If you are lucky enough to call Ontario home, or if you are thinking about moving to this amazing province, you probably don’t know just how great Ontario is.
After reading The Definitive Guide To Living In Ontario by theBOO you’ll know more about this province than 99% of people.
From economic power to natural beauty to feeding Canada – Ontario does it all.
Read on to learn all about Ontario and the things it has to offer!
If you’re planning a trip, check out the 75 Best Places To Visit In Ontario (2022)
Ontario is the most populous province in Canada and the second largest by total area. Also, it is the most popular destination for new Canadians immigrating to the country.
The GDP of Ontario in 2020 was $851.2 billion in 2020 which is larger than the GDP of Sweden and just smaller than the GDP of Turkey.
Finally, you can truly find 4 seasons (spring, summer, fall and winter) in Ontario. Temperatures range from over 30 degrees celsius in the summer to under -40 degrees celsius in the winter.
Cities In Ontario
Typically, the province is divided into Northern Ontario and Southern Ontario. Most Ontarians live in the southern part of the province close to the US border.
Here are some of the most popular cities in Ontario:
Toronto is the largest city in Ontario and is the capital city of the province.
It has a reputation for being one of the most liveable cities in world, with a strong economy and culture.
Also, it is one of the most diverse cities in the world. Within Toronto there are a number of vibrant neighbourhoods including Chinatown, Little Italy, Greektown, Little India, Koreatown and Little Portugal.
Ottawa is the capital city of Canada. It is located on the Ontario-Quebec border of eastern Ontario.
Not only is it the capital city of Canada but it just might be the cultural capital too.
Ottawa is home to some amazing universities as well as cultural institutions like the National Arts Centre and many national museums.
The most famous landmark in Ottawa is the Rideau Canal which stretches from Ottawa all the way to Kingston. People come from all over the world to skate on the famous Rideau Canal in the winter.
Hamilton is the 3rd largest city in the province after Toronto and Ottawa.
It is located at the Western tip of Lake Ontario and is known as “The Hammer” for it’s once dominant steel industry.
Hamilton has become a lot more than just steel though, today it has one of the top 10 universities in Canada (McMaster University) as well as McMaster Medical School – both are located within Hamilton itself!
Hamilton is also known for its beautiful waterfalls and hiking trails.
Kitchener is located in Southwestern Ontario and is a large city with approximately 250,000 people living in the area.
Kitchener’s history of manufacturing started before World War I when it became a centre for the textile industry. More recently, Kitchener has become a leader in information technology and manufacturing.
Kitchener is connected to the city of Waterloo and the two cities are often just referred to as “KW” or “Kitchener-Waterloo”.
London, Ontario, known as The Forest City, is a regional hub of education and healthcare. It is home to Western University, Fanshawe college and 3 major hospitals.
The city has a population of nearly 400,00 people and is home to strong manufacturing, insurance and technology industries.
You might not know that London hosts SunFest which is the second largest world musical festival in Canada behind Caribana.
Oshawa is located east of Toronto along the shores of Lake Ontario.
It was once known at the “Automotive Capital of Canada” and still plays a large part in the manufacturing of car parts in North America.
Oshawa has a thriving downtown environment with over 5,000 people working in the downtown core and 2,500 students.
The historic Regent Theatre is located here and is home to the Ontario Philharmonic.
Windsor is located on the south bank of the Detroit River, directly across from Detroit, Michigan.
Windsor is known as one of Canada’s border cities with a large automotive industry, a casino and top notch university programs including University of Windsor Law School. One of the major private sector companies in the area, FCA Canada, employs nearly 6,000 people.
The city has many parks throughout the downtown core that are connected by over 22km of waterfront view paths which are perfect for biking, walking or rollerblading.
St. Catharines is located approximately 1 hour away from Toronto in the Niagara region of Ontario.
The Niagara region is home to Niagara Falls, Niagara-On-The-Lake and Ontario’s growing wine industry.
Downtown St. Catharines has recently undergone a massive rejuvenation project and is full of an eccentric mix of shops, cafes, breweries and pubs.
St. Catharines is known as The Garden City because of its vast greenery, lush hiking trails and stunning parks.
Barrie is located on the shores of Kempenfelt Bay (part of Lake Simcoe) which means that there are countless beaches and parks throughout the city.
It is a close drive to Georgian Bay and vacation towns like Collingwood, Wasaga beach and Midland. All around Barrie you can find gorgeous lake views set on the famous Canadian shield.
If you love skiing or snowboarding, Barrie is home to one of Ontario’s most popular resorts – The Blue Mountain Resort.
Although it is known as a commuter town, Barrie has some major companies with large employment operations including BMO, Scotiabank, IBM and Coca-Cola.
Guelph is known as The Royal City and has a rich history. It is located about an hour Northwest of Toronto.
Today, you can find a vast list of craft breweries, independent eateries and farmers’ markets in the city.
Guelph is fast becoming another technology hub in Ontario as it sits between Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo.
Ontario is home to nearly 15 million people which makes it nearly 3x larger than British Columbia in terms of population.
The majority of Ontarians are of English or European descent but the province is growing quickly due to immigration from countries like China, India, Philippines, Pakistan and Jamaica.
Looking at language, 97.2% of Ontarians are proficient in English but only 69.5% report English as their mother tongue.
While Canada has 2 official languages, English and French, only 11.5% of Ontarians report fluency in French.
Ontario has a rich Indigenous population and the largest of all the provinces in Canada. Indigenous people represent 2.8% of the total population and generally identify as one of three groups:
- First Nations
The Ontario Economy
Ontario has the highest business output of all the provinces in Canada and accounts for 52% of the country’s manufacturing industry.
The vast network of lakes and rivers in Ontario help connect raw materials with manufacturing plants.
Despite losing business to global expansion, Ontario remains an automotive industry heavyweight. Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda and Toyota all have assembly plants in Ontario to support the Canadian and American car and truck production.
Finance And Professional Services In Ontario
Bay Street, located downtown in Toronto, is Canada’s Wall Street.
The Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), all major Canadian Banks, some international banks, global accounting and consulting firms, insurance companies as well as many law firms have their head offices in Toronto.
The major Canadian banks include:
- Royal Bank of Canada
- Toronto Dominion Bank
- BMO Bank of Montreal
- Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce
- National Bank of Canada
Technology In Ontario
4/5 of those tech businesses are headquartered in Ontario.
Also, Toronto is home to the MaRS Discovery District, a not-for-profit corporation that supports economic development and over 1,400 Canadian science and technology companies.
Ontario Manufacturing Industry
Of all the manufacturing regions in North America, Ontario is the largest after California and Texas.
You know about automotive manufacturing in Ontario but did you know about the robust trade in the cosmetic, healthcare, pharma and communications manufacturing sectors in Ontario?
Ontario Agriculture And Farming
Looking at agriculture in Ontario, farmers make up about 1.5% of Ontario’s population and contribute about 25% of Canada’s total revenue from agriculture products.
Ontario produces most of Canada’s soybeans, tobacco and corn. As well, vegetable production, turkeys, pigs, sheep, beef, grain and fruit are all thriving in Ontario.
Real Estate In Ontario
Ontario has historically been one of the hottest real estate markets in Canada. From the sprawling GTA to beautiful cottage country in Muskoka to Ontario farmland, international and domestic investors have been buying up property for years.
The largest homebuilder in Ontario is Mattamy Homes.
Royal LePage, Remax and Point2 homes are some of the largest residential real estate companies in Ontario but the province is served by many smaller independent realtors as well.
If you want to check out available real estate in Ontario – go to Realtor.ca to see availability and pricing across Ontario.
Ontario Natural Resources
Northern Ontario has abundant natural resources and a strong mining and forest products industry which supports the petrochemical, manufacturing and pulp and paper industries.
While Ontario does not have large deposits of conventional fossil fuels or non-metallic minerals, it does have a lot of of metallic minerals like gold, silver, copper, zinc and nickel.
Education In Ontario
Administration of elementary and secondary schools are handled by the Ontario Ministry of Education while universities and colleges are handled by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.
The Ontario school system grades are from 1-12 and the typical undergraduate university program takes 3-4 years to complete. Early childhood education is split into 2 years – junior kindergarten and senior kindergarten.
There are many college programs that support Ontario trades and develop the technical skills needed to support the economy.
Public Schools In Ontario
Ontario has approximately 2 million students in almost 5 thousand publicly funded schools across the province from kindergarten to grade 12.
The high school pass rate is about 88% within 5 years.
All teachers in Ontario’s publicly funded schools must graduate from the Ontario College of Teachers to be eligible.
Private Schools In Ontario
The private school system in Ontario is defined as any educational institution that is completely or partially funded by non-government sources and where students attend classes between 9am and 4pm.
Private schools can be all-male, all-female or coed.
Some of the leading private schools in Ontario are:
- Upper Canada College (Male)
- Havergal College (Female)
- Royal St. Georges College (Male)
- The York School (Coed)
- Branksome Hall (Female)
- Appleby College (Coed)
- Trinity College School (Coed)
In Ontario, principals and teachers are not required to be certified by the Ontario College of Teachers.
Universities In Ontario
Ontario has some of the best universities in not just Canada, but internationally as well.
Programs run from medicine to business to liberal arts and cover an extremely broad range of subjects and degrees.
The first level of university degree is called a bachelor’s degree which is followed by a master’s degree and finally a doctoral degree or “PhD”.
Some of the top universities in Ontario are:
- University of Toronto – Toronto
- University of Waterloo – Waterloo
- Western University – London
- Queen’s University – Kingston
- Wilfrid Laurier University – Waterloo
- McMaster University – Hamilton
- York University – Toronto
- Carleton University – Ottawa
- University of Windsor – Windsor
- University of Ottawa – Ottawa
In Ontario, student loans and grants are administered by OSAP.
Ontario Government And Infrastructure
Ontario is a thriving democracy and has three main political parties:
- Progressive Conservatives
- New Democratic Party
Law enforcement is carried out by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on a national level and the Ontario Provincial Police on a provincial level.
Did you know… technically speaking, the Queen of England is also the Queen of Ontario?
Because Canada is a Commonwealth realm, the head of the Royal family in England has ceremonial powers in Canada. The powers of the Crown are represented by the Lieutenant Governor in Canadian provinces and territories.
The Ontario Government has three primary branches: the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary.
The Ontario Legislative Building, or Parliament, is located at Queen’s Park in Toronto.
Ontarians have access to universal healthcare which is administered by OHIP. Most health and medical costs are paid for by the province.
It is known as one of the best healthcare systems in the world.
Provincial healthcare in Canada is governed by a piece of federal legislation that was adopted in 1984 called the Canada Health Act.
From hospital visits to walk in clinics to drug plans – OHIP oversees the funding of health services for the citizens of Ontario.
Most cities in Ontario have some form of public transportation including busses, streetcars and subways.
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation oversees an expansive network of highways that crisscross the province.
Highway 401 is the largest of the major highways and covers over 800 km of roadway.
Fun fact – Highway 401 is the busiest highway in all of North America!
Ontario is a very green province. Over 90% of electricity generated in the province comes from zero-carbon emitting sources.
The majority of electricity is produced from nuclear sources (60%) and hydroelectricity (28%).
The most common heating source in Ontario is natural gas. There are over 3.5 million homes in Ontario that rely on natural gas.
Things To Do In Ontario
The best way to start this section is to ask – what can’t you do in Ontario?
Ontario has beaches for sunbathing, mountains for skiing, large cities with ample daytime activities or nightlife and small towns for rustic getaways and relaxation.
Here is a list of some of the most fun things to do in Ontario:
Niagara falls is home to Horseshoe falls which is the famous waterfall that sits between Canada and the USA.
Also, Niagara falls has many hotels, casinos, bars and restaurants that support tourism to the area.
Not far from the falls are Niagara’s famous wineries that include vineyards like:
- Wayne Gretzky Estates
- Peller Estates
- Inniskillin Wines
- Kacaba Vineyards
- Leaning Post Wines
For some family friendly fun you can check out Fallsview Indoor Waterpark, the Niagara SkyWheel or Bird Kingdom.
Toronto, Ontario really has it all.
If you’ve never been to the iconic CN Tower – it is a must do even if you’ve lived in Toronto all of your life. It features a revolving restaurant and in the warmer months you can experience a thrilling walk outside building at the CN Tower Edge Walk.
The staggering number of restaurants, bars, clubs and shops is unmatched in Ontario. Hop on the TTC to explore the various tastes of Toronto in a variety different neighbourhoods.
Finally, if you are looking for some culture you’ll need to make a stop at both the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario museum which features a giant T. Rex skeleton.
Ontario National Parks
Canada has a global reputation for natural beauty.
British Columbia has the ocean and mountains, Alberta is known for their mountains and badlands, and the Eastern provinces are known for their beautiful rocky maritimes views.
Where Ontario takes the cake is in beautiful lakes and official provincial parks.
The best Provincial Parks in Ontario are:
- Algonquin Provincial Park
- Killarney Provincial Park
- French River Provincial Park
- Lake Superior Provincial Park
- Petroglyphs Provincial Park
Within these provincial parks, visitors can canoe, hike and camp. There are a number of outfitters that provide gear rental if you do not have your own.
The wildlife at these parks is diverse. If you get lucky you may see a bear, moose or wolf.
Most wildlife is afraid of human contact and will keep away from your campsite as long as you take the proper precautions and store your food properly. Never feed the animals and properly clean your campsite to help keep Ontario’s parks safe and beautiful for everyone to enjoy.
There are also a number of National Parks in Ontario including
- Point Pelee National Park
- Bruce Peninsula National Park
- Pukaskwa National Park
The 1,000 Islands
The Thousand Islands Region is located on the St. Lawrence River and is actually composed of 1,864 islands. This makes it one of North America’s largest archipelagos.
Here, you’ll find castles, lighthouses, museums and historic lodgings that have been frequented by both Canadian and American vacationers for hundreds of years.
Visitors have a big list of cottages, campsites, bed and breakfasts and hotels to choose from when visiting the area.
In addition to touring historical sites there are a wide range of physical activities that the 1,00 Islands are known for including kayaking, golfing, cycling and hiking.
Ottawa is one Ontario city that has an amazing list of things to do in both the summer and winter months.
In the summer it is a great city to explore and see sights like Parliament Hill, Notre-Dame Cathedral (the largest and oldest church in Ottawa), the Royal Canadian Mint and the Canadian Tulip Festival.
In the winter months you can skate on the Rideau Canal or visit one of the many national museums or the National Gallery of Canada.
Downtown Ottawa is filled with amazing restaurants, bars and shops the Byward Market.
Ottawa hosts many festivals supported by Ottawa Festivals, a not-for-profit organization.
Golf is one of the great Canadian pastimes and golf in Ontario is some of the best in North America.
There are a mix of private and public courses and Ontario is home to Glen Abbey Golf Course which was designed by Jack Nicklaus and has hosted more than 20 Canadian Opens.
Some of the best golf courses in Ontario are:
- St George’s Golf and Country Club
- Hamilton Golf and Country Club
- Toronto Golf Club
- London Hunt Country Club
Visit A Spa
Ontario spas are a great place to visit and relax for a weekend. They range from large operations to boutique spas in secluded locations.
Scandinave Spa is located in the Blue Mountains just a 2 hour drive north of Toronto. Here, you’ll find a thermal water paradise with forest and mountain views.
Treatments at Scandinave include thermal baths, massages, steam baths and saunas.
St. Anne’s Spa is an all-inclusive spa located in Grafton, Ontario.
The property overlooks Lake Ontario and is features rolling hills, tree filled groves and an amazing walking trail. The building is a gorgeous country estate that contains massage rooms, overnight suites, hot tubs and an amazing restaurant.
The Elora Mill Hotel and Spa is a rustic and storybook spa dedicated to wellness and relaxation.
Elora is a charming village featuring a large gorge that the spa overlooks.
On top of the typical spa services, Elora has a yoga studio, a fitness facility and an outdoor infinity pool.
Canada’s Wonderland, located in Vaughan, is Canada’s largest theme park.
The park has all sorts of roller coasters, rides, a splash park, and lots more entertainment.
The tallest roller coaster in the park is called Leviathan and is the 8th tallest roller coaster in the world.
Canada’s Wonderland is the most visited park in North America and is fun for the whole family.
Living In Ontario Summary
It is no shock that cities in Ontario are some of the best to live in the world. The province continues to grow as people from all over the world move to the province and to add to the vibrant, multicultural region.
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