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Where to Stay in Ontario
Ontario includes both the massive metropolis of Toronto and the secluded wilderness of vast provincial parks, so naturally the selection of accommodations is incredibly diverse. Toronto, Ottawa and Niagara Falls have the province’s greatest concentrations of hotels, though it’s hard to be more than 25 miles from a hotel anywhere in Southeast Ontario. Accommodations are easy to come by until you get as far north as the cities of Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie, after which the sparsely scattered options mostly consist of wilderness resorts and remote cabins. The exception is Thunder Bay, about 20 miles north of the Minnesota border, where the lodging variety is comprehensive.
Cheap hotel deals in Ontario exist in virtually all of these areas, even in Downtown Toronto, though it pays to search and compare thoroughly when staying in the larger cities.
Ontario Hotel Tips
If you want to experience five star luxury, Toronto is definitely where you’ll find the greatest range of options. Its posh Le Royal Meridien King Edward has achieved international renown as a member of the exclusive “Leading Hotels of the World,” and more than a dozen others compete vigorously to offer Toronto’s finest rooms.
Niagara Falls is dubbed the “Honeymoon Capital of the World,” and several notably romantic hotels help it earn the title. There are also a few major casino hotels on Canada’s side of the border, for those who like to stay and play.
Interesting historic hotels can be found in Toronto, Ottawa and in many other cities throughout Southeast Ontario. Well-restored Victorian mansions are common throughout this region, and many of them have been spruced up as lavish bed and breakfast inns.
More rustic accommodations are the norm in the remote North, but there are a few diamonds in the rough. If you find simple motor lodges and outpost inns to be essential to the charm of staying in the wilderness, choosing should be easy.
Ontario Hotel Recommendations
When in Toronto, you can’t go wrong with a night’s stay at the ritzy Park Hyatt Toronto. Its massive Art Deco towers house nearly 350 of the city’s most spacious and luxuriously appointed rooms, and guests stay just steps from upscale restaurants, a cocktail lounge with sweeping city views and a state-of-the-art spa. The location can’t be beat, either; Queen’s Park and the Royal Ontario Museum are right down the street, and there are three metro stations within a one-block radius.
Ottawa’s Fairmont Chateau Laurier has the appearance of a stately European Palace, as well as rooms fit for a king. With views of Parliament Hill and the shimmering Rideau Waterway, you won’t want to leave the grounds of this impeccably refined institution. If you prefer a B&B, the Gasthaus Switzerland puts all the comforts of home within walking distance of Ottawa’s downtown sights.
If you stay the night at the exceptionally comfortable Valhalla Inn when stopping in Thunder Bay, be sure to stop for a hearty and delectable meal in the Nordic Dining Room, a local favorite. If you plan to nosh on their famous Sunday brunch, reservations are highly recommended.
The best way to get around depends entirely on how much ground you plan to cover while in Ontario. If you’ll be venturing beyond the Greater Toronto Area at all, even to the relatively close Niagara Falls, driving is the way to go. Most flights to Ontario arrive at Toronto Pearson International Airport, where every major car rental agency maintains a large vehicle fleet.
Toronto is renowned for its mass transit system, the TTC, which utilizes subway cars, streetcars and buses in a city-wide network. Affordable transit tokens and passes can be purchased at subway stations and many convenience stores, and can be used on all TTC vehicles. GO Transit and other bus transit companies offer rides to many of the interesting towns surrounding Toronto. If you’d rather not rent a car, these buses are the easiest means of exploring the surrounding area. Taxis in Toronto are easy to spot, but fares are steep and traffic is often heavy.
Ottawa is a much easier city than Toronto in which to drive and park, so consider renting a car to give yourself the greatest flexibility. Otherwise, you can rely on the city’s efficient light rail and bus systems, or take taxis. You can often hail cabs in Downtown Ottawa, near Parliament Hill and around major hotels, but it’s wise to call for a ride in other areas.
Driving yourself is the only practical way to explore any part of Northern Ontario -- that is, until the paved roads end about 80 miles north of Lake Superior. If you want to go any farther north than that, you’ll have to hire a charter flight to carry you off into the Great White North.