Close up of a persons Canada socks and running shoes.

Maple syrup, a classic Canadian treat  

When you think of Canada, a picture of a maple leaf might be the first thing that pops into your head. From the flag to national sports teams’ jerseys and backpacks headed to Europe, the maple leaf says Canada. So it is no surprise that maple syrup also says Canada.

Every spring as winter winds give way to spring breezes, the forests of Ontario overflow with red, black and sugar maple trees awaiting the arrival of the maple sugaring season. In charming places like Lanark County—The Maple Syrup Capital of Ontario—people from all over come to sample the many delights and delicacies the locals offer.

In McDonalds Corners right in the heart of the Lanark Highlands, Wheelers Pancake House with its huge windows and location at the centre of their 730-acre forest will make you feel like the maple syrup is coming right to you. And if the idea of a maple ale whets your appetite, then another Lanark County mainstay, the Perth Brewery is just the place for you.

In the Peterborough area, The Kawartha Buttertart Factory brings the delights of maple tree tapping to life in their famous maple butter tarts and maple sticky buns. And not far down the road in Campbellford, the Dockside Bistro serves a hand-pressed burger topped with bacon strips, house-made maple bacon jam and Empire Cheese Whiskey Mustard Cheddar cheese.

And if Niagara Falls is on your to-do list, include Maple Leaf Place—with its expansive factory and tasting room—on your itinerary.

Learn more about maple syrup in Ontario: Maple syrup season | Destination Ontario + Sweet Ontario - the home for Ontario maple syrup

Indulge in cold, refreshingly sweet Icewine

Just as Ontario’s distinctive climate produces the delectable sap that becomes maple syrup, so too does the winter weather make Icewine – known as Canada’s “liquid gold” – possible. In fact, of all the wine-producing regions of the world, only Ontario has a winter climate sufficiently reliable to ensure and Icewine crop every year.

Icewine, a sought after Ontario luxury, is a luscious and concentrated dessert wine made from grapes that have naturally frozen on the vine. Harvested in cold temperatures, typically below -8°C (17.6°F), the frozen grapes yield intensely sweet juice, resulting in a rich, complex and balanced wine with flavours of honey, apricot and citrus.

Produced by many of the Niagara regions wineries, Icewine is a delight not to be missed.  In Niagara-on-the-Lake,  Reif Estate Winery, is one of the many winemakers with a rich history producing Icewine. They offer tastings and tours throughout the year. Another renowned producer of this distinctly Ontarian luxury is Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery. For six generations, the family has farmed the Short Hills Bench sub-appellation of the Niagara Peninsula.

Learn more about Icewine: Guide to Icewine | Destination Ontario

More Canadian delicacies

Rather than a single national food like the American hot dog and apple pie, Canada’s regions give the country its unique flavour. From quintessential favourites like butter tarts, peameal bacon (Toronto’s Carousel Bakery’s world-famous peameal bacon sandwich is a must-try) perch, pickerel and beavertails, to the rich mosaic of restaurant fare that highlights the province’s expansive cultural diversity, a wide variety of influences define our culinary scene.

Learn more, Quintessential Canadian food | Destination Ontario, Foodie trails and tours | Destination Ontario,  Ontario shore lunch

Ice hockey, Canada’s sport

When most people think of Canada and sports, ice hockey is what immediately springs to mind. The game is deeply entwined in Ontario’s identity. It unites us and cuts across cultural, geographic and socio-economic lines.

Like so many things in Canada, it's founded on the climate… a frozen pond, long cold winters and back in the day, not a lot to do. Today you can relive hockey’s early incarnation by playing shinny. Shinny is another name for pond hockey or pick-up hockey.

While most cities and towns have a public rink on which to join a game of shinny, Blue Mountain, a couple hours north of Toronto, offers their own special shinny rink that you can book. Blue Mountain Shinny

Of course, if watching how the pros do it is more your style, both Toronto and Ottawa have NHL teams as well as teams in the Professional Women’s Hockey League. There are also several minor league professional teams and junior league teams offering high-quality, fast-paced games. Learn more: Guide to Canadian ice hockey | Destination Ontario

To really get immersed in the game, check out the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. It celebrates the sport's rich history and honours its legends. Established in 1943, it showcases artifacts, memorabilia and interactive exhibits, preserving the legacy of iconic players, coaches and builders. Find out more: Hockey Hall of Fame | Destination Ontario

From ice hockey to ice fishing

While Canadians love a game played on top of the ice, they are almost equally enthused by what goes on below it. Once the winter cold has really settled, and  lakes are coated with four or more inches of ice, ice fishing shacks start to dot the frozen surface. Armed with augers and heated shelters, enthusiasts drill through thick ice to catch a variety of fish like perch, walleye and pike. It's a unique and rewarding experience amidst Ontario's winter landscapes.

There are a number of outfitters that offer guided ice fishing expeditions at a number of the more popular lakes known for ice fishing. The guides  provide all the gear and know-how and are a great way to experience all the fun of this genuine Canadian pastime. Checkout some guided tours.

Learn more: Best spots for ice fishing | Destination Ontario and Ice fishing made easy | Destination Ontario

Getaway to Cottage Country

Once the winter ice has given way to spring breezes and summer heat, there may be nothing more Canadian than heading to Ontario’s cottage country for a relaxing week or weekend at a lakeside cabin or resort.  Tranquil lakes, lush forests and outdoor activities define Cottage Country. You can kick back in a quaint cabin or splurge on more luxurious accommodations like those found at Jayne’s Cottages. No matter where you stay, cottage country means canoeing, swimming, hiking, barbecuing, fishing, stargazing, board games, curling up with a good book and so much more.

Here a few of the many resorts available:

Learn more: Lakeside summer getaways| Destination Ontario, Ontario Resorts | Destination Ontario, Places to stay in Kawartha Lakes, Killarney Mountain Lodge

Nature’s Oasis

Across the country, stunning landscapes and natural wonders can be found in Canada’s national and provincial parks.  Ontario's 340 provincial parks in particular offer breathtaking natural beauty and diverse outdoor adventures. From the iconic Algonquin Provincial Park’s pristine wilderness to the stunning landscapes of Killarney Provincial Park, visitors can explore forests, lakes and trails. Ontario’s parks showcase Canada's rich biodiversity and provide a serene escape into nature's wonders.

With many activities available—hiking, biking, bird watching, swimming, paddling, fishing, boating, to mention a few—it’s important to note that parks require a fee or permit and visits be booked in advance.

Learn more: Top parks to visit in Canada | Destination Ontario and Outdoor wellness in nature | Destination Ontario

Paddling in Ontario

If hockey says Canada in winter, then canoeing says Canada in the summer. For many Canadians paddling is like coming home. Invented by First Nations and adopted by Europeans, the canoe just made sense to navigate Canada’s natural waterways. Canada and Ontario’s history is inextricably linked to this iconic craft and today the canoe remains part of the country’s psyche and is embedded firmly in its culture.

Ontario is an exceptional destination for canoeing. It has an abundance of lakes of all sizes and free-flowing rivers. Many of these have preserved traditional canoe routes, backcountry campsites, portage trails between bodies of water and outfitting companies to guide you to experience it all.

You can learn more about Canadian canoeing history at the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough which opens May 11, 2024. 

Across the province there are many places to rent everything you need to go for a paddle, whether that be for an hour or a multi-day foray deep into lake country or down one of the province's many rivers. As well, most lakeside resorts provide canoes and kayaks for their guests, often at no cost, just ask when booking. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Paddle the Grand River. A heritage river with deep significance to Indigenous people as it runs through the Six Nations Reserve, the only First Nation community that includes all six Haudenosaunee nations. Grand River Rafting (Paris to Brant)

Experience Algonquin Park up close and personal. Beginner Canoe Trip with Voyageur Quest in Algonquin Park and Algonquin Outfitters

Canoe down the Rideau Canal, Perth Outfitters

Take the family down the historic French River Beginner Canoe Trip for families on the French River

Head north to explore the endless lakes, rivers and breathtaking scenery. Canoe or kayak, there is so much to experience:

Learn more: Beginner’s guide to canoeing in Ontario | Destination Ontario and 10 iconic rivers to canoe in Ontario | Destination Ontario

The Group of Seven

The Group of Seven (also known as the Algonquin School) was a group of Canadian landscape painters who made up the country’s first major art movement. Inspired by European impressionists, the group believed distinct Canadian art could be developed through direct contact with nature.

The Group of Seven was particularly relevant to Ontario as the artists focused on capturing the rugged and pristine landscapes of Ontario, bringing attention to the province's unique natural beauty. Their works helped define a Canadian art identity, emphasizing the importance of the Canadian wilderness. Additionally, the Group of Seven played a role in fostering a national appreciation for the country's landscapes and influencing the cultural identity of Ontario and Canada as a whole.

Experience the group and the landscapes that inspired their work: Group of Seven | Destination Ontario and Group of Seven route: Ontario Collection | Destination Ontario

Embrace breathtaking Fall colours

One theme that runs through much of the paintings of the Group of Seven, is the ochres, burnt oranges, golds, and crimson colours that dominate so many of their works. Those colours of fall resonate with so many and every autumn brings folks to Ontario to experience them firsthand.

Ontario experiences vibrant fall colours primarily due to its diverse mix of deciduous trees and climatic conditions. The province is home to a variety of hardwood trees, such as maples, oaks, and birches, which undergo a stunning transformation in the fall. Some of the best places to take in the stunning foliage include:

  • Haliburton Highlands: Just a 2.5 hour drive from Toronto, the Highlands offer scores of hiking trails and lookouts from which to enjoy the view as Maple, Aspen and Tamarack transform the forest canopy into a wonderful sea of red, orange and yellows.
  • Muskoka: This popular cottage country region is surrounded by lakes and dense forests. The combination of maple, oak and pine trees creates a picturesque autumn landscape. Take a scenic drive or explore the hiking trails to fully appreciate Muskoka's fall beauty.
  • Niagara Parkway: Following the Niagara River, this scenic route offers stunning views of the changing leaves. The Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens and Butterfly Conservatory are also excellent spots to enjoy the fall foliage.
  • Prince Edward County: This charming area, known for its wineries and beaches, is equally enchanting in the fall. The changing leaves complement the historic architecture and vineyards, making it a picturesque destination.
  • Algonquin Provincial Park: Known for its diverse forests, Algonquin Park offers an array of deciduous trees, providing a breathtaking canvas of fall colours. The park's lookout points, hiking trails and waterways showcase the vibrant foliage.

Here are some additional places and ways to enjoy the festive colours of fall:

Learn more: Fall colour sightseeing tours | Destination Ontario

Celebrating Canada Day

Canada Day celebrated on July 1, marks the anniversary of Canada's confederation. Commemorating the union of provinces in 1867, festivities nationwide include fireworks, parades, concerts and cultural events. Ontarians proudly display their national flag, partake in festivities and reflect on the country's history, diversity and shared identity.

Ottawa is really the place to experience the definitive Canada Day celebrations. No matter where home is, it is pretty hard not to feel like a Canadian on July 1 in the nation’s capital. Activities usually start at 9 a.m. and run all day highlighted by a parade and various events which celebrate who Canadians are as a people and features a special Citizenship Ceremony. In the evening, a free concert features some of Canada's top musical acts performing to unite people from across the country with the rhythm of music. Canada Day in Ottawa culminates with fireworks display that is not to be missed.

Learn more: Celebrate Canada Day | Destination Ontario

Last updated: May 16, 2024

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