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  • Cecilia Clark

Detour to Niagara and Toronto, Canada: August 5-8, 2023

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

Our plan for this vacation was to travel to Newfoundland, a province in Canada which neither of us had yet to visit. Beginning June 2023, Air Canada had a nonstop flight from Sacramento to Toronto which made travel much easier and less complicated. So we set up a detour to see Niagara Falls (a first time for me) and Toronto for a few days.

That seemed like a really good plan, but our flight from Sacramento to Toronto was 2 hours late and we still needed to rent a vehicle and drive an hour or so south to Niagara. The Canadian side of the Niagara River is packed with Casinos and hotels, therefore, also traffic gridlock. Finally checked into our hotel and parked in the Hilton's $50 overflow, overflow, outside parking located blocks away, we took a walk down to the river for our first glimpse of the falls. Although around 11pm, it was still quite warm. Like us, visitors were strolling around and enjoying the mist and the light show on the falls.

The next day we were picked up by a shuttle bus for our all day tour of both sides of the falls. In total there were about 10 of us in the bus. Our guide/bus driver, Noman from Over the Falls Tours, already had all our entrance tickets meaning that we did not have to wait in line to buy tickets. Once inside the venue, there were lines of course, but that allowed time to people watch. Noman drove us across the Rainbow International Bridge where we checked in with US Customs, re-boarded the bus, and began our tour of the US side of the Niagara River. Our first stop was for the Maid of the Mist boat tour where everyone wears blue rain ponchos. Just across the river, Canadian Parks has a similar tour boat, but everyone is dressed in red rain ponchos.

The Rainbow International Bridge and a Maid of the Mist boat about to dock

Noman suggested that we try to stand front left on the upper deck for the best views. We got pretty close to that point.

Left: The American Falls

Middle: Looking back at the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls is on the far right

Right: View from Maid of the Mist of both Falls

The closer the boat comes to Horseshoe Falls, the more mist there is in the air. Soon there was so much mist it was hard to see and even more difficult to take a photo with a dry lens. There was more mist, more noise, and reduced visibility the closer we came to Horseshoe Falls. All around us people were laughing and taking photos of mist while I was thinking this could be like one of those horror movies where everyone is having a great time when tragedy strikes. Then, the boat made a u-turn and we were away from the turbulence.

Because there is so much mist, it is really hard to tell how close the boat comes to the falls. Later in the day our tour included tickets to the Skylon Tower where we had a bird's eye view of the falls of the Niagara River.

Maid of the Mist in a Turneresque Stormy Ocean Scene

While on the New York side, we had a thoroughly refreshing (wet) experience at Cave of the Winds which is an elevated walkway very close to Bridal Veil Falls. We posed for photos on the lowest level of the walkway. Each level brings you closer to Bridal Veil Falls with the last level called the Hurricane Deck.

Back on the Canadian side, we strolled the Fallsview Trail along the Niagara River.

We said goodbye to the falls and returned to the Toronto-Pearson Airport to drop the rental car and catch the shuttle to an airport hotel. We woke the next day to rain.

We had no plans for what to do in Toronto. The Canadians we asked emphatically said to visit CN Tower so that was the only thing on our list. We called a taxi and headed downtown. Our driver suggested we catch the Hop-on/Hop-off bus. We did. We got off near Chinatown (because a wait person we met said we should go there). We weren't quite as enamored as she was, but it was a good walk which took us back in time to a San Francisco Haight Ashbury-like neighborhood. I wasn't precocious enough to have visited the area in either the 60s or 70s, but in my imagination, this area was similar with the smell of marijuana in the air, colorful houses, graffiti, and interestingly dressed people. Daylight was burning so trying to keep a view of CN Tower within eyesight, we walked toward it.

View of CN Tower and from the Sky Pod

The CN Tower is 1815.3 feet/553.3 meters high communications and observation tower. It was the tallest, free standing structure until 2007. Since that time it has been surpassed in height several times and now is just the 10th tallest free standing structure on land (for now) in the world. At CN Tower we took the elevator up to the first observation level at 1136 feet/346 meters above ground. It took 58 seconds. There we bought tickets for the sky pod which is 33 stories higher than the main observation level. It is 1465 feet/447 meters above the ground. At that height it feels like a bird's eye view of the city.

From the Main Observation level you can gaze down into the Lower Observation Level and watch as people lying on the glass floor take selfies of their bodies suspended over the city.

Back down at ground level, we caught the last Hop-on/Hop-off bus to the Distillery district for an amazing dinner at Cluny Bistro.

Tomorrow we fly to Gander, Newfoundland, for the rest of our adventure.


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