Ontario is home to the nation's largest city, Toronto, and the capital city of Ottawa, but it also encompasses vast expanses of wilderness and pristine lakes, and contains one of Canada's most visited natural attractions, Niagara Falls. This huge province, about 15 times larger than the state of Texas, offers boundless opportunities for travel, adventure, and family fun.
During the hot summer months, people visit Ontario to see some of Canada's top museums and galleries; spend family time at the amusement parks; relax at lakeside resorts; paddle or fish in the lakes and rivers; camp in the parks; and see some of the country's most iconic landmarks, like the CN Tower.
ATTRACTIONS TO VISIT IN Ontario
1. Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is Canada's most internationally recognized attraction, visited by millions of tourists each year. While there are actually three sets of falls, the largest section, known as Horseshoe Falls, drops approximately 57 meters, creating a great wall of water that stretches between Niagara Falls, Canada and Niagara Falls, USA. The falls are famous primarily for the large volume of water flowing over them, but combined with the huge drop, they are truly a magnificent sight.
The falls are located right at the city of Niagara Falls, making them easy to visit. It's possible to walk down the main tourist strip in Niagara Falls, an outrageous spectacle in itself, to the edge of the gorge, where you'll find great views all along the walkway overlooking the river and the falls. Day trip tours can be easily arranged from hotels or hostels in Toronto. By car, the trip from Toronto takes about 1.5 hours.
2. Toronto's CN Tower
The CN Tower is one of Canada's most iconic structures, standing tall along the Toronto skyline. The 553-meter tower is lit up at night and can be seen from all over the city and surroundings at any time of day or night, but visitors will likely want to take a trip up the tower to fully experience it.
An elevator allows access to the observation deck and restaurant, located about three quarters of the way to the top. The view is astounding, looking out over the city and Lake Ontario. On clear days, it's possible to see all the way to the plume of mist rising off Niagara Falls. In the evening, looking out over the sparkling city lights is also an impressive sight.
3. Parliament Hill in Ottawa
Parliament Hill in the nation's capital is where most visitors begin their tour of Ottawa. The buildings reside in a lovely setting on a rise above the Ottawa River. The Peace Tower is the most obvious and the most photographed structure, standing more than 90 meters high between the Senate and the House of Commons.
In front of the Parliament buildings is the Centennial Flame. During the summer, visitors can see the Changing of the Guard on the lawn in front of the Houses of Parliament, while those who are lucky enough to be visiting Ottawa on July 1 can enjoy some of the biggest Canada Day celebrations in the country.
4. Ontario's Provincial and National Parks
Ontario has many outstanding provincial and national parks that offer access to some of the most beautiful areas of the province. In Southern Ontario, just two hours from Toronto, Algonquin Provincial Park is one of the most popular parks and outdoor destinations, with an extensive network of hiking trails, and beautiful lakefront campgrounds. Further afield but equally beautiful, Killarney Provincial Park is another great area for hiking, canoeing, and camping.
On the shores of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, Bruce Peninsula National Park offers its own attractions, and nearby but offshore, boaters and divers can find adventure exploring Georgian Bay Islands National Park and the Fathom Five National Marine Park.
5. Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
The Royal Ontario Museum in downtown Toronto is one of the premier museums in the province, featuring a broad range of collections, from natural history and science to cultural exhibits from around the world.
Commonly referred to as the ROM, this museum underwent an expansion in 2007, which saw the addition of a modern and unique extension known as the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. The building is now a mix of old and new architecture with a striking appearance.
6. Canada's Wonderland
About 30 kilometers northwest of Toronto's city center is Canada's Wonderland, a huge theme park, which operates during the summer months. For local residents with kids, an annual visit to Canada's wonderland is one of the top things to do in summer. But, as Canada's premier amusement park, this attraction draws families from across the country.
Roller coasters and thrill rides for children of all ages, as well as a water park, dinosaur park, and live shows, are just some of the attractions. Visiting Wonderland is an easy day trip from Toronto.
7. National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa houses some of the country's most important collections. It contains a particularly strong selection of works by Canadian artists, from the Group of Seven to Emily Carr and many other famous names. The gallery also displays important pieces by well-known international artists.
8. Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)
The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is the most famous event on Ontario's calendar, attracting some of the biggest movie stars across North America. This 10-day festival, held in early September in Toronto, is one of the best attended film festivals in the world, with almost a half million visitors annually.
Tourists and locals descend on the city to watch a film or catch a glimpse of some of their favorite actors, and the city is a buzz of activity. At this time of year, the weather is still hot, and evenings are pleasant. The streets are full of people, restaurants are booked well in advance, and outdoor patios in the city are crowded until late at night. If you are visiting Toronto at this time of year, make sure you have reservations.
9. Art Gallery of Ontario
In downtown Toronto, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is one of Canada's most prestigious art galleries. It hosts a particularly impressive collection of Canadian paintings with a focus on artists from Ontario and Toronto. It also holds Canada's largest collection of African and Oceanic Art displayed in a museum. Other highlights include paintings and sculpture by European masters and Modern and Contemporary collections from North America and Europe. Temporary exhibitions are held throughout the year.
10. Thousand Islands
Spread over an 80-kilometer stretch of the St. Lawrence River is a scenic natural area known as the Thousand Islands. The islands are on a granite shelf extending from the Canadian Shield to the Adirondack Mountains in the United States, with the US-Canada boundary actually running between the islands. It is one of the oldest and best-known holiday areas in Ontario, popular with cottagers, boaters, and those looking to get away from the cities of Southern Ontario during the hot summer months.
One of the most popular things to do in this area is a Thousand Islands Sunset Dinner Cruise through the maze of islands. Gananoque is the principle resort town in the area and the main gateway to the Thousand Islands.