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Things to Do in Ontario

The province of Ontario lies in southeastern Canada, between the open plains of Manitoba to the east and the soaring peaks of Quebec to the west. Canada’s most populated province, Ontario serves as home to the vibrant cities of Ottawa and Toronto. Visitors can explore sights of interest easily on a hop-on hop-off bus tour, such as the Canadian Museum of History, Notre Dame Basilica, Parliament Hill, and the Royal Ontario Museum. And in true Canadian style, the open wilderness is never far away. Take a private or small-group tour to discover pristine forests, shimmering lakes, and deep valleys—in summer or winter. Many travelers come to admire the cascading waters of Niagara Falls (by sea or air); but Ontario also plays host to a number of natural attractions worth your attention. Delve into Algonquin Park (home to native bears, beavers, eagles, and moose) on a three-day canoe tour. For something even more adventurous, take to the Ottawa River on a white-water rafting adventure. Fly over Thousand Islands on a helicopter tour for a bird’s-eye view of Boldt Castle and the St. Lawrence River; or casually stroll among the vineyards at Niagara-on-the-Lake, where pinot noir and merlot grapes thrive. In the winter months, enjoy high-octane thrills on the snow and ice in Ontario’s Georgian Bay.
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Rideau Canal
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The Rideau Canal is a signature Ottawa landmark, dividing the city’s downtown into eastern and western segments. Opened in 1832, it’s the oldest still operational canal system in North America.

In winter, the 8 km (5-mile) stretch of canal running through the center of Ottawa transforms into the Rideau Canal Skateway, the world’s longest skating rink. In summer, joggers, sightseers and cyclers promenade along the canal’s banks. One of the best ways to experience life on the canal is aboard a scenic canal cruise.

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Niagara Falls, Ontario
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Spectacular! Wow! Fabulous! Whatever superlatives you choose, you won’t be able to keep the word from your lips at Niagara Falls. For here, great muscular bands of water tumble over a precipice like liquid glass, roaring into the void below. In terms of sheer volume, more than a million bathtubs of water plummet over the edge every second. Niagara Falls is actually two sets of falls: the American Falls and the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. The best way to see Horseshoe

Falls is either via the Maid of the Mist boat, which takes you right up to Falls, through the turbulent waters of the American Falls. Another way is to take the Journey Behind the Falls, in which you’ll walk through tunnels onto an observation deck to get a wet but up-close view of the Horseshoe Falls or go to the Cave of the Winds for an up-close view of the American Falls.

On land, you can see Niagara Falls from the Skyline Tower on the Canadian side.

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Ottawa Parliament Hill
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Canada’s political heart focuses on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, crowned with a flurry of grand government buildings.

The most impressive building is the Gothic-style Centre Block, the main Parliamentary Building, with its soaring central Peace Tower and gabled copper-topped roofline. The building is flanked by the matching East and West Blocks. Centre Block houses the Senate and Commons chambers, where public galleries are provided for visitors wishing to watch the parliamentary proceedings. It’s well worth taking one of the free daily tours to admire the interior of Centre Block and its hand-carved stonework. Listen out for the 53-bell carillon concerts ringing out from the Peace Tower, or climb the stairs for views of Ottawa from the tower’s observation deck.

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CN Tower
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Having recently turned 30, the funky CN Tower remains every bit as cool and iconic as it was when it opened in 1976. Its primary function is as a radio and TV communications tower, but riding the great glass elevators up the highest freestanding structure (1,800 feet/550 meters) in the world is one of those things in life you just have to do. On a clear day, the views from the Observation Deck are absolutely astounding; if it's hazy, you won't be able to see a thing. For extra thrills, tread lightly over the knee-trembling Glass Floor deck, or continue climbing an extra 330 ft (100 m) to the uppermost SkyPod viewing area, the highest public observation gallery in the world. Alternatively, if you're feeling chipper, you might want to enter the annual CN Tower Stair Climb - a heart-thumping dash to the top of the tower's 1,776 steps that happens every October.
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Floral Clock
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Next to Niagara Falls, one of the most photographed attractions in the surrounding area is the Floral Clock. Built in 1950, it is one of the largest in the world at a massive 40 feet in diameter. Each year, the clock is planted with over 15,000 carpet plants and annuals. The hands are made from stainless steel tubing and weigh a combined 1,250 pounds, while a 24-foot stone tower with speakers broadcasts the Westminster chime every 15 minutes.

The floral design is changed twice per year, using violas in the spring and four cultivars of Alternanthera along with green and gray Santolina Sage during summer and fall. Next to the Floral Clock visitors will find the Centennial Lilac Garden, which is in full bloom around late May and includes more than 250 varieties of plants and over 1,200 individual shrubs.

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Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
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With six million objects in its impressive collection, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is Canada's biggest natural history museum. With its new eye-catching, über-modern Daniel Libeskind design, the main building is now a magnificent explosion of architectural crystals, housing six galleries, including the new “Renaissance ROM” building.

ROM's collections bounce between natural science, ancient civilization, and art exhibits. The Chinese temple sculptures, Gallery of Korean Art, and costumery and textile collections are some of the best in the world. Kids file out of yellow school buses chugging by the sidewalk and rush to the dinosaur rooms, Egyptian mummies, and Jamaican bat cave replica. The cedar crest poles carved by First Nations tribes in British Columbia are not to be missed; the largest pole (278 feet/85 meters) was shipped from the West Coast by train, then lowered through the museum roof.

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Canadian War Museum
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The Canadian War Museum tells the story of Canada’s past conflicts, how the country and its people were affected, and remembers the sacrifices made by those that served the country in wartimes. Among an ever-changing display of new exhibitions and themes, there are several permanent exhibitions. The Legion Hall of Honour, for example, commemorates the past through personal stories, photographs and artifacts and explores common burial practices throughout history. The Military Technology Collection on the other hand is more scientific and documents the technological progress through both personal stories and a collection of different artillery and vehicles, such as fighter jets.

Four Canadian Experience Galleries called “Wars on our Soil, For Crown and Country, Forged in Fire and A Violent Peace” delve into separate conflicts and battles.

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Skylon Tower
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For numerous Niagara Falls-inspired attractions all in one place, the Skylon Tower is an excellent choice. Boasting front row views of the natural wonder along with ambient dining, a observation platform, 4D movies, shopping and family-fun, you could spend all day being entertained in one place.

Start your Skylon Tower experience by riding in their glass-enclosed elevators to the Indoor/Outdoor Observation Deck, where you can take in views of Niagara Falls, the Great Gorge, Niagara’s wine country, and Buffalo and Toronto skylines from 775 feet (236 meters) high.

For a unique dining experience in an upscale setting, Skylon Tower’s Revolving Dining Room Restaurant sits at 775 feet (236 meters) high and turns 360 degrees every hour so your view is always changing. The menu is continental, and you can order anything from lobster tails to Filet Mignon to Mediterranean chicken.

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Ottawa Locks
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The Ottawa Locks 1 to 8 regulate the flow of the city’s signature Rideau Canal as it flows south from the Ottawa River. The hand-cranked locks provide a gradient of 24 meters (79 feet) on the canal, which runs for more than 200 km (124 miles) from Ottawa to Kingston, a stunning example of 19th-century ingenuity and engineering.
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Lake Ontario
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Bordered by the U.S. state or New York and the Canadian province of Ontario, Lake Ontario is the smallest of the collection of lakes in the area called the Great Lakes. Don’t let that deceive you though, because Lake Ontario with its 7,340 square miles surface area and five big islands actually holds the title of the 14th largest lake in the world. A 900-mile long road called theWaterfront Trail is used to connect the cities and villages that line the Canadian shores of Lake Ontario. The most well-known of these cities is of course Toronto, Canada’s most populous city and home to tourist attractions such as the Hockey Hall of Fame, Rogers Center, the Royal Ontario Museum and the iconic CN Tower.

Niagara-on-the-Lake borders the more famous Niagara Falls, but actually has quite a bit to offer by itself, such as the many wineries and restaurants along the lake or two historical military forts.

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More Things to Do in Ontario

Algonquin Provincial Park

Algonquin Provincial Park

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Widely recognized as the oldest land preserve in Canada, Algonquin Provincial Park is home to numerous lakes, thousands of kilometers of winding streams and rivers, 1,200 campsites and dozens of opportunities to explore the outdoors.

Travelers can stop by the popular Algonquin Visitor Center, which showcases the park’s extensive history and offers travelers a perfect starting point for any adventure. Visitors can map out their adventures on the massive relief map and pick up expert tips and travel guides to help navigate this scenic spot. Whether it’s canoeing to one of the Algonquin’s interior camping sites, mountain biking its network of extensive trails, horseback riding through thick forests or fishing in one of the pristine bodies of water, there’s something for every outdoorsman, regardless of the season.

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Georgian Bay Islands National Park

Georgian Bay Islands National Park

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With its dense carpet of white pines and red oak, hemmed in by rocky shores and punctuated by vibrant pockets of wild orchids and white trilliums, it’s easy to be swept away by the beauty of the Georgian Bay Islands National Park. Made up of 63 small islands and isles clustered along the southeastern shore of the great Lake Huron, it’s set within the world’s largest freshwater archipelago and makes a popular holiday destination.

The island is reachable only by boat and regular shuttle ferries run from Honey Bay on the mainland, to Beausoleil Island, the largest of the park’s islands. Here, there’s a vast network of hiking and cycling trails, ample opportunities for sailing, kayaking and canoeing, and a number of tranquil waterfront cabins and campsites. Along with its striking landscapes, the most compelling asset of the Georgian Bay Islands is its surprising diversity of wildlife, with a large variety of reptiles, including the rare eastern massasauga rattlesnake.

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Rogers Centre

Rogers Centre

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At the base of the CN Tower is sports and entertainment venue, The Rogers Centre (formerly known as the Skydome). Since the name change in 2006, the Centre welcomes over 3.5 million visitors a year. It will celebrate 25 years in 2014.

The Rogers Centre is the home of the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Club, World Series Champions in 1992 and 1993, and the Toronto Argonauts Football Team, who last won the Grey Cup in 2004. It is known as having the world’s first fully retractable roof. The roof opens and closes in 20 minutes and is a fun feature while being at a game or event. The Rogers Centre is the ideal venue for a big stadium concert; some of the biggest names in the business have entertained the masses from The Rolling Stones to Bon Jovi. To learn more about the Rogers Centre, you can experience a one hour fully guided behind-the-scenes tour. Highlights include a visit to different levels, a press box and a luxury suite among other stops.

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Toronto Chinatown

Toronto Chinatown

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One of three Chinatowns in the Greater Toronto area, the area that runs from College just before Queen on Spadina as well as along Dundas, west of Beverly Street ( past the Art Gallery of Ontario) is the largest Chinatown in the city. The two other Chinatowns are located at Gerrard and Broadview in Toronto’s east end and in Mississauga, in the Greater Toronto area. The Chinese community is one of the largest ethnicities in Toronto. According to the 2006 data from Statistics Canada, there were 283,075 Chinese people living in the city; the Chinese population is the second largest visible minority--after South Asian--comprising of 11.4 per cent of Toronto residents.

It is no wonder that Chinatown is one of the most densely concentrated and chaotic areas of Toronto. Whether you’re trying to buy fruit at one of the many markets on a Saturday morning or find a bargain at one of the many shops, you’ll always be surrounded by excitement.

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ByWard Market

ByWard Market

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Canada’s oldest market, operating since 1826, the ByWard Market is one of the most entertaining attractions in Ottawa.

Come here year-round, rain or shine to get a taste for Ottawa’s food culture and lively city ambiance.

There are more than 260 fresh produce, arts and crafts stands to browse, and 500 businesses operating within the market. Choose from 88 restaurants, two dozen nightlife venues, and scores of shops and boutiques. You’ll also find the National Gallery of Canada nearby.

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Journey Behind the Falls

Journey Behind the Falls

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Horseshoe Falls is an awesome site from the shore and from a boat, but the best way to truly experience its absolute power is to take the Journey Behind the Falls. On this journey, you’ll don a plastic poncho and traverse tunnels bored into the rock behind the great sheet water for a thunderous up-close view.

Journey Behind the Falls consists of an observation platform and series of tunnels near the bottom of the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian shore. The tunnels and platform can be reached by elevators from the street level entrance. You walk through two tunnels, which extend approximately 150 feet/46 meters behind the waterfall. When you reach the end of the tunnel, you can see water cascading in front of the open cave entrances. The best part is stepping out on the observation deck for the full experience. You will get very wet, but it’s worth it for the site of the roaring water.

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St. Lawrence Market

St. Lawrence Market

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Toronto's sensational St. Lawrence Market has been a neighborhood meeting place for more than 200 years. The restored, high-trussed 1845 South Market building houses more than 50 specialty food stalls including cheese vendors, fishmongers, butchers, bakers and pasta makers with lots of action and yelling of prices in silly voices.

Inside the old council chambers upstairs, the St. Lawrence Market Gallery is now the city's exhibition hall, with rotating displays of paintings, photographs, documents, and historical relics. On the opposite side of Front Street, the North Market building houses a farmers' market on Saturday and an antiques market on Sunday. Overlooking the market is the glorious St. Lawrence Hall, which can be seen for blocks. Considered one of Toronto's finest examples of Victorian classicism, the building is topped by a mansard roof and a working, copper-clad clock tower.

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1000 Islands Tower

1000 Islands Tower

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National Gallery of Canada (Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada)

National Gallery of Canada (Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada)

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Canada’s premier art collection is housed in the National Gallery of Canada, a strikingly modern building of glass and pink granite overlooking the Ottawa River.

The collection focuses on Canadian and European works, both classical and contemporary. The chronological display of art in the Canadian galleries is especially illuminating, providing a cultural overview of Canada’s history in paintings. You’ll also find photography exhibits, Asian collections and the art of indigenous and Aboriginal Canadians in the Inuit Gallery. The gallery also prides itself on the quality and energy of its ongoing contemporary collection.

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Table Rock Welcome Centre

Table Rock Welcome Centre

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Although the original Table Rock -- a jutting out of rock from the Falls used as a viewing platform in the 19th century -- was destroyed in 1935 after a series of dangerous rock falls, today it is a retail and entertainment complex. Considered a must-visit when at Niagara Falls, Table Rock’s viewing area is home to terraced platforms perfect for picture taking, especially as rainbows are a common sighting. It’s located right at the Falls in the heart of Niagara Parks, so you’re guaranteed to enjoy beautiful scenery near all the attractions.

Begin your Table Rock experience at the Welcome Centre, where you can purchase tickets, packages and passes depending on what you want to do. Here you’ll also be able to get some background information on the area. One attraction at Table Rock is Niagara’s Fury, a 4D experience that will make you feel like you’re really witnessing the creation of the falls through advanced technology.

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Royal Canadian Mint

Royal Canadian Mint

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Housed in a castle-like structure, Canada’s original mint no longer produces currency for circulation—that now happens at Winnipeg’s Royal Canadian Mint. However the Ottawa facility is still functioning, churning out special-edition collector coins and precious metal bullion. Tours of the facility reveal the processes of coin-making.
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Queen Victoria Park

Queen Victoria Park

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Niagara Falls main parkland, the Queen Victoria Park is in the center of the Niagara Parks and features a mix of green and water views as well as the chance to learn about nature. While exploring Queen Victoria Park you’ll be able to take in front row views of Niagara Falls, as the park is located along the Niagara Gorge and River. For this reason, it’s one of the best places for taking excellent photographs of the natural attraction, especially as it provides a peaceful setting. Visitors can also access top Niagara Falls experiences from the park like the Maid of the Mist, Clifton Hill and Journey Behind the Falls.

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Canadian Museum of Nature

Canadian Museum of Nature

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Explore the Great White North’s many wonders at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Set in a historic castle in Ottawa, this five-story museum focuses on the country’s natural history with a fossil gallery, a water gallery (where you can see a blue whale skeleton), mineral displays, and an array of other exhibits.
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Canadian Museum of History

Canadian Museum of History

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The grand-sounding Canadian Museum of Civilization takes an up-close look at Canada’s history and culture with an entertaining and educational array of exhibits.

There’s a topic to intrigue every interest. Special exhibitions examine everything from the role of the horse in civilization to the history of Canada’s fur trade.

The museum’s permanent displays explore Canada’s natural world, social history and First Peoples, drawing on the collection’s 3.75 million artifacts.

The Children’s Museum is specially designed to spark the imaginations of little ones, and the on-site IMAX cinema entertains all ages with big-screen movies.

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