This year for our summer trip, Brad and I drove up to Canada for a few days to visit Toronto and see Niagara Falls. This was our first international trip together, and even though we were only a few hours from the U.S. border, it was exciting to be in another country.
We left home in the morning and hoped to get up to Ball's Falls by late afternoon. Unfortunately, we ran into a downpour that followed us along the interstate for the better part of two hours, all the way to the park. Since it was raining (and we'd arrived later than planned) we didn't get to hike at Ball's Falls.
We drove up towards Toronto instead and found a place to eat right on one of Lake Ontario's beaches. The rain had moved on, but heavy clouds still hung around, so we walked along the beach after dinner to see the water and take some pictures.
If you're ever in Toronto and have half a day to spare, I definitely recommend checking out Casa Loma. This estate was built in the early 1900s and it's basically a castle. It has over 90 rooms, plus gardens, secret stairways, and a tunnel to the stables across the road.
It's a gorgeous place, and the self-guided audio tour was really interesting. The narration talked about each room and how it was designed and used back when the mansion was inhabited. We were also able to go up in one of the towers and got a cool view of the city of Toronto in the distance.
After touring the castle, we drove into the city of Toronto. We parked in a parking garage near the Harbourfront Centre area and took a ferry to the Toronto Island. The island would actually have been a great place to spend a day at the beach, or eating ice cream from the various shops and vendors, but we just walked around and explored the area. We saw the lighthouse on the island, which is one of the oldest lighthouses on the Great Lakes.
The Toronto Island is one big island but divided into three separate areas, and we decided to walk to the end from the Centre Island (the most popular area). But we miscalculated the conversion from kilometers to miles and ended up walking almost two and a half miles and were pretty tired and ready for dinner by the time we got back to the mainland.
I was a little disappointed I hadn't brought my nice camera to the island because there were some really gorgeous views, but I was also glad I hadn't had to carry my bag for those two and a half miles.
I was at Niagara Falls once before, about twelve years ago with my family on our way back from Maine. We stopped at the falls for part of a day (and even crossed over to see the Canadian falls) but didn't spend enough time to take any tours or see the falls up close.
Brad and I had breakfast at a Tim Horton's near our hotel, then drove about an hour and a half to the falls area. We first walked around the little plaza by the gift shop and welcome center with my camera so I could take some pictures of the falls. I wasn't breaking any new ground photographing the falls from the tourist area, but it had to be done. Plus the overcast sky did add some drama to the scene.
Then I put my camera away and we took a boat tour with Hornblower Cruises that sailed past the American Falls and into the mist of the Horseshoe Falls. It was a fun cruise, and very cool to see the falls so close up. We definitely did get wet from the blowing mist, so it's a good thing they hand you a poncho before you get on the boat.
The other tour we did was Journey Behind the Falls, which is a self-guided tour down to an observation deck and a tunnel behind the waterfall. This was probably the most impressive view of the falls, seeing the water cascading over the cliff above our heads and not too far away. Here again we could feel the mist from the water.
We had dinner at the welcome center, then took a bus up the street to ride go-karts at Niagara Speedway. I don't ride go-karts often (this stop was my husband's idea) but it was pretty fun. Then we took the bus back to the falls area just in time for the fireworks, and saw the falls lit up with colored lights.
I'm glad I only planned two major activities at the Falls. We arrived at the park area around lunchtime, so we had the whole afternoon, but we spent a lot more time waiting in lines than I had anticipated. The wait for the boat tour was over an hour, and we probably spent another hour in line waiting to get down to the observation deck behind the falls.
We crossed back into the U.S. after the fireworks show to our hotel in New York, and then we drove home the next day.
Overall it was a great trip, and we had great weather other than the rain and hail on the first day. It was good to get away for a few days, just the two of us, and go on an international adventure. We managed to cross the border and back again all by ourselves with our new passports, and now, as Brad says, we're "world travelers." Stay turned for next summer... we're hoping to do an even bigger international trip in 2019!