O Canada! Celebrate Canada Day with one of our Top 10 Things to Do in Ontario. What’s on your list? Tell us why you love Ontario and Canada.
Honeymoon clichés notwithstanding, this is a don’t-miss spot. The true essence of Niagara Falls has been the same for centuries—it’s simply an awe-inspiring spot to experience the raw power of nature. “It would be harder for a man to stand nearer to God than he does here,” Charles Dickens once remarked. Like Dickens, modern visitors not only see and hear but even feel the power created each second when 739,682 gallons of Niagara River water roars over the edge of Horseshoe Falls and plummets to a violent pool some 13 stories below. Tunnels lead visitors behind the falls for intimate encounters with the wall of falling water, and no trip here is truly complete without a ride on the legendary Maid of the Mist. The ship has plied a spray-soaked route to the base of the Horseshoe Falls since 1876.
Algonquin Provincial Park
Algonquin Provincial Park is a sublime, sprawling 7,800 square miles of lakes and forests that’s home to a quintessentially Canadian ecosystem of bears, brook trout, moose, and wolves. The park, founded in 1893, begs exploration by foot or via 1,000 miles of canoe trails that wander through an area of natural transition between northern Ontario’s coniferous forests and southern woodlands of maple, birch, and beech. Camping is de rigueur here in a land of dark night skies and crackling fires. But those who prefer to be pampered a bit can check into Arowhon Pines and enjoy a lakeshore resort located within the boundaries of the park.
The regal buildings of Parliament Hill, perched on a bluff overlooking the Ottawa River, leave no doubt that Ottawa is the seat of Canada’s government and an exceedingly attractive capital to boot. Visitors to “The Hill” can tour Gothic government buildings and, in summer, see Mounties and the time-honored Changing of the Guard ceremony. Ottawa is also renowned for its museums, which include the National Gallery, the Canadian Science and Technology Museum, the Canadian War Museum, the Museum of Civilization, and the Canadian Museum of Nature. The city is a cultural hub, with something happening all year long. Notable highlights include the Canadian Tulip Festival each spring and the Winterlude Festival, during which the downtown section of the Rideau Canal is billed as the world’s largest skating rink.
Muskoka Cottage Country and Georgian Bay
The pine forests, blue waters, and clear skies of “cottage country” are familiar even to those who’ve never visited Muskoka—thanks to Canada’s iconic Group of Seven artists who immortalized the area on canvas. Today the 2,500-square-mile region remains chockablock with creative types who are equally inspired if perhaps less accomplished. As weather and water warm each year, the inhabitants of ubiquitous summer cottages search for their spot in the sun. Luckily, with more than 8,000 miles of shoreline there is room to accommodate everyone. Georgian Bay alone is dotted with more than 30,000 scenic islands. Historic towns and villages offer charming amenities for locals and tourists alike.
For dozens of miles downstream from Kingston, the wide, blue St. Lawrence River is dotted with more than a thousand tree-filled islands. The result is an idyllic environment for boating, swimming, fishing, and scuba diving in cold, clear waters. Explore the islands in your own boat or kayak or let others take the wheel with a guided tour from Kingston—a stately limestone city that was briefly the capital of Britain’s Province of Canada. Those who prefer to keep their feet dry can still drink in the scenery from the Thousand Islands Parkway. Remember that whether traveling by land or water the area straddles the border with the United States, so keep your passport at hand.
Want more? Here are ten foods to eat in Ontario and ten great activities for families. Plus, follow our Digital Nomad, Andrew Evans as he blogs his way through Ontario and sends us photos, tweets, and videos from the road.
Photo: Mizanur Rahman/My Shot