Culture and Heritage Ontario

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Culture and Heritage

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

Francophone Culture

Ontario proudly celebrates 400 years since French explorer Samuel de Champlain traversed our wilderness and waterways, paving the way for French Culture to become such a valuable part of our past and present. Visit, a virtual museum of Franco-Ontarian Heritage, and learn about Francophone heroes, builders and pioneers who have made their mark over the past four centuries in Ontario. Celebrate the ‘father of New France’ at Rendezvous Champlain in Penetanguishene. Follow his route today via the Explore Champlain and discover the waterways, landscapes and First Nations’ cultures that left him with such an indelible impression.

Prescott-Russell, in the lower Ottawa Valley, is a great place to experience local French flavour as its villages are 75% French-speaking. Enjoy French theatre and music at the Festival franco-ontarien, the Northern Lights Festival Boreal in Sudbury or Le Carnaval in North Bay. 
Re-live the evolution of a small French village from its founding in the 1880s at the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum. Experience what life was like for early French settlers with the New France display at the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa.

The Underground Railroad

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.

Mennonite Culture

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.
Paddling on the Mattawa River


In true explorer tradition, embark on an adventure following in the footsteps of French explorer Samuel de Champlain from Ottawa to the Midland, along heritage waterways and through our iconic wilderness.