Last year when our parents turned 60, my sister and I were thinking about what we should give them as a present. As my mother dropped several times how she would love it to visit Canada one day to visit our cousin living there, we decided to gift them the plane tickets to Canada and invite ourselves along for the trip. In about one and a half week we made a trip around the cities in central-eastern Canada, visiting Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa and Toronto.
As we were staying a few days in Toronto it was the perfect base to go for a day trip to the world famous Niagara Falls.
During the summer months GO Transit operates a special train from Toronto to the Falls, but as we were there in May it was not quite clear whether the train would already be operating. As to avoid having to rent a car we decided to book a guided tour by bus, picking us op from the hotel in Toronto.
We had a small group so we were picked up by a small bus and after some more stops picking up the others joining us we turned onto the highway towards the Niagara Falls. The drive took about 1h30, and the driver/guide told us some interesting things we passed on the way.
A bit later we drove down to the centre of the town of Niagara Falls where we embarked on a boat trip taking us ‘into’ the falls. This was clearly a very touristy operation as there where huge lines to board the fully loaded ships.
Before boarding everyone receive a red/pink poncho to wear over your clothes as you were sure to get wet. The boat travelled from the dock towards the bottom of the Horseshoe Falls, passing by the smaller American Falls on the way. When sailing this close to the water rushing down you really get a sense of the sheer size and mass of it all and you fell really tiny when faced to this wonder of nature.
After alighting the ship soaking wet we took the cable car back up to the town.
As it was noon now, we headed off to lunch, as we booked a tour with lunch included we had reserved seats at the top level buffet restaurant of the Sheraton in Niagara Falls. The buffet had a big diverse offer of good quality food. The main attraction of course was the view over the falls during your lunch, an unforgettable experience.
As I already saw a beautiful floral clock in Geneva, I was really disappointed by this very plain looking one.
The next stop was at the Reif Estate Winery. While you would not typically expect Canada to produce wine as it is a ‘cold’ country, the region around Niagara offers a warm enough climate enabling them to grow vineyards and produce some very good wines.
One of the more unique wines they have is the ‘ice wine’, made from grapes harvested after the first night of freezing temperatures and making a very sweet wine. Contrary to visiting a winery in Europe we did not get a tour of the vineyards and the wine making process but instead just immediately started the wine tasting, making this also a rather brief stop.
The final stop of the tour was at Niagara-on-the Lake, it’s an important city in Canadian history as at one point this used to be the capital of the Province of Upper Canada, the modern day Ontario.
The entire town has a typical 1900-1950’s flair over it, with small quaint houses. As it attracts many tourists there are plenty of shops and places to eat and drinks to spend your time (and Canadian Dollars). To avoid clogging up the little town’s streets, all coaches have to park at a coach parking just outside the city centre and are shuttled to the town by the town’s own shuttle buses.
Did I think the tour was worth its money? Yes and no, the first part of the day with the falls and the boat tour was indeed very interesting and what we wanted to do and see, not having to drive here ourselves was a big plus.
However the stops in the afternoon (with the exception perhaps of the winery) where not as interesting and we might have preferred some more time at the falls instead, I can understand that for the mainly NorthAmerican public these tours are intended for it is more interesting as the town of Niagara-on-the-lakes is something you won’t find that often in North America.
Would I recommend taking this tour? Well I can only say, judge for yourself whether it suits your needs and interests or not. It is a very well organised trip, and we got to cut in line at the Niagara Falls boat tour which saved us a lot of time.
If you have to organise it all yourself, it will take you a lot more time and effort to do so but this will enable you to do it just the way you want it to. So it is a very ambiguous subject, depending entirely on your own wishes and preferences.
Have you been to the Niagara Falls? And how did you do it? Let us know in the comments below!