Honda Indy, Toronto
RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest, Ottawa
Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival, Toronto
JULY - AUGUST
Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival
Fort Erie Siege, Old Fort Erie
AUGUST - SEPTEMBER
Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto
Toronto Food and Wine Festival
Toronto International Film Festival
Algoma Fall Festival, Sault Ste. Marie
International Festival of Authors, Toronto
Pumpkinferno, Upper Canada Village, Morrisburg
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, Toronto
Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Toronto
NOVEMBER - JANUARY
Winter Festival of Lights, Niagara Falls
Writer: Laura Byrne Paquet
If you just can’t decide what sort of vacation destination appeals to you most—wild or urban, cultural or culinary, active or relaxed—Ontario may be the place for you.
Canada’s second-largest province offers visitors a vast range of things to see and do. Train your zoom lens on polar bears, walrus and beluga whales on the shore of Hudson Bay . . . or sway to a concert under the stars at a huge music festival. Mingle with crowds or meditate beside a silent lake. Ski, sail, cycle or shop. Or do it all!
Ontario is home to Canada’s capital, Ottawa. Always a high point on visitors’ lists, the city will be even more of a must-see in 2017 due to the many events it will host to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation—everything from huge “machines” stalking the streets above ground to a multimedia experience in a new underground train station (www.ottawa2017.ca). You can also thrill to the Changing of the Guard ceremony on Parliament Hill (www.parl.gc.ca), see 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).
Leave lots of time to explore Toronto, the country’s largest metropolis (www.seetorontonow.com). Book early to see world premieres—and, perhaps, a few Hollywood stars—at the Toronto International Film Festival (www.tiff.net). And don’t miss the Aga Khan Museum of Muslim culture (www.agakhanmuseum.org), the Ontario Science Centre (www.ontariosciencecentre.ca), the landmark CN Tower (www.cntower.ca) and Canada’s first panda cubs—born in October 2015—at the Toronto Zoo (www.torontozoo.com).
Ottawa and Toronto are just the beginning of what Ontario has to offer. You can also tour wineries along Lake Erie, in Prince Edward County or on the Niagara Peninsula (www.winecountryontario.ca). If outdoor adventure is more your style, camp in breathtaking Killarney (www.ontarioparks.com/park/killarney), Sleeping Giant (www.ontarioparks.com/park/sleepinggiant) or Algonquin (www.algonquinpark.on.ca) provincial parks, or canoe along the Grand River (www.theheartofontario.com).
TAKE A SMALL-TOWN BREAK
Amble along lanes lined with locally-owned shops. Linger over dinner at a table overlooking 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 Grand Bend (www.grandbend.com). Explore charming shops and an historic mill in Elora (www.grandandgorgeous.com), enjoy a spa day in Cobourg (www.cobourgtourism.ca) or unwind at one of Almonte’s many festivals (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), the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Mount Hope (www.warplane.com) and the Canadian Transportation Museum and Heritage Village in Kingsville (www.ctmhv.com).
ENJOY WATERFRONT VIEWS
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.ontarioshighlands.ca) and the Rideau Valley (www.rideauheritageroute.ca). Pamper yourself with a restful weekend at one of Ontario’s summer resorts (www.resortsofontario.com).
The Polar Bear Express, a train to Moosonee on the shore of James Bay, will finish a major upgrade of its coaches (www.ontarionorthland.ca/en/refurbishment/polar-bear-express).
One of Canada’s largest aerial adventure and zip-line parks, Skywood Eco Adventure, opened near Brockville in 2016 (www.skywoodzip.com). And the new WildPlay MistRider Zipline lets you “fly” 67 m (220 ft.) above the Niagara Gorge for thrilling views of Niagara Falls (www.wildplay.com/niagarafalls).
Saks Fifth Avenue opened its first two Canadian stores in Toronto last year, including a store at Sherway Gardens with a Saks Food Hall by Pusateri’s (www.saksfifthavenue.com).
Cineplex is scheduled to open The Rec Room, a 3,716-sq.-m (40,000-sq.-ft.) arcade game and live entertainment complex, near Toronto’s Rogers Centre and Ripley’s Aquarium (www.cineplex.com).
Here’s something you can only do in Ontario: have dinner below a raised 20-m (65-ft.) hydraulic lift lock on the Trent-Severn Waterway. The Under Water Dining at Lock 21 experience will be available in Peterborough this year (www.thekawarthas.ca/uwd).
Ottawa’s National Arts Centre is scheduled to have a glittering new entrance and an upgraded main theatre by Canada Day, as part of a $225-million renovation (www.nac-cna.ca/en/).
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 professional 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.parkscanada.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 this year (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 wilderness space for you—and many ways to help you enjoy it.
Unspoiled landscapes vary from the remote lakes and rivers of fly-in fishing camps (www.northwest-ontario.com) to the quaint cottage country of Thousand Islands National Park (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/thousandislands).
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 Pelee Island Bird Observatory (www.pibo.ca/en). Walk high above the forest floor in the Ganaraska Forest (www.treetoptrekking.com/en/ganaraska) 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). Dive among shipwrecks at Fathom Five National Marine Park near Tobermory (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/fathomfive) or in the St. Lawrence River (www.1000islands.com/sunken-treasures-the-wrecks-of-the-1000-islands). Try cycling, sailing, kayaking, rock climbing, spelunking, snowmobiling, dogsledding, 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 What’s On TOnight for tickets (www.whatsontonight.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.parkscanada.gc.ca/fortgeorge) 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; Doon Heritage Village (www.waterlooregionmuseum.com/doon-heritage-village.aspx) in Kitchener; and the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum in North Buxton, near Chatham (www.buxtonmuseum.com).
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).
See one of the world’s most diverse lilac collections at Canada’s largest botanic garden, the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington (www.rbg.ca).
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 84 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).
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).
The area around Stratford is home to culinary trails devoted to chocolate, maple, and bacon and ale (www.visitstratford.ca/savour-stratford).
Enjoy rugged, dramatic vistas and superb camping along Lake Superior’s north shore (www.superiorcountry.ca).
Amusements abound at Wild Waterworks (www.wild-waterworks.com), Playdium (www.playdium.com) and Canada’s Wonderland (www.canadaswonderland.com). Santa’s Village appeals to both toddlers and teens (www.santasvillage.ca). Little ones might also enjoy Storybook Gardens (www.storybook.london.ca). Plane buffs should see the Canada Aviation and Space Museum (www.casmuseum.techno-science.ca). Finally, sites for animal lovers include the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory (www.cambridgebutterfly.com) and African Lion Safari (www.lionsafari.com). For more inspiration: www.ontariotravel.net.
PARK PICKPUKASKWA NATIONAL PARK
Explore 1,878 sq. km (725 sq. mi.) of northern forests and rugged Canadian Shield landscapes on the shore of Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake by surface area. The province’s only wilderness national park, Pukaskwa offers visitors superb outdoor experiences and opportunities to connect with the rich history of local First Nations people. You can learn about the Seven Grandfather Teachings of the Anishinaabe on a guided hike, create an Ojibway floral beaded item or dream catcher, or enjoy a night of drumming around a Fire Circle. On summer nights, sunsets bathe driftwood-dotted beaches and towering cliffs in shades of crimson and gold. Set up your tent in a campground or truly escape the world at a backcountry campsite (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/pukaskwa).
National Parks and Historic Sites: www.parkscanada.gc.ca 1-888-773-8888