Personalizing a Toronto Weekend Group Bus Tour

toronto canada

The provincial capital of Ontario, Toronto, is situated by Lake Ontario’s northwestern shore and is the most populous city in Canada. The city is Canada’s major hub for entertainment, culture, finance, and arts. It also has quite a few tourist attractions that still regale and pull in a large number of tourists every year. It’s a great choice for a holiday vacation as it is one city everyone is sure will keep its visitors enthralled, engaged, and would make them want to come back. Toronto is also very multicultural, having a very large number of immigrants.

Planning a group bus tour for a weekend in Toronto is a great way to enjoy all the sights of the city with all the amazing people you love. Not that it won’t be enjoyable if you’re alone, but all the fun derivable from a group tour would give you a more interesting experience. So, the next time you’re in the city with friends and family, consider Toronto bus rentals for private groups as a great way to enjoy and move around Toronto. Here are a few things to do if you’re planning one soon:canada flowers

Make a List of All Passengers

This might not seem very compulsory but it’s important to have an exact list of all passengers. Doing this really does help with planning. If you have a precise number of participants, then you can decide what kind of bus to ask for when you’re making a reservation for the bus rental. A combination of the number of passengers and the kind of comfort you want will help you make a good decision.

Another important reason to keep an accurate list is for safety. Toronto is a pretty safe city. However, if you’re about to leave one location for another, a head count will make sure everyone is accounted for before moving on.toronto immigrants sculpture


You need to divide all your responsibilities among other people. Don’t underestimate how much work and energy is required to plan and execute a trip like this. If you can, add people who are very familiar with Toronto to your participants. These people will definitely make your journey a lot more interesting but also considerably easier. Let other people handle different parts of your tour. These could include food and other fun on-site activities.toronto sailboat

Plan All Your Stops

This is another part of the plan where it would really be great if you had a person, or people, who know the Toronto area very well. You could have a long list of attractions you’d like to visit but it’s important to know the exact order you want to do this. If you don’t know the city, you could spend considerable time between one destination and the other, only to discover that there probably were three others on the same route that you could easily have visited.

See All the Awesome Places

Depending on how long your tour would last for exactly, it might not be possible to see every single attraction Toronto has to offer. However, you can plan your trip so well that in a short time, you can visit more than a few attractions and spend good time at each one, taking in more of the scene before moving forward.

Some of the most visited sites in Toronto include the CN Tower, the Royal Ontario Museum, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, the Toronto Zoo, and many more. Make sure to visit as many of these places as you can.toronto skyscrapers

Experience the Smaller Places and Things

Toronto has many big attractions but there are also plenty of hidden and unusual places in Toronto that are worth a visit. When you’re done with the main sights, check out some of the lesser known and quirkier places, like Leslieville’s Crazy Doll House or the instagrammable Little House. You can also simply wander through the different neighborhoods and discover what makes each of them special.toronto police on horses

Experiencing Toronto in a group is a really great way to enjoy the city. However, please note that every participant needs to be involved as it’s very easy to ignore one or two people if you’re traveling with a large number of people. Do everything to avoid this and make sure everyone has a great time.toronto colorful houses

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Why Canada Is An Amazing Tourist Destination

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The world is undoubtedly full of amazing tourist destinations. Nevertheless, veteran tourists will agree that some are far better than others. Those who have traveled the world will tell you right away that Canada is one of the most amazing destinations of all. If you’re interested in visiting a beautiful country that will steal your heart, you’ll definitely want to think about taking a trip to Canada? Why? What makes Canada so alluring? You’ll find out the answers in the article below!

st lawrence river 1000 islands


First and foremost, you should know that Canada is full of people who are capable of speaking English. This makes it an ideal destination for western tourists. It is true that visiting a non-English speaking country is frightening. That is why many people refuse to visit the Middle East, India and other countries. Canada is far friendlier to Americans and the British. If you speak English, you’ll have no trouble finding friendly faces in Canada. And, they’ll be happy to help you out!quebec city street


While it is true that Canada isn’t the most diverse country in the world, its diversity is expanding very rapidly. During the past few years, Canada has gained more foreign residents. When you visit Canada, you’re going to be able to mingle with people from Europe, the Middle East, Mexico and even America. Regardless of your race or ethnicity, you can pretty much guarantee that you’re going to feel welcomed in Canada. You shouldn’t run into any situations when you feel like you’ve been mistreated due to your race.montreal graffiti

Easy Entry

Another great thing about Canada is that the country is pretty friendly towards tourists. The Canadian government hasn’t put a whole lot of restrictions on tourists. You might have to jump through a few hoops, but they’re really few and far in between. And, it really depends on your resident country. If you’re from the UK or the USA, you should be able to gain entry into Canada pretty easily. Just remember that you may need to complete and submit the Canada ETA application. Do that and you’ll be in Canada before you know it. The application is really straightforward and it doesn’t require much information on your end.ottawa canada cookies

Gorgeous Views

Many people love the gorgeous views provided by Canada. The country has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. Plus, the scenery is very diverse. When you visit Canada, you’re going to see a little bit of everything. For instance, you’ll see gorgeous fields, amazing mountains and stunning lakes. Be sure to bring your camera long! You will not be disappointed.Plenty To Do

Finally, you should understand that Canada is full of fun and exciting attractions. When you visit Canada, you’ll have the opportunity to experience tons of amazing things. You can head to one of the big cities and watch a hockey game. You’ll also be able to enjoy hiking and possibly even swimming. The possibilities are really endless. This is definitely one of the reasons that Canada is such a hot tourist destination!niagara falls horseshoe falls with mist

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Last-Minute, Low-Budget Niagara Falls Itinerary

niagara falls horseshoe falls water power

As the largest and most magnificent waterfalls in North America, Niagara Falls rightfully holds a place on most people’s travel bucket lists. Yet, due to centuries of world fame, the destination has become a popular tourist attraction, bringing in more than 30 million visitors every year. As a result, Niagara Falls isn’t always ideal for the globetrotter: Prices can be high, and reservations can be necessary.american falls and bridal veil fallsFortunately, it is possible to see the best of Niagara Falls on a whim and on a budget. Here’s how you can see the most of these famous waterfalls and the surrounding countryside on a short, affordable trip to Niagara:

Stay Close to the Falls

Since you likely don’t have much time to explore the whole Niagara region, you should try to find accommodations close to the action. On the Canadian side of the falls, there are a number of affordable, deluxe hotels and resorts within walking distance of major attractions, and many of these accommodations boast rooms with outstanding views. I highly recommend the Marriott on the Falls, which is the closest hotel to Niagara Falls and offers award-winning amenities, including a spa and an upscale restaurant. Plus, you can usually find last-minute bookings for low prices because major hotels like Marriott are eager to fill their rooms.niagara falls

Invest in a Niagara Falls Trip Package

During a last-minute vacation, you don’t have time to waste trying to plan an itinerary, compare prices or perform other preliminary research on your destination. Therefore, it is likely worth your money to buy a vacation package, which will include admission to various attractions as well as some meals during your trip. Because Niagara Falls is a popular tourist destination, you have hundreds of tour packages to choose from, but I suggest choosing one offered through your hotel. These will be more convenient, often including transportation to and from different attractions. Marriott’s Niagara Falls, Canada vacation packages include family-friendly waterpark days, adult casino nights, wine-tastings, luxurious breakfasts, spa services and more.niagara falls american falls &mist from river

Decide How to Get Around At Niagara Falls

As long as you stay in the heart of the tourist areas of Niagara Falls, Canada, you won’t have to worry too much about transportation – you can just use your two feet. Major attractions like Queen Victoria Park, the Rainbow Bridge and boat tours are easily accessible by pedestrians. If you want to venture slightly farther afield, perhaps to the wineries of the Niagara countryside, you might consider renting a bike or even signing up for a cycling tour of Niagara’s vineyards.Niagara Wine countryIf neither of these sounds appealing, you shouldn’t opt for a rental car just yet. Niagara also boasts a unique visitor transportation system called WEGO, which connects hotels with all major attractions in the Niagara area, from Niagara-on-the-Lake in the north to the Floral Showhouse in the south. For two days of unlimited rides, you pay only $12.50 per adult or $9 per child between 6 and 12 years. That’s a steal compared to rental car prices, which can be upwards of $25 per day – and that’s for compact models.

Can’t-Miss Niagara Attractions

Now that you have your logistics sorted, you can focus on the fun. Niagara Falls has grown into a tourist’s playground, filled with adventures and excitement that can last weeks, so if your time is limited, you will have to pick and choose from the following list of low-budget activities you can’t miss.niagara falls horseshoe falls

Niagara parks and gardens. Queen Victoria Park offers the best view of Niagara Falls, but you can also mosey around Dufferin Islands, Niagara Glen, and the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens to see beautiful scenery.

Clifton Hill. Playing any arcade games will cost you a few quarters, but you can also enjoy the lights and action of the iconic Street of Fun for free.niagara falls canada ripleys

Niagara Falls History Museum. If your last-minute trip coincides with a Thursday evening, you can get into this museum free of charge. Exhibits include the history of Niagara Falls, especially the region’s role in the War of 1812.

Niagara Falls Farmer’s Market. Niagara is one of the must productive regions in Canada, bringing forth bushels of fresh produce. You can sample the fare at local farm-to-table restaurants, or you can create your own culinary masterpieces by picking up ingredients at the Farmer’s Market, open 6 A.M. to noon on Saturdays.niagara wine country fruit stand

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North of the Border: 5 Must-See Canadian Sights Just Beyond the U.S.

montreal canada

You can’t always trot the globe, but you can always see something new and thrilling. The U.S. is filled with magnificent sights and smells — and so is our northern neighbor. You might not think of Canada as exotic and exciting, but even just north of its southern border, the country boasts plenty of places that enliven and enthuse. You don’t have to travel far to find adventure, and these five fantastic Canadian spots prove it.

ottawa canada cookies

1. Derby Line–Stanstead

According to legend, the surveyors assigned to this area of Vermont were drunk on the job. However it happened, the border between Derby Line, Vermont and Stanstead, Quebec is essentially a row of potted plants — quite unlike other American borders, which tend to be manned by armed guards and dogs. In fact, plenty of buildings straddle the line between Vermont and Quebec, and Canadians and Americans live together peacefully, claiming addresses in both countries.

There isn’t much in the way of tourism in Derby Line and Stanstead — just the Haskell Free Library and Opera House, which sits astride the border line. Still, it isn’t often you get to visit a place where you must pass through customs just to walk across the theater to find your seat.
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2. Windsor

While Derby Line and Stanstead might remain divided into its north and south halves, Windsor, Ontario is a Canadian town that lies south of the U.S. border. Indeed, just south of Detroit — across the Detroit River — you’ll find a fantastic mix of American and Canadian cultures. While it has a handful of year-round attractions, like a Canadian whiskey distillery and a few scenic hikes, Windsor is especially amazing to visit in early July. Canada Day (July 1) is swiftly followed by Independence Day (July 4), creating a week of festivals and fireworks. It’s easy to love your continent when you’re enjoying summertime in Windsor.canada flowers

3. Niagara Falls

Another traveler’s delight divided by the American and Canadian border, the three gorgeous waterfalls that comprise Niagara Falls cross the border — which means you must, too, if you want to see all Niagara has to offer. Indeed, the Canadian side of the falls is slightly more exciting, as it boasts the more-impressive Horseshoe Falls. There, you can venture aboard the world-famous Maid of the Mist boats — named after a legendary native woman who lived in the falls — or Journey Behind the Falls to see the thundering water up-close. Nearby Niagara Falls hotels offer other attractions as well, including indoor water parks, an expansive arcade, and award-winning restaurants. Niagara Falls is a natural world wonder that should be on everyone’s must-visit list.niagara falls

4. Thunder Bay

With a name like Thunder Bay — and a nearby natural park called Eagle Canyon — this awesome town sounds like it belongs in the U.S., but actually it sits just 45 miles from Minnesota, on the shores of Lake Superior. Thunder Bay is a haven for all sorts of outdoor adventurers: Anglers love to explore the region’s thousands of lakes and streams; hikers trek all over Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, and adrenaline junkies can’t get enough of the zipline over Eagle Canyon. Surrounding Thunder Bay are a handful of gorgeous waterfalls, including Kakabeka Falls and High Falls. If Yosemite is old news and you’ve done Moab one time too many, it might be time to try Thunder Bay.rideau river after sunset2

5. Oak Island

A quick boat ride from Maine and around Nova Scotia, Oak Island might seem a nondescript spot of land at first sight. In truth, one of the world’s greatest mysteries is buried there — and after two and a half centuries, it still isn’t well-understood.

The story goes that one of the first settlers of Nova Scotia ventured to Oak Island and found a suspicious depression in the ground. After digging for just two feet, the man found a layer of lain flagstones, and then every 10 feet below that, oak platforms impeded their progress. The original group soon abandoned the search — but more serious operations have followed ever since. The interest in Oak Island arose from rumors that Captain Kidd (or one of his crew) buried a huge cache of pirate treasure in that very spot, but due to irregular tides and intermittent funding problems, no one has been able to verify — or disprove — Oak Island’s famous money pit.rock art ottawa

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Six Must-Visit National Parks in Canada

canada national parks

Canada is having its moment – both the New York Times and The Guardian as well as Lonely Planet put Canada on their Hot Destinations List for 2017, and this time it aren’t booming cities like Vancouver or Toronto that are in the spotlight – the attention is focused on the countries natural beauty. Canada is celebrating 150 years of its confederation this year and celebrates it with a spectacular gift to its visitors: FREE admission to all of its National Parks, marine-conservation sites and historic monuments. That’s right, you can visit as many National Parks as you’d like and not pay a dime for it! But deciding which of the 44 National Parks to visit can be daunting, because this being Canada, of course all of them are breathtakingly beautiful and worth a visit.Day 3 - Patricia Lake

To help you decide where to go, we picked the six best National Parks to visit in Canada for you:

1 Banff National Park, Alberta

Banff National Park is not only the country’s first National Park (established in 1885), but also Canada’s most popular one. And that’s for very good reason – think turquoise lakes, rugged snow-covered mountain peaks, wildlife and plenty of hiking trails through the Rocky Mountains – Banff has it all!

Not to be missed: Lake Louise, the picture-perfect glacier lake that appears on most of Banff’s postcards, can’t be missed, but Lake Minnewanka offers jaw-dropping vistas and Lake Moraine is often named one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.

Best hike: The Legacy Trail, a 16-mile trail that runs along Trans-Canada 1 and has stunning views along the entire path, plus a high chance of wildlife spottings from the wildlife fence at the park’s East Gate (to Bow Valley Parkway). Check out the full list of day hikes in Banff here.

Because Banff is so popular, it can get packed during the summer months, but if you go on day hikes in the park, it’s still possible to escape the crowds. If you want to visit the park during less busy times, avoid going between June and August.Castle Mountain, Banff 2016

2 Jasper National Park, Alberta

Jasper National Park is just north of Banff, which makes it easy to combine those two. The drive that spans the two parks, Icefield Parkway, is often named as the most scenic drive in all of North America, making the journey worth it already. Other reasons to visit Jasper National Park? Turquoise glacier lakes, wildlife (including elk, caribou, bears and bighorn sheep), backcountry and mountain trails, glaciers forests and alpine meadows. Maligne Lake is the show stopper among the lakes in Jasper, with three glaciers visible from the lake – make sure to bring a kayak and get on the lake!

Not to be missed: The scenic Lake Maligne drive which starts in Jasper and ends at the lake. If you are a star gazing, go in October, when the Dark Sky Festival takes place in Jasper. The park is recognized as a Dark Sky Preserve by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and the lack of light pollution in October makes it the perfect time to come and star gaze. That said: the stars you see here are amazing year round, so make sure to check out the night sky.

Best hike: The Skyline Trail, a 42-kilometer backcountry trail that starts at Maligne Lake and takes 2 to 3 days to hike.Day 2 - Your Standard Postcard Shot (Maligne Lake)

3 Prince Edward Island National Park, P.E.I.

Prince Edward Island National Park, named after the island it is located on, sits on the far eastern end of Canada, stretching along the Atlantic Coast. P.E.I. is located east of New Brunswick and north of Nova Scotia, in the Gul of Saint Lawrence. The National Park consists of forests, salt marshes, coastline, sand dunes and the red sandstone cliffs the park is famous for. It is perfect for kayaking, bird-watching, hiking, kite flying and cycling and in the winter you can snow shoe or ski. If you aren’t into hiking but want to see as much as possible of the park, take the Gulf Shore Parkway West on the Cavendish waterfront, a drivable scenic route.

Not to be missed: Cavendish, a small community with red sandstone cliffs and wide sandy beaches, which was the inspiration for the literary blockbuster Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. If you love the book, Green Gables Shore can’t be missed!

Best hike: The Cavendish Dunelands Trail, which offers great views over the sand dunes and several freshwater ponds. If the 4.6 km round-trip hike is too short for you – the trail has links to the Homestead Trail (along the shores of New London Bay) and the Gulf Shore Way (along the top of the red sandstone cliffs with superb views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence).Bowley Pond

4 Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland

Gros Morne National Park on the west coast of Newfoundland is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Canada’s most stunning parks. Ancient fjords, imposing sheer-walled gorges, lush forests, barren cliffs and vast lowlands – the scenery here often reminds of Iceland’s otherworldly, breathtaking landscapes. The chances of moose spottings are high here, considering that over 5,000 moose live in Gros Morne, and the vastness of the park often makes you feel as if you were the only ones on the coastal pathways, or on the water – Kayaking through the mighty Western Brook Pond or Trout River Pond is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you’ll never forget.

Not to be missed: Tablelands, a desert-like area made of ultramafic rock, which is usually found inside the Earth and not on top of it, making it look like you are driving on another planet without much vegetation other than a bit of grass.

Best hike: The Long Range Mountains offer six backcountry hiking trails, all of which are considered the best backpacking trails on the East Coast of Canada. They are physically challenging and strenuous, and unmarked, hence only recommended for experienced hikers who know how to use compasses, GPS devices and maps.

A great day hike for less experienced hikers is the 14 kilometer round-trip Trout River Pond Trail which leads you to a picturesque part of the Tablelands, following the north side of Trout River Pond.10_Mile_Pond_Gros_Morne_Panorama_13

5 Wapusk National Park, Churchill, Manitoba

If seeing polar bears is on your bucket list, then Wapusk National Park is the National Park for you! And there’s more than polar bears: Wapusk is also home to arctic foxes, wolves and caribou (wild reindeer). The subarctic National Park is very remote and it is quite an undertaking to get there, but that makes it only more special. The closest town is Churchill, which can only be accessed by plane, or by the twice-a-week train from Winnipeg (takes two nights or sometimes longer, depending on weather conditions). The park itself is made up of tundra, subarctic forest and muske and borders Hudson Bay (sometimes referred to as Arctic Ocean). Cape Churchill is known to be the best location in the world to view and photograph wild polar bears, which is why the park is popular with wildlife photographers. Since there are no roads you have to join a guided tour – check out the park’s website for detailed information on tours.

Not to be missed: Try to time your visit so that you get to see fluffy little polar bear cubs! The best time to see them is in February / March. If you come to Wapusk in late October / early November, you won’t see cubs, but about 1,000 polars gather around Hudson Bay, awaiting the freeze-up of the sea.

Best hike: Unescorted visitors are not permitted in the park, so no epic hikes here. During polar bear ‘high season’, guides who lead tours in the park carry firearms in case a polar bear attacks. During the summer months, you can access the park via helicopter for guided tundra hikes.Wild Polar Bears in Churchill

6 Yoho National Park, Field, B.C.

Yoho National Park in British Colombia is another one of Canada’s picture-perfect Rocky Mountains parks, with rugged mountains, soaring waterfalls, magnificent glaciers, sheer cliffs, scenic lakes, turquoise rivers and lush green forests. The name for the park is an expression of awe and wonder in the Cree language – an aptly chosen name.

Not to be missed: Emerald Lake with its stunning glacier and mountain views, and Takakkaw Falls, filled with glacial meltwater in the summer, plunging 1,250 feet to the bottom of the Yoho Valley.

Best hike: The 2-day Iceline-Whaleback-Twin Falls backpacking trail is rated one of the best five day hikes in the Rocky Mountains. You’ll pass Takakkaw Falls, multiple glaciers, Celeste Lake and Twin Falls.Wapita Falls Power

How to plan a trip to Canada: Visas, Exchange Rate & Cheap Flights

The exchange rate is in your favor this year – 1 US Dollar buys you 1.33 Canadian Dollars, and 1 Euro buys you even more – 1.42 Canadian Dollars! It’s the perfect time to visit Canada.

Note: In 2016, Canada introduced eTA, electronic travel authorization, which is now required for citizens of all countries (including the U.S.) to enter Canada (unless you are from a country that requires a visa to visit Canada). The eTA is valid for five years. You have to apply for a Canada eTA online prior to your trip, but it only takes a few minutes to fill out the application.

To find cheap flights to Canada, I recommend GoogleFlights, especially their fare calendar which shows you on what dates you can get the cheapest flights.Emerald Lake

Photo credit: All images used under Flickr’s Creative Commons License. Title image: Banff National Park by Geos453 FinalAssignment; (1) Patricia Lake by Siuyant; (2) Castle Mountain by Gord McKenna; (3) Maligne Lake by Siuyant; (4) Bowley Pond, PEI, by Christine Riggle; (5) 10 Mile Pond by mrbanjo1138; (6) Wild Polar Bears by Alex Berger; (7) Wapita Falls by Terry Lawson; (8) Emerald Lake by mzagerp.

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Niagara Falls Smack Down : The American Falls vs the Canadian Side

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***Last updated: March 2019***

Now that I have been to both sides of Niagara Falls, I realized just how different the American and the Canadian side are and wanted to share with you the pros and cons of each side, similarities and the main differences, and which side I think you should visit when you plan a trip to Niagara Falls.

Unless you’re a total geography buff, you’re probably not familiar with the exact location and division of the Falls between the U.S. and Canada, so let’s start with some background information.

horseshoe falls and rainbowSome background info on Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls are located 20 minutes (17 miles / 27 km) north of Buffalo, New York on the American side, and about 90 minutes south of Toronto, Ontario (75 miles / 121 km) on the Canadian side. The Falls are located on the Niagara River, a short river that connects Lake Erie with Lake Ontario (two of the five Great Lakes). Each side has a city right by the Falls, and both are appropriately named Niagara Falls. More on both later.

Niagara Falls actually consist of three sets of waterfalls: the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side, and the Bridal Veil Falls as well as the American Falls on U.S. soil.

Together, they make for the world’s biggest waterfalls by flow rate, with an average of 4 million cubic feet (110,000 m3) of water falling over the crest line every minute and up to 6 million cubic feet (168,000 m3) in high flow.

In comparison to other famous waterfalls, Niagara Falls are fairly small though:American Falls and Horseshoe Falls

Niagara Falls

  • Width: Horseshoe Falls 2,600 feet (790 meters), American Falls 1,060 feet (320 meters)
  • Height: 167 feet (51 meters)

Iguazu Falls

  • Width: 8,858 feet (2,700 meters)
  • Height: 210 – 269 feet (64 – 82 meters)

Victoria Falls

  • Width: 5,604 feet (1,708 meters)
  • Height: 360 feet (108 meters)

Niagara Falls MapWhile they are only about a third in width of Iguazu Falls and less than half the height of Victoria Falls, they are still an incredible sight and well worth a visit, and they are still the biggest waterfalls in North America.

As I mentioned before, the Falls can be either visited from the American side or from the Canadian side, and I have compiled everything you need to know about visiting either side.

niagara falls with rainbowSimilarities

Let’s start with what’s similar on both sides. No matter if you’re visiting from the States or from Canada, you can take a 30-minute boat ride close up to the massive Horseshoe Falls; the Maid Of The Mist leaves every half hour from the U.S. and its Canadian counterpart is the Hornblower Niagara Cruise. Another thing that both sides offer is the possibility to get close up to the Falls with a set of walkways / viewpoints that are right by the Falls.

It is possible to visit Niagara Falls entirely for free anything from either country.

Getting close up to Niagara Falls
Getting close to the Falls from Canada and from the U.S.


The biggest difference between visiting the Falls from Canada and the U.S. are the views you get. Let’s be honest, Canada just lucked out here and simply has the better vistas: you can get the entire panoramic view of all three waterfalls from the edge of the gorge here, while from the U.S., you’ll have difficulties seeing the entire ‘horseshoe’, despite the various observation decks. The American Falls themselves can only be seen if you pay to enter the Cave of the Winds walkways, but then you also only see them from the bottom and not in full panorama.

The U.S. side has an advantage though: here, you can get really close to the Falls. While you can get close to the Horseshoe Falls in Canada, you can truly feel the American Falls.niagara falls

Here is some more information on each side:

The Canadian Side

The Canadian side of Niagara Falls offers you the full panoramic view of all the falls. You can walk along a wide sidewalk along the Niagara Falls Parkway right on the rim of the gorge for about a mile and look down into the Niagara River and see the Falls across from you.

niagara falls american falls from canada
The American Falls seen from Canada

If you want even broader views of the Falls, you can go up on the Skylon Tower from where you have stunning overhead vistas. The Skylon Tower also has a revolving restaurant, so that you can enjoy a meal or some drinks with those epic views. Reserving a table here includes free access to the observation deck If you book only a ticket, it’s only CAD10.71 if you book it online! The Brunch Buffet at CAD27.50 is actually pretty good value, considering it includes the observation deck as well.

Tip: You can now also see the Falls from the brand new Skywheel! Grab a ticket now for the introductory price of only US$11.10!You can get really close to the Horseshoe Falls if you pay for the Journey Behind The Falls experience. You get to take an elevator down 150 feet (45 meters), walk through a series of caves and finally get to an observation deck right next to the falls. While it is called Behind The Falls, don’t expect to actually get behind them: it’s more like getting a glimpse behind them. You will get drenched though (rain ponchos are provided), and will hear the thundering noise of the rushing water really close up. Admission for the Journey Behind The Falls is CAD15.95 plus tax.

Scroll down to the bottom of this article to see the more tours you can take at Niagara Falls.

Niagara Falls Journey Behind the Falls
The Journey Behind The Falls

If you stay overnight, make sure to come back at night to see the Niagara Falls light show. After sunset, the falls are illuminated in changing colors – it is a neat sight. During the summer months, there are also fireworks on Fridays and Sundays and on public holidays.

If you have difficulties walking, there is a hop-on hop-off bus service that connects the main attractions in town and several lookouts along the Falls; a day ticket is $7 per person. You can find the schedule and route map here.

niagara falls at night
The Falls lit up

The American Side

The American side might not have the panoramic views that Canada has, but it lets you get super close to the water. There is one big observation deck which you can enter for free and where you get the best vistas of a big part of the falls.

You can also take the 30-minute boat ride into the rushing Horseshoe Falls and get soaked that way, or you walk along the wooden walkways of the Cave Of The Winds experience. The cave that it is named after is long gone (it collapsed in 1954), but the walkways and viewing points, 175 feet (53 meters) deep into the Niagara Gorge, get you so close to the waterfalls that you basically get a free (and strong!) shower, especially on the appropriately named Hurricane Deck at the bottom of the American Falls. On this deck, you are only 20 feet (6 meters) from the Bridal Veil Falls! Admission for the Cave of the Winds experience is USD12 per person, the Maid Of The Mist is USD17.

niagara falls hurricane deck
Getting soaked on the Hurricane Deck

In addition to these paid-for experiences, there is are several viewing points at the rim, one right in between the two American Falls (on Goat Island, a little Island that separates the American Falls from the Horseshoe Falls).

There is a hop-on hop-off trolley service in the Niagara State Park for only $2 per person if you have difficulties walking.

Winner: Canada, these views are just unbeatable!

horseshoe falls with mist
The Horseshoe Falls seen from Canada

The cities

Niagara Falls Canada

It’s no secret that Jess and I weren’t the biggest fans of this town when we visited the Canadian side in 2011. The city felt tacky, everything was set up to get every tourist dollar possible: haunted houses (seriously, who needs four haunted houses? Especially in a city that small.), wax museums, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Hershey’s Chocolate World and many fast food chains.

If you can’t entertain your kids with an awe-inspiring natural wonder, you’ll get the chance to do that here (and spend lots of cash). Ironically, most of the chains who set up shop here are American, it seems like even they knew the Canadian side is the one that’s bringing in the big bucks. For the grown-ups in need of additional entertainment, there are not one but TWO casinos to carry your money to.

Niagara Falls Canada with Skylon TowerNiagara Falls USA

The American side feels more tranquil, less crowded and less tacky – other than a Wax Museum of History, a haunted house and an aquarium, and the giant casino that’s towering over all the other buildings, there is not much here. The town makes an effort though to provide some entertainment that you don’t have to pay for and that’s more family-friendly, like free board games, outdoor movie nights in the summer, concerts and even fitness events. You can find the entire program here.

I thought that there was much greener here, and it is known that you can go on better hikes along the Niagara River from here. This side is definitely right for you if you’re planning a couple of hikes in addition to visiting the Falls. You can find some more details on the hiking options here.

Winner: Niagara Falls USA

niagara fallsWhich side should you visit?

Absolutely no question: Visit both sides! I’d recommend planning in enough time to visit both Canada’s and the American side to get the full Niagara experience. I thought it was very similar to my experience at Iguazu Falls – while I got to get a real close-up encounter with the Falls on the Argentinian side, the breathtaking vistas are what you only get from Brazil. At the Niagara Falls, you get the greatest views from Canada, but the better close-up experience from the U.S.

niagara falls close up
Getting close to the Falls on the American side

How to cross the border at Niagara Falls

Thanks to the Rainbow Bridge, which connects Canada and the U.S. right by the Falls, you can easily cross from one country into the other – as long as you pack your passport! Make also sure to check visa regulations for your country of origin. The toll to cross the bridge is 0.50 Cent if you cross on foot, but higher for cars, RVs and trucks. You can find the current prices here. If you visit the Falls with your car, there’s no need for you to take it to the other side – you can just walk over the bridge and explore the Falls on foot, unless you aren’t in good health.

niagara falls panorama
The panoramic views from the Canadian side

The Best Tours In Niagara Falls

As you would expect for one of the most visited tourist attractions in all of North America, there are plenty of tours you can book as a visitor. But which ones are worth it?

I am sharing the most popular tours you can take from both sides, the American and the Canadian Falls.

    • American Falls Half-Day Tour: This includes a boat ride on the “Maid of the Mist” and the Cave of the Winds for a close-up Falls experience. Furthermore, you’ll get to see the Falls from the top of the American Observation Tower and you will visit all key viewing areas of Niagara Falls including Goat Island.
    • Above & Behind the Falls (Canadian Side): This 5-hour tour includes a Hornblower Niagara Cruise, a visit to the tunnels underneath the Horseshoe Falls, and the observation deck on top of the Skylon Tower to enjoy panoramic views of the Falls.

  • Treat Yourself to the VIP Experience: A Niagara Falls Helicopter Flight, Boat Ride & Skylon Lunch: This 5-hour tour includes the Hornblower Niagara Cruise boat ride (seasonal: April – December), a helicopter ride directly above the falls and the whirlpool rapids, a stunning lunch at Skylon Tower’s revolving dining room; and the “Journey Behind the Falls” tour for a behind the scenes look at the Horseshoe Falls

Check out all available tours at Niagara Falls here:

Where To Stay In Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is one of the most popular tourist attractions in North America, so naturally there are plenty of hotels around here. Be careful though: There are also a bunch of cheapie motels that are very basic and some are downright filthy. They are cheap, but not enjoyable, trust me. Before you book a hotel or motel, make sure to check the latest reviews before going for what may seem like a bargain deal, and the review score. I’ve put together a few options on both the Canadian and the U.S. side for you, for all budgets.

Note: The Canadian side has considerably more options, including some hotels with direct views of the falls from your hotel window. It’s definitely worth to splurge on a room with a view of the falls!

On the Canadian Side

Budget: There are a couple of gorgeous B&Bs which offer accommodation for under $100, including breakfast.

Mid-range: The mid-range hotels are pretty much all major hotel chains. The Sheraton and even the Radisson are much better than the overpriced Hilton, both have rooms for around $160, compared to a starting price of $300 for the Hilton. And both have spectacular Falls vistas!

High-end: There isn’t much here in terms of truly luxurious hotels, but the Marriott Fallsview Hotel & Spa is your best option. Note that Marriott has two other properties here, the Marriott Courtyard and the Marriott on the Falls (in case you want to use your Marriott points).

U.S. Side

Budget: There are several sub-par motels here, read some reviews before you book. A B&B will be a much more pleasant choice.

Mid-range: You’ll find all the common hotel chains here: Best Western, Quality, La Quinta Inn, Howard Johnson, Holiday Inn, Wyndham, Four Points by Sheraton, etc. The best ones:

High-end: Just like on the Canadian side, there aren’t any truly luxurious hotels around here, but the Giacomo boutique hotel stands out. All three options are still under $200 per night.

Stay at an Airbnb and cook for yourself!

Having a kitchen and being able to cook for myself is always the biggest draw for me to stay at an Airbnb, and after two visits to Niagara Falls with a number of disappointing restaurant visits there (read: overpriced and forgettable meals), I’d stay at an Airbnb on my next visit. There are a number of rooms and entire apartments listed on the website on both the Canadian and the U.S. site, starting at $30.

Use my referral link to sign up for Airbnb and get up to $30 off your first booking!

Have you been to Niagara Falls? If you have tips and recommendations how travelers can maximize their experience, feel free to share them in the comments below!



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Facing my fear of heights in Whistler, Canada

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I remember standing on top of the Eiffel Tower and how my knees turned to jelly when I looked down. How my heart rate doubled when I was walking across the bouncing suspension bridge over the Rio Grande Gorge in New Mexico last year.

One of the worst experiences was walking along the indoor balcony of Mexico City’s Fine Arts Palace, where only a small balustrade keeps people from falling down onto the ground floor. Just coming somewhat close to that balustrade caused me to nearly hyperventilate. Even being inside of high buildings is enough to make butterflies swirl around in my tummy – not the good kind though… More like thousands of annoying little ants running around my intestines. Reading this story about the floor of the glass bottom viewing boxes in Chicago’s Willis Tower cracking was enough to give me sweaty palms.

I remember how everyone was hanging out in that box the last time we went up there to enjoy the views over Chicago, seemingly careless and happy about the thrill of seeing the street right below their feet, and me just wanting to pull them all out of that damn thing, sweating heavily and my heart racing.

Willis Tower Chicago Glass Bottom

My fear of heights is bordering on a panic of heights. The edge walk on top of Toronto’s CN Tower? My nightmare. Abseiling from the highest building in La Paz? Horror. Walking on a tiny walkway hundreds of meters above an abyss? Unthinkable. And just looking at the height in these pictures of the world’s tallest rope swing make me feel like throwing up. Bungee jumping o skydiving? Only over my dead body.

death road bolivia
But then I did this recently. Don’t ask! I’ll be sharing the full story behind this photo soon.

And yet, here I was, standing on the lowest step of a set of stairs that led into nothing but thin air, about to step off it, into… nothing. The ground hundreds of feet below me (apparently the height is equivalent to a 20-story building), and I was only hooked to a small metal snap hook via a thin rope that was holding my harness (and my entire body weight!), connected to an over 2,000ft long steel rope; the end of it not even visible from our starting point. What the hell was I doing here?!

Rease Ziplining
Not everyone was as terrified as I was. Certainly not Rease!

This wasn’t my first attempt at zip-lining. The first one in 2007 seemed even more pathetic now that I was about to whiz from one mountain to another with speeds up to 90kmh/55mph. Back then, Jess and I were visiting Cornwall and were invited to try out a brand new zip line off a cliff over a beach – one single short zip line, and we’d be lowered to the ground (which was much closer to the zip line than this one) after a quick 20-second ride. We were standing next to each other on the parallel steps, counting down: three, two, one… And neither of us let go. This went on for about fifteen minutes until we eventually jumped off the cliff (literally), even though we were both terrified and convinced that we were stupid for doing this. I felt sick to my bones all day after that.

Fast forward seven years and here I am on a parallel zip line again, this time about to jump off a stair that leads into the air, and four more ropes like this one after that.

Admittedly, I wasn’t here because my idea of an awesome afternoon in Whistler involved whizzing through tree tops, but because the fab team behind the Great Coast Road Trip had arranged this activity for us two adventurous girls. And at the time, it had seemed like a splendid idea. Now that I was actually about to jump off these stairs, not so much anymore. Like, not at all. Could I possibly chicken out?

dani ziplining

When the first two people went, I felt my heart sink to my boots. I told Rease we’d had to go soon after – I knew that if I waited too long, my fear would turn into panic and there was no way I would be able to let go once that happened. The next two people went, and we were up next. I felt like crying. Why do people do this, I thought to myself. Rease on the other hand was beyond excited and couldn’t wait to go. I had to do it. Back in Cornwall, it was just the two of us – we could have chickened out – but here was a whole group that was in search of a thrill, which meant if I would take as long as I took in England, I’d slow down (and annoy) the whole group.

dani ziplining in whistler canada

Three, two, one… And I let go. My heart skipped a beat as I sped off into the unknown – truly the unknown, because you couldn’t see the other side – down the line, faster and faster, the giant gap between me and the ground always right in front of my eyes. A million thoughts raced through my head, from ‘Oh my god the rope is gonna snap, I will die’ to ‘I really want to see a bear.. Is that one down there?!.. Not so fast!!’ to ‘WTF am I doing here!?’.

ziplining whistler

When we, after what seemed like an eternity but in reality was probably not more than 60 seconds, finally reached the other side, I could barely feel my legs. I was so shaky that I was almost not able to walk. For a moment I thought I might pass out.

dani ziplining

All I could think was: I have to do this four more times. Instead of facing my fear only once, I had to go through this nightmare five times. This was insane!

The rest of the group had a blast. The faster, the better, it seemed, and people were even zipping hanging upside down (hi Rease, you daredevil!), with their arms spread wide open, enjoying the exhilarating thrill of flying through the air. For me, every ride was basically like this :

*You can turn on the sound to hear my terrified screams by clicking on the speaker symbol in the left hand corner of the picture*

You would think it’d get easier with each time, but it didn’t. Each and every time I was convinced the rope would snap, and I would reach the other side shaking. I only wanted to make through it…. Which, in the end, I did.

Was it the most horrible thing I’ve ever done? Probably not. Would I do it again? Probably not. But it also wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever done – and I faced my fear.

What’s your biggest fear? Have you faced it?

Thanks to Rease for capturing my terrified face and screaming.
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Polaroid of the week: The winter wonderland of Whistler, Canada

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polaroid of the week canada whistlerWhen we arrived in Whistler, the second stop on our Great Coast Road Trip, on a beautiful spring day, we had no idea that a couple of hours later, we would be walking through snow instead of green grass! But the higher we took the gondola up to Whistler Mountain, the more the grass was replaced by patches of snow, until eventually a thick blanket of snow covered the entire ground. We couldn’t believe how much snow there still was, and that people were still snow tubing! At an altitude of 2,284 meters/ 7,494 feet, the snow lasts here until deep into the summer months – apparently, it doesn’t melt until August!

Whistler is one of the most popular ski resorts in Canada, but even now that the ski season has officially ended, the village was buzzing with people! We learned that Whistler was not only a mecca for ski and snowboard aficionados but also for downhill mountain bikers, hikers, water sport fans and climbers, who keep the village nearly as busy in the summer as it is during the winter months. I can’t wait to share more about my time in Whistler with you, which was jam-packed with gondola rides (including the Peak2Peak gondola which holds the record for the longest unsupported span with 3.024 km/1.88 miles), ziplining through the treetops around Whistler, exploring lakes and waterfalls and some seriously good food!

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Polaroid of the week: Walking on rainbows in Vancouver, Canada

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polaroid of the week canada vancouver rainbowHello from Canada! I arrived in Vancouver on Friday for the Great Coast Road Trip with my friend Rease (more details on that trip here, plus two awesome giveaways!) and we’ve had an amazing start to the trip with a picture-perfect spring weather this weekend! There was not a single cloud in the sky when we took a cable car up to Grouse Mountain, the Peak of Vancouver, to take in the splendid views over the city and the Strait of Georgia. We didn’t quite expect snow up on the mountain, but it turns out that up here at 4,000ft /1,200m there’s still snow in June!

After our mountain visit we returned to sea level and started our exploration of Vancouver. We rented bikes and cycled for hours through the city, checking out neighborhoods like Gastown (the historic birthplace of Vancouver), Granville Island, Yaletown (a revitalized waterfront neighborhood) and Davie Village, Vancouver’s gayborhood, where we stumbled upon these colorful rainbow pedestrian crossings. They were introduced here last summer just in time for Vancouver’s big Gay Pride celebrations and have permanently replaced the black and white crossings.

Our next stop is Whistler, and I can’t wait to head up into the mountains! Luckily I’ll be back in Vancouver to explore more of the city mid-next week – I know I have only scratched the surface so far, but watching the sunset at the beach (with huge crowds!), running in Stanley Park, eating ridiculously good ethnic food and getting a feel for the different neighborhoods made for an excellent start.

You can follow my Canadian adventure live on Instagram and Twitter #greatcoastroadtrip.

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Goodbye 2011: Our year of travel in pictures

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Another unforgettable year is coming to an end – this time it is our second year as full-time travelers! We’ve literally been around the world this year and, rather than rattle off a list of everywhere we’ve been, this Goodbye 2011 post will highlight our favorite pictures of the year, starting in Central America and ending in Thailand after stints in Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

January 2011

As we mentioned in our Goodbye to 2010 post, we began the year at Lake Yojoa in Honduras, where we were the only guests at our hotel. 2011 started out as laid-back as can be…

January Lake Yojoa HondurasFor more January highlights, check out our Facebook album Best of 2011: January (Honduras & Nicaragua).

February 2011

Shortly after the start of the New Year, we moved on to Nicaragua – and fell head over heels in love with the country. The picture was taken in Masaya, just outside of Granada…one of Nicaragua’s most visited cities. Throughout the country, the horse and buggy is still a common and totally valid form of transportation – alongside cars, buses, SUVs, motorcycles and bicycles.

february nicaragua masaya church &horse carriageFor more February highlights check out our Facebook album Best of 2011: February (Nicaragua & Costa Rica).

March 2011

After three relaxing weeks in Costa Rica we made our way to Panama and were most impressed with the Casco Viejo area of Panama City (check out our picture post of Casco Viejo). We resisted actually picking up a Panama hat, but couldn’t resist photographing them. Panamanians have certainly got style!

March Panama hats in Casco Viejo panamaFor more March highlights check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: March (Costa Rica, Panama & Germany).

April 2011

Going from six months in the developing countries of Central America to visiting the mighty castles of Germany was an extreme contrast. This is what we love most about our nomadic lifestyle! At the end of the month we completed our first year on the road (find out how much we spent in one year of travel here).

april neuschwanstein castle bavaria germanyFor more April highlights check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: April (Germany, Austria & Italy)

May 2011

In Spring we traveled in Europe, from Germany and Austria to a few weeks in Tuscany. While we were both blown away by the romance of the countryside, the taste of the wine and the warmth of the locals, it was the pizza…the glorious pizza…that became the highlight of May 2011 for us.

may italy montaione pizzas & wineFor more May 2011 highlights including Jess with a group of aliens in Spain, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: May (Italy & Spain).

June 2011

In the first week of June, we went on our first ever cruise and followed that up by reaching 400 days on the road! Just a week later we would discover a city that could possibly, one day, be called home: Lisbon, Portugal. The Portuguese capital just ticks so many boxes – laid-back, sunny, warm, good (and cheap) coffee, beaches as far as the eye can see, plenty of history and oozing with charm. What struck us most was how similar Lisbon is to San Francisco. We spent three fabulous weeks here in June (despite a near heart attack experience that still has us cracking up).

june portugal lisbon tram 28For more June highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: June (Spain, Corsica, Portugal).

July 2011

From Lisbon we flew directly to Toronto to begin an entirely new North American chapter of our travels. We spent six weeks house-sitting outside of Ottawa. These weeks were filled with exploring adorable villages, peaceful sunset bike rides, evenings in the jacuzzi and hanging with the friendly neighbors drinking great Canadian micro-brews.

july kemptville ontario sunsetFor more July highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: July (Canada).

August 2011

August was truly an unforgettable month that brought us through Montreal, Quebec, Boston, and the start of our NYC2NOLA road trip through New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC on our way down to New Orleans. While we loved the freedom of the open road, it was our four nights in New York that dazzled us the most. There is just something about this concrete jungle that gets us every time.

For more August highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: August (Canada & USA).

September 2011

After four weeks and over 4,000 miles we finally made it to New Orleans in September. What we found when we arrived is a city with style, individuality and people with a zest for life and love of music like we’ve never experienced before. We could easily spend more than a week in the Big Easy…in fact we toyed with the idea of a few months here sometime in the future, too. On September 13th, just before reaching Chicago, we hit 500 days on the road.

september New Orleans voodoo skeletonsFor more September highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: September (U.S. Road Trip).

October 2011

And then we flew to the other side of the planet – for our first trip to South East Asia! We started in Thailand, and it was definitely a relief to gaze out at this crystal blue water after a few chilly weeks in Chicago and Colorado!

thailand long tail boats phi phi lei islandFor more October highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: October (Chicago, Colorado & Thailand).

November 2011

After finding a good place to settle down to work in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, we hopped a series of buses and boats to travel around northern Laos for the last two weeks of November. While the two countries have their similarities, we were struck by how much simpler life in Laos is compared to fast-paced and modern Thailand. We have learned so much since arriving in Asia, especially about Buddhism – and have become accustomed to sharing our daily lives with the hundreds of monks populating cities and villages across the Buddhist nations.

november young monks luang prabang laosFor more November highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: November (Thailand & Laos).

December 2011

The last month of 2011 marked a major milestone for us, as we hit 600 days on the road! In some ways it feels as though we have just started traveling. Looking back at everything we have done in these six hundred days truly feels like an accomplishment. One lesson we have learned is that in order to be happy as nomads, we need to know when to take longer breaks and relax. That’s why we booked ourselves in to an apartment in Chiang Mai for one month in December. We love this city, as it has everything we could ever need or want. We celebrated Christmas with friends, went on hikes, spent time with elephants, eaten endless veggie cuisine and learned so much about Thai culture and tradition.

december moat at sunset chiang mai thailandFor more December highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: December (Laos & Thailand).

Happy New Year 2012 to all our readers!

We would love for you to tell us about your travel highlights for 2011 in the comments below – we’re always on the lookout for new locations about where to travel next!

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