Fly from Chicago to Thunder Bay, for the sweeter side of Ontario’s outdoors.
This former industrial city on the shores of Lake Superior is now an adventurous and attractive escape for visitors seeking the best of Ontario’s culture and nature. From boisterous performances in the Magnus Theatre, to the quiet summit of the Sleeping Giant mesas, you’ll find a volume of things to do in Thunder Bay.
Surrounding the city, Northern Ontario’s natural beauty shines through. Whether you’re hiking to the peak of Mount McKay, or canoeing the Kaministiquia River, you’ll find plenty of paths to Thunder Bay’s outdoor points of interest.
Within Thunder Bay, parks are the perfect place to stretch your legs after your plane from Chicago lands. Between the manicured gardens of Hillcrest Park and the adorably accurate mini-trains of Centennial Park, Thunder Bay’s green spaces offer serene retreats within the city.
At Fort William Historical Park, you can look back at Thunder Bay’s fur trading days. Historical reenactments and era accurate buildings will take you back to the early 1800s, when Thunder Bay was still called Fort William. In downtown Thunder Bay, the Thunder Bay Museum recounts the city’s past from inside its former police station and courthouse.
Sweeten the deal during your visit to Thunder Bay, with a taste of a Persian. This pink, sugary treat is available at one of Thunder Bay’s favourite bakeries, The Persian Man. Thunder Bay’s culinary scene is more than just desserts. In Little Finland, you can start the day right with pancakes from The Hoito, situated in the basement of the Finnish Labour Temple since 1918.
After a walk through Little Finland, finish your trip from Chicago with a visit to the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. With a focus on native Canadian artists, this gallery can give you a new perspective on the nature and culture of this Northern Ontario destination.
With over 4,600sq. km of wilderness, Quetico Provincial Park is the perfect place to seek peace and quiet during your trip from Chicago.
Towering cliffs and tumbling waterfalls contribute to the rugged beauty of this provincial park. Thick spruce and pine forests grow along the shores of the park’s lakes and rivers. Within these woods, more than 200 types of birds have been recorded, included osprey and bald eagles.
If you’re looking to catch a glimpse of the park’s avian inhabitants, Quetico’s hiking trails are your best bet. 35 km of trails spread throughout the park, starting from the Dawson Trail Campground.
Take a shot at the Whiskey Jack Trail, which runs from a boardwalk to a thickly wooded, mossy lowland. For a harder hike, the Teaching Trail can teach you a thing or two about trekking, as it takes you through rough terrain and steep hills.
To access more of the park’s area, you’ll need to take to the water. Quetico’s rivers and lakes provide paddling and portage routes that run between a day to a few weeks to traverse. For an easy day on the waves, canoe through McAree Lake, easily accessible from Lac La Croix.
If you have two weeks to spare exploring Ontario’s wilderness, take off for the Carp Lake-Hunter’s Island Loop. This canoe route spans 250 km, covering 25 lakes and 29 portage sections. Wherever you paddle, you can cool off along the way in the many backcountry swimming spots spread throughout Quetico’s waters.
When the water freezes over, Quetico becomes a winter wonderland. From the Dawson Trail Campground, you can dash through the snow on Quetico Provincial Park’s snowshoe and ski trails. With winter-themed events held every year, the park is amazing in every season.
After a long day enjoying Ontario’s outdoors, settle in for the night at the Dawson Trail Campground. Whether you sleep under the stars, or in a cozy cabin, a night in Quetico is sure to be a highlight of your visit from Chicago.
Just 30 minutes away from Thunder Bay, you’ll find the 40 metre high Kakabeka Falls. With boardwalks crossing over the top of this towering waterfall, natural wonders are on display from every angle.
Walk against the flow of the Kaministiquia River, following the water upstream and over the falls, to the best swimming spot in Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park. After a hard hike through the trails of the park, a small beach awaits to cool you off. Whether you strolled your way here on the scenic Boardwalk Trail, or you’ve trekked along the testing Little Falls Trail, a dip in the cool waters of the Kaministiquia River is the perfect end to every path.
Like many of the sites that surround Lake Superior, Kakabeka Falls contains trails once taken by the Voyageurs. Follow in the footsteps of these famous Canadian fur traders on Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park’s Portage Trail. You don’t have to carry a canoe with you to take this scenic and historic route overlooking the Kaministiquia River, gorge, and falls.
For a faster way to see the park, pedal along the park’s popular Poplar Trail cycling path. As you ride through the woods, listen for the avian acapellas of songbirds that live in the park. When salmon are in season, you may get a glimpse of bald eagles circling over the Kakabeka Falls.
At the foot of the falls you’ll find the oldest wildlife in the park. The waters carving away at the gorge have made 1.6 billion year old fossils visible. These unfamiliar, almost alien-looking, organisms are remnants of a primordial era of the park.
Whether you’re travelling through the park on foot, bike, or skis, Kakabeka Falls is amazing in every season. Towering natural features make this provincial park a must-see stop on your trip from Chicago to Thunder Bay.
Fly from Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) to Thunder Bay International Airport (YQT), with a quick connection in Toronto. Chicago to Thunder Bay flight time is 3 hours and 45 minutes on average. Connection times vary. The distance from Chicago to Thunder Bay is around 1,645 km / 1,020 mi.
Enjoy complimentary drinks and snacks along the way.