The Golden Horseshoe is a region in Ontario around Toronto along Lake Ontario. Although cities and towns in the Golden Horseshoe are spread over a large swath of land, they share a historic connection to Lake Ontario - either directly, with harbours for boating or great lakes shipping, or by way of the great rivers that powered mills in the villages that are today's suburban centres. The region's early prosperity still shapes the area today, and makes it one of Canada's most popular places to live, work, or visit.
|Greater Toronto Area |
located along the shore of Lake Ontario, from Oshawa in the east to Burlington in the west, with Toronto in the centre.
|Niagara Peninsula |
bordered by Lake Ontario to the north, the Niagara River to the east, and Lake Erie to the south, and includes Niagara Falls, and parts of Hamilton.
- 1 Brampton — a city of new suburbs and a well-preserved downtown.
- 2 Burlington — beautiful growing city and popular with tourists. Home of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Canada's largest botanical garden.
- 3 Hamilton — a port city on the edge of the Greater Toronto Area with a reputation for manufacturing and industry, but also notable for health sciences, and a growing arts and film sector.
- 4 Mississauga — the city immediately west of Toronto, includes several generations of suburban housing centred around historic villages, with a dense residential and retail-focused City Centre.
- 5 Niagara Falls — a smaller city on the Canadian-U.S. border overlooking the Niagara Falls, with a downtown-oriented to tourism and hospitality.
- 6 Niagara-on-the-Lake — named the "Prettiest Town in Canada"
- 7 Oakville — a growing town with a relatively young population, with a downtown for high-end shopping and dining, and the closest provincial park to Toronto
- 8 Toronto — Canada's most populous city, and in many ways the heart of the Golden Horseshoe for business, arts, and culture
- 9 Vaughan — immediately north of Toronto, one of Canada's fastest growing cities, home to new suburban neighbourhoods, Canada's largest theme park, and one of the region's larger shopping malls
The Golden Horseshoe is the most densely populated area of Ontario and economic powerhouse of Canada. In the earliest days of Ontario, the area was dotted with small towns and villages that served the vast farmland throughout Southern Ontario. In the second half of the 20th century, rapid population and economic growth around Toronto and affordable car transport led industry and residents to move further into the country; towns and farmland were developed into residential suburbs, shopping centres, and business parks, all connected by a new network of roads and highways.
Except for the oldest suburbs, the majority of suburban neighbourhoods were developed for the car, and can thus be a considerable distance from the employment or entertainment centres. Often, the 'main street' of the pre-existing towns will be preserved and will be distinct from the newer residential areas. However, it is no longer necessarily the hub of the surrounding area; most locals will do day-to-day shopping and errands at larger retail plazas and shopping malls. Every suburban town and city has at least a few places worth seeing, including unique restaurants and popular attractions, but more planning could be required to make good use of time while exploring suburban areas.
If you're willing to spend an hour or two driving, the Golden Horseshoe area offers many opportunities for day and weekend trips year-round that suit every interest; there are very few things that you won't be able to buy or do somewhere in this region.
- Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ IATA) is located in Mississauga about 30-50 minutes by car from downtown Toronto and is served by major international carriers. Easily connected to downtown Toronto by the Union Pearson Express.
- Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ IATA) is in downtown Toronto, mostly serving destinations in central and eastern Canada and the United States east of Chicago.
- John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport (YHM IATA) is approximately 1 hour by car from downtown Toronto or Niagara Falls, and accommodates major air carriers and tour operators.
- Buffalo-Niagara International Airport (BUF IATA) is about a 20-30 minute drive from the Falls and is served by most major American carriers. Buffalo Airport Shuttle, +1 716 685-2550, offers service from the Buffalo-Niagara airport to the Canadian side of the Falls.
The largest bus terminal, the Union Station Bus Terminal, is used for intercity coach travel and is served by Megabus, New York Trailways, and Ontario Northland. Some cities have smaller stops or stations also served by these carriers on routes to Toronto.
Passenger trains in the area run into and out of Toronto Union Station. Domestic service across Canada is provided by VIA Rail. VIA Rail also serves stations elsewhere in the region, including Brampton, Burlington, Georgetown, Mississauga, Niagara Falls, Oakville, and Oshawa.
Although traffic can be heavy, there are several major highways through the region. Highway 401 serves Windsor and Detroit in the west, and Montreal in the east. Highway 400 connects to highways serving Northern Ontario. The QEW serves Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
For longer distance trips within the region, driving is the most common method of getting around. Highways and roads are well maintained, and well marked by directional signage to cities, connecting routes, and major attractions.
Parking downtown is rather abundant, with many large garages notably the one under City Hall and the garage under Yonge-Dundas Square.
Intercity and GO Transit commuter rail & bus are reliable options for getting around, but most routes are oriented through Toronto, and a connection will most likely be necessary.
Travelling within Toronto, transit is a good choice, especially downtown. The subways and streetcars are frequent and reliable but avoid peak hours whereas, with many cities, all transportation modes are packed to the brim. (The most commuter-chaos station is Bloor-Yonge!)
Get a Presto card if you will be either staying in or travelling throughout the Greater Toronto Area. Outside the GTA, Presto is also valid in Hamilton and Ottawa. GO Transit and the UP Express from Toronto Pearson Airport also use Presto.
Most cities and towns operate some public transit, and neighbouring transit systems will often connect at key terminals. Local transit is not always an efficient way to travel across entire cities. Even services that run from one end of town to the other are primarily used to serve many streets and points en route.
To get to Niagara Falls, ride the Niagara Weekend GO Train to Niagara Falls from Toronto Union Station or hop on a GO bus from Burlington station.
- Shaw Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake. Named after playwright George Bernard Shaw, this theatre festival runs from April to November and features plays by Shaw, playwrights who lived during Shaw's lifetime, or plays about his era (1856-1950). Three main theaters comprise the festival venues, and all are located within walking distance of downtown.
- Horseshoe Falls and American Falls, Niagara Falls. Most visitors' first view of the falls, from the Canadian side of the Niagara River, is at Queen Victoria Park along the Niagara Falls Parkway. Some other ways to enjoy viewing the falls are:
- Hornblower Niagara Cruises, 5920 Niagara Parkway (at the bottom of Clifton Hill), ☏ +1 905-NIAGARA (6424272), email@example.com. A boat tour that takes tourists to the foot of the falls, where they can better appreciate their thunder and spray. Runs April-October.
- Journey Behind the Falls, 6650 Niagara Parkway (Table Rock Center). Open year-round except December 25.
- White Water Walk, 4330 Niagara Parkway. A 1,000-foot (305-m) boardwalk beside the rapids. Open seasonally.
- CN Tower, Toronto. The tallest free-standing structure in North America. You can ride a glass elevator to the top where the view is incredible and there is a glass floor. There is also a revolving restaurant which offers spectacular views as the sun sets over the city.
- Main Street Unionville, Markham — Historic village first developed in the 1840s. As typical of a small village, it boasts numerous quaint period buildings with an idyllic surrounding.
- Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), the AGO is one of North America's best art galleries. There is a growing collection of paintings, sculptures, and models from around the world.
- Whirlpool Jet Boats, 61 Melville Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake, toll-free: +1-888-438-4444. Powerful jet-boats speed upriver, making their way into the breathtaking stonewalled canyon that is the Niagara Gorge. The anticipation builds as the boats splash into the whitewater of Devil's Hole Rapids. April - October.
- Fallsview Casino, 6380 Fallsview Boulevard, Niagara Falls, toll-free: +1-888-FALLSVU (3255788). Vegas-style casino.
- Canada's Wonderland, 9580 Jane Street, Vaughan, ☏ +1 905-832-8131. A Cedar Fair theme park with more than 200 attractions, about 30 km north of downtown Toronto. Open seasonally from May to October.
- Ontario Science Centre, 770 Don Mills Road, Toronto, toll-free: +1-888-696-1110. An array of hands-on science exhibits include a rainforest, a tornado machine, sound proof tunnel and balance testing machines. Ontario's only Omnimax (full wrap-around) cinema.
- Bruce Trail Nature Walks, (various locations). The Bruce Trail is a hiking trail in southern and central Ontario consisting of many natural features such as streams and waterfalls.
- Downtown Toronto Walking Tour. There are many walking tours provided by tour groups, or go on your own! Be sure to check out City Hall & Nathan Phillips Square, the Provincial Legislature, Union Station, the Distillery District (hop on a 514 streetcar along King St), the waterfront (hop on a 509 streetcar from Union) the Toronto Islands, Yonge Dundas Square and the Eaton Center
Toronto is a very diverse city. There are all sorts of foods from around the world. If you've never really eaten food from around the world, Toronto is a great place to do so. From Chinatown to Little Italy to Greektown, try a new dish every time! All easily accessible via the TTC.
Toronto is a very safe city, with a low violent and property crime rate. However, as with all large cities, simple precautions should be taken. If there is an emergency, dialling 911 will reach police, fire and paramedics.
Unless it is snowing or raining heavily, it is typical to drive 10 km/h above the speed limit on roads outside of downtown Toronto. On highways, drivers are expected to drive at 10 to 15 km/h above the posted speed limit. It is common to see drivers being ticketed for driving 10+ km/h below the highway's speed limit because it creates a hazard for other road users as other cars have to swerve around or brake hard to avoid the slow driver.
Every year, many people who live in the Golden Horseshoe are taken completely by surprise that winter has arrived. Winter driving can be a concern on some days, especially at the beginning of winter; two of the photos on the winter driving page were taken on Highway 404 in the Greater Toronto Area. In winter, drivers are expected to adhere to the speed limit.