Ontario is a four-season destination whose varied regions offer outstanding outdoor, city and touring experiences. Its cities feature great entertainment, stylish hotels, exciting architecture, shopping and gourmet dining. Seasonal getaways range from dogsledding through a crisp winter forest to cycling through summer vineyards while adventuresome visitors can canoe or kayak along an unparalleled selection of rivers, lakes and even Hudson Bay’s saltwater coast.
Ottawa, Canada’s capital, mingles its impressive architecture and Anglo-Gallic charm with parklands and rivers. The city is alive with festivals (especially on July 1 for Canada Day celebrations) and a flourishing gourmet scene. The world’s best performers grace the National Arts Centre, and the National Gallery houses Canada’s art treasures. A great new addition is Ottawa’s spectacular new convention centre, with 192,000 sq.ft./17,837 sq.m. of usable space in walking distance of 5,000 downtown hotel rooms. Ottawa Tourism’s President and CEO, Noel Buckley, calls the Ottawa Convention Centre “a jewel in our crown surrounded by our beautiful natural setting and yet steps away from the vibrant urban rhythm of our cultural treasures.”
Beyond the natural wonder of its famous Falls, Niagara Falls Ontario is also an exciting urban centre with a variety of attractions. Glamorous casino slot machines and gaming tables offer the thrill of a lucky number as well as fine dining, snazzy entertainment and high-roller shopping. Relax with fine regional cuisine and premium Niagara wines or soar on a scenic helicopter ride; de-stress at a spa or ride a jetboat that zooms right up to the roar of the Falls.
Toronto, Canada’s largest city and Ontario’s capital, is style forward and very cosmopolitan. It is also Canada’s most visited city, with the largest available convention spaces and most hotel rooms. Tourism Toronto President and CEO David Whitaker sees the blend of conventions and leisure visits as a factor in Toronto’s visitation success, noting, “we’ve been working to complement our existing core business by increasing our visitors, be they meetings delegates or international travellers.”
Daring, dramatic architecture also attracts visitors and many of the latest hotels have been leaders in design and the arts. In addition to the recent luxe properties like the Ritz Carlton, a brand new Four Seasons and the Shangri-la, Toronto’s independent hotels have also increased their number with the recently opened Hotel Ocho, a former textile factory turned affordable loft, and the Templar Hotel, which tops the hipster wish-list. The Toronto International Film Festival (tiff), now operating out of the tiff Bell Lightbox, attracts all the stars but the real celebrities in Toronto are the internationally famed chefs and their haut designer establishments.
Travel the world by sampling the authentic ethnic and regional cuisines profiled in Toronto’s 7,000 cafes, bistros and restaurants, let alone the great farmers’ markets. To help work off all those delicious meals Bixie bicycles are available to the public throughout the city centre. Test your nerve at the iconic CN Tower and don a zipline harness to walk around its sky-high edge. Celebrity-watch in Yorkville cafés or explore the boutiques for that elusive objet d’arte. Indulge in a downtown day spa and emerge refreshed and ready to take on the night life. Provocative theatre, blockbuster musicals, and adrenaline‐pumping professional sports are all hot tickets. Bars and nightclubs feature hundreds of live acts and DJs in the Entertainment District rock the beat until dawn. For shopping, top designer label stores line Bloor Street West while emerging and independent designers’ boutiques hold their own along Queen Street West, Leslieville, and the Ossington Strip.
Enjoy an Ontario summer beside the splendid lakes and rivers that are perfect for swimming, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, yachting, fishing and water sports. Paddling Ontario, an association of experienced outfitters and guides, helps visitors explore Ontario’s thousands of lakes and rivers. Accomplished golfers and duffers alike can enjoy more than 650 public and semi‐private golf courses, and hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking are excellent ways to take in the province’s natural beauty.
In winter, go snowmobiling on the longest integrated snowmobile network in the world. Snowshoeing, Nordic and downhill skiing, and even dogsledding are other snow-loving ways to get around. For the world’s longest skating rink, visit the Rideau Canal (7.8 kilometres) in Ottawa. In spring or fall hike the Bruce Trail along the UNESCO‐recognized Niagara Escarpment. Bird or butterfly watchers have long recognized Ontario for the wealth of species, including the September monarch butterfly migrations in Point Pelee National Park, the southernmost point of Canada.
- Theatre getaways: Stratford, Ontario’s beautiful gardens and Victorian charm form the backdrop for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. The Bard’s tragedies and comedies share the playbill with top musicals and invigorating contemporary drama. Visit Niagara‐on‐the‐Lake for the Shaw Festival, a sparkling theatre festival devoted to plays by George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries. Follow the summer theatre festivals throughout Ontario and enjoy professional theatre in venues ranging from Victorian opera houses to a family farm.
- Wine getaways: Over 120 Ontario wineries produce Vitners Quality Alliance (VQA) varietals, including most of Canada’s signature vintage, Icewine. Sample all four Ontario terroirs, starting with a Reisling from Niagara region. Next sip the sparking vintages bubbling up from Prince Edward County, a mellow Merlot from Lake Erie North Shore or a perfectly balanced chardonnay from Pelee Island.
- Rail adventures: Take a train ride through the primal boreal forest, towering trestle bridges and sparkling northern lakes of the spectacular Agawa Canyon aboard the Algoma Central Railway. Seasonal excursions showcase the canyon’s dramatic summer beauty, spectacular fall colours and winter’s glittering wonderland.
- First nations heritage: Explore the living legacy of Ontario’s First Nations people and learn first‐hand about thousands of years of Aboriginal culture throughout the province. Visit the ancient rock carvings at Petroglyphs Provincial Park or visit a Pow Wow and be amazed at the dancing, drumming and music. Manitoulin Island’s Great Spirit Circle Trail is just one of the First Nations tour companies waiting to guide you.