations. From Shakespeare to Molière, tragedy to comedy, choreographed musicals to one-person shows, the Stratford Festival is really the best place in the country to put on your Sunday best and take in a play.
The CN Tower's EdgeWalk
The CN Tower is one of Canada’s most well-known landmarks. But a visit to the 1,815-foot building isn’t just about seeing the sights. Those who feel a bit bold can walk across the glass floor, only 2.5 inches thick, 113 stories above the ground. Those who are feeling even more bold might travel up another 33 stories to the SkyPod observation platform for the best views of the city. But the real draw, the attraction unlike anything else in the world, is the EdgeWalk. Strap on a harness, head outside the tower and walk along the building’s edge with nothing but air between you and the ground. This is not for those with a fear of heights or the faint-of-heart. It is for those who want a serious adrenaline rush, and the ability to tell their friends they did the highest hands-free walk in the world.
Canada’s Parliament Hill isn’t just home to the country’s government; it’s also a cultural and community hub whose activities are hosted in a really incredible setting. You can, for example, do yoga on Parliament Hill. Every Wednesday at noon during the summer, hundreds of people flood the hill with mats and yoga pants to stretch out in front of the iconic buildings. You can also take the Sound and Light show, which for 30-minutes projects a beautiful, engaging story onto the Parliament Buildings themselves. And then there are the more traditional activities. Visit the historic Peace Tower for a 360-degree view of the city and take in the Changing of the Guards, before heading inside for a building tour.
Ottawa River Rafting
Northwest of the nation’s capital, the Ottawa River surges through the Canadian Shield. This waterway, once crossed by First Nations and fur traders, is now home to pure whitewater adventure. In fact, the Ottawa Valley is known as the Whitewater Capital of Canada. Choose one of the local rafting companies and, with experienced guides at the helm, safely splash and roll through one of the world’s great whitewater routes. The difficulty and force of the river varies, so you don’t need to be an experienced paddler to enjoy being on the water. Just hop in the boat and enjoy yourself.
Great Spirit Circle Trail
The Great Spirit Circle Trail is a real cultural experience, exposing visitors to the lives of the Anishinaabe people of Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater lake island in the world. From waterfalls to breathtaking views, the natural beauty of the island is only surpassed by the culture and tradition that it houses. Seven First Nations reserves can be found on Manitoulin, and the rich Aboriginal history is extremely important to all of its residents. The Great Spirit Circle Trail puts you in the hands of a local guide, who will walk you through the history of the island, its nature and its peoples. Hear their stories, share in their food and even take part in a traditional ceremony.
Agawa Canyon Tour Train
Riding the rails isn’t what it used to be. On the Agawa Canyon Tour Train, you’ll spend one day in the total comfort of a modern train while traveling through the heart of the Canadian wilderness. Explore the province's western edge, seeing its lakes and rivers, Canadian Shield forests, and granite rock formations through the big windows of your train car. Listen to an audio tour as it points out interesting landmarks and explains the history of the region, from Ojibwe origins through modern explorers. Best of all, travel 500 feet down to the floor of the Agawa Canyon, and marvel at the power of the last ice age as you step off the train and explore the canyon from its base or from the lookout 250-feet above.
Fort William Historical Park
Travel 200 years back in time and live the life of a voyageur at Fort William Historical Park. The park was headquarters of the North West Company’s inland fur trade during the early 1800s, trade which played a key role in the foundations of Canada. Feel as though you’ve stepped back in time as you walk among 42 historic buildings, painstakingly reproduced based on archeological evidence and research. Interact with members of 19th-century fur trade society – Scottish fur traders, French voyageurs, artisans, farmers, First Nations Ojibwe and Métis – and hear their personal stories. Witness demonstrations such as canoe building, blacksmithing and tinsmithing. Be part of an era gone by, and come away with a keen understanding of how fur traders lived their lives.
Located on the St. Lawrence Seaway, close to the Ontario border with the United States, the 1000 Islands region offers an island getaway not too far from home. Most people will hop on a boat tour and learn about the region’s history, from real pirates and bootleggers to the politicians who lived and traveled there. You’ll marvel at the castles and mansions where the rich and famous came to play on the weekend. You’re also going to want to take advantage of all the opportunities for outdoor adventure. Scuba dive among the 200 shipwrecks in the region or go fishing for the big one. There are also 30 public golf courses in the area and plenty of kayaking and canoeing opportunities. Or you might just want to relax and enjoy the beautiful setting with some local food and drinks.