Maid of the Mist approaching Niagara Falls. — Photo courtesy of sailorbill
As much as there is to do and see in Toronto, one of the best things about the city is its proximity to so many other amazing cities, towns and villages that have their own hidden treasures to explore. If you’re looking to get out of Toronto on a quick day trip, the options are nearly endless.
One of the most popular day trips from Toronto is to the Niagara region. Drive just an hour southeast of Toronto, hugging the pretty shores of Lake Ontario along the way, and you’ll reach the world-famous Niagara Falls. While the area features three different waterfalls–Bridal Veil Falls, American Falls and Horseshoe Falls–that straddle the international border between Ontario, Canada and New York State in the U.S., the latter falls, on the Canadian side, are the longest and feature the biggest vertical drop at 170 feet.
Millions of tourists each year marvel at the beauty of the falls from the various green spaces and viewing platforms in the area. But to get really up close and personal–and wet–there’s no better way to see Niagara Falls than on Maid of the Mist. Slip on your souvenir blue poncho and come aboard this diesel-powered boat, for a 30-minute journey to the base of the falls. Don’t forget to buy a waterproof disposable camera, since your digital SLR is safer on dry ground and you won’t want to miss the awe-inspiring shots.
As you dry off, stroll along Clifton Hill, one of the main streets in Niagara Falls. Here, you’ll uncover many of the area’s family-friendly tourist attractions. There are three mini-golf courses along the strip and five haunted houses. But one of the best Clifton Hill sights for all ages is definitely the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Museum. In a building built to look like a toppled-over Empire State Building with King Kong straddling it, you’ll find exhibits of the rare and odd including shrunken heads, a chair owned by the world’s tallest man and a film showcasing the many daredevils who have attempted to cross the falls.
Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Museum — Photo courtesy of Garry Zeweniuk
Kids and adults will also love the Hershey Store. The 7,000 square-foot chocoholics' paradise offers fresh-made candy concoctions including fudge in an assortment of flavors, chocolate-dipped strawberries and milkshakes. Stop in for free samples, and if you’re looking for some treats for the road, consider picking up a one-pound peanut butter cup or a five-pound chocolate bar.
As tempting as it may be to gorge yourself on chocolate, save your appetite for a meal in the nearby town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, a 15-minute drive from the falls. The first capital of Upper Canada (now the province of Ontario) dates back to 1792, and many of the buildings that now house museums, shops and restaurants hold historic significance. For a great Tuscan-inspired meal, visit The Old Winery Restaurant, with a wine list featuring several bottles produced in the nearby Niagara wine region. Or, take a drive through the vineyards themselves, where many of the wineries have opened in-house restaurants where diners can pair their wines with locally inspired menus. One of the best bets is Vineland Estates, where the great food in the dining room is made even better by the breathtaking views surrounding it.
Too tired after all that sightseeing to drive back to Toronto? The Niagara region features great hotels and B&Bs to suit all budgets and tastes.