Top 5 Airports for Private Jets in Canada

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Flying on a private jet seems like an out-of-reach luxury to many people, but taking a private jet instead of a commercial flight is more affordable than ever. And the benefits of taking a private plane are easy to see: you have more flexibility because you don’t have to follow standardized flight schedules, you waste less time on the ground because you don’t have to deal with the long lines at security you experience at regular airport terminals, and of course you have much more comfort during the actual flight. And at the moment, with the majority of airlines suspending their flight routes for several months, it is for many people the only way to get to the destination they need to reach. Instead of struggling to find a flight that is convenient for you, a private jet can be ready within a few hours’ notice.private plane

Flying on a private jet is also more convenient because there are many more airports catering to small private jets than there are large airports that serve big jumbo jets. Which means that you can take a direct route even from a smaller city, and you don’t waste time on a layover. But every major airport usually has a private jet terminal, and in this article I want to share the five best terminals for private jets in Canada at major Canadian airports. Terminals within commercial airports that handle private air traffic and private jets are known as FBOs (fixed-based operators). FBOs are known for their high-end amenities and outstanding service, but just as with regular airports, the quality varies, and there are a few airports that take the private jet experience to the next level.

If you are looking for the utmost excellence on your next private jet trip in Canada, the following are the five airports you should seek airports for private jets in canada

The five best airports for private jets in Canada

1 Toronto Pearson International Airport (Airport Code: YYZ)

Pearson International Airport in Toronto is Canada’s largest and busiest airport and has three FBO’s that offer amenities such as: tarmac service (chauffeurs drive up all the way to the plane), snooze rooms equipped with leather lounges and a cozy fireplace, showers and state-of-the-art business centers. Concierges that help to arrange anything you may need, from hotel bookings to concert tickets to your favorite snacks, are also available.

Toronto Airport T1 international departure

2 Vancouver International Airport (Airport Code: YVR)

Vancouver International Airport is known to be one of the best airports in the world, and was listed as the best North American airport at the Skytrax World Airport Awards in 2019 (it was #17 in the worldwide ranking). There are three FBOs at YVR, all of which provide luxurious amenities such as high-end lounges, a 24/7 concierge service, and VIP transportation.

There are also fully equipped business centers and conference rooms in each of the FBOs.

Boarding 3M private jet

3 Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (Airport Code: YUL)

Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport is the third-largest airport in Canada by both passenger traffic and aircraft movements and the primary international airport serving Montreal. The airport has four FBOs which are offering luxury lounges, business centers with boardrooms and conference rooms, catering, snooze rooms and ramp side vehicle access.

YUL Montreal International Airport - Trudeau

4 Montréal Saint-Hubert Longueuil Airport (Airport Code: YHU)

Montréal Saint-Hubert Longueuil Airport opened in 1928 and was Montreal’s only airport until YUL opened in 1941. Despite its considerably smaller size than YUL (YHU is the 15th busiest airport in Canada), it also has four FBOs, and it is closer to Downtown Montreal than YUL. All FBOs offer upscale passenger lounges, business centers with executive conference rooms, ramp side parking, and catering. On-site concierges and a VIP service are also available.

Rear view of private jet

5 Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (Airport Code: YTZ)

Canada’s ninth-busiest airport beats Toronto’s Pearson airport when it comes to distance to Downtown Toronto: While Pearson is 27 kilometers from Downtown, Billy Bishop is located only 3.5 kilometers southwest downtown Toronto on the Toronto Islands. The proximity to Downtown Toronto (it takes only ten minutes by car) is YTZ’s main draw. Fun fact: You can even walk to central Toronto via a pedestrian tunnel that was opened in 2015.

YTZ has two FBOs, and both executive terminals offer lounges, catering and meeting rooms.

Plaza Premium Lounge - Vancouver Airport

Photo Credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Toronto Airport by Alex Pierre; (2) Boarding a private jet by Alex Light; (3) YUL by Caribb; (4) Private Jet by David Brossard; (5) Premium Lounge at Vancouver Airport by Traveling Otter

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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. Thanks 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. I’ve always been a budget-conscious traveler, which is why I put together a low-budget Niagara Falls itinerary for you.american falls and bridal veil fallsBecause, fortunately, it is possible to see the best of Niagara Falls on a small budget. Here’s how you can make the most of your visit to 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. You can check out room rates for the date of your visit here:

Tip: Read my Niagara Falls Smack Down : The American Falls vs the Canadian Side for more accommodation recommendations near Niagara Falls, both on the American side and the Canadian side.

niagara falls

Buy 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.Budget Niagara Falls Itinerary

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.

Save money by shopping at a Niagara Falls Outlet Store

Forget the overpriced shops near the Falls – if you want to do some shopping, but you’re visiting Niagara Falls on a small budget, head to one of the outlet stores instead. There are two big outlet stores in Niagara Falls, one on the American side and one on the Canadian side of the Falls.

The U.S. Niagara Falls Outlet Store is:

Fashion Outlets

Address: 1900 Military Road; Niagara Falls, NY 14304, USA

Some of the stores you find here: Adidas, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Bath & Body Works, Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, Coach, Cole Haan, Columbia, Crocs, Eddie Bauer, Footlocker, Forever 21, Fossil, GAP, Guess, H&M, J.Crew, Kate Spade, Levi’s Marshalls, Michael Kors, Nike, Oakley, Old Navy, PINK, POLO Ralph Lauren, Puma, Rainbow, Skechers, Sunglass Hut, Swarovski, Timerbland, Tommy Hilfiger, Under Armour, Vans, Victoria’s Secret, and more.

The Canada Niagara Falls Outlet Mall is:

Outlet Collections at Niagara

Address: 300 Taylor Rd, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0, Canada

Stores you find here include: The Northface, Michael Kors, Adidas, ALDO, American Eagle, ASICS, Banana Republic, Bath & Body Works, Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, The Children’s Place, Columbia, Coach, Cole Haan, DKNY, Crocs, Ecco, Eddie Bauer, Fossil, GAP, GEOX, GNC, Guess, Jack Jones, Kate Spade, Lacoste, Levi’s, L’occitane, Lululemon, Marshalls, Mountain Warehouse, New Balance, Nike, Old Navy, Pandora, Puma, POLO Ralph Lauren, Reebok, Saks Off Fifth, Samsonite, Skechers, Sunglass Hut, The Body Shop, The Shoe Company, Tommy Hilfiger, UGG, Under Armour, Vans, and more.

Niagara Falls Attractions that don’t cost much

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.Budget Niagara Falls Itinerary

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.Budget Niagara Falls Itinerary

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.

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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. Here are five must-see sights in Canada just beyond the U.S.:

ottawa canada cookies

Five must-see sights in Canada just beyond the U.S.:

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, which is why the Derby Line makes our list of must-see sights in Canada.
Must-see Canadian sights

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. While the Falls are shared by the U.S. and Canada, the truly magnificent views of the falls belong to Canada. 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, and is definitely one of the most impressive must-see sights in Canada.Must-see Canadian sights

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.Must-see Canadian sights

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, 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 recently celebrated 150 years of its confederation and celebrated it with a spectacular gift to its visitors: FREE admission to all of its National Parks, marine-conservation sites and historic monuments. Even though it’s not free anymore to visit Canada’s National Parks, day passes are usually around CAD10, which isn’t a lot. If you’re planning to visit several National Parks in Canada, I recommend buying the Discovery Pass, an annual pass which costs around CAD69 and covers all National Parks &Reserves, Marine Conservation Areas, as well as state-run National Historic Sites. Deciding which of the 44 National Parks are the best to explore can be a daunting task – they are all breathtakingly beautiful and worth a visit! That’s why I decided to share the six best National Parks in Canada – and hopefully this will help you decide which ones you’d like to see.Day 3 - Patricia Lake

The six best National Parks in Canada

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 National Parks in Canada

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 1.42 Canadian Dollars, and 1 Euro buys you even more – 1.56 Canadian Dollars! It’s the perfect time to plan a trip to Canada, and to visit the best National Parks in 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. Hiring a private jet has also become affordable over the past few years – check out the best airports for private jets in Canada National Parks in Canada

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

niagara falls bridal veil falls

Now that I have been to both sides of Niagara Falls, the American Falls and the Canadian Falls, I realized just how different both sides are. This is why I wanted to share the pros and cons of American side and the Canadian side, their similarities and the main differences. And finally, 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 rainbow

Some 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 canadian side or american sideNiagara 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, USA & Canada

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

Iguazu Falls, Argentina & Brazil

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

Victoria Falls, Zambia & Zimbabwe

  • 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, Niagara Falls – both American side or Canadian side – 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 rainbow

American Falls & Canadian Falls – The Similarities

Let’s start with what’s similar on both the American side and the Canadian side. 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.

Niagara Falls American Side or Canadian Side
Getting close to the Falls from Canada and from the U.S.

Niagara Falls American Side or Canadian Side – The Differences

The biggest difference between visiting Niagara 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:

Niagara Falls: 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 Side or Canadian Side
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 US$12.70 if you book it online! The popular Sunday Brunch Buffet at CAD32.50 is actually pretty good value, considering it includes the observation deck as well – but make sure to book your table well in advance.

Tip: You can now also see the Falls from the brand new Skywheel! Grab a ticket now for the bargain price of only US$11.10Niagara Falls SkyWheel TicketsYou 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. This is something to consider when you decide if to stay on the American side or the Canadian side: the light show is only visible from the Canadian side, and getting there at night would be easier from a hotel on the Canadian side.

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 American Side or Canadian Side
The Falls lit up

Niagara Falls: 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

Niagara Falls: The cities

Niagara Falls Canada

It’s no secret that we 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. I’ve listed some of the attractions on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls in this article.

When debating if you want to stay on the American side or the Canadian side, keep in mind that families with kids might prefer the Canadian side for entertainment value – or do the exact opposite: stay away from it to avoid spending loads of money.

Niagara Falls American Side or Canadian Side

Niagara 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 falls

American Side or Canadian Side? Which Falls 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 American Side or Canadian Side
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 only $1.00 in both currencies if you cross on foot, but more expensive 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, Niagara Falls American side and Canadian side.

    • 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:Best tours Niagara Falls

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 American side and the Canadian 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! Another thing to consider when deciding if to stay on the American side or the Canadian side.

Niagara Falls American Side or Canadian Side

Where to Stay in Niagara 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!

Niagara Falls American Side or Canadian SideHigh-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).

Where to Stay in Niagara Falls on the 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 in 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 in 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? What is your take on this hot topic, Niagara Falls American Side or Canadian Side? If you have tips and recommendations how travelers can maximize their experience, feel free to share them in the comments below!


Niagara Falls American Side or Canadian Side


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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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Ottawa UnLOCKed: Finding the key to conquering Canada’s Capital City

Ottawa parliament sunset

Canada’s capital city is clean, green, and home to some of the world’s friendliest citizens, so it is easy to feel immediately at ease here. However, the key to truly conquering Ottawa is all about the locks…things to do in Ottawa

Keep Out: Constructing the Canal

While Ottawa is more than welcoming now, the city hasn’t always been that way.  Nearly 200 years ago, a British colonel, Colonel By, was sent over and put to the task of protecting Canada from its pesky American neighbors, rumored to be planning an invasion of Canadian territory by way of the St Lawrence Seaway. It turns out that while we made our way through the city this summer, I wouldn’t have been the first American attempting to conquer this area of Ontario.

It was Colonel By’s task to construct the Rideau Canal, which, in bypassing the St Lawrence River bordering New York, would secure the supply and communications route between Montreal and the British naval base in Kingston. Travel would proceed along the Ottawa River to Bytown (named for Colonel By, this was originally a makeshift town in the swampy wilderness. It’s known today as Ottawa) and then continuing southwest via the canal to Kingston before emptying into Lake Ontario.

ottawa rideau canal locksToday, these eight mighty locks are a perfect starting off point for exploring Ottawa. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Locks 1-8 lower the waters of the Rideau Canal to meet the Ottawa River 30 feet below. Both the majestic Parliament Hill and magnificent Fairmont Chateau Laurier castle hotel rise high above the Rideau to give this part of Ottawa an entirely old-world feel. Strolling along the path by the locks here is relaxing, and the Bytown Museum (can you guess its namesake?) is a great little spot to learn more about the building of this engineering marvel.

ottawa view over ottawa riverCycling in Ottawa

Looking to cover more ground, we headed to Rentabike, not 50m from the museum along the canal. After stocking up on heaps of great advice from the owner, we hopped on our fancy cruiser bikes and never looked back. First we shot up the canal away from the river, past the paddle boats on Dow’s Lake, and stopped at the sound of pounding water – the waterfalls of Hog’s Back.

ottawa hogsback fallsAlready feeling free of the city just 30 minutes after renting the bikes, a quick turn to the northwest led to a patch of rural farmland. We were now riding through the area known as the Central Experimental Farm, a true urban oasis filled with acres of crops, lush green grass, classic red barns and their barnyard animals. From here, signs for the cycle paths back to the city were easy to follow. Continuing westward, the path met up with the Ottawa River, and it was here we discovered the rock art by Jean-Félice Ceprano, a truly inspiring find we would have never come across without the bikes.

rock art in ottawaOttawa is a cycling city and thousands of Ottawans (very courteously, of course) commute back and forth from work as much as to enjoy the outdoors. In fact, Ottawa has over 200 kilometers of bike paths, we had been told, but in our six hours out on the bikes, we only managed 30 km.

jess cycling along lake dow ottawa

Beaver Tails and Boats

Before bringing the bikes back, it was time for a late lunch at the Byward Market. Established by Colonel By in 1826, this is Canada’s oldest public market, covering nearly four square blocks of restaurants, pubs and some incredible specialty food shops. After lunch we popped in to a cheese shop so specialized, it even carries our favorite brand of Norwegian cheese! In an amazing case of self-restraint, however, we walked out empty handed – but only because we knew where we were headed next: the Beaver Tail stand.

things to do in OttawaBeaver Tails are Ottawa’s classic deep-fried, doughy delights and are best enjoyed in Winter with a hot cup of coffee to warm up. You might be enjoying a break from ice-skating along one of the world’s longest ice rinks. Stretching seven kilometers from the Ottawa river, the frozen length of the Rideau Canal converts Ottawa into a winter wonderland and when it re-opens in mid-May, several boats pass through the locks each day, some heading down to the Ottawa River. While one hundred years ago, the river would have been packed with thousands of logs rushing down it as a part of the logging industry, today this aquatic hotspot is packed with speed boats, kayaks, yachts and even white water enthusiasts – although that takes place up the river about 90 minutes from downtown.

ottawa rideau canal boats in lockWe wanted to get out on the river, but also wanted to do a city tour – Lady Dive amphibus tour met both those needs. In its bus form, we tooled through town on four wheels, marveling the architecture and learning about Ottawa’s complicated past. We then plunged into the water next to the Britannia Yacht Club and, as soon as we got our sea legs, we floated past the Museum of Civilization, a mega-museum which takes visitors through 1,000 years of Canadian history and also has a children’s museum and a 3D IMAX theater. Make sure to plan at least one day here, if not two.

ottawa parliament and chateau laurier hotel from riverAlso set on the river is the National Gallery, considered Canada’s premiere art museum. We really enjoyed the permanent exhibits, which are on par with top international galleries. True culture vultures might want to plan in at least half a day to visit, though any travelers on a budget should visit on Thursdays, when entrance to the National Gallery is free from 5-8pm.  Ottawa has plenty of public art as well, from the statue of Canadian blues legend Oscar Peterson (at the corner of Elgin and Albert) to the many statues located on top of Parliament Hill: The ‘Women are persons!’ sculpture and the Queen Elizabeth II statue accurately characterize the history of women in Canada.

Women are persons statueAfter the river cruise, we sprinted up to Parliament Hill for a look at these statues and to take part in the free guided tour of the Parliament building’s Centre Block (daily, more frequent in summer). This tour was the best to help us grasp the political history of the nation as a whole.

things to do in Ottawa

Just over the Ottawa River

While out on the Ottawa River, it was not immediately clear that we were floating along a heavily-contested, well-protected border. There are no border control guards and we didn’t need our passports. We didn’t even leave the city.

But, as we learned on the Parliament tour, the Ottawa River is where English and French-speaking Canada converge, and this border, a socio-cultural one, is fervently protected on either side. This fact is not obvious to casual visitors except for strict language difference on either side of the river. We had overheard snippets of French throughout our time in Ottawa, but our day trip over the bridge to the Gatineau Park on the Quebec side saw us struggling to order lunch in some pretty rusty French. Luckily most of our day hike through the gorgeously green Gatineau required very few words at all.

gatineau park viewpoint dani

Ride along the Rideau Canal

Both sides of Ottawa boast such fresh, green space, as do the 202km along the Rideau Canal. These calm waters can be explored by boat, which takes up to seven days to make it through all 49 locks along the Rideau Canal to Kingston on the St Lawrence River. During our time in Ottawa, we chose to cycle and drive most of the way, meandering along country back roads and through picture perfect towns like Merrickville and Perth. There is also a trail for hikers, bikers and cross-country skiers.

No matter how you choose to explore Ottawa, whether by boat, bike, car or kayak, the key to discovering the city’s heart begins along the city’s locks.

things to do in Ottawa

For more information on the Rideau Canal, check out the Rideau Heritage Route.

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