If you know one city in Ontario, it’s Toronto. Almost one in five Canadians lives in the greater Toronto area, and there’s no doubt it’s the country’s financial capital. But there’s much more to the country’s most populated province, whose diverse culture you’ll come to love on a road trip from Niagara to the nation’s capital.
Start in Niagara Falls. The Canadian side of the resort community boasts the best views of the cascades, which dump more than 3,000 tons of water per second. Sip on a glass of Ontario wine as you gaze at the gushing waterfall.
When you’re ready to move on, set your sights on Toronto. It’s known as many things – the hockey capital of the world, one of the most diverse cities in North America, and definitely the country’s traffic hub. But you’ll find the city to be quite navigable if you stay on the lakefront and journey by foot. The CN Tower is in the heart of town three blocks from Lake Ontario. Ascend 1,100 feet and survey the town beneath you. Look directly below and you’ll see an old train hub – but now it’s home to one of Toronto’s favourite beers – Steam Whistle. Have a seat in the biergarten and savor some of the smoothest suds you’ve ever tasted. Hungry? Lee Restaurant is the brainchild of celebrity chef Susur Lee, and it’ll overwhelm every sense – especially the 19-ingredient slaw.
While Toronto boasts a bounty of attractions, it’s far from the only place to enjoy Ontario’s rich culture. Keep tracing the shores of Lake Ontario and you’ll encounter Kingston three hours to the east. One of the province’s lesser-known gems, it’s a college town of 125,000 on the mouth of the St. Lawrence. Queen’s University’s 25,000 students lend their dynamic culture to the vibrant town, which hosts several art and music festivals each year. Get your fill of the town’s laid-back vibe, then fill your stomach at Wooden Heads Gourmet Pizza before leaving town.
The nation’s capital beckons two hours north. Ottawa sits on Ontario’s eastern border, and its cosmopolitan culture will wow you. Not only is it teeming with French speakers thanks to its proximity to Quebec and status as the seat of government, but it’s a truly international melting pot – complete with a Chinatown and Little Italy. Tour parliament, then get a dose of that diverse culture down the hill in the ByWard Market, where you’ll be overwhelmed by the food and drink options. Perhaps the most beloved restaurant is 10 kilometers west, though. Golden Palace’s eggrolls are stuffed with meat and topped off with a touch of heaven; the restaurant sends a thousand of them out the door every day.
If you’re craving a culinary classic closer to the heart of town, La Favorita is your answer. Owner Nick Shallal serves up pizzas, pastas and platters at a classy, cozy establishment in Little Italy. Order the Mediterana pizza and a slice of tiramisu that’s the size of your face, then thank us later.
Bohemian Westboro is an ideal place to rest after your action-packed Ontario journey. From there, you’re poised to head home or continue your travels into Quebec.