Exploring Ontario history is a bit like exploring a new city or country. Instead of travelling in space, though, you’re travelling in time. You might have a guidebook with you, but you really never know what you’re going to find – and that’s the adventure of it!
One of the best and entertaining ways to learn about the history of Ontario is to get out and experience it. Ontario's living history museums give you the opportunity to see what life was like in the past by showcasing real material artifacts that were created and used by the people who lived here.
Getting to see something someone made, and often used with love, 100, 200, 3,000 years ago gives me the shivers… shivers of delight, that is! (Occasionally, they’re the other kind of shivers, too, if the place I’m visiting claims to be “haunted” … see the Ottawa Jail Hostel below.) So where can you find these "Wayback machines", these “Time Travel Experiences” in Ontario? Here are some to get you started. Have fun!
Aurora has two museums, the Aurora Cultural Centre, and Hillary House. For information about both, see Aurora Ontario.
Castle Kilbride – This 1877 mansion features unusual trompe l'oeil ceiling and wall paintings.
Brantford and Six Nations Territory:
Chiefswood National Historic Site – The history of Ontario begins with Aboriginal history. This was the childhood home of the poet E. Pauline Johnson, daughter of a Mohawk chief and English lady. This home was built between 1853-1856. Mixed marriage and bi-cultural home life in the 19th century.
Her Majesty's Royal Chapel of the Mohawks – Built in 1785.
Bell Homestead National Historic Site – The home of inventor Alexander Graham Bell and the site of the first telephone call in 1874.
For more information about these museums, see Brantford Ontario
Ireland House at Oakridge Farm – Agriculture played an important role in Ontario history. Experience the life of an early farming family.
Ruthven Park – Beautiful mansion built in the 1840s and occupied by five generations of one family. A graceful setting along the banks of the Grand.Guelph:
McCrae House - Built in 1858. The birthplace of John McCrae,
doctor, soldier and author of the First World War poem “In Flanders
Fields”. For more information, see Guelph Ontario.
Dundurn Castle, Whitehern House and Garden, Hamilton Military Museum, Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology, HMCS Haida National Historic Site of Canada, Workers Arts & Heritage Centre. See my page on Hamilton Museums.
Heritage lovers rejoice! In Kitchener you'll find Doon Heritage and Crossroads, Region of Waterloo Museum, Homer Watson House and Gallery, Joseph Schneider Haus, and Woodside National Historic Site of Canada.
Fanshawe Pioneer Village is a great place to explore Ontario's rural past.
In London you'll also find Museum London and Banting House. For more information about these museums, see London Ontario.
Halton County Radial Railway – Come ride the antique trains and streetcars in this living history outdoor museum.
Old Fort Erie - Old Fort Erie Ontario during the War of 1812 was a blood-soaked battlefield. Today it is a living history museum with costumed guides. Read on for a detailed review of the tour, buildings, exhibition centre, dining, shopping and more.
Fort George – In Niagara-on-the-Lake. A key site of the War of 1812, an important event in Ontario history. Military demonstrations. Regular tours. Ghost tours in season. Fife and drum corps affiliated with the fort has its own CD of music performed on period instruments.
Niagara Apothecary – What did the drugstore look like in 1869? What medicines could you buy then? Here’s your chance to see it in this unique museum of a Victorian pharmacy.
Laura Secord House – No, it’s not a chocolate factory! It’s the home of the woman who trekked across Niagara during the war of 1812 to warn the British that the Americans were attacking.
MacFarland House - The house predates the war of 1812. Attached to one side is a new, lovely atrium where you can take tea and lunch.
Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum (photo above) – Discover 500 years of printing technology at the former home of radical politician and newspaper publisher William Lyon Mackenzie.
CONTINUE TO PAGE 2 OF Ontario History