Culture and Heritage Ontario

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Culture and Heritage

Discover Ontario’s history and the stories that define our diverse cultural mosaic.


Many adventurers have explored Ontario, but as one of the first Europeans, France’s Samuel de Champlain holds a special place. Champlain was a cartographer, a naturalist, an ethnographer and, above all, a visionary in terms of his intention to establish a New France in America, and in fostering a relationship with First Nations people. Today historians consider him the father of New France.

The Ontario Champlain Scenic Route is based on Champlain’s 1615-1616 great expedition navigating the Ottawa River, the Mattawa River, Lake Nipissing, the French River and the waters of the Georgian Bay in search of a suitable site for a trading post and a viable path to the ‘northern sea’. Follow in Champlain’s footsteps with experiences and attractions that reflect the explorer’s legacy as well as our unique Francophone culture on these Champlain itineraries:
Ottawa and Countryside
Haliburton Highlands to the Ottawa Valley
Northern Ontario
Explorers' Edge
Kawarthas Northumberland
The Great Waterway

Discover more on the Champlain Route at


During the American Civil War, Ontario served as the final stop on the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses that allowed enslaved African-Americans to escape to freedom. Visit John Freeman Walls' 1846 log cabin, which served as a terminal on the route, or study the artefacts and images at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum.
North Buxton was Canada's first Black settlement and home to the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum, which recounts the area's proud story of growth and self-sufficiency. Uncle Tom's Cabin National Historic Site in Dresden was the residence of fugitive slave, Josiah Henson.


German-speaking Mennonites immigrated to Kitchener-Waterloo in the early 1800s in search of religious and cultural freedom. Visit the Joseph Schneider Haus in Kitchener, and don’t miss the annual Oktoberfest, the largest Germanic celebration outside of Germany.

Pancakes cooking on the oven.


Thunder Bay is home to the largest Finnish population outside of Scandinavia. Visit the Finnish Labour Temple, the only Finnish cultural centre in Canada and sample Finnish pancakes at the popular Hoito Restaurant.
Rideau Canal


DYK: UNESCO World Heritage Rideau Canal was given its name by Champlain who thought the beautiful falls on the Ottawa River reminded him of a thin “Rideau” which is the French word for ‘curtain’.