Thunder Bay is the largest city in Northwestern Ontario. It is on the shore of Lake Superior, which gives it the nickname “Lakehead.” The city is the gateway to the region and the link between the Prairies of Canada and the Atlantic Ocean.
Thunder Bay might be the most visited city in all of Northern Ontario because it has so much to offer. There is something here for everyone, from beautiful natural scenery to interesting old buildings.
People who like the outdoors, shopping, food, and history will all enjoy a vacation in the city. Here are the 10 best things to do in Thunder Bay, no matter what you want to do:
1. See a sleeping giant
The Sleeping Giant is not a real person. It is the name of a mesa and sill formation that looks like a giant sleeping on its back. From the cliffs at Squaw Bay, you can see the best views.
One of Canada’s “Seven Wonders” is the Sleeping Giant. It is in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, which has the highest and most dramatic cliffs in all of Ontario.
There are also a lot of things to do in the park itself, like fishing, biking, hiking, and camping. In fact, the park has more than 200 places to camp.
2. Find out about the trade in furs
Visit the rebuilt fur trade post in Fort William to learn about the city’s past economy. The post was there in 1816, and it is now a Canadian National Historic Site.
The trade post is in the living museum that is the Fort William Historical Park. You can walk around the park and look at the rebuilt buildings and historians dressed in clothes from the time period who show what life was like during the fur trade.
At its peak, the trade post was a town full of people who did business. One of the biggest amphitheaters in the country is now in the historical park.
3. Take in the sights
The Terry Fox Memorial and Lookout is on the edge of Thunder Bay, where you can get great views of the city. The memorial is in a park with a view of Highway 17 and the city.
The Terry Fox Memorial was built to show where the famous athlete stopped running. Since then, it has been moved about four kilometers away to where it is now.
The statue shows Terry Fox standing on a pedestal with a list of all the places he ran through on his trip across the country. A tourist information center is also there.
4. Put plants all around you.
Along the Current River in the north of the city is the 263-hectare Current River Greenway. The huge green area is a great place to go to get away from everything and take in the view.
In the greenway, there are several places to go, such as Birch Point Park, Current River Park, and Evergreen Park. It also has the Cascades Conservation Area, which has hiking trails and beautiful scenery.
At the Bluffs Scenic Lookout, which is open all year, you can also see some beautiful sights. The Boulevard Lake Park also has a sandy beach, a playground, and picnic tables.
5. Let a waterfall take your breath away
The 40-meter-high Kakabeka Falls is a place where you can really get lost in the beauty of everything. The waterfall is on the Kaministiquia River, about 30 km west of Thunder Bay.
People call the falls the “Niagara of the North” because they are so big and easy to get to. In Ojibwe, the name Kakabeka means “waterfall over a cliff.”
Some of the oldest fossils in the world can be found in the rock that faces the falls. These fossils are about 1.6 billion years old. Because the rocks are so soft, there is no way to get into the gorge below the falls.
6. Go to the center of the city
The South Core, which is also called Downtown Thunder Bay South, is the center of the city and a great place to explore. It is based around the Victoriaville Civic Centre and has a number of important buildings.
There are a lot of government buildings and big businesses in this area. But it is also a place with a lot of arts and culture. The Brodie Street Art Gallery and the Thunder Bay Public Library are just two examples of these.
In the South Core, there are also a lot of places of worship, which shows again how different the city is. These include the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and St. Paul’s Anglican Church, all of which have a Gothic Revival style.
7. Put history all around you.
The beautiful Classical Revival building that used to be the Fort William police station is now home to the Thunder Bay Historical Museum. A lot of the things inside the building are also works of art.
When you walk into the museum, you can learn about different parts of local history. There are dolls, furniture, pictures, maps, and plans among the things in the collection. Linear records are also 130 meters long.
There are also 150,000 photographs of the city and its surroundings from different times in the collection. Don’t forget to look at its old fire truck as well.
8. Visit a fair
Only in August, when the city hosts the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition, can this be done. The annual fair is fun for people of all ages, but it is especially popular with families.
You can walk around the fair and look at art made by local artists or buy something at one of its stands. A midway with games, rides, and food stands is also there.
A few of the buildings at the exhibition are open all year long. These include the Heritage Building, the Coliseum Building, the Sports Dome, and a Famous Players Silvercity Theater.
9. Dine in an iconic restaurant
The Hoito Restaurant has been open since 1918, making it the oldest restaurant in Thunder Bay. It might also be the oldest building in the whole country.
The restaurant is on the lower level of the historic Finnish Labour Temple and serves Finnish-Canadian food. It is best known for its Finnish pancakes, which are served with maple syrup, sugar sprinkles, or strawberry sauce.
The Finnish Labour Temple is also a famous building. It used to be one of the biggest worker’s halls in Canada. It is on the list of Canada’s National Historic Sites.
10. Look at artwork
The Thunder Bay Art Gallery is interesting, but it is not very big. In fact, it focuses on modern art from Northwestern Ontario’s First Nation artists.
The gallery is on Confederation College’s campus. It has both a permanent collection and exhibitions that move around.
The Thunder Bay Art Gallery also works with local and regional artists and promotes their work. It has three galleries, and every six weeks, one of them changes.