Niagara, Toronto & Ottawa - Ontario, Canada
Having flown into Toronto we transferred to Niagara, and checked into the Sheraton on the Falls hotel into a Falls view room – it’s definitely worth upgrading as the views and sound of the falls are magnificent. There is so much to do in and around Niagara that it is definitely worth staying in the area - the Skylon Tower gives you 360 degree views over the area, across to Buffalo, USA and even as far as Toronto on a clear day. The IMAX cinema and museum across from the tower gives you a good insight into how the falls were formed, the myths and legends that abound, and some of the daredevils who have gone over the edge (with varying degrees of success!) The Maid of the Mist boat trip has to be one of the most popular things to do, and really does give you a wonderful perspective of the falls.
One of the other "must-dos" is the ‘Journey Behind the Falls’ which involves walking along tunnels behind the Canadian Falls to a couple of ‘lookouts’- one onto the back view of the curtain of water coming over the rim, and the other a vantage point to the side of the falls. On a clear day it’s also well-worth doing the helicopter flight over the falls to get a birds-eye view of the area and to get some amazing photos.
One of the things that many people aren't aware of is that Canada has a thriving wine industry, including the Ice Wine for which it is famous. Many of the Ice Wine vineyards are in the Niagara region due to its climate. Vineyards, such as Inniskillin, can be visited for wine-tastings, tours and purchases!
Toronto is a great city which is easy to get around on foot. The CN Tower stands tall over the whole city, and the locals are very proud to tell you that it's still the tallest tower in the western hemisphere! As well as the glass floor (which I managed to lay on!) and the ‘Edge Walk’ (which there was no way I was going to attempt!), the tower has a revolving restaurant "360" which not only has great views but is a real culinary delight. It’s definitely worth having lunch or dinner there.
If you're a bit of a foodie then the St Lawrence Market is one to explore with delicatessens, fishmongers, butchers, greengrocers and a specialist mustard company. The waterfront area of the city is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of any city centre, with views over Lake Ontario and close to the railway station. To the edge of the city is the historic Distillery District, which is a renovated area housing little boutiques, coffee shops, chocolatiers and micro-breweries. It can be explored by Segway, which can be hired on site as part of a guided tour.
We travelled between Toronto and Ottawa by VIA Rail, which I can thoroughly recommend. You could even treat yourself by upgrading to VIA One. The service was excellent, with drinks and hot meals served at your very comfortable seat.
Not many people are aware that Ottawa is the capital of Canada, and it is a city that tends to get overlooked on visitors' itineraries. I was pleasantly surprised by what it has to offer. As well as the parliament buildings and historic areas, the museums and galleries are excellent. My favourites were the Bytown Museum, a small museum which, with the aid of an audio guide, shows the beginnings of Ottawa, and the Museum of Civilization (which is actually over the river in Quebec!)
The Rideau Canal runs through the city which, during summer, attracts people to its banks and boats to the water. In the winter it becomes a five mile ice-skating rink (and people genuinely skate to work along it!). Two of my favourite places were the Cats of Parliament Hill (which have their own Facebook page) and the Byward Market, where you can do a culinary walking tour, which is fabulous! Whether as a long weekend or part of a longer itinerary, Ontario is definitely worth visiting.