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Things to Do in Ontario

The province of Ontario lies in southeastern Canada, between the open plains of Manitoba to the east and the soaring peaks of Quebec to the west. Canada’s most populated province, Ontario serves as home to the vibrant cities of Ottawa and Toronto. Visitors can explore sights of interest easily on a hop-on hop-off bus tour, such as the Canadian Museum of History, Notre Dame Basilica, Parliament Hill, and the Royal Ontario Museum. And in true Canadian style, the open wilderness is never far away. Take a private or small-group tour to discover pristine forests, shimmering lakes, and deep valleys—in summer or winter. Many travelers come to admire the cascading waters of Niagara Falls (by sea or air); but Ontario also plays host to a number of natural attractions worth your attention. Delve into Algonquin Park (home to native bears, beavers, eagles, and moose) on a three-day canoe tour. For something even more adventurous, take to the Ottawa River on a white-water rafting adventure. Fly over Thousand Islands on a helicopter tour for a bird’s-eye view of Boldt Castle and the St. Lawrence River; or casually stroll among the vineyards at Niagara-on-the-Lake, where pinot noir and merlot grapes thrive. In the winter months, enjoy high-octane thrills on the snow and ice in Ontario’s Georgian Bay.
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Rideau Canal
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Built between 1826 and 1832 to offer secure passage for British ships from Montreal, the Rideau Canal—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—is an engineering masterpiece. It extends for 126 miles (202 kilometers) between Ottawa and Kingston. Ottawa’s most visited stretch lures boaters, cyclists, and strollers in summer, and ice skaters in winter.

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Ottawa Parliament Hill
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A concentrated cluster of grand government buildings overlooking the Ottawa River, Parliament Hill is the centerpiece of Downtown Ottawa. At the heart of the complex is Centre Block, a neo-Gothic riot of greening copper turrets, stone-carved gargoyles, and pointed arches built around a soaring central campanile (bell tower) known as the Peace Tower. Parliament Hill is not just a pretty sight; it’s also home to Canada’s most important democratic institutions, including the Library of Parliament and the chambers of the House of Commons and the Senate.

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Niagara Falls, Ontario
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The powerful border-straddling Niagara Falls is actually composed of the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls (also known as Canadian Falls). Combined, these cascades have the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world—more than a million bathtubs of water plummet over the edge every second. While they’re wildly impressive from the US, here’s how to explore the Canadian side.

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Lake Ontario
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Lake Ontario, the 14th-largest lake in the world but the smallest of the five Great Lakes, is divided in half by the U.S.-Canadian border. Its shores are home to two popular Canadian destinations: Toronto and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Known for its islands, beaches, wildlife, and waterfront trails, this beautiful body of water offers something for everyone.

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CN Tower
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For many visitors to Toronto, this needle-like telecommunications tower—often seen from the airplane window—is their first glimpse of the city. When it was erected in 1976, the CN Tower was the world’s tallest freestanding structure. Though it no longer holds that title, it is still the tallest tower in Canada, and the spectacular views from its observation decks are second to none.

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Floral Clock
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While Niagara Falls is justifiably famous for the force of nature that is the falls themselves, the Floral Clock is one of several other impressive attractions in the area. Comprising thousands of colorful plants and flowers, the clock blooms from spring to fall. It’s a fun photo opportunity, especially for nature lovers and avid gardeners.

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Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
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Established in 1914, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is Canada’s largest museum. Housed inside a heritage-meets-modern building, it boasts a 6-million-strong collection, which focuses on objects relating to world culture and natural history. It includes everything from First Nations’ crest poles to Egyptian mummies to T-rex skeletons.

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Ottawa Locks
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The eight Ottawa Locks regulate the flow of the city’s signature Rideau Canal as it flows south from the Ottawa River. The hand-cranked locks provide a gradient of 24 meters (79 feet) on the canal, which runs for more than 124 miles (200 kilometers) from Ottawa to Kingston, a stunning example of 19th-century ingenuity and engineering.

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1000 Islands Tower
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The towering 1000 Islands Tower offers visitors to Ontario stunning 360-degree views of the Saint Lawrence River, it’s beautiful islands, and the nearby Thousand Islands International Bridge. The views—from 400 feet (122 meters) in the air—are particularly popular with photographers.

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Skylon Tower
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Perched on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, the lofty Skylon Tower is famous for its bird’s-eye views. Boasting a panoramic observation platform, ambient dining, movies, shopping, and activities for the whole family, this 775-foot (236-meter) tower offers an entire day’s worth of entertainment.

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More Things to Do in Ontario

National Gallery of Canada (Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada)

National Gallery of Canada (Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada)

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Designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, Ottawa’s glass-and-granite National Gallery of Canada (Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada) showcases an exquisite art collection. As well as an extensive display of European and Canadian art including an assortment of indigenous artworks, the museum also houses the reconstructed 19th-century Rideau Street Convent Chapel.

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St. Lawrence Market

St. Lawrence Market

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A foodie paradise, the long-running St. Lawrence Market occupies the historic South Market House building, which previously served as Toronto’s city hall and jail. Since 1803, residents and visitors have come here to meet, eat, and shop for food items ranging from Prince Edward Island oysters to peameal bacon to Montreal-style bagels.

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ByWard Market

ByWard Market

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Ottawa’s historic food-focused ByWard Market houses hundreds of vendors hawking farm-raised meat, fresh produce, and arts and crafts. Hungry visitors and locals alike flock to this social and shopping hub, where takeout vendors sell ready-to-eat goodies and sit-down eateries offer prime seats for patrons to take in all the market action.

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Rogers Centre

Rogers Centre

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Located in downtown Toronto at the base of the CN Tower, the Rogers Centre is a sports and entertainment complex that is home to the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team. The Rogers Centre is a great place to catch a Major League Baseball (MLB) game or other event held under its fully retractable roof—the first of its kind in the world.

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Toronto Chinatown

Toronto Chinatown

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Located in the heart of downtown and a hub for the city’s Chinese-Canadian community, Toronto's Chinatown is a bustling neighborhood lined with an appealing range of small businesses. Visitors and Toronto residents flock here to dine at the area’s popular eateries and shop for produce and imported specialty items at corner grocers.

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Canadian Museum of Nature

Canadian Museum of Nature

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Explore the Great White North’s many wonders at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Set in a historic castle in Ottawa, this five-story museum focuses on the country’s natural history with a fossil gallery, a water gallery (where you can see a blue whale skeleton), mineral displays, and an array of other exhibits.

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Gatineau

Gatineau

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Gatineau is a city of about 300,000 right across from Ottawa on the northern shores of the Ottawa River. While Gatineau belongs to Quebec and Ottawa to Ontario, together they form Canada’s National Capital Region. Gatineau is a popular place to live, especially for young families and professionals and is actually the most bilingual city in Canada with over 60% of inhabitants speaking both English and French. The city is also known for its cultural value and is home to a variety of events and venues, such as one of the largest hot air balloon festivals in the world, filling the sky with hundreds of passenger balloons in every shape and color and the Casino du Lac-Leamy. The casino isn’t only a posh gambling hall though. Each year in August, the location hosts an international firework competition called the Sound of Light, where countries demonstrate their pyro-musical skills in the sky.

At the Canadian Museum of History, visitors can get a detailed look into the origins and human history of Canada and walk through whole recreated townscapes, including pre-European settlements. Although there is quite some culture and history to be discovered, the city of Gatineau is also associated with its many parks, as there are plenty of green areas ranging from wild nature to playgrounds and recreational parks. The biggest and most well-known of these parks is Gatineau Park, a massive conservation area north of the city. Apart from having a rich biodiversity, including black bears, beavers and wolves, the park is also an outdoor paradise, where anything from hiking, camping, biking to cross country skiing, horseback riding and snowshoeing is possible.

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Journey Behind the Falls

Journey Behind the Falls

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Niagara Falls is an incredible sight from land and by boat, but at Journey Behind the Falls visitors who wish to truly experience its massive power can get up close and personal—and wet. Standing on an observation deck behind the falls, where more than one million bathtubs of water thunder over the edge every second, is a truly unforgettable experience of Niagara.

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Table Rock Welcome Centre

Table Rock Welcome Centre

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Your visit to the natural wonder that is Niagara Falls begins at the Table Rock Welcome Centre. Here you’ll learn how to make the most of your time at the falls, plus you can buy tickets for some area attractions if you didn’t book a tour in advance. The complex has viewing platforms, restaurants, shops, and attractions.

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Royal Canadian Mint

Royal Canadian Mint

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Housed in a castle-like structure, Canada’s original mint no longer produces currency for circulation—that now happens at Winnipeg’s Royal Canadian Mint. However the Ottawa facility is still functioning, churning out special-edition collector coins and precious metal bullion. Tours of the facility reveal the processes of coin-making.

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Distillery Historic District

Distillery Historic District

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Once home to the 1832 Gooderham and Worts’ mammoth distilling facility, Toronto’s charming arts and entertainment quarter is now a popular strolling spot for off-duty creatives. The cobblestone streets are lined with Victorian-era industrial buildings, which have been repurposed to serve as contemporary art galleries, third-wave coffee shops, concept boutiques, restaurants, and bars.

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Ottawa Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica

Ottawa Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica

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Dating back to the 1840s, Ottawa Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica is the oldest church in Canada’s capital. The Gothic Revival structure is full of eye-catching design details, from its two shimmering, silver tin-covered steeples to the interior’s soaring vaults and star-studded blue ceiling.

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Reif Estate Winery

Reif Estate Winery

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Ewald Reif founded this classic Niagara-on-the-Lake estate in 1977 and the popular winery known for sweet ice wine and bold Cabs opened to the public just five years later. Since then, locals and travelers have been gathering to sip glasses of red and white inside its historic coach house. The Reif Estate’s wines have also received dozens of national and international awards.

Travelers who want to sample the flavors of Reif Estate have a number of options to choose from, but perhaps one of the best experiences is the Annual Harvest BBQ that blends food, drink and fun with the Niagara Wine Festival kick off each September. Tastings are available daily, including a sensory wine option, that includes blind taste testing and optional chocolate pairings. Group options are available for larger parties, too.

Visitors can tour the vineyards on their own, or take a comprehensive tour of multiple estates by bus or bike. Foodies can opt for wine pairings and gourmet meals alongside Niagara-on-the-Lake’s famous wines.

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Toronto Kensington Market

Toronto Kensington Market

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Eclectic, diverse, and graffiti-slathered, Toronto's Kensington Market neighborhood is one of the city’s most distinctive enclaves. The district is packed with produce vendors, food sellers, vintage clothes shops, bric-a-brac boutiques, buskers, cafés, and restaurants, and attracts a steady stream of bohemian types.

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