Culture and Heritage in Ontario


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

Tours of the Kingston Penitentiary offer a rare and unique opportunity to go behind the walls of Canada’s oldest and most notorious maximum security prison. Closed as a working jail in 2013, the guided tours provide a fascinating up-close look at "Kingston Pen" as an amazing historical building and a national historic site, which predates Canadian confederation.

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 Amherstburg's North American Black Historical 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. 

Ontario is rich with French heritage. 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.

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. 

Two canoeists on a lake


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

A horse and buggy passes two cyclists


Learn about the Old Order Mennonites, whose buggies you may pass on your way here. You’ll see why they resist parts of modern life that the rest of us can’t seem to do without.