- Greater Toronto Area — located along the shore of Lake Ontario, from Oshawa in the east to Burlington in the west, with Toronto in the center.
- 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.
- Brampton — a city of new suburbs and a well preserved downtown.
- Burlington — beautiful growing city and popular with tourists. Home of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Canada's largest botanical garden.
- 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.
- Mississauga — the city immediately west of Toronto, includes several generations of suburban housing centered around historic villages, with a dense residential and retail focused City Centre.
- Niagara Falls — a smaller city on the Canadian-U.S. border overlooking the Niagara Falls, with a downtown oriented to tourism and hospitality.
- Niagara on the Lake — named the "Prettiest Town in Canada"
- 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
- Toronto — Canada's most populous city, and in many ways the heart of the Golden Horseshoe for business, arts, and culture
- 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. 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 twentieth 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 at somewhere in this region.
John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport (IATA: YHM) is located in Hamilton approximately 1 hour by car from downtown Toronto or Niagara Falls, and accommodates major air carriers and tour operators.
Buffalo-Niagara International Airport (IATA: BUF) 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 Toronto Coach Terminal (also known as Bay Street Terminal or the Metro Toronto Coach Terminal), is used for intercity coach travel and is served by Greyhound, Coach Canada, 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 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.
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.
Intercity and commuter rail and bus is a reliable option for getting around, but most routes are oriented through Toronto, and a connection will most likely be necessary.
Most cities and towns operate some public transit, and neighbouring transit systems will often connect at key terminals. Note, however, that 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.
- Shaw Theatre, Niagara on the Lake. Named after playwright George Bernard Shaw, this theater 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), e-mail: email@example.com. New operator of Niagara Falls boat tours effective 2014. 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 in an idyllic surrounding.
- Whirlpool Jet Boats, 61 Melville Street, toll-free: +1-888-438-4444. Niagara on the Lake, 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, toll-free: +1-888-FALLSVU (3255788). Niagara Falls. Vegas-style Casino.
- Canada's Wonderland, 9580 Jane Street, ☎ +1 905-832-8131. Vaughan (Toronto Area). A big theme park located in Vaughan, 30 kilometers north of downtown Toronto. It is considered one of North America's premier amusement parks, with more than 200 attractions. The park is open seasonally from May to October.
- Ontario Science Centre, 770 Don Mills Road, toll-free: +1-888-696-1110. Toronto. Lots of hands on science exhibits, including a rainforest, a tornado machine, sound proof tunnel, balance testing machines, and more. It also contains Ontario's only Omnimax (full wrap around) movie theatre.
- 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.