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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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CN Tower
37 Tours and Activities
Having recently turned 30, the funky CN Tower remains every bit as cool and iconic as it was when it opened in 1976. Its primary function is as a radio and TV communications tower, but riding the great glass elevators up the highest freestanding structure (1,800 feet/550 meters) in the world is one of those things in life you just have to do. On a clear day, the views from the Observation Deck are absolutely astounding; if it's hazy, you won't be able to see a thing. For extra thrills, tread lightly over the knee-trembling Glass Floor deck, or continue climbing an extra 330 ft (100 m) to the uppermost SkyPod viewing area, the highest public observation gallery in the world. Alternatively, if you're feeling chipper, you might want to enter the annual CN Tower Stair Climb - a heart-thumping dash to the top of the tower's 1,776 steps that happens every October.
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Niagara Falls, Ontario
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Spectacular! Wow! Fabulous! Whatever superlatives you choose, you won’t be able to keep the word from your lips at Niagara Falls. For here, great muscular bands of water tumble over a precipice like liquid glass, roaring into the void below. In terms of sheer volume, more than a million bathtubs of water plummet over the edge every second. Niagara Falls is actually two sets of falls: the American Falls and the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. The best way to see Horseshoe

Falls is either via the Maid of the Mist boat, which takes you right up to Falls, through the turbulent waters of the American Falls. Another way is to take the Journey Behind the Falls, in which you’ll walk through tunnels onto an observation deck to get a wet but up-close view of the Horseshoe Falls or go to the Cave of the Winds for an up-close view of the American Falls.

On land, you can see Niagara Falls from the Skyline Tower on the Canadian side.

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Journey Behind the Falls
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Horseshoe Falls is an awesome site from the shore and from a boat, but the best way to truly experience its absolute power is to take the Journey Behind the Falls. On this journey, you’ll don a plastic poncho and traverse tunnels bored into the rock behind the great sheet water for a thunderous up-close view.

Journey Behind the Falls consists of an observation platform and series of tunnels near the bottom of the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian shore. The tunnels and platform can be reached by elevators from the street level entrance. You walk through two tunnels, which extend approximately 150 feet/46 meters behind the waterfall. When you reach the end of the tunnel, you can see water cascading in front of the open cave entrances. The best part is stepping out on the observation deck for the full experience. You will get very wet, but it’s worth it for the site of the roaring water.

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Skylon Tower
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For numerous Niagara Falls-inspired attractions all in one place, the Skylon Tower is an excellent choice. Boasting front row views of the natural wonder along with ambient dining, a observation platform, 4D movies, shopping and family-fun, you could spend all day being entertained in one place.

Start your Skylon Tower experience by riding in their glass-enclosed elevators to the Indoor/Outdoor Observation Deck, where you can take in views of Niagara Falls, the Great Gorge, Niagara’s wine country, and Buffalo and Toronto skylines from 775 feet (236 meters) high.

For a unique dining experience in an upscale setting, Skylon Tower’s Revolving Dining Room Restaurant sits at 775 feet (236 meters) high and turns 360 degrees every hour so your view is always changing. The menu is continental, and you can order anything from lobster tails to Filet Mignon to Mediterranean chicken.

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Floral Clock
58 Tours and Activities

Next to Niagara Falls, one of the most photographed attractions in the surrounding area is the Floral Clock. Built in 1950, it is one of the largest in the world at a massive 40 feet in diameter. Each year, the clock is planted with over 15,000 carpet plants and annuals. The hands are made from stainless steel tubing and weigh a combined 1,250 pounds, while a 24-foot stone tower with speakers broadcasts the Westminster chime every 15 minutes.

The floral design is changed twice per year, using violas in the spring and four cultivars of Alternanthera along with green and gray Santolina Sage during summer and fall. Next to the Floral Clock visitors will find the Centennial Lilac Garden, which is in full bloom around late May and includes more than 250 varieties of plants and over 1,200 individual shrubs.

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Whirlpool Aero Car
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Dangling above the Niagara River, just north of Horseshoe Falls, is the Whirlpool Aero Car. The gondola travels 1,800 feet/550 meters between two points above the Niagara Gorge, providing unforgettable views of the raging waters below. It’s a thrilling 10 minutes!

To reach the Whirlpool Aero Car, you climb a winding stairwell. Those afraid of heights might be better off on the ground. Then, you’ll board the antique cable car and be transported on six sturdy cables high above the racing Niagara River. Far below, the torrent of water abruptly changes direction and creates one of the world’s most mesmerizing natural phenomenons - the Niagara Whirlpool, which is formed at the end of the rapids where the gorge turns abruptly counterclockwise and the river escapes through the narrowest channel in the gorge.

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Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
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With six million objects in its impressive collection, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is Canada's biggest natural history museum. With its new eye-catching, über-modern Daniel Libeskind design, the main building is now a magnificent explosion of architectural crystals, housing six galleries, including the new “Renaissance ROM” building.

ROM's collections bounce between natural science, ancient civilization, and art exhibits. The Chinese temple sculptures, Gallery of Korean Art, and costumery and textile collections are some of the best in the world. Kids file out of yellow school buses chugging by the sidewalk and rush to the dinosaur rooms, Egyptian mummies, and Jamaican bat cave replica. The cedar crest poles carved by First Nations tribes in British Columbia are not to be missed; the largest pole (278 feet/85 meters) was shipped from the West Coast by train, then lowered through the museum roof.

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Table Rock Welcome Centre
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Although the original Table Rock -- a jutting out of rock from the Falls used as a viewing platform in the 19th century -- was destroyed in 1935 after a series of dangerous rock falls, today it is a retail and entertainment complex. Considered a must-visit when at Niagara Falls, Table Rock’s viewing area is home to terraced platforms perfect for picture taking, especially as rainbows are a common sighting. It’s located right at the Falls in the heart of Niagara Parks, so you’re guaranteed to enjoy beautiful scenery near all the attractions.

Begin your Table Rock experience at the Welcome Centre, where you can purchase tickets, packages and passes depending on what you want to do. Here you’ll also be able to get some background information on the area. One attraction at Table Rock is Niagara’s Fury, a 4D experience that will make you feel like you’re really witnessing the creation of the falls through advanced technology.

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Queen Victoria Park
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Niagara Falls main parkland, the Queen Victoria Park is in the center of the Niagara Parks and features a mix of green and water views as well as the chance to learn about nature. While exploring Queen Victoria Park you’ll be able to take in front row views of Niagara Falls, as the park is located along the Niagara Gorge and River. For this reason, it’s one of the best places for taking excellent photographs of the natural attraction, especially as it provides a peaceful setting. Visitors can also access top Niagara Falls experiences from the park like the Maid of the Mist, Clifton Hill and Journey Behind the Falls.

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More Things to Do in Ontario

Hockey Hall of Fame

Hockey Hall of Fame

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Hockey is akin to a religion in Canada and its shrine is The Hockey Hall of Fame, located at the foot of Front and Yonge near the Financial District in downtown Toronto.

The Hockey Hall of Fame offers something for fans and non-fans alike: the finest collection of hockey artifacts at all levels of play from around the world; interactive games that challenge shooting and goalkeeping skills; themed exhibits dedicated to the game’s greatest players, teams and achievements; multimedia stations; theaters; larger-than-life statues; a replica NHL dressing room; an unrivaled selection of hockey-related merchandise and memorabilia; and NHL trophies. The piece de resistance, of course, is hands-on access to The STANLEY CUP. A new addition to the Hall of Fame is to view The Clarkson Cup, awarded annually to the team that wins the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) championship. Donated in 2013, it is named after former Governor General of Canada, Adrienne Clarkson.

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Toronto City Hall

Toronto City Hall

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The New City Hall is one of Toronto’s most characteristic landmarks. Overlooking the busy Queen Street West in downtown Toronto, the New City Hall is nicknamed “the eye of the government” because of its shape on a plan view. The building’s easily identifiable dual curved and almost identical towers surround a council chamber that is mounted on a raised platform, a creation of Finnish architects Viljo Revell, Heikki Castrén, Bengt Lundsten, and Seppo Valjus, as well as landscape architect Richard Strong, who designed the building after an international architectural competition that yielded submissions from 42 countries in 1958. Part of the competition also included the Nathan Phillips Square below, which is now home to overheard walkways, a reflecting pool, and large concrete arches – it remains one of Toronto’s main gathering places, and New Year’s Eve celebrations are held there every year.

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Ottawa Parliament Hill

Ottawa Parliament Hill

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Canada’s political heart focuses on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, crowned with a flurry of grand government buildings.

The most impressive building is the Gothic-style Centre Block, the main Parliamentary Building, with its soaring central Peace Tower and gabled copper-topped roofline. The building is flanked by the matching East and West Blocks. Centre Block houses the Senate and Commons chambers, where public galleries are provided for visitors wishing to watch the parliamentary proceedings. It’s well worth taking one of the free daily tours to admire the interior of Centre Block and its hand-carved stonework. Listen out for the 53-bell carillon concerts ringing out from the Peace Tower, or climb the stairs for views of Ottawa from the tower’s observation deck.

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

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

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Canada’s premier art collection is housed in the National Gallery of Canada, a strikingly modern building of glass and pink granite overlooking the Ottawa River.

The collection focuses on Canadian and European works, both classical and contemporary. The chronological display of art in the Canadian galleries is especially illuminating, providing a cultural overview of Canada’s history in paintings. You’ll also find photography exhibits, Asian collections and the art of indigenous and Aboriginal Canadians in the Inuit Gallery. The gallery also prides itself on the quality and energy of its ongoing contemporary collection.

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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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St. Lawrence Market

St. Lawrence Market

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Toronto's sensational St. Lawrence Market has been a neighborhood meeting place for more than 200 years. The restored, high-trussed 1845 South Market building houses more than 50 specialty food stalls including cheese vendors, fishmongers, butchers, bakers and pasta makers with lots of action and yelling of prices in silly voices.

Inside the old council chambers upstairs, the St. Lawrence Market Gallery is now the city's exhibition hall, with rotating displays of paintings, photographs, documents, and historical relics. On the opposite side of Front Street, the North Market building houses a farmers' market on Saturday and an antiques market on Sunday. Overlooking the market is the glorious St. Lawrence Hall, which can be seen for blocks. Considered one of Toronto's finest examples of Victorian classicism, the building is topped by a mansard roof and a working, copper-clad clock tower.

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Distillery Historic District

Distillery Historic District

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Toronto's Distillery Historic District comprises more than 40 heritage buildings and holds the largest collection of Victorian era industrial architecture in North America. Red brick is everywhere, including the streets themselves. As you wander along the street in the Distillery Historic District, you’ll notice many of the buildings are occupied with unique boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, jewelery stores, cafés and coffeehouses. One of the more popular attractions is Mill Street Brewery, which creates such tasty beers as pilsner and stout – a perfect spot to stop and rest your feet. The upper floors of a number of buildings house artist studios and a variety of other creative businesses. Also here is the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, which hosts plays by the Soulpepper Theatre Company and George Brown College.
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Toronto Kensington Market

Toronto Kensington Market

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Kensington Market is a must-see on a visit to Toronto. The lively market is filled with a mix of food stores selling a variety of meats, fish, and produce. If that isn’t enough to make your mouth water, you can browse bakeries, spice and dry goods stores, and cheese shops. It is also home to many restaurants covering a wide variety of styles and ethnicities.

Along with the plethora of food shops in Kensington Market are a wide variety of new and used clothing boutiques plus discount and surplus stores. And just when you need a respite from all the shops, grab a seat in cozy café or stop for a meal in one of the many restaurants. In summer, Kensington Market hosts several car-free Sundays, and a pedestrian mall unfolds on the narrow streets. Live music, dancing, street theatre and games are among the special events on the closed streets.

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Rideau Canal

Rideau Canal

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The Rideau Canal is a signature Ottawa landmark, dividing the city’s downtown into eastern and western segments. Opened in 1832, it’s the oldest still operational canal system in North America.

In winter, the 8 km (5-mile) stretch of canal running through the center of Ottawa transforms into the Rideau Canal Skateway, the world’s longest skating rink. In summer, joggers, sightseers and cyclers promenade along the canal’s banks. One of the best ways to experience life on the canal is aboard a scenic canal cruise.

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Art Gallery of Ontario

Art Gallery of Ontario

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After undergoing an extensive renovation by Toronto-born Frank Gehry, the Art Gallery of Ontario has reopened in a dramatic new building that strikes a dazzling balance between art and architecture, and makes great use of natural light.

The Art Gallery of Ontario holds a staggering 79,000-plus works, as well as a huge photograph collection. Highlights include rare Québécois religious statuary, First Nations and Inuit carvings, and major Canadian works by Emily Carr and the Group of Seven. European art is also well represented with works by Thomas Gainsborough, Auguste Rodin, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and René Magritte.

The AGO also displays a comprehensive collection of contemporary art in a variety of mediums, including sculpture, projection art, painting, and instillation art. A wide spectrum of exhibitions round out the AGO’s art-filled experience.

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ByWard Market

ByWard Market

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Canada’s oldest market, operating since 1826, the ByWard Market is one of the most entertaining attractions in Ottawa.

Come here year-round, rain or shine to get a taste for Ottawa’s food culture and lively city ambiance.

There are more than 260 fresh produce, arts and crafts stands to browse, and 500 businesses operating within the market. Choose from 88 restaurants, two dozen nightlife venues, and scores of shops and boutiques. You’ll also find the National Gallery of Canada nearby.

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Clifton Hill

Clifton Hill

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The center of entertainment in Niagara Falls, Clifton Hill is a bustling mecca of an exciting array of attractions, resort hotels, themed restaurants, shops, and nightclubs. Along this eye-popping promenade, you’ll find a giant ferris wheel, mini golf, interactive games, a haunted house, and a wax museum.

The prominent attractions on Clifton Hill include Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, the Guinness World Records Museum, and The Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks. Tussaud's has long been a staple of the area, and you can see dozens of wax celebrities. If you like haunted houses, check out the Haunted House, the House of Frankestein, or Nightmares. Haunted House is probably the best for kids; the other two are better suited for older kids and adults.

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Toronto Islands

Toronto Islands

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A quick ferry ride from the city center, the Toronto Islands are chain of small islands that offer a pleasant respite from the bustling city. Come here to soak up the sun, laze on the beaches, or take a peaceful bike ride. One of the most popular Toronto Islands is Centreville, which is a favorite for visitors. The island includes a children's amusement park, tiny shops on a turn-of-the-20th-century Main Street, and the Far Enough Farm, where the kids can pet lambs, chicks, and other barnyard animals. Kids will love riding the old-fashioned carousel and the miniature railway. The other popular islands, more residential than Centreville, are Ward’s Island, Algonquin (Sunfish Island), and Olympic. The Toronto Islands have several swimming beaches, including Centre Island Beach, Gibraltar Point Beach, Hanlan's Point Beach and Ward's Island Beach. The Islands also host a number of events, including the Olympic Island Festival, an annual rock concert.
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Toronto Chinatown

Toronto Chinatown

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One of three Chinatowns in the Greater Toronto area, the area that runs from College just before Queen on Spadina as well as along Dundas, west of Beverly Street ( past the Art Gallery of Ontario) is the largest Chinatown in the city. The two other Chinatowns are located at Gerrard and Broadview in Toronto’s east end and in Mississauga, in the Greater Toronto area. The Chinese community is one of the largest ethnicities in Toronto. According to the 2006 data from Statistics Canada, there were 283,075 Chinese people living in the city; the Chinese population is the second largest visible minority--after South Asian--comprising of 11.4 per cent of Toronto residents.

It is no wonder that Chinatown is one of the most densely concentrated and chaotic areas of Toronto. Whether you’re trying to buy fruit at one of the many markets on a Saturday morning or find a bargain at one of the many shops, you’ll always be surrounded by excitement.

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