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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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Grand and powerful Niagara Falls is actually composed of three sets of falls: 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. The falls straddle the border of Canada and the United States, and while they’re wildly impressive from both sides, here’s how to have a Niagara adventure from the Canadian side.

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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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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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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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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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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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Georgian Bay Islands National Park

Georgian Bay Islands National Park

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Comprising 63 tree-topped islands scattered near Lake Huron’s southwest shore, Georgian Bay Islands National Park is known for its beaches, wind-bent white pines, and stark granite coastline. The pristine freshwater archipelago inspired Canada’s Group of Seven artists in the 1920s and continues to attract summertime adventurers.

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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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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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Canadian War Museum

Canadian War Museum

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The Canadian War Museum is an architecturally unique building showcasing the history of Canada’s past conflicts. Honoring those who have served the country and putting focus on the topics of regeneration and building a better future, this Ottawa museum is home to themed exhibits, historical artifacts, and military tools, weapons, and vehicles.

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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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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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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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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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Hockey Hall of Fame

Hockey Hall of Fame

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A sacred site for Canadians—for whom ice hockey is a national obsession—the Hockey Hall of Fame holds a treasure trove of memorabilia, including the original Stanley Cup. Housed inside a grand 19th-century Bank of Montreal building, it also features interactive games including a virtual shoot-out where visitors can test their skills.

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Canadian Museum of History

Canadian Museum of History

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Previously known as the Canadian Museum of Civilization, this cutting-edge museum—just five minutes from downtown Ottawa—underwent a name change and a significant overhaul between 2013 and 2017. The museum’s high-tech exhibitions now tell the history of Canada and its peoples, from the earliest human inhabitants to the present day.

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Toronto High Park

Toronto High Park

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As the largest park in Toronto, High Park offers a bounty of recreational opportunities. Locals and visitors alike hop from activity to activity, including playgrounds, a dog park, zoo, hiking trails, tennis courts, swimming pools, baseball fields, and an ice skating rink. High Park is a popular spot for concerts and for enjoying nature, especially in spring’s cherry blossom season.

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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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Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

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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