This itinerary takes you through southern Ontario’s highlights, from Toronto to Niagara Falls, the Muskoka Lakes, Algonquin Provincial Park, and Ottawa, the nation’s capital. It’s easiest to do if you have a car, or pick up a rental car when you leave Toronto (you won’t need it in the city).
Fly into Toronto. Visit the CN Tower for great views across the city and Lake Ontario. If you dare, take the EdgeWalk, a thrilling walk suspended outside the tower, 116 stories above the ground. Back on earth, stroll along the harbor front, then stop for lunch at St. Lawrence Market on your way to the galleries and shops in The Distillery District. Catch the ferry to the Toronto Islands for a late-afternoon walk or bike ride. Wrap up your day with dinner downtown or in the Entertainment District.
Spend today continuing to explore Toronto. Tour the Frank Gehry-designed Art Gallery of Ontario or the massive Royal Ontario Museum. After checking out the entertaining Bata Shoe Museum, have lunch in Chinatown or Kensington Market, or linger over afternoon tea at the deluxe Shangri-La Hotel. Wander along Queen Street West for shopping and gallery-hopping, have dinner at one of the eclectic restaurants, and stop for a nightcap at one of the clubs.
Day 3 (250 kilometers/155 miles, 4 hours round-trip)
You’re going to Niagara Falls for the day; either rent a car or book a day tour. Don’t miss the Hornblower Niagara Cruise, a boat tour under the falls. Niagara Falls has plenty of other attractions, including the White Water Walk and the Whirlpool Aero Car; for the most dramatic Falls views, take a Niagara Helicopters Flightseeing Tour. From the falls, it’s a half-hour drive to Niagara-on-the-Lake, where you can wander the historic downtown and tour local wineries. Have an early dinner, then see a play at the Shaw Festival before returning to Toronto.
Day 4 (250 kilometers/155 miles, 3.5-4 hours)
Today you’ll make a leisurely drive northeast to Muskoka Cottage Country, but your first stop en route is just outside Toronto at the excellent McMichael Canadian Art Collection. Continuing north, visit Muskoka Wharf in Gravenhurst to cruise on a restored steamship and tour a heritage boat museum. In Bracebridge, browse the shops in the cute downtown and sample a butter tart at one of the cafés. Continue to Huntsville to have dinner and spend the night.
Day 5 (120 kilometers/75 miles, 2 hours)
From Huntsville, you’ll enter Algonquin Provincial Park through the West Gate. Algonquin measures over 7,500 square kilometers (nearly 3,000 square miles), so there’s plenty to explore. Go for a hike or rent a canoe at the Portage Store. Walk through the exhibits at the Algonquin Visitors Centre; there’s usually an interesting nature program happening, as well. Try to schedule your visit for a Thursday to join in the evening Wolf Howl. Spend the night at one of the park lodges.
Day 6 (250 kilometers/155 miles, 3.5-4 hours)
Drive out the park’s East Gate, following Highway 60 east toward Ottawa. Your first Ottawa-area stop will actually be across the Ottawa River in Gatineau at the massive Canadian Museum of History, where you can learn almost anything about Canada’s history and culture. After checking into your Ottawa hotel, browse the shops and galleries in the ByWard Market neighborhood. Stay for dinner and catch some music at one of the clubs.
Get to the Parliament Buildings first thing in the morning to take a tour. If you’re visiting in July or August, watch the Changing the Guard, complete with red-coated, fur-hat-wearing guards. For a dose of culture, go to either the National Gallery of Canada or the Canadian War Museum, then take an afternoon stroll or cycle along the Rideau Canal. Have dinner in Chinatown, Little Italy, or Wellington West. Wrap up your Ontario week with a concert or play at the National Arts Centre or the Great Canadian Theatre Company.
Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Ontario.