Our trip to New York gave us the opportunity to add another country to our list when we crossed the Rainbow Bridge into Canada. The main purpose of our trip to New York was for the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill in Rochester, but flying into Buffalo we decided to take a day trip to Canada to experience what the Maple Leaf nation had to offer.
So, can you really see Canada in a day? In a nutshell, the answer is no and in reality you are only going to be able to see very little in this time! We had an absolute blast in the time we had in Canada and of course we can’t wait to go back but trying to see as much as you can in just a few hours is near impossible, especially when you go to a metropolis like Toronto that has between 3-4 million locals (plus thousands of daily tourists!).
Crossing The Border
The first task you are faced with is crossing the US/Canada border and this really is much easier than you would imagine (though coming back was a little trickier!). The border patrol is just the same as a toll booth, the difference being you wait behind a line until it is your turn to move forward and speak with the border agent. After presenting your passports (and in my case green card), the agent asks a few questions such as ‘What is the purpose for entering Canada?’ and then you are on your way.
If you are crossing into Canada from Buffalo like we did, there are a number of bridges such as the Rainbow Bridge and Peace Bridge which we traveled across (the advantage of the Peace Bridge is that you don’t have to pay the initial $3.25 toll to get across unlike the Rainbow!).
Niagara Falls (Canadian Side)
If you want a great first impression of a country, then heading across the border into Canada by Niagara Falls certainly has to be one of the best. The views of the American and Canadian falls are breathtaking. I asked many people prior to traveling here which side had the best view and the majority of people indicated that Canada was the best.
Of course, we had to see this for ourselves and we were certainly not disappointed. We parked along the river front ($10 for a hour which was not too bad) and then wandered down to the local tourist shops taking in numerous photographs of the impressive natural falls.
At first glance, the whole area is very ‘touristy’ and commercialized which in essence is a little disappointing given the natural beauty that is present here. However, in today’s age it is understandable and I am certainly not complaining given that it enhances your experiences at Niagara Falls.
Would Niagara Falls be the same if it was treated similar to other State Parks (e.g. Yosemite springs to mind)? Probably not but given it’s location right on the border between two countries probably increases the need for such tourist driven amenities.
One other note of interest was that we stopped in the local cafe at Tim Horton’s bakery and sampled the most amazing Maple Filled Donut and Mixed Berry Muffin. This was certainly a ‘Welcome to Canada cuisine’ though we later found out that Tim Horton’s was more of a ‘northern’ franchise rather than Canadian based! Either way, the breakfast was great!
Queen Elizabeth Way to Toronto
Leaving Niagara Falls, the drive north to Toronto really couldn’t be much simpler. You get on the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) and take the interstate for about 1 1/2 hours until you arrive at Canada’s leading metropolis. Of course we stopped along the way for our regular trip to Costco, especially given that this was in another country, we wanted to sample anything different they had to offer.
The first thing that struck us whenever we wandered around Costco and Wal-Mart was that many of the products available were similar to England (not surprising really given Canada’s allegiance in the Commonwealth) but yet much of the landscape was still very Americanized. This feeling was later enhanced during our time in Toronto which I think we were both left a little disappointed given our thoughts it would be more ‘British’ like.
City of Toronto
Arriving in Toronto at 1:30 in the afternoon, you really have to know what you want to see during your time downtown if you are only planning on spending the rest of the day there. One of our downfalls was that we didn’t really plan accordingly but we still had a great time and got great value for our time. The only thing we had ‘planned’ was the CN Tower which we had pre-purchased tickets for.
We decided to do this first as we parked at the nearby Rogers Center and the CN Tower is located adjacent to this. What we didn’t anticipate was the length of time it would take to actually get to the top of the tower, with security, tourists lining the hallways and entrances to the elevators and then additional time to see the very top level which we paid an extra $12 for.
The remainder of our afternoon in Toronto saw us wander around downtown and make our way to the infamous Yonge Street after passing by the NHL Hall of Fame which was a pretty cool experience (at least in the store anyway!).
There is a lot to do and a lot to see in Toronto and the time we had there was good to get a brief insight into what this great city has to offer. We barely skimmed the surface but we saw enough to make us want to return.
Our day trip across the border into Canada was certainly a success and worthwhile experience. There is only so much that you can do in one day and we both feel happy with our accomplishments. We can’t wait to go back and recommend that anyone that is visiting Buffalo or surrounding area, take the time to cross the border into the Maple Leaf nation!
What are your experiences in Toronto/Niagara Falls?
Do you have any ‘one day trip’ experiences in a country?
Tim Hortons is one of the things I miss after coming back to Europe!
I did realize as well that the area around Niagara Falls was very touristy and I felt a bit like in Disney World or something similar to that. But well, we aren’t able to change that!
I would still love to return!
Anna you make a really valid point about Niagara Falls and how much of a tourist attraction it is being made. I think it’s just natural with these types of places that this is going to occur, especially when they see it as a way to bring more money to an area, and the reality is who can blame them! But of course it makes it less appealing for visitors.
I would say though that when you have such an incredible natural attraction such as Niagara Falls, they will never do anything that will prevent folks from seeing this. I can ignore everything ‘touristy’ and focus solely on the incredible Falls.
Tim Horton’s = AMAZING! Miss that place a lot.
I haven’t been to Niagara in decades but it always was a tacky town. I remember the gardens around the falls to be quite amazing. Tim Hortons was a Canadian icon but they sold out. My brother got married at the top of the CN Tower in the ’70s.