Photo: Ottawa’s Rideau Canal, by Benoit Debaix / Unsplash
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As the country’s most populated province, it should come as no big surprise that Ontario should be home to some of the best places to visit in Canada. From natural wonders to vibrant cities and charming small towns, important historic sites to memorable cultural experiences, Ontario has it all.
Whether you live here or are visiting, the best Ontario tourist attractions are simply waiting to be explored. To help you plan the perfect vacation, weekend getaway, or day trip, read through our list of the best Ontario travel destinations to visit.
The Best Ontario Tourist Attractions
To Ontarians, mighty Niagara Falls is much more than just a waterfall. It’s an emblem of nature’s raw power and unyielding beauty. Straddling the border between the State of New York and Ontario, this magnificent natural wonder is comprised of three separate falls: the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and the Horseshoe Falls, with the latter being the largest and best known.
As you stand at the edge of the thundering falls, you’ll be awestruck by the relentless roar of millions of cubic feet of water as the Niagara River plummets 188 ft (57 m) into the deep gorge below. This humbling reminder of the force of nature is accompanied by a constant mist that often produces picturesque rainbows that add a touch of magic to the already spectacular view.
If you can, stick around for nightfall. Once the sun’s gone down, the falls are transformed as they’re illuminated by a myriad of colors making for an entirely ethereal scene. It’s also worth seeing in winter when this same mist freezes along the railings and surrounding scenery.
Fun things to do in Niagara Falls include thrilling boat tours aboard the famous Maid of the Mist which offers up-close encounters with the falls, drenching and exhilarating in equal measure. To maximize the fun quotient, why not consider an overnight stay in Niagara Falls? Some of the top luxury hotels in Niagara Falls feature spectacular views from their best rooms and suites. And if you prefer a more intimate escape, check out the many great boutique hotel options available in Niagara.
Many of the best tourist spots in Ontario can be found in the sprawling metropolis of Toronto. As the largest city in Canada and the province’s capital, this very modern city stretches along the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario all the way from Oakville east to Oshawa and is home to nearly six million people.
With a skyline that’s dominated by soaring condo buildings and the iconic CN Tower, once the world’s tallest structure, Toronto is often touted as one of the world’s most multicultural cities in the world. This rich tapestry of ethnicities is reflected in its neighbourhoods, from the vibrant colours and aromas of Kensington Market to the historic cobbles of the Distillery District. Chinatown, Little Italy, Greektown, and Little India are just a few of the enclaves that offer authentic glimpses into the world’s varied cultures, all within the confines of a single city.
Toronto is also known as a hub for arts and entertainment. The city plays host to high-profile events like the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which attracts cinephiles and celebrities alike. Theatre enthusiasts can immerse themselves in performances in the Entertainment District, while art aficionados find solace in the extensive collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM).
Other fun things to do in Toronto include visiting the Toronto Islands, a fun green space accessible by ferry or pedestrian tunnel that offers residents and visitors alike a respite from the urban hustle. The city’s waterfront is also fun to explore, with the Harbourfront Centre being a fun place to take in a show or performance.
Those seeking a little self-indulgence should make a beeline for the city’s ritzy Yorkville neighbourhood. In addition to being home to some of the country’s most expensive condo real estate, Yorkville is a great place to shop, with each of the big luxury brands having a presence on Bloor Street and Yorkville Village. It’s also a great place to lay your head and is home to a number of excellent luxury hotels.
Canada’s capital city, Ottawa stands gracefully at the confluence of the Ottawa, Rideau, and Gatineau rivers. Though relatively small for a major capital city, Ottawa is home to no end of fun things to do and world-class attractions waiting to be explored.
Topping most lists, Parliament Hill stands as a symbol of Canada’s democratic tradition. The Peace Tower, with its intricately carved stone and commanding presence, overlooks the capital region and is a must-photograph Ottawa landmark. If you can, try to time your visit to coincide with the Hill’s Changing of the Guard ceremony each day at 10 am.
Ottawa is also a city of festivals. From the colourful spring explosion of flowers during the annual Tulip Festival to the festive lights of Winterlude, Ottawa knows how to celebrate the changing seasons. The city’s cultural fabric is further enriched by institutions like the National Gallery of Canada, which houses an impressive array of indigenous and international art. Into history? Check out the Canadian Museum of History for its large collection of artifacts related to Canada’s past and present.
Other Ottawa sightseeing opportunities include Gatineau Park, a sanctuary for outdoor enthusiasts, and the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage site that transforms into the world’s largest skating rink in winter. Whatever time of year you visit, be sure to consider a stay at one of the city’s top-notch luxury hotels, or even one of its intimate boutique hotels.
Algonquin Provincial Park
A short drive from the cottage country town of Huntsville, Algonquin Provincial Park is a vast expanse of wilderness that embodies the true essence of Canada’s great outdoors. Spanning over 7,600 sq km, Algonquin is a mosaic of shimmering lakes, dense forests, and meandering rivers with landscapes that seem to shift with the seasons.
The park is a haven for wildlife spotters, drawn here to see creatures like moose wading through a lake and to hear the haunting call of loons. It’s a paradise for birdwatchers, with over 260 species taking refuge in its vast environs. The park’s extensive trail system beckons hikers, while its lakes and rivers lure canoeists, offering adventures that range from tranquil paddles to challenging multi-day expeditions.
Other highlights include the Algonquin Logging Museum and the Algonquin Visitor Centre, which delve deep into the park’s natural history and human heritage. For those wanting a truly memorable experience, Algonquin’s resorts offer a classy method to experience this beautiful part of Ontario.