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Falling for Niagara: Canada's iconic Falls

Our deputy editor explores the famous Falls from all angles, on a day trip from Toronto

(Picture: Toronto Tourism)
(Picture: Toronto Tourism)

There was wind, water and a boat which bobbed about dramatically. Yet despite not liking water spraying in my eyes — or boats for that matter — I felt euphoric. After all, I was at one of the wonders of the world, marvelling at its power; I was being wowed by Niagara Falls.

The Falls are sensational. Forget everything you’ve ever read about them and just go and see. Preferably from the Canadian side, which gives you the chance to see both the Horseshoe and the American Falls — because if you’re going to come all this way, it’s worth trying to see them in different ways.

Our boat trip, aboard the Hornblower, was something very special indeed. The boats are huge and pack their 700 passengers (all dressed in red ponchos) on board. But that doesn’t matter because the 20-minute voyage is fabulous.

It starts with the two smaller Falls — the American and the Bridal, before coming right up to the base of the Canadian Falls where you get a sense of the incredible power of this natural phenomenon, and its beauty.

My husband described it as if we were in a Biblical movie at the parting of the Red Sea, a dramatic description firmly deserved by the roaring cascades.

You’ll inevitably get wet but it’s absolutely worth it to discover something so unlike anything I’d experienced before.

However, the boat is not the only way to see the Falls. Another option, perhaps even more special, is to get an aerial view. Niagara Helicopters run ten minute trips where you fly right overhead — the sight is spectacular and, as this is a place you’re unlikely to come to more than once, may well be worth the extra cost.

Helicopter over Niagara Falls (Picture: Toronto Tourism)
Helicopter over Niagara Falls (Picture: Toronto Tourism)

Then there’s the chance to see the cascades up close: we also tried the immensely enjoyable Journey Behind the Falls, descending 150 feet to see thousands of metres of water rush past, as well as walking alongside the Niagara Rapids, some of the most dangerous in the world.

And despite Niagara being extremely busy, we managed to fit our whole Falls trip into one day. The special WEGO bus, which transports you between different attractions, makes it very easy to get around.

Driving to Niagara from a city break in Toronto, we even had time for a stop at the delightful town of Niagara-on -the-Lake on the way back as a wonderful end to the day.

Toronto itself has plenty to keep you entertained, not to mention a range of shuls and kosher restaurants — we enjoyed a delicious meal at Aish Tanoor, about half an hour by metro from downtown — along with plenty of vegetarian places to eat.

It’s not the most beautiful city I’ve ever visited — although the skyline, with the famous CN tower, works very well in photos— but it offers so many options, from a visit to a baseball game (it’s the home of the Toronto Bluejays) to the most magnificent aquarium I’ve ever visited.

Ripleys is an amazing place, filled with all sorts of species, including a glass tunnel which you walk through and see sharks swimming overhead. You can also touch baby sharks (safely, I hasten to add). It’s another extremely busy attraction but should be firmly on your to do list.

We were surprised to find that Toronto has its own castle, Casa Loma (literally “house on the hill”), where we happily whiled away an afternoon. It’s a fascinating place, and reminded me in many ways of a long ago visit to Hearst Castle in California.

Both follies were built by extremely rich men, in Casa Loma’s case, Sir Henry Pellatt. The owner poured money into this building (and its five acres of land), and it is beautifully decorated. But eventually he went bankrupt, and the house is now owned by the city.

Don’t miss a trip downstairs to watch the introductory film, and pick up one of the marvellous audio guides. If you don’t have any mobility problems (or small children), climb up the narrow steps to one of the Towers and enjoy some tremendous views of the city.

Plus you may recognise some of the rooms (and the exterior) as they have “starred” in films ranging from X Men to Cocktail.

But the highlight of our time in the city was a bike ride to Toronto’s beautiful islands. It’s amazing that a busy metropolis has such a wonderful haven only a ferry ride away, and we loved our three-and-a-half hour trip — even though cycling through downtown was a bit nerve-racking.

We aren’t great cyclists, so I can guarantee that this really is an outing for all abilities (especially with lots of stops). The views were superb and the story of the islands and its inhabitants extremely interesting too.

Our guide, Mina, was terrific, ensuring we learnt a lot, including tales of the nudist beach on the islands (not visited by us, I hasten to add) and lighthouse. It was great to breathe in fresh air and to enjoy the scenery. Plus, the islands are car free, which meant we could whizz along as quickly (or, in our case, as slowly) as we wanted to.

From the scenery to the sport, shopping and CN Tower, architecture to aquariums, visitors to Tonrto will never be short of something to do in this city. But for memories that never fade, nothing can overshadow our trip to Niagara.

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