Ontario, Canada – September 1999
Top 10 Things To Do in Ontario
(Warm Months – all two of them)
A site too grand to fathom. It must be experienced! Larger-than-life,
larger than the city of Sudbury. Made to greet visitors and represent
their main industry, it has become so much more. It is a holy object along the lines of the Black Monolith in 2001, producing a religious ecstasy. Jerusalem has the Wailing Wall; Ontario has the Big Nickel.
Expect a future article about other big things of Ontario such as the Big Goose of Wawa, Big Polar Bear of Cochrane, and the World’s Biggest Tomato of Leamington.
One of the world’s premier festivals for film premieres. This is where Toronto lives up to its reputation of Hollywood North. Tons of films are shot here, in fact Paramount Studios contacted us to do a shoot for the film "Lady’s Man" due to our apartment’s apparent resemblance to Chicago.
Some of the best in Canadian, international and independent American
films have been premiered here. Two years ago Farrah Fawcett was the talk of the town in one of her now-frequent bouts of drugged-out incoherence. September 9-18 at locations around the city.
Niagara Falls is the capital city of Canada’s tackydom! It’s our Las Vegas, except with only one casino. After fending your way through the hordes of tourists for your obligatory 5 minute view, the real tackiness begins. To simply see the Falls is not enough, you must see it from every conceivable and inconceivable angle. Have fun trying to find the most absurd vantage point, eg. Spanish cable car, caves, helicopter, towers, etc.
The real tackydom treasures are the “museums” along Clifton Hill:
Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Guinness World of Records, Louis Tussaud’s Wax Museum (son of the London’s Madame Tussaud), Houdini’s, Criminal Hall of Fame. There’s the spook houses such Frankenstein’s and Dracula. And miles and miles of glorious plastic souvenirs!
Lots of places have lakes, but we have the Great Lakes! Granted, we have to share them with several US states (only because of an unjust, unfavourable border dispute years ago) but we have 4/5 of them, and have all to ourselves the unofficial (and best) 6th Great Lake, Georgian Bay.
If you don’t happen to be affluent enough to afford your own sailboat or yacht there are other ways to enjoy a good boat trip. Every town on the lakes has tour boats. Toronto has many.
But I highly recommend the 30,000 Islands Tour out of Parry Sound. I know it’s "touristy", but it is a way to see rugged and picturesque scenery otherwise unavailable to landlubbers like me. The islands themselves are part of the Precambrian (aka Canadian) shield, among the oldest rocks in the world.
5. Monarch butterfly migration, Point Pelee National Park
We’ve all seen birds migrating. Maybe the site of Canadian Geese migrating in their perfect "V" formation might make one pause. But picture millions of monarch butterflies waiting in the trees for the perfect wind to help carry them over the Great Lakes on their way to Mexico. Now this is a site that is truly amazing. I have not seen it yet, but people come from all over the world to see it. Point Pelee park also has many other sites to marvel at.
6. Polar Bear Express, Cochrane to Moosonee
This is the only way to see the true north of Ontario, unless you can afford a bush plane. This 186-mile train ride starts in Cochrane.
While there pay your homage at Tim Horton Museum. He is a Canadians’ god – not only was he a great hockey player, but he revolutionized the donut industry by opening a national chain, bringing donuts and great joy to all!
Cochrane itself is in the middle of nowhere. The train then continues on to the farthest outposts of nowhere. En route it passes beautiful, untouched forests and rivers. Four hours later it arrives in Moosonee, a Cree reservation.
A boat ride over to Moose Factory Island will afford a better view of James Bay, Canada’s almost-inland sea. Settled in the mid-1600’s, Moose Factory is the oldest English community in Ontario. Once there you can shop in the very first Hudson’s Bay Company store, formerly a fur trading post. It is the oldest company still operating in North America and also the store where we are registered for our wedding, though not at this particular location.
7. Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake
One of Canada’s best drama festivals. Offering something other than
yet another Shakespeare festival (That insipid Gwyneth Paltrow has ruined Shakespeare for me!). The works of Shaw and his contemporaries (Coward, Chekov, Ibsen) offer some outstanding comedy, tragedies, and musicals. Niagara-on-the-Lake is the perfect setting for it, a charming albeit overpriced Victorian-era village.
Are you man enough (even if you’re a woman) to take on Nature’s full power and prove your mettle? If so, than these world-class rapids are your thing! Or, if you’re not man enough, try inner-tubing down the Elora Gorge, an excellent way to get in touch with Nature’s calmer, gentler feminine side.
The second largest zoo in North America (San Diego the first) and one of the 10 best in the world. It stands in marked contrast to the traditional animal-in-cages type zoo. Instead they have enclosures that simulate the creature’s natural environment.
When I went to the Berlin and Barcelona zoos, it really made me appreciate how much better Toronto’s is. Not only is it larger and more interesting to stroll around, but more importantly, it is infinitely more humane.
Whether it’s Canoeing at Kilarney Provincial Park, hiking at Killbear, Supper-happy-fun sliding at Grundy Lake, or dodging bears at Algonquin. Our parks are among the best in the world.
The warm months are winding down now. So now is your last chance to experience these things.
The experience of an Ontario summer is best summarized by writer David Macfarlane in his new book "Summer Gone". An Ontario summer is "not just a metaphor for life but an almost perfect kind of rendition of life. Those brief but fantastic days in the middle of summer when it just seems like it will go on and on are intensified by the fact that you know it’s going to end. And it always ends sooner than you want it to."
If you want more information about this area you can email the author or check out our North America Insiders page.
Ontario is huge!
I’ve been travelling in the province all my life and there are still places I’ve never seen. Northern Ontario, for instance, is really the wilds with access only by plane.
Whether it is the Great Lakes or some of the smaller streams and rivers, one sixth of Ontario is covered by water (though most of it is perpetually cold).
This adds up to some excellent outdoor experiences.
Southern Ontario is the most populous area of Canada. Most of the cultural life of the province (even the country) is in this region.
Toronto, the provincial capital, is the forth largest city in North America and is considered the world’s most multicultural city with over 100 different ethnic groups.
Ashkenaz: A Festival of New Yiddish Culture – Claims to be the world’s largest simkha (party). Due to my newfound interest in klezmer music, I am really hyped for this. I particularly like the hip band Klezmer Madness. At Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. (Aug. 30 – Sept. 6)
Pembroke – Old Time Fiddling and Stepdancing Contest.
Yokels from all over North America gather in Fiddle Park for one giant three-day hoe-down. The contest is good. But the real fun occurs each evening at the jam sessions and booze fests taking place outside each yokel’s trailer. (Sept. 3rd – 5th)
Kleinburg Binder Twine Festival.
Billed as a "unique old time Canadian country heritage festival". The old days must have been damned dull, if the best thing they could think of celebrating was binder twine!
How about an old-days festival devoted to hemp rope? I would love to go to that. Be sure to catch the "famous Binder Twine Queen contest". I’m entering my fiancée. Even if she doesn’t win, she’ll always be my Binder Twine Queen. (Sounds kinda kinky…)
Over 200 beers will compete for this title. I would happily judge this. Though I question how objective I could be after the first few "contestants". Also a great way to introduce yourself to the “Ale Trail”, a tour of local microbreweries in Fergus, Elora, and Waterloo (Sept. 16th – 18th)
St. Catharines – Niagara Grape and Wine Festival.
100 events, including winery tours, tasting, meals, concerts, and perhaps bacchanalia. This has been selected by the American Bus Association as one of North America’s "Top 100 Events in 1999".
Who the hell is this organization? Is a recommendation from them a good thing? Anyway, any festival devoted to spirited libations definitely earns my recommendation.
Toronto – Word on the Street.
Canada’s largest and most successful outdoor literature festival. Free event features more than 250 exhibitors along Queen St. West. Thousands of reading materials to enjoy and some great buys. Discover that there’s more to Canadian Literature than Margaret Atwood and Robertson Davies… (Sept. 26th)
Owen Sound – Celtic Festival.
Entertainment, workshops and Celtic marketplace. The weekend also features Pratie Oaten, a traditional celebration of the potato harvest. I hope they have better luck with their potato harvest than their Irish ancestors did. (Sept. 17-19)
Ontarians obsess over the weather, come share our obsession and find out the climate of places like the mentioned Wawa and Moosonee.
I suffer from a fatal case of wanderlust. After trying the real world for a few years, I decided to return to school to study the Internet. I currently live in Toronto, but I am from Guelph, ON. I have also lived in Ottawa, Key West, Florida, and Stuttgart, Germany.
I will soon be finishing the Internet program and will be having to face the real world soon.
If that is not enough, I am getting married Oct. 23. My side is an Irish and Scots heavy-drinking, hard-partying background compared to her God-fearing, tea-totaling, Mennonite relatives. It should be interesting.
Check out my past articles for some further tips, such as dining, attractions, and continuing festivals.