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28 Cultural Ontario Travel Destinations
Full of hidden historic treasures and nationally renowned institutions, Ontario's cultural and museum scene is one of the most vibrant in Canada and North America. Whether you are a traveling family, passing through on business, or a local looking for something new, be sure to enjoy these 28 cultural and historic destinations the next time you pass through Ontario.
1. Explore the Historic Bovaird House, built in 1852 and acting as a landmark of the city of Brampton ever since. Enjoy seeing period artifacts, vintage maps from the 1800's, and classic decorations found throughout the historic house.
2. Experience the legend of one of ice hockey's greatest players with a visit to the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre in Brantford. Aside from exploring exhibitions, the centre features ice rinks offering free adult skating and a fitness centre with world class amenities.
3. Visit the lakeside city of Kenora and stop by the Lake of the Woods Museum, known as "one of the coolest little museums in Canada." See more than 25,000 items, including aboriginal artifacts, steamboat era products, and historic photographs.
4. Reconnect some of Kingston's history with a trip to the lakeside Fort Henry National Historic Site. Built in 1837, this fort features an on-site museum and preserves all the sites and functions of what a military fort looked like in the day.
5. Continue your Kingston trip with a visit to the Miller Museum of Geology. Find your new favorite fossil and check out the mineral displays and the self-guided tours throughout the complex.
6. Visit Aeolian Hall in the city of London. Originally built in 1884, the building features High Victorian style and serves as a music hall for the city.
7. See the Halton County Radial Railway in action. This Guelph landmark features an electric railway and museum, and includes the historic Toronto Transit Commission streetcar. Be sure to see the artifacts, displays, and memorabilia at Ontario's largest railway museum.
8. Stroll through exhibits and kid-friendly attractions with a self-guided tour at the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory. See more than 2,000 tropical butterflies from forty five species at this 11,000 square foot glass enclosed conservatory in Niagara Falls.
9. Visit a unique on-the-lake experience with a stop at the Shaw Festival near Niagara Falls. See classic plays at the historic Court House Theatre and don't forget to take a backstage tour and attend a local theatre workshop.
10. See the lights and music spectacle of Mosaika in Ottawa. Set against Parliament Hill, this cultural event allows you to bring your lawn chair and enjoy the summer nights in the nation's capital.
11. Explore the hallmark National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Home to four major performing arts stages, the centre hosts the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Opera Lyra Ottawa, and numerous ballet and musical productions.
12. Spend a day at Canada's prestigious arts museum at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. See famous paintings by some of history's most renowned artists alongside recognizable sculptures, drawings, and photographs.
13. See the monuments and grounds of Ottawa's Parliament Hill. Enjoy a guided or self-guided tour of the country's political centre, including the summer gazebo, the Centennial Flame, and Victoria Tower Bell.
14. Visit the Owen Sound Marine & Rail Museum in Owen Sound, located on the shores of the Owen Sound on the Georgian Bay. See a historic Canadian National Railway Station, a preserved Caboose 78581, and railway educational programs.
15. Visit the Perth Museum in Perth, which is home to a piece of the historic Mammoth Cheese. Originally produced in 1893 for the World's Fair, the cheese is commemorated with posters and other memorabilia.
16. Catch the Showboat Festival Theatre in Welland. Located in the historic Roselawn Centre, the festival offers numerous shows held throughout the summer season. Don't miss the Food and Wine series, the Author series, and other special events.
17. Visit the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum near London for a taste of Canada's baseball legacy. See the profiles of over 90 inductees, an array of global baseball memorabilia, and take the kids to the Kids on Deck baseball camp, held throughout the summer.
18. Spend a night out at the Sudbury Theatre Centre in Sudbury. Start with a local theatre and dinner package downtown and continue by catching one of the centre's numerous productions held at the Fraser Auditorium.
19. Experience a cultural highlight of Toronto with a visit to downtown's Art Gallery of Ontario. Housing over 80,000 works of art, the AGO is one of the largest art galleries in North America and features collection ranging from modern art to art from the Renaissance and Baroque eras.
20. Visit the unique Bata Shoe Museum, found in downtown Toronto. See more than 10,000 footwear items, each representative from places and cultures from all over the world and from different periods of history. Don't miss additional lectures, performances, and family events.
21. Tour the 98-room house of Casa Loma in Toronto. Built as a Gothic Revival style castle, the property offers self-guided tours through landmark rooms like the Great Hall, Library, Smoking Room, and more, as well as the castle grounds, hunting lodges, and stables.
22. See over 3,000 pieces of ceramic works of art at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto. Explore art ranging from the Italian Renaissance to the Ancient Americas and don't miss the museum's pottery and clay classes.
23. Visit the Hockey Hall of Fame, located in the heart of downtown Toronto. Enjoy interactive exhibits which feature hockey legends, famous matches, and other staple moments, and don't miss hands-on activities like the NHLPA Be A Player Zone and the Source For Sports Shoot Out. Top your visit by seeing the triumphant display of the Stanley Cup.
24. Find your new favourite modern art piece at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) in Toronto. The museum features exhibits and pieces from over 800 artists and offers free tours on Saturdays and Sundays. Don't miss frequent specialized art shows.
25. Marvel at the wonders of the ocean with a visit to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada in Toronto. Explore several galleries, including Rainbow Reef, Dangerous Lagoon, and Canadian Waters. Don't forget to visit Systems Control, which reveals the processes of the aquarium.
26. See a landmark of Toronto's architecture with a visit to the Roy Thomson Hall, home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Take part in a year-round calendar full of gala screenings, concerts, tours, and festivals, including the Toronto International Film Festival.
27. Visit one of North America's largest museums with a trip to Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum. Housing six million items across 40 galleries, the ROM covers art, natural history, science, architecture, and more. Families won't want to miss the kid-friendly CIBC Discovery Gallery.
28. Enjoy a delightful evening at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in downtown Toronto. The centre offers year-round performances from famous musical artists, touring companies, and musical theatre productions. Don't miss the historic lobby when visiting.
Bata Shoe Museum
Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, the Bata Shoe Museum is home to over 10,000 footwear items from all over the world and all throughout history. The museum is truly one-of-a-kind, as it's the largest collection of footwear in North America and perhaps the only footwear museum as well.
Aside from the historic, exotic footwear, the museum proudly hosts lectures, performances, and family events as well. Bata features four primary exhibits, three of which are open on a time limited basis, are available for viewing seven days a week, closed only on Christmas and Good Friday. Tour this museum on your next visit to Toronto.
Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum
See an impressive collection of baseball artifacts when you visit the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum. You'll find this museum in St. Marys, near London. St Marys was chosen as the museum site because of its ties to the game of baseball, dating back to 1886. Canada's baseball heritage continues to be preserved in the museum.
Browse the Hall of Fame to view the 93 Inductees, including amateurs, trainers, umpires, administrators and builders. The popular summer-time Kids on Deck baseball camp, held on-site, is perfect for kids who want to learn how to play baseball. Schedule plenty of time while visiting southern Ontario to see all of the top sights.
Established in 1984, the Gardiner Museum features nearly 3,000 pieces of ceramic works of art – making it Canada’s lone museum encompassing only ceramics. Neighbouring the Royal Ontario Museum, the Gardiner Museum is set within the eastern part of the Toronto metropolitan area.
This Toronto museum showcases ceramic works from Ancient Americas, Italian Renaissance, and the English Delftware – plus porcelain from China, Japan, and across Europe. The Gardiner Museum also features clay classes and events hosted at the museum, plus the Gardiner Bistro and the Gardiner Museum Shop.
Halton County Radial Railway
An electric railway and museum, the Halton County Radial Railway is located in Milton, near Guelph. The full-size and operational railway runs on two kilometers of track, through the scenic southern Ontario countryside. The idea of forming a museum began in 1953, when local men wanted to save the Toronto Transit Commission streetcar 1326 from becoming scrap metal.
The museum has been open to the public since 1972 and is Ontario's largest railway museum. Visit the museum to view the railway artifacts, historic streetcars, displays, photographs and memorabilia. Make the most of your next stay in Guelph and check out this exceptional railway museum in Milton.
Lake of the Woods Museum
While traveling in northwest Ontario, take time to visit Kenora on the shore of Lake of the Woods. Many visitors to Kenora, located east of Dryden, enjoy the wonderful variety of recreational activities and attractions available. Tour the award-winning Lake of the Woods Museum, "one of the coolest little museums in Canada." Browse the exhibits to see the collections of aboriginal artifacts, dioramas, artifacts from the steamboat era and photographs.
Throughout the years since opening in 1964, the museum has actively expanded its collections totaling more than 25,000 items. These include First Nations artifacts, industrial items, journals, beadwork, Rat Portage souvenirs and natural history specimens. Plan your visit to the museum in conjunction with one of the many events hosted at the museum throughout the year, for a fun day of learning.
Miller Museum of Geology
Looking for a rocking good time? The Miller Museum of Geology is located on the campus of Queen's University in the Department of Geological Sciences. Visit this Kingston museum to view the collection of mineral displays, fossils and the Geology of the Kingston Area exhibit. Enjoy the free self-guided tours, and visit as often as you like.
Stroll the museum to learn about dinosaurs or enjoy one of the variety of educational programs and interactive geology activities. The Earth Through Time, Introduction to Geology, Mineral Identification and Meteorites are a few of the choices. After a fun-filled day at the museum, make the most of your time and enjoy Southern Ontario.
Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art
After being founded in 1999, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, also known as MOCCA, was relocated from New York to Toronto in 2005. Fans of contemporary art and Toronto metro area travelers flock to the museum to witness exhibits from over 800 artists from seven different countries.
The museum features two separate exhibit areas – the 5,000 sq. ft. Main Space and the 1,000 sq. ft. Project Room. Free tours are offered Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m., with more specialized art shows frequently put on at the museum as well. Be sure to check on what events are taking place at MOCCA during your visit.
Owen Sound Marine & Rail Museum
Make time for reflection during your southern Ontario visit. Visit the Owen Sound Marine & Rail Museum, located on the shore of the Georgian Bay, in the heart of Owen Sound. Schedule plenty of time to tour this wonderful museum, along with the adjacent visitor information center. Both facilities are located in the historic Canadian National Railway Station.
Stroll through the museum to view the variety of exhibits, including A Blast From the Past, a permanent exhibit. Learn about Owen Sound's marine history by viewing the Ferry Tales exhibit and be sure to explore Caboose 78581, built in 1810, located outside. Since the museum exhibits are rotated throughout the year, visit often to see them all. The museum also offers educational programs and hosts a variety of events.
Royal Ontario Museum
One of North America’s largest museums, the Royal Ontario Museum is set within the Toronto metropolitan area as a major attraction. Established in 1914, ROM attracts more than one million annual visitors – all of which may explore over six million items across forty galleries.
Covering topics of art, natural history, science, architecture and more, Toronto's ROM is the largest field-research institution in Ontario – and even Canada. Formerly operated by the University of Toronto, ROM also features the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal Gallery, and the kid-friendly CIBC Discovery Gallery.