What to See & Do in Windsor Ontario?
Windsor is abound in nature (Point Peelee), steeped in history (back to the War of 1812), home to the auto industry, and to music (Detoit is “Rock City” and home of Motown.
Windsor is on the western end of Ontario’s Highway 401, and right across the river from Detroit, which is at the northern end of the I-75 corridor from Florida. Windsor is also only a 4 hour drive from Chicago. It is the southernmost part of Canada (about the latitude of San Fransisco) and surrounded by water: Lake Erie to the south, Detroit River to the West and Lake St Clair to the north. .
Windsor is located at the extreme southwestern end of Ontario, and at a latitude south of the top of California, with mild weather to match. Windsor is the oldest continuous European settlement in Ontario, beginning with a 1728 Jesuit mission. It is across the Detroit River from (and is actually south of) the American city of Detroit. The automobile industry is big in Windsor, ever since Ford created Ford of Canada in 1908. The city today has a population of over 195,000
The mild climate and close access to the United States makes Windsor unique in Canada. The city is near the site of Fort Malden, an important fort during the War of 1812, which defended the Detroit River from attacks from Lake Erie. Before the US Civil War, the city was the endpoint of the Underground Railway for escaped slaves seeking freedom. The city is close to Pelee Island and Point Pelee, the most southerly Canadian points of land in Lake Erie, both popular for recreation and nature-minded locals. The city has over 2,000 acres of parkland, including a riverside recreational trail that begins at the Ambassador Bridge.
Today, Windsor is a vibrant city with a diverse population and a strong cultural identity. The city’s multicultural heritage is celebrated through various festivals and events, reflecting the contributions of different ethnic communities. Windsor is also known for its thriving arts and entertainment scene, including the renowned Windsor Symphony Orchestra.
Windsor’s history and identity are closely intertwined with its relationship with the United States and its location as a border city. Its role as an industrial and cultural center continues to shape its present and future, as it embraces economic diversification and seeks to create a sustainable and inclusive community.
Windsor Road Trip Planner (explore our directory)
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Windsor, Ontario Area Map
Windsor Ontario History
Windsor’s history is closely intertwined with its strategic location along the Detroit River and its close relationship with the United States.
Before European settlement, the area where Windsor is now situated was inhabited by various indigenous communities, including the Huron, Odawa, and Potawatomi peoples who used the rivers for transportation, trade, and sustenance.
European exploration and settlement in the area began in the 1600s when French explorers and fur traders, including Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, established Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit (Fort Detroit) in 1701 on the opposite side of the river in present-day Detroit, Michigan.
In the late 1700s, the British gained control of the area fromthe French, including what is now Windsor. Following the American Revolution, the British retained control of the region, establishing both a military presence and promoting settlement in the area. The settlement of Sandwich, located on the present-day west side of Windsor, was founded in 1797 and became one of the earliest European settlements in the region.
During the War of 1812 when the US tried attacking the British Colonies tothe north, The Battle of Detroit was an early and significant battle when in August 1812, British and Native American troops, led by Major General Isaac Brock and Chief Tecumseh, respectively, besieged the American garrison at Fort Detroit. Facing a superior force and lacking supplies and reinforcements, American General William Hull surrendered the fort without significant resistance. The British victory at the Battle of Detroit resulted in the capture of an entire American army and control over the Northwest Territory. It had a profound impact on the war, altering the balance of power in the region for the reaminder of that war.
Throughout the 1800s, Windsor experienced significant growth and development. The completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 further enhanced the city’s strategic importance, as it connected the Great Lakes to the Hudson River and opened up trade routes. Windsor became a major transportation and trade hub, with steamships and railways linking the city to other major centers.
Windsor’s proximity to the United States played a significant role in its development and became a key crossing point between Canada and the United States, for trade and migration. The Underground Railroad, a network of safe routes for escaped slaves, passed through Windsor, as many sought freedom in Canada, and to this day has a significant African Canadian population.
Industrialization took hold in Windsor during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Manufacturing and automotive industries flourished, with the establishment of companies like Ford Motor Company of Canada and Chrysler Canada. The city became known as the “Automotive Capital of Canada” and played a crucial role in the development of the Canadian automotive industry.
Windsor’s growth continued into the 20th century, with advancements in manufacturing, healthcare, and education. The city expanded its infrastructure, including the construction of the Ambassador Bridge in 1929, which connects Windsor to Detroit and is one of the busiest international border crossings in North America.