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The most popular day trip you can take from Toronto is to Niagara Falls.
Niagara, Ontario is a two-hour drive from our Airbnb at Richmond Hill, Ontario via the 407 ETR W and Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW). It was an easy drive with a bit of traffic jam along the way, but nothing we couldn’t handle.
It was lunchtime by the time we arrived at Clifton Hill Niagara. Clifton Hill is a famous tourist street in Niagara where you’ll find dozens of fun family activities, attractions and restaurants. I was surprised to see that it’s almost deserted except for a few wandering tourists like us. That’s the (dis)advantage of traveling during off-peak season. Lines and crowds are non-existent but you also kind of miss the chaos of fellow travelers.
We had lunch at Denny’s and enjoyed the warmth of their heated restaurant. We were not prepared for the very cold fall weather that day and was already wondering how much colder it would be once we get to the falls.
The only one who seems to be truly enjoying the cold weather is this little girl in pink!
Address: 6650 Niagara Parkway, Niagara Falls, ON L2G 0L0
How to get there: Coming from Toronto, the most convenient way to get to Niagara is by car so that you’ll have full control over where to go and what to do while in Niagara. However, if driving is not an option, there are several tour companies offering day trips to Niagara from Toronto. You can also take the VIA Rail or GO Bus.
Website: Niagara Falls Canada
See my suggested tours and tickets at the end of this post.
Niagara Falls is comprised of three falls: the Bridal Veil Falls, the American Falls, and the most impressive of them all, the Horseshoe Falls.
The top activity to do in Niagara Falls is to take a cruise all the way to the foot of the Horseshoe Falls. Visitors coming from the New York side of the falls can take the Maid of the Mist and visitors on the Ontario side will book through the Hornblower Niagara Cruises. Maid of the Mist used to operate on both sides until 2014 when Hornblower Niagara took over the Canadian side of the cruise.
Address: 5920 Niagara Parkway, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada L2E 6X8
Availability: The cruise is only operational usually from the third week of May until the end of November. Check their website for the schedule.
Website: Niagara Cruises
You don’t have to worry about which is better than the other. It’s the exact same route and same cruise experience.
Hornblower Cruise tickets can be purchased at their ticket counter or through their self-service kiosks. Although there’s still a huge amount of tourists that day, the lines and waiting time is not bad at all. It only took us about 30 minutes to buy the tickets, fall in line with the rest of the cruise-goers and board the jet boat.
The cruise will take you up close to all the three falls and the whole ride should take about 30 minutes.
Family Travel Tip: If you brought a stroller with you, don’t worry because there is a designated stroller parking area. You can get it back as soon as you disembark the boat.
The cruise boat hovers a few feet away from the foot of the largest falls in Niagara, the Horseshoe Falls. It’s close enough that you will feel the mist of the falls but still kept at a safe distance.
A little rainbow says hi as we passed by the American Falls.
The Table Rock Welcome Centre is right by the Horseshoe Falls! There’s a great observation deck, some restaurants, a candy shop and a gift shop. You’ll also find here the entrance to Journey Behind the Falls and Niagara’s Fury.
They say that the Canadian side is more beautiful than the American side. Although I’ve never been to the American side, it’s quite obvious that this is true because of the location of the falls and how being at the Canadian side will give you a full panoramic view of the three falls! You can simply walk along the sidewalk of Niagara Parkway (totally free!) and enjoy the view from every angle.
I’m pretty sure that the American side will still give you impressive views of the falls, this is according to my husband who has experienced it. And some reviews I’ve read online talked about the American side to be less touristy, cleaner, and that you’ll truly be able to experience the falls through one of its observation decks and the Cave of the Winds Tour. You’ll basically be standing at the base of Bridal Veil Falls and get possibly get drenched!
The Canadian side has a similar tour called the Journey Behind the Falls which is, literally, a behind the falls experience. There is an observation platform right beside the Horseshoe Falls and a portal that would lead you to the tunnel behind the falls.
If you have the time to see both sides, I suggest that you do! I think that both are unique in their own way, and I would have loved the chance to experience the American side. I’m adding it to my bucket list for now!
I’ve never seen a full rainbow like this! It’s fortunate that we came on a good and sunny day and got this great view of the Horseshoe Falls. The Instagram photo above is one of my all-time favorite travel photos.
For me, seeing the falls up close and standing right beside it is enough to feel the power of the falls! Such an amazing experience!
Niagara Falls, one of the world’s most popular tourist sites, is bursting with attractions for every type of visitor. One of these is the Skylon Tower that has an observation deck for full appreciation of the Niagara Falls. I think it’s especially wonderful if you go there at night for the Falls Illumination.
After enjoying the views of the Falls and walking around the Table Rock Welcome Centre, we decided to visit the Outlet Collection at Niagara next on our way back to Toronto.
It has become sort of a tradition whenever we vacation as a family to visit Outlet Malls. We had the best memories of shopping at La Vallée Village outside Paris, France that we kind of hope to chance upon the same experience again.
Outlet Collection at Niagara
Address: 300 Taylor Road, Niagara-on-the-lake, Ontario L0S1J0 Canada
Operating Hours: Mon-Sat 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM | Sun 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
How to get there: Driving directions are here. You can also take the shuttle service from Toronto leaving Union Station.
Website: Outlet Collection at Niagara
Although Outlet Collection has a good selection of brands, we did not find any really great deals at any of the stores we visited. I did pick up a couple of Kate Spade wallets sold at 60% off which seems to be a good deal.
We did stop by Marshalls and picked up a couple of toys for my girl.
What’s great about the Outlet Collection though is that they have an outdoor play area and so it was easy to distract the kids while the rest of your group shops! There’s also a Tim Horton’s right by the playground, so you can sit back at any of the lounge chairs and sip a French Vanilla coffee while you take a break from shopping.
To be honest, if you’ve been to one outlet mall, you’ll feel like you’ve seen them all. If you have a few hours to spare after your visit to Niagara Falls, I suggest that you head over to Niagara-on-the-Lake instead. It’s a small town that’s about a 20-minute drive from Niagara Falls. There’s plenty of wineries there and you’ll have a nice time admiring its 19th-century buildings in the Historic District.
It is, to date, one of my best travel experiences, seeing the famed Niagara Falls up close.
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Suggested Tours and Tickets:
Clifton Hill Fun Pass – Top 6 Attractions
Skylon Tower Observation Deck Admission
Niagara Falls Grand Helicopter Tour
Niagara Falls Day Tour from Toronto
Walking Tour of Niagara-on-the-Lake Historic District
Niagara-on-the-Lake Wine Tour and Cheese Pairing
Check out my other posts about our Toronto, Quebec City, and Montreal Road Trip below:
Day 1: The Toronto Islands | CN Tower Experience
Day 2: Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada | Must-See Sights in Downtown Toronto for First-Time Visitors
Day 3: Niagara Falls, Canada: Hornblower Cruise, Table Rock Centre and Outlet Collection
Day 4: Royal Ontario Museum | Kensington Market and Chinatown | Toronto’s Graffiti Alley
Day 6: Montmorency Falls | Old Quebec Town
Day 7: Musee de la Civilization
Day 9: Montreal Botanical Garden
Day 10: Mont-Royal Parc