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 Overview

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.

City of Windsor

Windsor History

Windsor, Ontario has a rich history that spans centuries and is closely tied to its strategic location on the Detroit River, across from Detroit, Michigan.

Prior to European colonization, the region was inhabited by Indigenous peoples, including the Algonquin and Huron-Wendat nations.

The first European explorer to reach the area was Frenchman Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac in 1701. French settlers established a fort, Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit, on the west side of the river, in what is now Detroit.

After the French and Indian War (1754–1763), the region came under British control through the Treaty of Paris, and the area around Windsor became a part of Upper Canada.

During the War of 1812, Windsor was a significant battleground. Two months into the war, the British and Indigenous forces (under Sir Isaac Brock the Chief Tecumseh) attack the American Fort Detroit, and convinced it to surrender (and seize its weapons and ammunition). The Americans sought revenge, and Windsor was occupied by American forces later in 1813, as they advanced up the Thames River to Moriaviatown  and fought the Battle of the Thames, Windsor and Fort Amherstburg were returned by the Americans after the Treaty of Ghent was ratified, ending the war.

Later in the 1800s, Windsor played a crucial role in the Underground Railroad, a network of safe houses and routes used by escaped slaves to reach freedom in Canada. Many African Americans settled in Windsor, contributing to its diverse population.

The late 1800s and 1900s, Windsor’s grew its industrial base, centered around automotive manufacturing. The Canadian headquarters of major automakers, including Ford and Chrysler, were established in Windsor, as were a number of manufacturing facilities.

Windsor gained notoriety during the Prohibition era in the United States (1920–1933) when it became a popular destination for Americans seeking alcohol. The city’s proximity to Detroit made it a convenient hideout for bootleggers and location for speakeasies.

Following World War II, Windsor continued its economic growth, driven by the automotive industry and the Canada-US Auto Pact. The Ambassador Bridge, connecting Windsor and Detroit, is one of the busiest border crossings in North America. The city’s population expanded,  and its economy diversified  into manufacturing, healthcare, and education.

Windsor Attractions

Adventure Bay Family Water Park

401 Pitt St W, Windsor, ON N9A 0B2
519-974-AQUA (2782)|

A family-friendly water park with slides, wave pools, and other water attractions, providing a fun-filled day for visitors of all ages.

Art Gallery of Windsor

401 Riverside Dr W, Windsor, ON N9A 7J1

The Art Gallery of Windsor features a diverse collection of Canadian and contemporary art, including paintings, sculptures, and multimedia exhibits. Explore close to 4,000 works of art from some of Canada’s most exciting artists. Collecting since 1943, Art Windsor-Essex continues to evolve and share it’s collection – inspiring challenging conversations with every exhibition.

Canadian Club Brand Center

2072 Riverside Dr E, Windsor, Ontario

Explore the history of Canadian Club whiskey through guided tours of the distillery and learn about the legacy of Hiram Walker.

Caesars Windsor

377 Riverside Drive East, Windsor, ON N9A 7H7

(Entrance: McDougall Ave, Pitt St E)
1 800-991-7777

Caesars Windsor is a hotel and casino complex, offering gaming, entertainment, dining, and luxurious accommodations. Try your luck and hit the tables, enjoy fantastic dining, or experience legendary performances live at The Colosseum.

Devonshire Mall

3100 Howard Ave, Windsor, Ontario|

Devonshire Mall is a popular shopping destination with a wide range of stores, including major retail chains, fashion outlets, and dining options. Devonshire Mall is a super regional shopping centre with over 160 shops and services and is easily accessible from the 401 and EC Row Expressway.

Dieppe Gardens

 78 Riverside Dr W, Windsor, ON N9A 0A3
1 877-746-4311

Dieppe Gardens is a beautiful waterfront park named in honor of the soldiers who participated in the Battle of Dieppe during World War II. The park features manicured gardens with both annuals and perennials and monuments.

Odette Sculpture Park

University Ave W & Sunset Ave, Windsor, Ontario

This outdoor sculpture park, located on the University of Windsor campus, features a collection of 35 contemporary sculptures by both Canadian and international world-renowned artists including Elisabeth Frink, Gerald Gladstone, and Sorel Etrog

Capitol Theatre, St. Clair College

121 University Ave W, Windsor, ON N9A 5P4

A historic venue that hosts a variety of performances, including plays, concerts, and cultural events, contributing to Windsor’s vibrant arts and entertainment scene.

Willistead Manor

1899 Niagara St, Windsor, Ontario

A historic mansion built in the early 20th century, Willistead Manor is surrounded by beautiful gardens and offers guided tours, showcasing the elegance of the Edwardian era. Willistead Manor was designed by renowned architect Albert Kahn in the 16th-century Tudor-Jacobean style of an English manor hous

Windsor Riverfront

Riverside Drive West, Windsor, Ontario

The Windsor Riverfront offers a scenic waterfront along the Detroit River, featuring parks, walking trails, and beautiful views of the Detroit skyline. It’s a popular spot for outdoor activities and events.

Windsor Sculpture Park

100 Riverside Dr W, Windsor, ON N9B 1E8

This outdoor sculpture park showcases a diverse collection of contemporary sculptures by local and international artists, set against the backdrop of the riverfront.

Windsor-Essex Pelee Island Wine Country

Explore the local wineries in the surrounding region, known for producing a variety of wines. Check out places like Pelee Island Winery and view the picturesque vineyards.

Windsor Road Trip Planner (explore our directory)

Look for what to see & do, and where to stay in Windsor and the nearby communities on the shores of Lake Erie, the Detroit River, Lake St Clair, southern Lake Huron.  First click on the LOCALE to search, then use the CATEGORY filter on the left side for the feature of interest!

Windsor-Ambassador Bridge over Detroit River-sliver-CoverPhoto


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.