It doesn't matter what part of Ontario you visit, you'll be surrounded by natural beauty that will take your breath away. From the cultural events and attractions of Ottawa to the rushing waters of Niagara Falls, there are plenty of reasons to plan an Ontario vacation. It's easy to see why so many couples, families, and groups of friends make regular visits to this part of Canada. We've put together a fun Ontario travel guide that we hope you enjoy. Let us know if we've left anything out.
Experience the Vibrant City of Toronto
Located on beautiful Lake Ontario, Toronto has enough attractions to keep you busy for weeks. If you’re into arts and culture, there’s the Art Gallery of Ontario, also known as AGO. This venue has nearly 80,000 works of art that date as far back as A.D. 100. Even if you’re not an art history major, you’ll appreciate works by well-known European artists like van Gogh, Cézanne, and Picasso. There’s also a great deal of Canadian art on display. The AGO also brings in exciting traveling exhibits throughout the year. If you’d rather get caught up in an opera or ballet, check the schedule of events at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.
For something completely different, spend a couple of hours at the Hockey Hall of Fame. You’ll learn everything you ever wanted to know about the sport thanks to an impressive collection of photographs, memorabilia, and historical records. The kids will enjoy spending time playing with the interactive exhibits.
It’s easy to spend the better part of a day at the Ontario Science Centre. Engaging exhibits will appeal to adults and kids alike. There’s a popular area for aspiring scientists under the age of nine called KidSpark. Besides the rotating exhibits, there’s an IMAX dome where you can watch films on the ceiling. The picture is so big, it exceeds your field of vision!
The Royal Ontario Museum educates visitors on world cultures and natural history. Given that this facility is home to 6 million artifacts, chances are good that you’re not going to see it all in one visit. Children can get their hands dirty digging for dinosaur fossils. The museum supplements its collection by bringing in outside exhibits so you’re bound to find something new since the last time you visited.
If the kids are clamoring for an amusement park experience, head north to Canada's Wonderland. Roller coasters, water rides, and live shows make this park a hit with families.
Beyond the Water in Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls has gone out of its way to attract families with kids. Besides sightseeing at the famous falls, there are plenty of other attractions in this area. There's a Ripley's Believe it or Not Bird Kingdom featuring more than 300 different kinds of birds, and the Safari Niagara/Zooz where there are more than 400 animals and a petting zoo. Stroll through the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens where there’s a giant clock face made up of thousands of plants. There’s also a Butterfly Conservatory on the garden’s grounds. MarineLand brings you close to killer whales swimming in a massive tank. Other underwater life is on display here too. There’s a bonus for the kids. MarineLand has amusement rides including a rather impressive roller coaster.
There are plenty of places throughout Ontario where you can enjoy the scenery by hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. To create your own outdoor adventure, visit one of the scenic national parks in Ontario. A few of your choices include Pukaskwa National Park, Georgian Bay Islands National Park, and Point Pelee National Park.
Be Amazed by Niagara Falls
The rushing waters of Niagara Falls beckon to tourists who want to witness the wonder and majesty of nature. The falls are on the border between the U.S. and Canada. There are two sections: Horseshoe Falls and American Falls. Goat Island separates the two sections. Don't expect the falls to be very high; it's their width that's impressive. Take a ride on the Whirlpool Aero Car, which gives you a bird’s eye view of the Niagara Whirlpool.
You can go between the twin cities of Niagara Falls, Canada and Niagara Falls, U.S. by crossing one of three bridges. The Rainbow Bridge is the most popular, giving gorgeous views of the falls to passing traffic and pedestrians. For more sightseeing, head over to nearby Welland Canal where you can watch ships move through the lock system. Stroll along the White Water Walk, which puts you beside the rough waters of the Great Gorge Rapids.
If you’re looking for labels, spend some time on Bloor Street West in Toronto. Storefronts for Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton are located here. Don’t overlook the countless boutiques scattered throughout the city. Fresh Collective features women’s clothing from hip new designers who run the store themselves. There are also some great places to shop for antiques. Check the schedule to see if the Heritage Antique Market will be open while you’re in town. A few times each year, the market brings together antiques dealers selling a variety of treasures.
Head north of Toronto to Vaughan Mills. This large shopping center is home to name brand retailers as well as some outlet stores. Browse a large Winner’s, one of Canada’s best-known discount department stores.
You can find almost any style of cuisine in the city of Toronto. For fine dining experiences, make reservations at Amuse-Bouche (French cuisine with desserts to die for), Edward Levesque's Kitchen (bistro-style dining), or 5th Elementt (Italian and Indian fusion). When you’re ready to trade the white table clothes for something less formal, head to Mars. This diner serves up breakfast any time of day, along with great cheeseburgers and sides. If you’re wondering what Canadian cuisine truly is, you’ll get a good feel for it at Canoe Restaurant & Bar. You’ll find that Canadian food is the result of a myriad of influences that have merged to create a unique cuisine.
Discover the many dining options of Ottawa. With its red and white checkered table clothes, Trattoria Caffe Italia is a good place to go as a couple, family, or large group. You’ll find a more refined Italian dining experience at La Roma Restaurant. There’s a terrace to enjoy in the summer and a fireplace to keep you warm in the winter.
When you’re in the area of Niagara Falls, you might want a restaurant with a great view. Head over to Pinnacle Restaurant (surf and turf). Located on the 26th floor of the Konica Minolta Tower, Pinnacle will astound you with sweeping panoramas of the falls. You can also have a scenic dining experience at most of the establishments operated by the Niagara Parkway Commission. The upscale menus are a nice compliment to the scenery that surrounds you while you eat. Give the kids a fun meal by taking them to the Rainforest Café. With a child-friendly menu of burgers and pizza, chances are good the kids will eat well while being surrounded by mock-ups of rainforest creatures.
Weather is an important consideration when planning an Ontario vacation. Toronto is magnificent in the summer when temperatures tend to stay in the upper 70's and lower 80's. The humidity can be uncomfortable, making it feel hotter than the actual air temperature. Rain is a real possibility during late spring and summer, with August typically being the wettest month. Winter brings very cold temperatures and the likelihood of some serious snowfall.
Ottawa's weather is pleasant in the summer, even though it's further north than Toronto. Temperatures warm up because, unlike Toronto, Ottawa does not experience lake effects from Lake Ontario. However, the winters are quite cold and blustery. You'll find significantly more snow each winter in Ottawa than in Toronto.
If you want to see the peak flow of Niagara Falls, aim to be here in late spring or early summer. The amount of water pouring over the falls depends on the water levels of Lake Erie. May and June tend to bring higher water levels and, therefore, more water rushing over the falls. During the summer, fireworks displays are presented near the falls.
Pack the right weight of sweaters, pants, and coats for your trip. You may need to bring boots and other snow gear, depending on where you're going and when you’ll be there.
You're likely to find almost any service you need if you're staying in the Toronto, Ottawa, or the Niagara Falls areas. Even if you book a vacation rental in a smaller community, you should still find yourself relatively close to services like hair salons, outdoor equipment rentals, auto repair shops, and medical clinics.
You'll need to exchange your U.S. currency into Canadian dollars. To prevent long hold ups at the checkout counter, become familiar with Canadian money. Bills come in different colors, making it easy to identify different denominations. There aren't any one and two dollar bills. Instead, the country uses coins called loonies and twoonies. Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are widely accepted throughout Canada. Sometimes you can get a better exchange rate by using your credit card instead of paying cash. Just be aware that some credit companies may charge transaction fees for purchases made in other countries.
Eating out in Toronto is a real treat, but it can get expensive fast. Consider that you’ll be paying 13% in taxes at each meal. Add in the tip and you might feel some sticker shock when the bill arrives. That’s one nice thing about vacation rentals. You’ll be able to enjoy some nice meals at restaurants but you’ll also have the option of preparing delicious meals in your own kitchen.
Be sure to check out the packaged sweets while you're in Canada. There are certain kinds of candies for sale that aren't available in the U.S. At almost any convenience store or grocery, you'll find Aero chocolate bars by Nestle, which have an unusual, bubble-like texture; and Coffee Crunch bars that have a delicious mocha flavor.
Various parts of Ontario are easily accessible to many U.S. travelers by car. Canada tends to have well-maintained, wide roads. Many people who fly arrive at Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto. Rental cars, taxis, and shuttle service are available to get you from the airport to your Ontario vacation rental.
If you're headed to Niagara Falls, Pearson International is fewer than 80 miles from Rainbow Bridge. An even closer airport is the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, which is a mere 25 miles from the bridge. This is a U.S. airport located in Cheektowaga, New York. Taxis, rental cars, trains, and buses can take you from the airport to the Niagara Falls area. Depending on where you live, driving to Niagara may be a viable option.
Direct access to Ottawa is available by flying into the Ottawa International Airport. There are some direct flights from some U.S. cities to Ottawa, but you might also find yourself connecting through Pearson International in Toronto.
Get to know Ontario on a deeper level by choosing a vacation rental over a hotel. Choose among beach homes, cottages, condos, and villas in your favorite places to visit in this province. Ontario vacations are more enjoyable when you opt for a vacation rental. Instead of being in a busy, crowded hotel, you'll have more privacy and more space to accommodate your family or group. You'll love the convenience of having your own vacation rental. Most Ontario vacation rentals give you easy access to laundry facilities, letting you wash your clothes as you go instead of toting home a pile of dirty clothes. When you book an Ontario vacation rental, you’ll feel free to kick back, relax, and enjoy your time away from home.