Seasons and climate

Ontario has the same four seasons that most people are familiar with. However, like most things Canadian, they tend to be a little bit bigger than you might be used to. Ontario is enormous – twice the size of Spain, so there is some regional variation, especially between the northern and southern reaches.

Winter can be extreme, especially in the north, with temperatures dropping to -30°C and with weeks passing between December and February without the thermometer ever troubling positive numbers. In springtime, the weather changes quickly and daytime temperatures average around 8°C in March, although rain is frequent. Summers are warm and humid, especially in Toronto, with daytime temperatures frequently in the high twenties and low thirties, and thunderstorms not uncommon. In autumn, temperatures drop off sharply, with lots of rain to go with it. Snow returns in the north and doesn’t melt until the spring.

Month-by-month

The middle winter months of December and January are not recommended for visiting Ontario, especially if you plan on venturing outside of the big cities. However, if you are visiting for snowsports, visit Blue Mountain near Toronto for Ontario’s answer to Whistler in the west.

Spring begins in March and April, and as the temperatures thaw, much of Ontario’s wildlife comes to life. Head to the Hudson Bay Lowlands to see bearded seals, beluga whales and many other species native to this area. May can be a great time to visit Toronto and Ottawa before the summer crowd arrives.

June to August is Ontario’s high season and accommodation will book up in advance. Toronto is not at its best during July and August due to its heat and humidity. Instead do as Ontarians do and head for the countryside to take advantage of the province’s world-class hiking, mountain biking and fishing.

The end of September and the beginning of October is autumn in Ontario, and the colours are as stunning as anywhere in the world. Algonquin Provincial Park is conveniently located between Ottawa and Toronto, so head there to make the most of some exceptional photo opportunities before the winter snows return.

Ontario_tulipfestival

Festivals and events

The ferocity of Ontario’s winter means that festivals are largely concentrated in the summer months, though that is not to say there isn’t plenty going on when the snow is falling. In January on the Niagara Peninsula, the Niagara Icewine Festival takes place, as well as the Aurora Winter Festival in Toronto, with light shows, rides and a winter market.

In April, Stratford – named after the English town of Shakespeare’s birth – hosts a theatre festival. With four theatres showcasing contemporary productions, musicals, opera and of course Shakespeare, it almost outdoes its English cousin. In May, celebrate Ontarian spring at the spectacular tulip festival in Ottawa.

The summer brings more festivals than you could possibly hope to attend. From the Wheatley Fish Festival at the (self-proclaimed) freshwater capital of the world to the Hot Docs documentary festival in Ottawa there is something for absolutely everyone – and that’s before we mention Canada’s unofficial religion – hockey, which hosts its Stanley Cup finals in June.

September holds Toronto’s prestigious International Film Festival, a red carpet event at the centre of a city-wide cultural showpiece. Less glamorous but no less entertaining, Kitchener hosts the largest Oktoberfest outside Germany in October, with around half a million stein-chugging attendees each year.

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