There’s many reasons Ontario should top your list of future travel destinations. This scenic province is home to four of Canada's Great Lakes, including Lake Ontario, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Superior. The province also contains Niagara Falls, one of the world's largest waterfalls. Other top attractions in Ontario include Ottawa, Canada's capital, and Toronto, the largest city in the country.
The local travel experts at Canadian Train Vacations can help you plan your trip to Ontario. Some of our popular train trips pass through the province and include time exploring. Of course, naming the best places to visit in Ontario Canada is subjective, but here is our guide to the top destinations for anyone planning a memorable trip to Ontario.
In terms of size, Ontario is larger than Ukraine, Spain, and France, three of Europe's largest countries. As such, it would take months to explore all its diverse attractions. The province has top destinations for singles, couples, families, and all types of travellers. Ontario has something for you whether you prefer cottage country, arts, culture, dining, entertainment, marine parks, or beaches.
Key attractions include the vibrant cities of Ottawa and Toronto and natural wonders like UNESCO's Niagara Escarpment and Niagara Falls. Ontario is home to many other amazing destinations, making it a must-visit province for anyone touring Canada.
Ontario's Niagara Falls is one of the best places to visit in Ontario Canada. Popular tourist attractions like the haunted house and casinos add to the fun of the city built around the falls. That said, people mainly visit Niagara for the majestic waterfalls, which are among the most scenic in the world.
The falls are perched on the border between Canada and the US and are located a quick day trip from Toronto and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Here's an overview of the destination's history, accommodations, viewpoints, top activities, and the best places to visit in Niagara:
History of Niagara Falls
After its discovery by colonists in 1678, Niagara Falls quickly became a tourist destination and was eventually named a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 1990. As Canada's most internationally recognized destination, the significance of Niagara Falls is obvious. There are three major sets of falls in the area. Horseshoe Falls, or Canadian Falls, is the largest and has the highest flow rate.
Its massive volume of water creates an impressive drop and a magnificent sight. You can also book day trip tours to the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls or take a helicopter for stunning aerial views.
Things to Do at Niagara Falls
As one of the best natural places to visit in Ontario, Niagara Falls offers a lot of attractions and activities. You can explore the waterfalls from different angles and viewpoints, including behind the falls on the Canadian side. Don't forget to walk along the falls, take the Hornblower Cruises ferry to the base, or go through the tunnels to get a little mist. If you've had enough fun with the falls, head down the road to the charming wine country of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The town offers wine tours, whirlpool jetboat tours, whirlpool adventure ropes, helicopter tours, and more. You'll also find cosy accommodation options, making it a perfect weekend getaway in Ontario.
1. Accommodation Options Nearby
If you're looking for the best places to visit in Ontario close to Niagara Falls, consider suits at Niagara-on-the-Lake. However, there's a whole city built around Niagara Falls, so you can find hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals effortlessly. The Hilton Niagara Falls Hotel offers breathtaking views of the waterfalls. You can also find accommodation options at Comfort Inn and Wyndham Hotel, all within a few kilometres of the falls.
The hotels offer modern amenities and comforts, including Wi-Fi, fitness centres, spas, world-class restaurants, and more. Prices range from $50 to $200 a night.
2. Best Viewpoints and Photo Opportunities
Niagara Falls offers exciting viewpoints for sightseeing and photo opportunities. Hornblower Cruises take you to the base of the falls, where you can capture the majestic drops and elevated flow rate. The Flowerpot Island can also be explored nearby and has interesting geological formations. You'll find natural wonders like the rock pillars ‘flowerpots' and other formations.
Muskoka: Ontario's Cottage Country
Muskoka is one of the best places in Ontario to visit if you fancy spending some time at the lake. Cottage country is a collection of wonderful towns with over 1,600 picturesque lakes and lush forests. Striking landscapes, charming lakeside communities, abundant wildlife, lakeside cottages, and top luxury resorts make Muskoka a must-visit stop in Ontario. You can also enjoy various outdoor activities.
Exploring the Muskoka Lakes
The Muskoka Lakes are the main attraction in the area. Enjoy scenic points and exciting water activities that attract many people from neighbouring towns. Muskoka Lakes are popular for water activities like swimming, boating, canoeing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, kayaking, paddle boarding, boat tours and dinner cruises. The lakeside communities offer opportunities to immerse yourself in the local culture. Luxury resorts and cottages also offer all types of accommodation, and five-star restaurants give you the best of Ontario cuisine.
The Thousand Islands: A Waterfront Wonderland
A visit to the Thousand Islands is worth every minute you spend driving from Toronto to Gananoque. The unique North American archipelago attracts multitudes of visitors yearly for its picturesque landscape. Lavish castles and homes built for prominent Canadian and American families in the 1800s and 1900s adorn the area. The Thousand Islands waterfront wonderland is also home to outdoor recreational opportunities, from guided boat tours to wakeboarding, jet-skiing, and fishing tours.
Boat Tours and Island Exploration
The Thousand Islands offers unforgettable boat tours and island explorations. You're taken through scenic highlights and historical backgrounds surrounding the endless, picturesque shorelines of the St. Lawrence River. The Gananoque Boat Line and Boldt Castle on Heart Island offer the best boat tours.
- Gananoque Boat Line: This curated boat tour takes you through breathtaking views highlighting the majestic estates and small cottages. Tickets are available online and on-site starting from $32 for one-hour trips.
- Boldt Castle on Heart Island: Traverse through historical background and stunning architectural features, including a two-and-a-half-hour stop at Boldt Castle. Tour admission is available online, with adult tickets starting at $44.
Stratford: A Haven for Arts and Culture
As home to the Stratford Festival, one of North America's biggest repertory theatre festivals, Stratford is a must-visit in South Ontario. The city is beautifully designed, with many places to visit. You can explore the Stratford Perth Museum, City Hall, and local restaurants. However, planning your tour around the Stratford Festival is the key thing to do here.
The Stratford Festival
Stratford is located two hours from Toronto on the Avon River. The small town is popular for hosting the Stratford Festival, which showcases the work of Shakespeare. The epic theatre experience attracts talents worldwide and runs from April to October. You can enjoy music concerts, author readings, plays, and actor meets.
Exploring Stratford's Charm
Stratford, ON, is one of the best places to visit in Ontario in spring. Its parks and festivals create a charming atmosphere, enlivening the small, picturesque town. You can enjoy scenic walks and recreational activities at the Avon River or explore Stratford's culinary scene of juicy steaks and English recipes. However, the events and festivals remain the main draw of the town.
Canada's Largest City: Toronto
Toronto, ON, is the largest city in Canada and is sometimes seen as Canada's New York. It offers centuries of history, world-class amenities and all the exciting things you'd expect in a global city. You can visit the landmarks, enjoy local distilleries, or take a bike tour to cover most of the town. The city is large, populated, and offers unique attractions everywhere.
Overview of Toronto's Landmarks and Attractions
Top Toronto landmarks include the CN Tower, which features epic sunset views and exhilarating edge walks. Other Toronto attractions include the Toronto Zoo, the largest in Canada, covering 287 hectares of land with over 3,000 animals. The University of Toronto is known worldwide, while Toronto Chinatown is one of the largest in North America. The city has an extensive diversity of attractions, including museums, art galleries, cultural sites, and more.
1. Dining Options in Toronto
Toronto is a culinary destination where you can experience sample delicacies from diverse food neighbourhoods. Little Italy and Little Portugal are some of the best places to visit in Toronto Ontario for dining experiences. You can also find several Michelin-star restaurants, including Canoe and Alouette.
2. Entertainment Options in Toronto
Toronto has a bustling entertainment scene with unique attractions like the Hockey Hall of Fame that attract much more than just NHL and hockey lovers. The Bata Shoe Museum is a great visit if you're into shoes, while the Graffiti Alley and Underpass Park offer vibrant street art. Toronto also has a thriving dancing and club scene with grounds like Budweiser Stage and Rebel Nightclub. These stages host frequent concerts by artists in various genres.
3. Accommodation Options in Toronto
As a global city, Toronto offers various accommodation options, from budget-friendly hotels to luxury resorts. You can also find convenient vacation rentals and cosy bed and breakfasts. Some of the top hotels include the Fairmont Royal York, Hotel X, and Shangri La. features.
Parliament Hill in Ottawa
The gothic parliament buildings of Parliament Hill have dominated Ottawa's waterfront since the 1850s. As a national historic site in Canada, you can tour the buildings, explore the grounds and take pictures of the historic monuments. Moreover, you can look on the other side of Lake Ontario for fantastic views of Quebec.
History of the Canadian Parliament Buildings
Parliament Hill was originally a military base, thanks to its strategic placement on Lake Ontario. The Canadian Parliament Buildings have held merited significance in the Ottawa tourism scene as a national historic site since 1859. Visitors to the destination get guided tours to visitors to see the historic architectural features and learn a thing or two about Canada's rich history.
Fathom Five National Marine Park
The Fathom Five National Marine Park is another top destination in Ontario. The park offers various natural wonders, including breathtaking underwater rock formations and shipwrecks. You can enjoy island camping, snorkelling, scuba diving, and boat rides to Flowerpot Island. Dining experiences and accommodation options also exist if you plan to spend more time exploring the area.
Visiting Fathom Five National Marine Park
Fathom Five Marine Park in Ontario offers many attractions, including the 22 shipwrecks of Lake Huron. You can also explore ancient rock formations, orchid species, and grassy cliff-edge forests. The destination supports outdoor activities like diving, snorkelling, and boat tours.
Provincial Parks in Ontario
Ontario hosts several amazing provincial parks worth visiting. The Algonquin Provincial Park is Canada's oldest and most popular park, with an extensive network of hiking trails. The park hosts summer camps, canoe routes, and outdoor activities like fishing in the many lakes. Killarney Provincial Park is a top destination for canoeing and camping, known for its pink granite, white quartz, and stunning geological formations.
The Bruce Peninsula National Park offers unmatched attractions on the extensive shores of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. You may spot black bears and other ancient wildlife in this park.
Other top provincial parks include the historic Petroglyphs Provincial Park, which showcases Aboriginal rock carvings dating 500 to 1,000 years. The Quentico Provincial Park also offers remote wilderness experiences.
Best Time to Visit Ontario
- Spring: With blossoming flowers and outdoor events, spring seems like the best time to be in Ontario, although the early days are rainy. Lakes, parks, gardens, and waterfalls are some of the best places to visit in Ontario in Spring.
- Summer: Summer in Ontario is mildly warm, offering vibrant festivals and ideal weather for outdoor activities. You can explore beaches, lakes, waterfalls, sightseeing, concerts, theatres, museums, cityscapes, and more.
- Fall: The stunning foliage and harvest festivals of fall are ideal for indoor explorations as temperatures drop, giving way to rain and snow. Explore theatres, historic buildings, museums, parks, resorts, and entertainment hubs.
- Winter: The festive holiday atmosphere and winter sports highlight this season. Some of the best places to visit in Ontario in winter include Ottawa and Toronto if you love NHL action, skiing, snowboarding, and ice hiking.
Special events and festivals
Ontario hosts major events throughout the year, including the Toronto International Films Festival (TIFF), Ottawa Winterlude, Toronto Jazz Fest, and Peeks Toronto Caribbean Carnival (Caribana). TIFF attracts hundreds of thousands of fans attending dozens of screens in downtown Toronto Venues.
Caribana is the largest North American street festival, with more than a million participants yearly. Ottawa's Winterlude mainly appeals to lovers of ice carvings and winter sports, with fun games for children and families.
1. Best Places for Couples in Ontario
Couples visiting Ontario can find quaint towns, scenic locations, and luxurious retreats to create unforgettable memories on their romantic getaway. Ontario getaways also offer spa treatments, couple's activities, wine tasting, and fine dining options. Below are some of the best places for couples in Ontario:
- Niagara Falls
- CN Tower
- Toronto Island Park
- Art Gallery of Ontario.
2. Unique Experiences for Couples
Couples seeking unique experiences can explore sunset cruises with fine dining. If you fancy more exhilarating adventures, hot air balloon rides offer unforgettable aerial views of the city. Edge Walks on the CN Tower are also bound to raise your heartbeat. Private rides on Lake Ontario and exclusive cottage accommodations are available for those seeking recluse settings and memorable moments.
3. Culinary Delights in Ontario
Ontario has a dynamic gastronomic scene featuring traditional dishes, international cuisines, gourmet burgers, delicious street foods and more. Signature dishes include the iconic butter tart, peameal bacon sandwich, local poutine, perch and pickerel, and beavertails.
The Farm-to-Table Movement is also big in Ontario, with more restaurants serving dishes made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. This trend supports local farmers while encouraging healthier eating practices and shaping the culinary identity in Ontario.
4. Food festivals and events
Ontario has exciting food festivals, including the World Poutine Eating Championship, Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, and Niagara Grape and Wine Festival. The province also features food trails and tours for those who want to immerse themselves in the culinary experience.
Popular tours include the Blue Mountains Apple Pie Trail, Kawarthas Northumberland Butter Tart Tour, and the Oxford County Cheese Trail. Signature meals vary with seasons, so the beavertails are considered a winter's delight, while summer sausages and bacon are self-explanatory.
Ontario is a great destination for many types of travellers. From the scenic splendour of Niagara Falls to the urban diversity of cities such as Toronto and Ottawa, there are plenty of interesting places to enjoy your time there. Talk to one of our local travel experts about what locations are best suited to your needs and interests.
About the author: Louise Weiss is Director of Legendary Hospitality with Fresh Tracks Canada. Having worked in the Canadian travel industry for more than 25 years, she enjoys sharing her local expertise with visitors. She is based in North Vancouver and has spent time... Read more
#1 Travel Tip: See the Fall Colours
Ontario has some of the most spectacular fall colours in Canada. Time your visit for October for the best chance to see the trees turn vibrant shades of gold, orange, and red. Top spots to see fall foliage are Niagara and Algonquin.
#2 Travel Tip: Get out on the Water
Opt for boat tours when you have the option. Ontario has some beautiful lakes and rivers, and a boat tour offers new perspectives on the scenery, especially in places like Toronto and Niagara.