As part of our Canada 150 celebration series, this month we celebrate Ontario. From famous Ontarians like cartoonist Joe Shuster who brought us Superman, to the cultural diversity we proudly show off every day and every year at the Toronto Caribbean Carnival (Caribana), to famous places like the CN Tower, the former tallest freestanding structure in the world, the great and wild outdoors of Algonquin National Park, the vineyards of Niagara-on-the-Lake, to international red carpet events like the Toronto International Film Festival. Read on for interesting facts on Ontario, two of the best Heritage Minutes videos featuring famous Ontarians, and for the top tourist attractions in Ontario.
NHL team: Toronto Maple Leafs
Major airport: Toronto YYZ, Lester B. Pearson International Airport
Official flower: White trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)
Bruce Peninsula National Park, Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Point Pelee National Park, Pukaskwa National Park, Rouge National Urban Park, Thousand Islands National Park
Margaret Atwood, Bryan Adams, Will Arnett, Dan Aykroyd, Samantha Bee, Justin Bieber, Roberta Bondar, James Cameron, Douglas Coupland, Drake, David Cronenberg, Frank Gehry, Ryan Gosling, Wayne Gretzky
Population: 13,982,984 (consensus as of July 2016)
Area: 1,076,395 km2
Those Heritage Minutes Commercials Featuring Famous Ontarians
Remember these?! Chances are, depending on when and where you grew up in Canada, you’re probably already familiar with Heritage Minutes and some very memorable lines. The majority of these short films documenting historic moments in Canada were first introduced in 1991 and aired between programs on CBC and CTV.
James Naismith Invents Something Called Basketball
James Naismith from Almonte, Ontario makes up a game called basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts, 1891.
Joe Shuster Draws an Extraordinary Hero Named Superman
Toronto cartoonist Joe Shuster dreams up and illustrates a superhero with super power capabilities, including the ability to leap over tall buildings, harness incredible strength, and move faster than a speeding bullet. He calls him Superman.
Top Tourist Attractions in Ontario
Like the license plates suggest, Ontario is yours to discover. From Toronto’s iconic landmarks to Niagara’s wine region to hidden gems like the Stratford Festival just outside of London, there is much to see and explore in Ontario. Annual events like the world renowned Toronto International Film Festival (September), Toronto Pride (July), and the Toronto Caribbean Carnival (August) draw in crowds making Toronto a particularly busier and exciting place to be.
CN Tower, Toronto
Once “the tallest freestanding structure in the world” at 1,815 feet tall (and five inches), the CN Tower offers sprawling views of the 6ix from Niagara Falls to New York state, which is almost as far as 160 kilometres away! The CN Tower held its title for 34 years after the building opened in 1973 until the Burj Khalifa (2,716 feet tall) in Dubai was completed in 2010.
Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake
Daredevil Annie Taylor was the first person to survive a plunge over the Falls in a wooden barrel in 1901. Since then, while numerous more have made the attempt, Niagara Falls steadily grew as an exciting tourist destination celebrating the majestic Wonder. Upon your drive down to Niagara, the main drag that will lead you to the Falls is Clifton Hill, enclaved with kitschy fun houses, the Niagara Skywheel, midway, fudge factory and more.
Just a short drive away from Niagara Falls is Niagara’s wine region, one of the larger producers of icewine and grape varietals, as well as Niagara-on-the-Lake, a small town with B&Bs, a little main street, cafes, ice creameries and more.
Celebrating the works of Shakespeare for only seven months of the year in a small town in southwestern Ontario, the Stratford Festival is an internationally recognized theatre festival that attracts many locals and tourists from outside Canada. Since its first production in 1953, the Stratford Festival has been putting on the Shakespearean classics from Romeo and Juliet to Twelfth Night to Macbeth, as well as covering contemporary musicals like Chicago and dramas like Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.
Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto
Since the ROM opened its doors in 1912, Canada’s largest museum of natural history and world cultures has presented impressive collections and galleries featuring art, archaeology, and natural history. In 2007, the Royal Ontario Museum underwent a $270 million renovation which included an entirely new facelift – a new stunning crystalline-shaped exterior structure that extends to the street, designed by renowned architect Daniel Libeskind – as well as 300,000 square feet of new spaces and 40,000 square feet of additional gallery space.
Parliament Hill, Ottawa
Overlooking the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the parliament buildings where MLAs debate and discuss issues, pass bills and make laws, is also the backdrop to where some of the year’s best festivities take place. The best fireworks display light up the sky on Canada Day, while musicians and dancers take the stage get the party started. Throughout the summer months (June to August), visitors can watch the Changing the Guard ceremony every morning at 10 a.m.
Ontario’s Great Outdoors
Where do city dwellers go to leave the hustle-and-bustle-life behind? North. As far north as possible to local favourite destinations like Muskoka, Cottage Country, and Algonquin National Park for peaceful, quiet, and relaxing getaways. Wasaga Beach and Sauble Beach are also popular short day trip destinations. While the Toronto Islands are still technically a part of the city, it feels worlds away. One ferry ride away will take you to quiet spaces, green surroundings, and the sights and sounds of beach waves.
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