Jun 25, 2013

Seeing Niagara Falls from Toronto by Bus Tour

Since it took me almost 33 years to finally make it to Toronto, who knows when I will return for my second visit! With that in mind, I decided that Niagara Falls was a must-see during my TBEX trip. I looked into booking a day tour for a number of reasons, but the main reason was because I was expecting to be dead tired from the conference and wouldn't want to drive.

Most of the tour operators pick up and drop off passengers at each of their hotels, which makes the day pretty long and wastes a good amount of time for a tourist who is visiting for only a short time. Chariots of Fire, on the other hand, picks up and drops off at three locations around the city. This allows passengers more time to enjoy Toronto. We picked them as our tour provider for this reason.

Our bus picked us up from the tour stop at 33 Yonge Street at 7:30 am.

Yonge-Dundas Square

We left Yonge-Dundas Square, the third and final pick up point, at 8 am and were on our way to Niagara Falls.

During the drive to our first stop, the driver gave us an overview of what our day would look like and told us some fun facts. Quite honestly, I tuned some of it out, tried to nap and checked my Twitter feed.

About an hour later, we reached our first stop of the day: Skylon Tower. It was an extra $12CAD to go to the top of the 520-foot Tower.  A glass-enclosed elevator took us to the observation level, where there are indoor/outdoor viewing decks. From there you can enjoy views 775-feet above the bottom of Niagara Falls.

From the observation level, we could see the city of Niagara Falls, Ontario. 

Ferris Wheel in Niagara Falls

The other city of Niagara Falls (in New York) was also visible from the top of Skylon Tower.

Bridge to Niagara Falls, New York

Of course, we were there to see the three waterfalls that are collectively called Niagara Falls. There is the largest falls, the Horseshoe (or Canadian) Falls. This view also gave us a sneak peek into what was in store for us later that afternoon when we were scheduled to ride the Maid of the Mist. See that tiny boat? That was going to be us.

Horseshoe Canadian Falls

Then there are the American Falls on the left and the much smaller Bridal Veil Falls on the right.

After we were done with the observation level, we perused the gift shop. There sure is a lot of maple syrup!

Bottles of Canadian Maple Syrup

From Skylon Tower, we traveled to Table Rock to see the Falls from a different angle: the top! Being up here made me think about the mind set of the daredevils who decided to go off the falls in a barrel or other contraption. Hey, this looks like a great place to jump off from!  

Horseshoe Falls from Table Rock

Look at that mist! 

Horseshoe Falls from Table Rock

 Image Credit: CruisingGoddess

Maid of the Mist was the next item on our agenda. The Maid of the Mist is a boat ride that takes you past Skylon Tower to your right and the American and Bridal Veil Falls to your left and into the center of the horseshoe of Horseshoe Falls. You will get wet on this ride. Rebecca and I brought waterproof pants to wear over the shorts we were wearing. Before boarding the boat, we were each given a blue poncho to put on.  

Maid of the Mist
Image Credit: CruisingGoddess

We decided to grab spots on the top deck to be closer to the action. That's me all ready for my misty boat ride. We had clear views of Skylon Tower where we were standing. 

Then we approached Horseshoe Falls. The wind was whipping and the mist? More like the waterfall is raining on you! At this point, I couldn't see a thing so I just held my camera up and snapped away. From the progression of photos below, you can see that my camera couldn't see anything either! Maybe I should wipe down my lens? Hah!

Poncho protection did some good, but it didn't keep me completely dry. Water trickled down my neck and sleeves. Sad face.

But as we turned to make our way back, the sun was shining upon the American Falls! So gorgeous. 

American Falls

After Maid of the Mist, we had some free time so we decided to have lunch at one of the food counters there. We continued on our way and passed by some interesting things and made very quick photo stops. 

We saw Red Hill's steel barrel, which he used to face the falls (successfully), Niagara Whirlpool, Sir Adam Beck Power Station (I'm quite sure I have no idea why this is part of the tour), and a lovely 40-foot Floral Clock

We also passed by the Living Water Wayside Chapel, a tiny 10 foot by 10 foot chapel, which has the distinction of being the smallest chapel in the world. 

We arrived a short time later in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, an adorable if super touristy destination. We had some time to explore the town, so we took a walk around and browsed some of the shops. 

We took a break to enjoy some snacks. Rebecca had a beef patty from Niagara Home Bakery, and I had black cherry gelato from Nina Gelateria. We also purchased some macarons to enjoy later. Mmmmm...

Our final stop for the day was Diamond Estates for some wine tasting. Diamond Estates is Dan Aykroyd's winery. Yes, Dan Aykroyd has a winery!

For the tasting, we tried two ice wines and an unoaked chardonnay. Something I learned that day is that ice wine is made from grapes that are frozen on the vine, hence the term ice wine. The ice wines we tried were a riesling and a cabernet franc. I really enjoyed the cab franc. Sweet with a hint of raspberries. 

We made it back to our drop off spot in Downtown Toronto as promised at 5:00 pm, which gave us the whole night to wander the city some more and rest. It was a packed but fun-filled day!

Tour cost: $60CAD plus taxes

If you missed any of my other Toronto posts, check them out:


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