‘From its sugary, baked treats, to its sprawling lakes, here are five reasons why Ontario is the ultimate, year-round family holiday destination’
Over 13.6 million Canadians, around 40% of the country’s population, live in Ontario. And there’s plenty of reasons why. The province is a mixture of vast, green countryside and cool, cosmpolitans cities, making it the ideal holiday destination for all types of families – from fitness fanatics to foodies.
The name Ontario is thought to derive from an indigenous North American (Iroquoian) word meaning to ‘land of shining waters’. Unsurprisingly then, that it is home to tens of thousands of lakes, some bigger than small European countries.
Driving in Ontario is like passing through a never-ending golf course. Canada’s second largest province, two-thirds of which is made up of forest, has some of the most driveable, wide-open roads that gracefully bob along stomach-turning hills for miles upon miles – perfect for family road trips. Although nature is not all Ontario has to offer.
Tourist attractions in Canada’s most populous province are ready-made for families – from zip wires and rock climbing to zoos and museums. Not forgetting its abundance of sugary desserts, like butter tarts that give off a smell so alluring they can convert even the most ardent savoury-lovers.
Here are TLE’s five reasons why Ontario is the ultimate family holiday destination.
1) It’s perfect for thrill-seeking families
For families looking somewhere with its fair share of exhilarating activities, head to Blue Mountain – southern Ontario’s family-friendly, year-round holiday resort.
The complex, complete with hotels, lakes, restaurants and golf courses, offers everything from ridgerunner rollercoasters rides (£7) and treetop walks (from £14) to rock climbing (£43) and Segway tours (£36 per person).
During winter, visitors to can choose from 43 ski trails of varying degrees of difficulty – accessible to all types of skiers.
In nearby Collingwood, less than an hour’s drive from Blue Mountain, sits Ontario’s second longest twin zip line located at the Scenic Caves activity park. Race side-by-side at up to 80km an hour as you sail above treetops. We can declare that all 2550 feet of the Thunderbird Twin Zipline is thoroughly enjoyable.
Blue Mountain is also 32km from the world’s longest freshwater beach. With 14km of sandy shores, Wasaga Beach invites visitors to canoe, windsurf, fish, or cycle along the waterfront.
2) Ontario is sweet, kid-friendly food heaven
It is said that Canada has more doughnut shops than any other country in the world, and we’re going to embrace this (fact or myth), rather than question it.
Grab the kids a beaver tail – a type of fried, doughy, sugary pastry shaped like, well.… you get the picture – and watch as their energy levels drastically increase. For families with a more savoury palette, poutine (chips smeared in gravy and cheese curds) is a rite of passage for anyone visiting Canada.
But no trip to Canada is complete without visiting Tim Horton’s (Timmies) for cheap, wholesome eats. It’s a Canadian institution that hails from Hamilton and is cross between Pret and McDonalds. Grab two coffees, two soft drinks and four sausage muffins and you’ll have change back from $20 (£15). It might not be the healthiest choice, but you’re on holiday…
3) The people are some of the friendliest you’ll ever meet
Canada is home to some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. Ontarians are happy to chat about everything from their fondness for the Queen (Canada’s head of state) to their distant UK relatives.
It’s not a shock that the nation was voted the 10thmost friendly country for visitors in a recent poll. Feel comfortable watching the kids chase up and down beaches, hills and through forests almost anywhere in Ontario.
The province’s capital, Toronto, also came out as the fourth safest city last year based on The Economist’s safe city index, which takes into account things like personal security and health security.
4) Toronto is one of the best cities in the world
Toronto is a little bit like London, only less stressful, not as stuffy and considerably cheaper. Take the kids up the city’s iconic CN Tower, 10 metres taller than the Eiffel Tower.
If you’re all feeling brave enough, go on the ‘Edge Walk’ – an exhilarating adventure around the perimeters of the building at 1168 ft feet.
Harnessed up, and safe as houses, the instructors will have you lean over the edge, forwards then backwards before tiptoeing concerningly close to the edge. It’s heart-wrenching and perfectly enjoyable, but certainly not for the faint-hearted. Views over the city from here are, as you can imagine, second to none.
For the cooler kids, check out a pay-as-you-feel graffiti tour around the quirky Queen Street area, led by the Tour Guys. Weave through Toronto’s backstreets and learn all about the history and inspiration behind the city’s murals.
Toronto Zoo (£13 for 13-64-year-olds) or Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada (£20 for adults over 14’s) are both worthy of visits if you have a few hours to burn. The latter, located beneath the needle-like CN Tower and home to over 2,000 creatures, has an underwater tunnel where you can go face-to-face with a host of underwater predators.
5) It is a nature-lovers metropolis
Ontario covers 415,000 square miles, an area over eight times the size of England. The landscape stretches across 70 million hectares of forest, an estimated 85 billion trees. And the region’s five great lakes (Superior, Huron, Michigan, Ontario and Erie) make up around one-fifth of the world’s fresh water, making it easily accessible by water or land.
Nature-loving families can hike through the Algonquin Provincial Park or scull along St Lawrence River at minimal cost.
If a guided tour is more appealing, Free Spirit Tours run various activities, ranging from a gentle two-hour paddle down Beaver River (from £46) to winter caving adventures (from £54). Guides are friendly, helpful and keen to share their exhaustive knowledge of the nature that surrounds.
If a trip to the beach is more your thing, check out Long Point Beach, which is recognised as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and home to over 300 different species of birds. That’s not forgetting one of the region’s most famous tourist attractions, Niagara Falls, located on the border of both New York and Ontario.
Where to stay
Toronto – A room at the DoubleTree Hilton in Toronto starts from $219 (£124)
Blue Mountain – A room in the Blue Mountain Mosaic Suites starts from $139 (£79) (per night
How to get there
Return fare based upon Standard Economy with Air Canada (from London Heathrow to Toronto) from £453. To find out more visit www.aircanada.comor call 0800 6699 222.
Rent a seven-seater mini van from $455 (£265) per week from Enterprise rent-a-car.
To find out more about Ontario, visit: www.ontariotravel.net/uk
To find out more information about Canada, visit: www.explore-canada.co.uk