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Things to Do in Ontario - page 2

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Ottawa Parliament Hill
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15 Tours and Activities

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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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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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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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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Confederation Square
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Confederation Square is a triangular plaza wedged between Wellington Street and Elgin Street right in front of Parliament Hill. It is a planned urban space that was, together with the National War Memorial, officially completed around 1939. The big granite memorial sits at the very center of the square and was originally a tribute to the Canadians who fought in World War One, but has since become more of a symbol of all Canadians serving the country in times of war. Bronze soldiers, including infantry, nurses, dispatch riders and many more regiments and corps portray “The Response” under the big granite arch, the heroic sacrifices made by Canada. They are watched over by two figures representing peace and freedom mounted on the top of the arch. Located at Confederation Square and right in front of the National War Memorial is also the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a second monument that holds the remains of an unidentified soldier fallen during the First World War in France.

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Toronto City Hall
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The New City Hall is one of Toronto’s most characteristic landmarks. Overlooking the busy Queen Street West in downtown Toronto, the New City Hall is nicknamed “the eye of the government” because of its shape on a plan view. The building’s easily identifiable dual curved and almost identical towers surround a council chamber that is mounted on a raised platform, a creation of Finnish architects Viljo Revell, Heikki Castrén, Bengt Lundsten, and Seppo Valjus, as well as landscape architect Richard Strong, who designed the building after an international architectural competition that yielded submissions from 42 countries in 1958. Part of the competition also included the Nathan Phillips Square below, which is now home to overheard walkways, a reflecting pool, and large concrete arches – it remains one of Toronto’s main gathering places, and New Year’s Eve celebrations are held there every year.

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CF Toronto Eaton Centre
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Known as a landmark as well as one of Canada’s most well-known retail centres--with over 200 shops-- it’s hard to miss the Eaton Centre in the heart of Toronto’s downtown core, stretching over two city blocks. Named after the now-defunct Eaton’s department store chain led by Timothy Eaton, the retailer filed for bankruptcy in 1999; Sears acquired all assets, though the Centre still retains its name.

Architecturally, the Centre is known for its flock of Canadian geese, designed by artist Michael Snow, suspended from the centre of a glass-galleria. During the holiday season, a massive Christmas Tree towers in the centre of the mall -- the swarovski crystal decorations have been popular with visitors and shutterbugs. The mall has 7 different restaurants and a modern food court --renovated in 2011--appealing to all tastes. The mall is still undergoing renovations near the Queen entrance yet the Centre remains one of Toronto’s biggest tourist attractions.

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Toronto Kensington Market
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Kensington Market is a must-see on a visit to Toronto. The lively market is filled with a mix of food stores selling a variety of meats, fish, and produce. If that isn’t enough to make your mouth water, you can browse bakeries, spice and dry goods stores, and cheese shops. It is also home to many restaurants covering a wide variety of styles and ethnicities.

Along with the plethora of food shops in Kensington Market are a wide variety of new and used clothing boutiques plus discount and surplus stores. And just when you need a respite from all the shops, grab a seat in cozy café or stop for a meal in one of the many restaurants. In summer, Kensington Market hosts several car-free Sundays, and a pedestrian mall unfolds on the narrow streets. Live music, dancing, street theatre and games are among the special events on the closed streets.

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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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Art Gallery of Ontario
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After undergoing an extensive renovation by Toronto-born Frank Gehry, the Art Gallery of Ontario has reopened in a dramatic new building that strikes a dazzling balance between art and architecture, and makes great use of natural light.

The Art Gallery of Ontario holds a staggering 79,000-plus works, as well as a huge photograph collection. Highlights include rare Québécois religious statuary, First Nations and Inuit carvings, and major Canadian works by Emily Carr and the Group of Seven. European art is also well represented with works by Thomas Gainsborough, Auguste Rodin, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and René Magritte.

The AGO also displays a comprehensive collection of contemporary art in a variety of mediums, including sculpture, projection art, painting, and instillation art. A wide spectrum of exhibitions round out the AGO’s art-filled experience.

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More Things to Do in Ontario

Yonge-Dundas Square

Yonge-Dundas Square

12 Tours and Activities
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Niagara Falls IMAX Theatre

Niagara Falls IMAX Theatre

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The Niagara Falls IMAX Theatre offers a number of Niagara Falls-related experiences all in one place. First of all, there is their “Niagara: Miracles, Myths & Magic” IMAX movie which tells the true stories of the world-renowned Niagara Falls, beginning with the native peoples and how their culture relates to the Falls to the daredevils who tightroped their way across to the adrenaline junkies who took a plunge over the falls in a barrel. You’ll not only leave the 3D film with a better understanding of Niagara Falls, you’ll feel like you took part in its history.

“Elysium: The IMAX Experience” is another IMAX film option. Opened in this location in September 2013, the futuristic movie takes place in 2154. It tells the story of the two classes of people that exist -- the wealthy who live on the beautiful Elysium space station, and the rest who live in poverty -- and the one man willing to do anything to bring equality.

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Casa Loma

Casa Loma

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Literally the “House on a Hill,” Casa Loma - a mock medieval castle with Elizabethan-style chimneys, Rhineland turrets, secret passageways, and an underground tunnel - towers above midtown Toronto on a cliff. A walk through the sumptuous interior of this eccentric 98-room mansion is a trip back in time.

Inside, you can wander through the majestic Great Hall, marveling at its 59 foot (18 meter) high hammer-beam ceiling, while in the Oak Room the stately paneling took three years for artisans to create. Elegant bronze doors open up into the Conservatory, which is lit by an Italian chandelier with electrical bunches of grapes. Rugs feature the same patterns as those at Windsor castle. The original kitchen had ovens big enough to cook an ox, and secret panels and tunnels abound. The stables were used by the Canadian government for secret WWII research into anti-U-boat technology.

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Ottawa Locks

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

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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University of Toronto

University of Toronto

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Toronto Harbour

Toronto Harbour

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The Toronto Harbour comprises of a few areas. Running east to west from Jarvis, just south of Queens Quay to lower- Spadina along and south of of Queens Quay is the downtown Harbourfront area. The focal point of the Harbour also known as The Harbourfront is where the Harbourfront Centre, Power Plant art gallery and Queens Quay Terminal are located. At Bay and Queens Quay, the walkway to the ferries ($7 per adult each way) to access the Toronto Islands.

The Harbourfront has transformed over the years due to the proliferation of condo developments and a new population that never existed. It is now become more of a destination due to its revitalization. You can picnic, rent a boat or take a tour over to the Toronto Islands or simply walk along the boardwalk. Key spots to picnic other than the islands are on the man-made beaches, mainly Sugar Beach (named after the Redpath Sugar Factory nearby) and the HtO Park.

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Rideau Hall

Rideau Hall

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Rideau Hall is the residence of the Governor General of Canada, and because of the country’s status as a member of the Commonwealth, is also where the monarch stays when visiting Ottawa. Rideau Hall was built in 1838 by the lumber baron Thomas MacKay and eventually became the official residence for the Canadian head of state in 1867. Most of the 175 rooms in the federal heritage building are used for state business, formal ceremonies and functions, with only a small space being dedicated to living quarters.

The grounds are just as historical as the stately mansion and represent Canada’s character and cultural diversity to the core. During the summer months the hourly changing of guard ceremony can be observed at the main gate. A characteristically colorful totem pole with a thunderbird gracing the top and a fisherman holding a salmon stands in the garden as a gift from the Kwakwaka´wakw people in the Pacific Northwest.

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Toronto Financial District

Toronto Financial District

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Harbourfront Centre

Harbourfront Centre

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One of the most enjoyable activities for both locals and visitors is spending time on the Toronto Harbourfront. It’s a great place to stroll, have a picnic, shop, duck in and out of art galleries, or grab a ferry to the Toronto Islands. Queen’s Quay is usually the first stop for visitors to the Toronto Harbourfront. Ferries to Toronto Islands and harbor boat rides depart from here. At York Quay are a series of galleries including the Photo Passage and the Craft Studio, which runs courses in ceramics, jewelry, glass-blowing, and textiles. Concerts are held at the Toronto Music Garden, the Power Plant is a contemporary art gallery, and the Premiere Dance Theatre host many dance performances. Throughout the summer, especially during the weekends, the Toronto Harbourfront puts on a kaleidoscopic variety of performing arts events at the York Quay Centre; many are aimed at kids, some are free. Performances sometimes take place on the covered outdoor Concert Stage beside the lake.
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Queen's Park

Queen's Park

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Scotiabank Arena (Air Canada Centre)

Scotiabank Arena (Air Canada Centre)

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Well known as the ACC, The Air Canada Centre is home of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League (NHL), the Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League (NLL). Some of the art deco facade on the outskirts of the arena pays homage to the building’s history previously occupied by Canada Post’s Toronto Postal Delivery Building.

Since its inception in 1999, the outlying area of the ACC has developed into Maple Leaf Square, with the Le Germain hotel and condominiums as well as a number of restaurants, supermarkets and office buildings in the vicinity. The ACC is a premier concert and event venue. The Tragically Hip played ACC’s first concert and other bands like Bon Jovi, U2, The Police and Rush have played up to 4 or 5 concerts in one tour at the ACC.

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Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

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The Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, built in 1808, is the oldest landmark in Toronto as well as one of the earliest lighthouses built on the Great Lakes. Originally, sperm whale oil and later coal were used to light the lantern and guide ships through York Harbour, but today the lighthouse is no longer in operation. It eventually got replaced by a fully automated, electric tower and the historical grey stone building with the bright red door and railings is now only occasionally opened to the public during special events. As the island has grown and evolved over the centuries, the lighthouse moved further away from the water and now, it stands in a quiet meadow surrounded by a thicket of trees.

Local legends portray the hexagonal lighthouse as being haunted, blurring the line between facts and myth, and most locals have heard some camp fire stories or other about the events having seemingly transpired here.

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Entertainment District

Entertainment District

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True to its name, the Entertainment District hosts Toronto’s extensive performing arts, club and sports scene. The Roy Thomson Hall, home to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, might look like a big glass container, but once inside is an architectural and acoustic marvel. At the Royal Alexandra Theatre, famous productions such as Mamma Mia! and the LionKing have been performed and for more shows, musicals and plays, head to the Princess of Wales theatre. At that venue, you will find amazing views from all angles and it is said, that there isn’t a single bad seat in the whole theatre. Sport fans should visit the Air Canada Center, an indoor sporting arena and home of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors, as well as the Rogers Centre, the gigantic baseball stadium where the Blue Jays play.

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