The Golden Horseshoe, as it is lovingly referred to by Southern Ontarians, is an area that surrounds the western tip of Lake Ontario. The 'horseshoe' is described by a fairly narrow strip of land from Oshawa in the north east, through Toronto and Hamilton, to Niagara Falls in the south.
The Golden Horseshoe is one of the most populous regions in Canada, with a population of 6.6 million.
In 1999, it was the fastest-growing region in North America, adding more than 104,000 people; which is a faster growth rate than Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta.
It makes up over half of Ontario's population and is the most densely-populated area in Canada, with nearly 650 persons per square kilometre.
It is the fourth most populated urban area in North America, after New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Over one million people are expected to move into the region in the first decade of the new millennium.
The area's economy is driven by many different industries and lush farm land, which was the reason why the first settlers chose to live in the region. The Golden Horseshoe has a variety of agriculture, including the Niagara region's fruit and wine areas, dairy and beef cattle, maize, grains and an assortment of other crops.
The cities are home to a large number of modern industries, from the automotive industries centred in Oshawa, Oakville, and St Catharines; the computer industries in Markham; to the steel manufacturers in Hamilton. It also includes a wide spectrum of industries associated with Lester B Pearson International Airport, located on the north west fringe of sprawling Toronto.
The Golden Horseshoe is served by rail lines and motorways, connecting major US and Canadian markets. The MacDonald-Cartier Freeway (Highway 401) connects Toronto to the port city of Montreal in the East and to Detroit, Michigan in the West; and the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) links Toronto to Buffalo, New York and the cities of the American Northeast via the Niagara region.
The Welland Canal connects Lake Ontario to Lake Erie, from Port Dalhousie to Port Colborne, a distance of 42km. It is one of the major reasons for growth in the Golden Horseshoe, connecting international shipping from the Atlantic Ocean, via the St Lawrence Seaway, to the heart of North America. It is a major route for industrial transportation, carrying Canadian steel to American manufacturing centres and Canadian wheat to the world.
The history of the Golden Horseshoe begins with Upper Canada. The first European to explore the area was Etienne Brule in 1615. The native inhabitants were gradually pushed aside by successive waves of European immigrants: first the French; then the English; and, later, an increasingly diverse assortment of people, representing cultures from all over the Old World. A French fort, built in 1715, was captured by the English, who turned it into Fort York, which later became Toronto, the provincial capital.
During the War of 1812 (which Americans and Canadians both claim to have won) the Golden Horseshoe was the scene of several key battles, including the battle of Queenston Heights, in which Major-General Issac Brock defeated an American force attempting to invade Upper Canada across the Niagara River. Brock was killed in the engagement (in the heroic manner made famous by Nelson), but his bronze statue, atop a 55m column, still keeps watch over the annual invasion of international tourists.
Laura Secord became a Canadian folk heroine after her 32km trek across rough country to warn British forces of an impending American attack. She is said to have done so leading a cow, so as not to arouse suspicion. Her homestead is open to visitors to Niagara, where costumed interpreters give lively discourses on her role in history and sell Laura Secord brand chocolate.
The Golden Horseshoe is home to well over a hundred cultures and is Canada's most multicultural1 area. The first immigrants were French and English, but were soon followed by settlers from other European nations. In the early 1900s, as with most of North America, the region's demographics changed dramatically; and now the Golden Horseshoe is home to a variety of people from all over the world. Toronto has one of the largest China Towns in North America and distinct neighbourhoods representing cultures from around the globe.
Toronto, the 'Megacity', which for most of its history has been notable for its prudishness, is also home to the second largest Gay community on the continent.
Things to See and Do
Since the area has such an assortment of people and places, it's no wonder that there is so much to see and do. The Niagara region has many wonderful things to offer, including one of the natural wonders of the world, Niagara Falls; which, in addition to its casino, wax museums, and tawdry souvenir shops, also has a waterfall that is worth a look.
Actually, there are three falls: Horseshoe Falls is the feature attraction, the one that tourists and honeymooners come to see; American and Bridal Veil falls are located on the American side of the Niagara River, which means the best view is from Canada.
Niagara-on-the-lake is a charming place, full of over-priced antiques, which hosts the Shaw Festival, an annual celebration of the works of playwright George Bernard Shaw. It has been voted the most beautiful town in Canada.
The Royal Canadian Henley Regatta in St Catharines is a prestigious rowing event, which is held annually on the Old Welland Canal.
The Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, has beautiful display gardens, a world class lilac collection and miles of nature trails for visitors to explore.
The Niagara Escarpment is a geological scar left behind by retreating glaciers. It runs from Niagara Falls around the western tip of Lake Ontario, where it is often referred to as the Hamilton Mountain, and northwards to the tip of the Bruce Peninsular, which juts into Lake Huron. Roughly 1000km of trails are maintained by volunteer members of the Bruce Trail Association.
Hamilton, the 'Steel City', is the home of the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame.
The Mississauga Living Arts Centre is a beautiful, modern venue for live theatre and there are classes there in everything from flower arranging to glass blowing... and almost anything else you could imagine.
Toronto is Canada's largest city and home to the Canadian National Exhibition, The Royal Winter Fair, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum, and more festivals and sporting events than you could shake a stick at. It's a great place for live theatre and fine dining, and has the biggest free-standing structure in the world, the CN Tower, from the top of which you can see more of the Golden Horseshoe than anywhere else.
And what's a visit to the Golden Horseshoe without a visit to the famous wineries of the Niagara region and the annual Niagara Grape and Wine Festival?
Cities of the Golden Horseshoe
- Niagara Falls
- Richmond Hill
- St Catharines
- Stoney Creek