TORONTO AND NIAGARA FALLS WITH KIDS
Toronto and Niagara Falls with kids were the last stage of our perfect on the road itinerary in Canada last summer. How ending our trip better, than with one of the 7 world wonders?!
We got to Toronto from Vancouver, with a WestJet flight. A low cost airline which provided us a high quality service.
Due to the time zone moved forward by 3 hours, we arrive when it is already evening in Toronto. We face a maze of stairs, lifts and walkways, that lead us up to the station. We catch here the brilliant Union Pearson Express train that leads to Toronto Downtown.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN TORONTO
The airport offers a great support service. Practically, in case of need their staff spare you directly where you have to go. Fantastic! From the railway station, thanks to a couple of metro stops, we arrive directly to our hotel, after a 5 minute walk.
We booked 3 nights at the Doubletree by Hilton Toronto Downtown. Why this choice?
Firstly, we always had positive experiences with Hilton around the world, experiencing a good quality/price ratio. Furthermore, this hotel had a very favorable position. Close to a metro station, in a central and shopping area within walking distance from Chinatown, the Art Gallery of Ontario and from the bus station for Niagara! Also, it had an indoor swimming pool. This was a good way to dilute the tiredness and to entertain Laura at the end of the day. We opted for the no breakfast included fare. Around there are plenty of cafes, Starbucks and supermarkets where to find a decent breakfast.
NOT TO MISS: A DINNER IN CHINATOWN!
From the very first night we head, with no hesitation, to Chinatown for dinner. Since our trip to Australia, in fact, we rediscovered the Chinese cuisine. We found it most authentic in those countries where there is a strong presence of this community. Here food is completely different from the standard you find in Italian Chinese restaurants!
Our favorite dishes? Steamed and fried dumplings, noodles, vegetables in soy sauce…Simple things, much closer to our culinary culture than one may think!
The Dumpling House
A walk of about 15 minutes it increases our appetite. When we arrive to the Dumpling House Restaurant, the owner tells us that we are lucky because at that time (9 p.m. approx.) a couple of tables are released. This place ranks n. 51 on Tripadvisor, on almost 7000 restaurants in Toronto. After tasting, we can fully confirm the dishes are delicious, dumplings in particular – you must try it! In addition, when you receive your bill you will appreciate even more! Impossible to eat at the same quality/price ratio in Toronto in a not Asiatic restaurant. Taken from the enthusiasm, we order a little bit of everything and in the end our bellies are overflowing, but very satisfied!
WHAT TO SEE IN TORONTO IN ONE DAY
ST. LAWRENCE MARKET
In the morning, with a nice walk from the hotel, we go toward St. Lawrence Market. The paradise of gourmet and a great stop for lunch. Let us pass from Toronto City Hall, the current town hall, and by the Old City Hall, more aesthetically satisfying. Then we cross a modern quarter with interesting skyscrapers, but at the same time interspaced by pretty small parks and gardens. Once arrived to the market, we wonder around its two huge floors. There is really everything and for all tastes!
For Laura we find an excellent not spicy ham to put in his soft baked bread and a nice giant lollipops, all colored! My dear husband grabs a nice warm bread roll with grilled bacon. I will opt for a sandwich with tomato sauce, chicken curry and sauces. And then a tour among the fine stalls of fruit, that never hurts! We note, but now without having more hunger, a nice kiosk that makes fish specialities, take-away or sitting. By the row of people stationing and the perfume, I would say it deserves a test if you love the kind! In the link to the market website you find opening hours. For example, bear in mind that it is closed on Mondays!
THE CN TOWER: IF TOO CROWDED YOU CAN SKIP IT!
Full and satisfied, we head to the famous CN Tower, which even the Lonely Planet defines as unmissable. It is easily reacheable on foot from St. Lawrence Market. Just, I suggest you to get there from Gardiner Expy, because by keeping the road further inland we had some trouble finding the elevator and the underpass to reach the main entrance.
From the outside the tower has a strong impact for its considerable height. Thanks to the tickets purchased online we skip the little row before the ticket offices. But the bad is after!!! A flood of people winds in circles in the?ample space inside. I fail to perceive the end of the queue, and consequently the waiting time! The main raison is that the climb is entrusted to only two lifts. In total we stays in queue about 2 hours with the poor Laura. If we had known it before I think we would have renounced.
Once up to the tower there are two floors, one with external access, but with a protective grille so dense that spoils both the landscape and the chance of some good shots. There is a best view from the internal deck, but not excellent. The stained glass windows are in fact part drapes. The best things of going up are the dizzying climb in the transparent elevator and the panoramic floor glass on the floor. A small rectangle from which you can watch the panorama below. Your children can lie down as Laura did!
OR, HOW TO AVOID THE CN TOWER QUEUE…
If you really don’t want to miss the visit to the tower, I recommend that you evaluate your lunch or dinner on the revolving restaurant up there. The 360 Restaurant: a reservation here in fact allow you to avoid the queue for lifts. The prices are certainly not cheap, but I thought the worse, especially at lunch! And you would also save the entrance tickets?
OTHER KIDS FRIENDLY THINGS TO DO IN TORONTO
After viewing the tower, I have to say that I would have 100% avoided the queue to visit other more rewarding alternatives. Without considering the cost of 39 Canadian $ per person (children up to 4 years free, then reduced). Certainly Toronto doesn’t lack in more options!
Here are some ideas. We haven’t seen them directly, but they were suggested by a colleague of mine and mum from?Toronto, thanks Isabel!
A STROLL ALONG “THE BEACHES” & ONTARIO SCIENCE CENTRE
A nice walk along the district called “The Beaches”. It seems the sea, but these are the beaches overlooking the vast Lake Ontario, with beautiful multicolored houses and many green areas. Here you can see also the “Inukshuks“, small bunches of stacked stones, typical of the Inuit people. How to arrive? Take the green line of the metro up to Main Street and then take bus n. 64 that goes to the south until Queen St. From there you just need a few steps on foot.
Or consider a visit with your kids to the Ontario Science Center. There are many interactive exhibitions for children. Simply consult their online calendar to discover the initiatives in progress. Also do not neglect their “KidSparkArea”.
A TASTE OF CANADA WITH KIDS
A suggestion that we managed to put in practice, instead, was tasting the “Maple Donut”: the donut with maple syrup (a typical product made in Canada). You can easily find them at Tim Hortons, a widespread chain of Canadian cafe. Or, if you are lucky, in some smaller coffee house. Finally, another culinary suggestion from my friend: the kids friendly chain Swiss Chalet, whose skill seems to be the roasted chicken.
We complete our walk even going down to the underground city. Km of galleries and shopping centers which directly connect offices and buildings with the metro service. Being summer, many retailers are closed, but in winter this is a real second Toronto. Many people go to work and at the end of the day make their shopping without even go outside! Besides, the temperature here also drops to – 20 in the winter!
We conclude our day lounging by the pool at the hotel. Then another we indulge in another dinner at our favorite restaurant in Chinatown. Finally, a small beer in the beautiful Village Idiot pub, just in front of the Art Gallery of Ontario. This is a cozy pub with a wide assortment of beers.
VISITING NIAGARA FALLS?
HOT TO GET TO THE FALLS FROM TORONTO DOWNTOWN
With no car, the best way to get to Niagara is through the Greyhound bus service. Drive time 1h30 minutes. Our experience with this transport company was flawless! You can purchase tickets in advance on their web site, at very affordable prices, or last minute, at the coach station ticket office of course. But in high season at your own risk of not finding a spare place anymore! The departure point, the Toronto Coach Terminal, is located in Bay Street. We were very lucky because our hotel was exactly 5 minutes walk from there!
The only trick is to respect the times indicated on the ticket, arriving to the coach terminal with the required advance. It seemed exaggerated to me, but our bus – once filled – departed in advance indeed!
Therefore, leaving at 8.50 we descended at Niagara before 10.20 a.m. Here we find out that to get to the Falls, you will need to take a bus. Or alternatively, making at least a 15-20 minutes walk. We decide to save the forces for later. So we buy the tickets in the small point of sale on the spot and catch the bus already waiting for us. (Timetables are very frequent). The bus leaves us just in front of the Niagara Falls Visitor Center and the beautiful promenade that runs along the falls from above.
ONCE THERE, AN ENCHANTING SIGHT!
Just off, we feel the mighty noise of the waterfalls! We approach immediately to admire them. Soon, we also sense the water droplets on our skin, although the waterfalls are still far away! Approaching the Niagara Falls to observe them for the first time was one of those emotions that you don’t forget. In other words, they won’t disappoint you! The power, the roar, that amount of blue water you will never get tired of watching and listening! Here is a glimpse in our video …
If you are looking for other Canadian wonders of nature not to be missed, read our post on the most beautiful lakes and waterfalls inside the Yoho and Banff National Parks!
After enjoying the view and a series of beautiful pics, we walk to the beautiful promenade that runs along the falls. This is where you will find the many attractions available. You can even slide, secured to a rope, dropping toward the falls and return!
OUR SUGGESTED ACTIVITY: THE FULL MIST
We are not so passionated to attractions at any cost. That’s why we have chosen one, which seemed to us the most child friendly: The Voyage to the Falls Full Mist! It is perhaps the way to get more close to the waterfalls: a boat will take you frighteningly under them! The excursion can be booked online on NiagaraCruises.com, in high season we recommend that! We did it the day before, thanks to the hotel wi-fi. This step lets you skip a first queue at the ticket office, then there is the other to embark, but runs very fast. We had the impression this was the excursion with less queue of all those available at Niagara – where I can assure you that people do not lack in August never an annoying crowd, but still a lot.
It is nice to change point of view and observe the waterfalls from below, get just so close and be flooded by the drizzle produced by their incredible thrown of water. It almost seems you can touch them! You will be provided with a plastic jacket. Anyway, we recommend to dress yourself adequately and wear a k-way.
In the video below our statement after the bath of “full mist”!
OTHER THINGS TO DO AND “THE NIAGARA FALLS PASS”
If you are a lover of attractions and you wish to experience more, we advise you to consider the Niagara Falls Adventure Pass. There are different kinds, and all include the daily pass on the bus to Niagara Falls. You can find them on the site of Niagara Parks, together with all activities available.
THE SKYLON TOWER
In order not to miss any possible point for observing the Falls, we decided to have lunch up to the Skylon tower, on the 360 degree revolving restaurant. I have to admit that, from the outside, the tower is quite ugly, as many skyscrapers in the surrounding area, so close to the beautiful green and light blue landscape of Niagara Falls. Yet, the tower is there by several decades, like so many other hotels, etc. At this point we said that it could be worth for the view. So high, in fact, waterfalls are very scenic and you may have a wide overview both on the Canadian and American sides, and on the Niagara River.
We find 0 queue, fortunately, to climb this tower with the panoramic elevator. However, we pre-booked a table for the revolving restaurant a couple of day in advance. So we can relax a little after the visit and enjoy the view for a long time. The panoramic terrace (closed, but with very large window), in fact, performs very slowly a lap at 360 on the surrounding landscape. It employs a full hour for a complete round.
A GOOD PLACE TO EAT AT NIAGARA FALLS
A meal in the Revolving Dining Room will allow you free access to the elevator and on all external panoramic platforms. By accessing the site you could book online. Among other things, I would point out that it was the best meal in Canada (excluding the asian cuisine) of our holiday. The restaurant is quite expensive, but with affordable menu, especially for lunch, and then the care of dishes, the atmosphere and the view that offers makes it almost a “deal” for the average of the prices of Canadian restaurants.
A PLACE FOR LITTLE AND BIG ONES
Briefly, the experience thanks to the elevator, the revolving platform, the nice menu devoted to children, will amuse for sure your children too! Not to forget the immense games room (in large Las Vegas style) on the ground floor. You may find everything there. I do not know how we got along with just one lap on a mini motorcycle!
ON THE WAY BACK TO TORONTO
After lunch we go back toward the Falls. We grant a siesta in the middle of a beautiful meadow, cheered up by a beautiful Brazilian feast with lots of music and costumes. Then we arrive by bus to the coach and train station. There is just the time for a last stop in a playground sighted by Laura – who seems to possess a radar to find them! – and then we go waiting for our train. In fact, pushed by curiosity, I decided to book it for the return. It is one of the few direct trains present daily from Niagara to Toronto Union Station by Via Rail Canada.
This is a service only available seasonally. I am a lover of traveling by train, and it looked like a nice way to watch the panorama of this beautiful region. Unfortunately, contrary to any expectation, this Canadian train is more late than an average Italian one! It will finally arrive with more than 1 hour delay! By the reaction of the Canadians on board, it does not seem to be such an exceptional event. In conclusion our strong suggestion is to return by coach too. A much more economic solution as well! The bus is about 13 Canadian dollars per adult against the 47 dollars of the train!
LAST MORNING IN TORONTO, GOODBYE CANADA
Our last morning in Canada is a little under the banner of bad luck because we don’t consider that is Monday! Thus both the market of St. Lawrence – where we would have returned gladly to dine – both the Ontario Art Gallery, are closed. Both, however, are destinations that we recommend. Then, we devoted more calmly in preparing us for our flight in the afternoon. Easily, thanks to the metro and to the fast train, we arrive at the Toronto International Airport. Once there, we wait for our KLM flight which will lead us first to Amsterdam and then from there to the coincidence for Genoa. Here we will arrive the following morning local time. Ready to say not a farewell but a see you soon to Canada: with a mad desire to return already!
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