Distance = 411 km (return)
Downtown Toronto to Niagara Falls takes about two hours by car. It’s a great day trip, especially with a friend. I picked up Yasser this morning from a subway station and we took the expressway down to the other side of Lake Ontario… where I was hoping it wasn’t raining as hard as it was here. It was, unfortunately, and the drive was intense. Even having the windshield wipers going full tilt, I could still barely see the road. So we were doing 100 km/hr on the 401 in an epic storm that drummed on roof, with opera turned up on the stereo, and Siri trying to give me directions that would make sense of the 16-lane freeway with its maze of on-ramps, underpasses, overpasses and exits that fork and go who knows where. I white knuckled it for at least an hour, Yasser happily oblivious to my stress, and we only got lost about three times, accidentally taking the toll route, then ending up in Brantford (where we decided we might as well take a break for cheeseburgers) and then finally found our way to the Falls.
Travel tip: there are multiple places to park near the falls for a flat fee – you can pay $20, or more, but if you drive to the road above the falls, you can pay $5 to park beside the IMAX.
Niagara Falls actually straddles the border between the USA and Canada, but we’re lucky because of the two giant waterfalls that you see when you’re there, the bigger, more impressive falls are in Ontario, while the smaller ones are on the US side. If you go, the best day would be one that’s sunny, but even if it’s raining cats and dogs, like it was today, it’s still totally worth it. Maybe don’t bother paying the $13 to go down into the tunnel that goes behind the falls (not much to see except a wall of water), but definitely spring for the $20 boat ride that takes you right up to the falls, where the water is whirling around like a washing machine in big frothy waves and you can barely keep your eyes open for all the spray that’s flying over the boat. It’s fantastic. Seen from above the falls, the little boats look bath toys bobbing around in the water.
You can’t help but feel alive after getting drenched at Niagara Falls. In summer, it’s warm enough that the sideways rain is refreshing. The plastic ponchos they give you are more for the Niagara Falls tourist look than to actually keep you dry, I think. Fortunately, I had a waterproof case for my phone – which I used to take pictures – and left my actual camera behind.
Travel tip: Avoid wearing glasses when you’re visiting the falls. If you have contacts, wear them instead. My glasses were covered in water half the time. And ladies, take my advice – don’t wear mascara if you’re going on the Maid of the Mist. You will have clown face by the time the boat docks.
In all, a very successful day being a tourist in my own country, and two thumbs up for this natural wonder of our land.
NEXT POST: Bowmanville