Ontario is the most populous and second-largest province of Canada, home to the Canadian capital city of Ottawa, as well as Ontario’s own capital Toronto, Canada’s largest city. Ontario is bordered by the province of Quebec to the east, by the Great Lakes region (Michigan,Minnesota andNew York) of the United States to the south, by Manitoba to the west and by Hudson and James Bays to the north.
In addition to being Canada’s most populous province, it is also a major tourist destination, especially around the Niagara Falls. Most of the population, more than 90% resides in the four regions that make up Southern Ontario, which covers a much smaller land area than the expansive north making it worlds apart in topography and local culture. Ontario can provide the visitor with access to Canada’s most populous city, Toronto; the world’s largest fresh water lake, Lake Superior; and even a polar bear park in the arctic circle due to its massive size. While the majority is clearly English speaking, one will find historic French speakers and some signage in French, many other immigrant languages in the greater Toronto area in addition to First Nations people’s native tongues still being spoken.
Ontario has many cities. Here are nine of the major ones.
English is spoken throughout Ontario. French is spoken in some parts of the province especially along the border in eastern and northern Ontario. Services are available in both English and French at all Federal and Provincial Government offices as well as many Municipal Government offices. Many large and small business offer services in French although this is not always mandated by statute. The closer one gets to Quebec, the more likely one is to be able to receive service in French in stores, restaurants and other businesses. Some banks and ATMs also offer service in Chinese, particularly in Ottawa and Toronto.
More than 95% of the Ontarian population is fluent in English or French. More than 91% of the population is fluent in English.
Most visitors arrive in Ontario by way of Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Mississauga (just outside of Toronto, in the metro area). The airport is a major hub for most Canadian air carriers. If your ultimate destination is in Southern Ontario, you will likely pass through Pearson at some point. Many flights from overseas will land in Toronto, and daily flights are available from many Canadian cities and most American hubs.
For destinations in Eastern Ontario and the Ottawa Valley, flights from within Canada, from the United States, and the United Kingdom are also available to Ottawa. Many American hubs have daily direct flights into Ottawa.
In Southern Ontario, there are airports at Windsor, Sarnia, London, Hamilton and Kingston which are served by Air Canada and/or WestJet to various Canadian destinations (but most commonly only to Toronto). There is also an airport at Kitchener which is served by Delta Air Lines to Detroit and WestJet to Calgary. If you are going to Windsor, you will land at Detroit Metro Airport just across the border.
If you plan to travel to Northwestern Ontario or the North of Superior region, then Thunder Bay International Airport would be your best bet. Air Canada has direct flights from Toronto and Winnipeg, to name a few, and Westjet has flights from Hamilton and Winnipeg.
Driving from the USA, border crossings include: International Falls, Minn. to Fort Frances, Ontario; Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan to Sault Ste Marie, Ontario; Port Huron, Michigan to Sarnia, Ontario; Detroit, Michigan to Windsor, Ontario; Buffalo, NY to Fort Erie, Ontario; Niagara Falls, NY toNiagara Falls, Ontario; Wolfe Island to Lansdowne; Massena to Cornwall.
If you are coming from Quebec, the southern routes are TransCanada Highways 20 and 40. 20 connects to the 401 (a direct route to Toronto) and 40 connects to 417 (heading to Ottawa). If your intentions are Northerly, the Ottawa route is the most direct.
From Manitoba, there really is only one option by car (unless you are coming via the USA), and that option is TransCanada Highway 1, which connects to 17 in Ontario.
AVMMAX2000 Charters is a Toronto (Ontario, Canada) based Charter Bus Rental company with 20 years of experience providing comfortable chartered bus rental services to anywhere in North America.
Greyhound Canada travels to nearly 1,100 towns and cities in Canada, via 400 coaches during peak travel periods. As well, Coach Canada is another bus service that runs in partnership with Trentway Wagar Lines.
Megabus, provides service from New York City, Buffalo, Buffalo-Niagara Airport, Philadelphia, Syracuse, Rochester, and Washington, D.C to Toronto. .
Ne-On, is a service operated jointly by Greyhound USA and New York Trailways that runs two buses a day from New York City to Toronto.
Pacific Western offers charter services, which is available throughout the entire GTA, Mississauga, Brampton, Niagara Falls Region, Buffalo NY Airport and Montreal Airport. But, they could assist you with any transportation requirements outside of these areas including: All of Canada and the USA.
Within Canada, VIA Rail Canada is the most common way to enter Ontario by train. It is not unheard of to enter Ontario from the USA by train, but the customs waits between the USA and Canada are no different than might be expected by car or plane.
Ontario is a large province and, as a result, the car is nearly the most convenient way to explore it. If you are arriving by plane initially, cars are easily rented if you are over 23, but easiest if you are over 25 years of age. Despite what you may have been led to believe, there is more to Ontario than Southern Ontario and Toronto (or Hamilton, or Niagara, or whatever), and driving to and through the vast and varied regions of Ontario can be an adventure. Coming from the USA, your options are numerous.
In Northern Ontario, the car is a must if you wish to get from place to place. In most cases, you will be driving the TransCanada Highway (a cross-Canada network of highways, often offering more than one route), either on Highway 17 or Highway 11. 17 follows a more Southerly route hugging Lake Superior, while 11 ventures Northward at North Bay and heads through a slightly less populous region of the province before heading southwards. Do note that 11 and 17 come together in the Thunder Bay region. To the west, 11 heads to its end at Rainy River and the USA, while 17 heads up to lead to Manitoba.
Even by car, you will be unable to access the Northern half of Ontario. Roads are the exception, not the rule, and you will rely on plane and train nearly anywhere north of Lake Nipigon.
Speed limits are posted in metric. Roadways are usually in good condition. On major highways, drivers routinely exceed the speed limit by 20 to 49 km/h despite the threat of hefty fines. Anyone caught exceeding the speed limit by 50 km/h or more, or making certain undesirable driving manoeuvres such as racing, preventing others from passing or rushing to turn left on a fresh green light before the oncoming lanes have moved, can be hit with an automatic fine between $2000 and $10,000, a seven-day license suspension and a seven-day vehicle impound.
Lane discipline by drivers is considered mediocre at best. Although it is widely known that passing should be only done on the leftmost lanes, drivers routinely pass on the rightmost lanes, mostly due to slower drivers failing to change lanes to the rightmost lanes.
Ontario has High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes on Highway 403 and 404. Cars and even motorcycles require at least two occupants per vehicle to use them around the clock. If you are coming from the USA, remember that motorcycles without passengers are banned from Ontario HOV lanes. It is different from most USA HOV lanes allowing motorcycles, even if without passengers.
Within the Greater Toronto Area (which includes a large portion of the area around Toronto), GO Transit is an option. Fares are calculated by distance, much like regular intercity transport. This is the best mode of public transit between cities and towns in this region. GO Transit mostly serves daily commuters into Toronto, and service is most frequent during the early morning and late afternoon. Some routes are served by train during certain hours.
Ontario contains many excellent recreational waterways including: the Great Lakes, the Rideau Canal, the Trent-Severn Waterway, the Ottawa and St Lawrence Rivers. The St Lawrence River includes the Thousand Islands region as well as the St Lawrence Seaway system.
The Niagara River is one of the wonders of our natural world although it is most definitely not a recreational waterway! The River includes the great cataract we know as Niagara Falls and is bypassed for navigational purposes by the Welland Ship Canal.
VIA Rail services many areas of Ontario, from small towns to the largest cities. Many of the larger stations are served by several trains each day. Stations are often located in the downtown area of some cities, and are sometimes served by local public transit. In Toronto, car rentals are available from within the station.
Within the Golden Horseshoe, GO Transit  is a convenient and fast way to travel, if you can do so either in the early and late rush hour periods. In the summer months, GO Trains travel special express trains between Toronto and Niagara Falls, ON
The big exception to the above is if your destination is Northern Ontario (such as Moosonee or Lake Superior Provincial Park). There are train services to these areas that are your only options, excepting planes.
Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport (IATA: YYZ), is the province’s largest airport and a major hub for most Canadian air carriers. Regular service is available to regional airports throughout Ontario. More locations are served by Toronto’s City Centre Airport.
Ottawa has an international airport for destinations in Eastern Ontario and the Ottawa Valley.
In Southern Ontario, there are airports at Windsor, Sarnia, London, Hamilton, Kingston, and Kitchener.
If you plan to travel to Northern Ontario or the North of Superior region, airports include Thunder Bay, Sudbury (Ontario), Timmins, Sault Sainte Marie (Ontario), as well as many smaller airports. The larger carriers serving Northern Ontario from airports in Toronto and Ottawa include Air Canada Jazz, Bearskin Airlines, and Porter Airlines.
Craft Brewery Tours in Ontario- Day and afternoon tours are available in the beer regions of downtown Toronto, Oakville Port Credit/Mississauga,and Kitchener/Waterloo/Guelph; opportunity to sample some of Ontario’s finest hand-crafted exotic and regular ingredient beers. Tour packages are available for groups in other Beer Regions including the Capital Region and Lakes Region
The Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa, Golden Horseshoe, and Niagara Falls/Niagara Region each offer you a wide variety of Indian, Chinese, Thai, Italian, Latin American, Japanese, fast food, and French cuisines (all formal and unformal). Toronto and Ottawa have large immigrant populations, and have an unusually high variety of quality specialty cuisines, that cater to Western, Asian, European palates.
Visit Gluten-Free Ontario for a list of restaurants/bakeries in Ontario that offer gluten-free food.
In Ontario, the legal drinking age is 19. In Southern Ontario, you will find a great variety of beer and spirits at your disposal, while in Northern Ontario your options are usually limited to the most common North American standards. Do take note that drinking in public is discouraged by law in Ontario and most parts of Canada, exceptions being licensed patios and the like.
Beer is available from the Beer Store (run by Molson, Labatt and Sleeman), while beer, wine and other alcohol is available from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario , commonly called the LCBO, (run by the government). In Northern Ontario, you will typically only see the LCBO (and this will also be the case in some rural areas of Southern Ontario). The only time you will ever see alcohol in a grocery store is when that store has an internal LCBO. You will never find alcohol in convenience stores in Ontario. You can also buy wine at the Wine Rack in some areas. Alcohol may not be easily available outside of LCBO and Beer Store hours, so stock up on alcohol ahead of holidays and store closures. Beer may also be purchased at breweries.
Of course, pubs and bars are no rarity in Ontario. In nearly every community you will enter, you will be able to find at least one tavern or bar. A domestic bottled beer will typically cost around $3.50 and a cocktail-type drink around $4.50 or higher. Expect the prices to vary, with prices being much higher in urban centres. Drinks are served “smart-serve” in Ontario, so they will never be made free-pour, every (single) serving of liquor, beer and wine have the same amount of alcohol (though in reality, particularly strong beers or wines will have more alcohol per serving)
Ontario has an active beer culture that has blossomed recently in Southern Ontario in particular. Below are some of the breweries you can expect to find:
Much like the recent popularity of smaller, regional breweries, brew pubs have become increasingly popular in some cities throughout Ontario. These brew unique beers within the restaurant that supposedly reflect local tastes and matches some of the dishes offered.
The Niagara region, home to Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake, is Ontario’s premier wine-production region. Wine is also produced at 13 wineries in Essex County and Pelee Island, Canada’s most southern point.
Ontario has a comparatively young wine industry that is expanding rapidly. Ontario, and Canada in general, is renowned for its consistent and unique ice wines. It is also gaining increasing recognition for its world-class premium table wines.
It’s wine regions are right in the middle of the northern grape-growing belt – between 41° and 44° north. That puts southern Ontario just south of the famous Bordeaux Region in France, and parallel with northern California wine regions. Ontario is considered a “cool climate region” – which means at harvest time grapes are blessed with more concentrated flavours and balanced acidity which makes them wonderfully food friendly. That’s why cooler climate wines typically have a livelier flavour than those from hotter climates.
The Vinters Quality Association (VQA) is an association of wineries that provide insight into the quality of Ontario wines. When purchasing wine made in Ontario, look for a “VQA” logo on the bottle – this tells you the wine has been approved by the association. Keep in mind that there are still many wines that are not certified, but lack of certification does not necessarily mean a poor wine.
In Ontario, recent Supreme Court rulings have made it difficult to convict on charges of possession, and police are generally lenient towards possession of up to 30 grams. However, buying, selling, cultivating (for non-medical use) and smoking marijuana in public is still illegal. The federal government has expressed a willingness to “get tough” on drugs, and as a result marijuana possession charges have jumped. Tourists are advised to avoid smoking marijuana in public areas, though the risk of criminal prosecution is minimal relative to most of the world.
Quebec, to the east, is the nearest populated area of Canada and presents an interesting contrast to Ontario.