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Question: Where will you find year-round attractions for all ages, budgets and interests near Toronto, Ontario? Answer: In York Region, which stretches 678 sq miles (1,756 sq km) between North Toronto and Lake Simcoe.

Fun for families

Youngsters hug Yogi Bear and drive bumper cars. Teens raise their arms and scream as a speeding roller coaster spirals upside-down. Parents and kids splash down waterslides. Crowds applaud during fiery car and motorcycle stunts. These are only a few of the 200-plus attractions at Canada's Wonderland. A visit to the theme park is a highlight of the summer season for locals and visitors.

Children ride bumper cars in Hanna BarberaLand at Canada's Wonderland.
Children ride bumper cars in Hanna BarberaLand at Canada's Wonderland.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

When the weather is too chilly for outdoor water parks, The Wave Pool, in Richmond Hill, transports you to summer with indoor waterslides, surfing waves and a beach. It's great for birthday parties and group events, as are Laser Quest's high-tech tag games and NASCAR SpeedPark, where you can test your driving skills and go rock climbing.

At Reptilia Inc., children can touch lizards, turtles, crocodilians and a car-length Burmese python, while learning about reptile biology, habitats and extinction.

Arts, culture and heritage

Built of hand-hewn logs and fieldstone, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection boasts 6,000 pieces of art. Floor-to-ceiling windows in its galleries allow you to admire works by the Group of Seven and Aboriginal artists, interspersed with views of the surrounding forests and countryside. Lectures, workshops and trails enhance the cultural and scenic experience. Afterwards, stop for lunch and shop for arts and crafts in the quaint boutiques of picturesque Kleinburg.

From state-of-the-art modern theatres, such as the Markham Theatre, to light-hearted summer theatres, York Region's numerous entertainment facilities showcase comedies to operas.

Its museums are equally diverse. Georgina Pioneer Village, for example, hosts special events where you can see military musters, blacksmiths, harness-makers and costumed women weaving and baking. You can ride an antique carousel at Markham Museum and celebrate the region's many cultures at events like the Unionville Celtic Festival.

Woman in pioneer costume makes maple syrup at Kortright Centre for Conservation.
Woman in pioneer costume makes maple syrup at Kortright Centre for Conservation.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Food and drink

Few people know that York Region has nine wineries. Besides wine-tasting, you can visit the underground cellar at Magnotta Winery, pick apples and strawberries at Applewood Farm Winery and sample apple wine and hard cider at Pine Farms Orchard and Winery. Beer-lovers should visit Ontario's newest microbrewery, King Brewery, which produces Czech Pilsner and German lager.

If viewing the colourful produce, cheeses and jams in farmers' markets makes you hungry, you'll find pubs, cafés, bistros, ethnic and fine-dining restaurants throughout the region.

Driving tours

The Hamlets and Heritage driving route showcases York's historic villages, local events, festivals and farmers' markets. Culinary highlights include Markham and Newmarket Farmers' Markets, Stouffville Country Market, Silani Sweet Cheese and Daniels of Nobleton.

York Region boasts several routes for viewing fall colours, with stops at local wineries, museums and historic sites. Sharon Temple, for example, hosts a fall Illumination and Harvest Festival and Acoustic Afternoon concerts.

The great outdoors

For novel ways to experience nature, participate in Kortright Centre for Conservation's year-round activities and special events. Its Visitor Centre and trails are classrooms for owl prowls, bat nights, winter wildlife and programs on wildflowers, insects and renewable energy. Seasonal festivals range from maple syrup to fall colours.

Hiking on a conservation area forest trail
Hiking on a conservation area forest trail
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

At Kortright's Windfall Ecology Centre, you can attend workshops, see a windmill and wind turbine on the Power Trip Trail and visit a Renewable Energy Cottage and Canada's most sustainable home. It also hosts the fall Green Energy Home Show.

Birdwatching and hiking are also popular at Boyd, Bruce's Mill and Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Areas. Marinas and campgrounds offer riding, boating, canoeing and kayaking. You can spend a leisurely day fishing in Lake Simcoe or golfing at Angus Glen, Eagles Nest and 70 other courses.

Visitors can experience Oak Ridges Moraine's protected lands on 155 miles (250 km) of trails. The Oak Ridges Trail Association offers frequent guided hikes, a guidebook, map and newsletter.

York Region Forestry holds free monthly walks with naturalists. Examples include a Snowshoe Stroll in February, Forest Flowers in May and Winter Birds in November.

Shop 'til you drop

Did you know that Markham's Pacific Mall is the largest Chinese indoor mall in North America? The mega-mall, Vaughan Mills, boasts manufacturers' outlets and a Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World.

If you prefer one-of-a-kind shops, in historic buildings, stroll along the charming main streets of Unionville, Schomberg, Markham Village, Jackson's Point and other heritage villages. Kleinburg, for example, has The Olde Teddy Bear Shoppe and Stouffville's Charlinda sells handmade Belgian Chocolates.


York Region Tourism: www.yorktourism.com

More things to see and do in Ontario:

Stratford Ontario - Theater and Attractions

Point Pelee Bird Watching Tours

Ontario Feast of Fields - Food, Wine and Sustainable Living

Ottawa - Things to Do in Canada's Capital City

Niagara Wine Festival Parade, Tastings, Touring Passport