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Trip Report Trip Report: Niagara Falls, Toronto, Ottawa & 1000 Islands

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TRIP REPORT: NIAGARA FALLS, TORONTO, OTTAWA & 1000 ISLANDS:

I want to thank Fodors’ travelers for helping me plan my trip to Canada. We had a fabulous time & would like to reciprocate by writing this report which hopefully will help other travelers. My husband and I are in our early 60’s, and this trip was our annual vacation, plus my husband wanted to visit relatives & family graves in Toronto, thus the reason for stopping over in Toronto. We spent one night in Niagara Falls, 2 nights in Toronto, 4 nights in Ottawa, and one night in Gananoque. I thought this was going to be a short trip report, but it has turned out to be much longer. I hope you enjoy it!

DAY ONE: NIAGARA FALLS

It took us 8 hours to drive from our home in MA to Niagara Falls. Because we had been there 20 years ago & took the Maid of the Mist boat cruise then, this time we decided to do the Journey Through the Falls. It’s a lot of fun & gives you a different perspective of the falls. We took an elevator down to the base of the falls, then walked through tunnels to get outside to the bottom, where we immediately got wet from the spray even though we were wearing ponchos, which were included in the admissions ticket. We also walked through another tunnel to get a look from behind the falls. All we could see was a white wall of water!! The noise was deafening. We enjoyed this Journey & I would recommend it to people who have gone on the Maid of the Mist previously.

Thanks to Fallsdude for his dinner recommendation. We didn’t want to eat at a chain restaurant, so we ate at the Syndicate (www.niagarasbestbeer.com). The Syndicate is located on Lundy’s Lane. We both ordered the fixed price meals for $20.00 per person for 3 courses. We both had the crab cakes for our appetizer (delicious), & I had the pickerel for my main course & my husband had boulabaise. For dessert, I had the Apple Tartin & DH had the frozen chocolate mousse. Our total bill was $61.00 including drinks. We sat outside & listened to music from the band playing outside at the Italian restaurant next door.

Our accommodations were at the Rodeway Inn Fallsview at 6663 Stanley Ave. The room is clean & spacious, & the location is convenient. I initially requested a room with a king-size bed, which is on the 3rd floor but found out when we arrived that this hotel doesn’t have an elevator so we asked for a room on the lst floor. All rooms with king size beds are on the 3rd floor but we were happy with the queen-size bed on the first floor. I chose this hotel because it got good reviews on trip advisor. I was initially looking at B&B’s & inns, but they didn’t get good reviews (somewhat dirty rooms, not the best location). I thought the rate was reasonable: $144 with a AAA discount plus tax.

DAY TWO: TORONTO

We had breakfast at the Rodeway Inn, which was not included in the price but was very reasonable (about $4.75, I think). It then took us 2 hours to drive to my husband’s relatives home just outside Toronto. We spent the day visiting family & graves.

Our accommodations for the two nights were at the Monte Carlo Inn & Suites Downtown Markham. The hotel is beautiful & is very new – it only opened 2 or 3 weeks ago. If I was in Toronto primarily to sightsee, I would stay in downtown Toronto. But for our purposes, the Monte Carlo was perfect.

DAY THREE: SIGHTSEEING IN TORONTO

We spent the day sightseeing on the Hop On/Hop Off bus, which is the perfect way to see a large city in a short amount of time. We have been to Toronto several times before & have seen many of the museums & highlights, so this time we wanted to see things we had missed before. We took a boat cruise through the Toronto Islands (included in the price of the bus), had lunch in the historic distillery district, and toured Casa Loma, which is beautiful & the highlight of our visit to Toronto. The castle, along with the beautiful flower garden, reminded me of the Newport mansions.

DAY FOUR: SIGHTSEEING ON THE WAY TO OTTAWA

It took us all day to drive to Ottawa because we did some sightseeing along the way. We detoured through Prince Edward County, which is very pretty. We had water views and drove through quiet farmland with cows, cornfields, & bales of hay. We even had to take a small, 8-minute ferry ride from Glenora to pick up Rt 33 again, which was a pleasant & fun surprise. The ferry is free & leaves every 15 minutes. We drove to Kingston, where we toured Fort Henry. So we had some history along with lovely views. The fort is perched on a hill overlooking the water. Take the guided tour. You will get so much more out of your visit.

We left Kingston around 5:30pm and arrived in Ottawa around 7:30pm. We had dinner at Peter Devine’s Pub in Byward Market. I had the Barramundi fish (which I never heard of before) & my husband had the short ribs.

Our accommodations for the next 4 nights are at McGee’s Inn, 185 Daly St. The price is $129 plus tax, which includes breakfast & parking. They offer 4 choices every morning for breakfast: 2 different kinds of egg dishes & 2 different kinds of crepes. The inn is very pretty & is located in a residential area. I had checked out the downtown hotels & they were a lot pricier, did not include breakfast, & you had to pay for parking. McGee’s is a good deal, I think. It took about 15 minutes to walk to Byward Market & Parliament. The only minor drawback is that I noticed some of the neighboring houses are not kept up very well.

An observation I made is that there was heavy traffic on Rt 401 with lots of big trucks but once we turned on to Rt 416, there were hardly any cars & no trucks at all. It seems to be very rural on this highway, & no urban sprawl that you see in the U.S., so it gives Ottawa the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere. Not a bad thing, just an observation 

DAY FIVE: CHANGING OF THE GUARD CEREMONY & PARLIAMENT HILL

We were in front of Parliament by 9:45AM for the Changing of the Guard Ceremony which starts at 10AM. We really enjoyed the ceremony a lot more than we thought we would. It is about 30 minutes long & there is a lot of ritual & pageantry. It reminded me of being in London many years ago & should not be missed.

Then we walked to the white tent & signed up for two free guided tours, one of the grounds & one of the Centre Block (the main Parliament building). We couldn’t tour the House of Commons because there was a session going on, but we still enjoyed the tour. Went to the top of the Peace Tower & also saw the war room with books of names of war dead. The Parliament buildings are beautiful!!! And the cat sanctuary on the grounds are very strange indeed, a nice concept, but a little quirky. We saw one of the volunteers calling the cats & feeding them.

We had been on our feet all day so we rested in Major’s Hill Park, which is lovely, & the views from there of Parliament are magnificent. Then I heard bagpipes & discovered a Scottish pipe band from Chicago practicing in the park for a show. So we got to hear a concert for free!

We had lunch at Olde Dubliner in Byward Market. The food was good but we noticed there is a proliferation of Irish pubs in the market area. So for dinner we scouted out something different, & decided to eat in Little Italy. We had a delicious dinner at La Roma Restaurant, 430 rue Preston Street. I definitely recommend this restaurant especially if you tire of eating in Byward Market all the time.

DAY SIX: CANADIAN MUSEUM OF CIVILIZATION

We intended on visiting two museums today but the best of plans go awry. We loved the Canadian Museum of Civilization so much that we spent nearly 6 hours here, including a movie at the Imax theater. We walked to the museum from our inn, a 30-minute walk. We visited the Grand Hall, The First Peoples Hall, & the Canada Hall. Thanks to laverendrye for giving me ideas on what to see & in what order. This museum tells the history of Canada & does it in a creative & interesting way. I especially love the Canada Hall; you walk through structures & scenes & I was especially interested to see the Ukrainian Catholic Church that was dismantled in Saskatchewan & brought to Ottawa. My grandparents came from Poland and Ukraine, & I didn’t know there was a large Polish, Ukrainian & Eastern European population in the prairie provinces. Although we spent about 90 minutes in the Canada Hall, I felt that we rushed through some exhibits. I also learned that people were upset when Queen Victoria decided to make Ottawa the capital because they thought it was too remote. An American journalist at the time commented that invaders would get lost in the forest before they found Ottawa  I got a chuckle out of that. We also saw the temporary exhibit on the 1913 Arctic expedition. In the Imax theater, we saw the movie, Born to be Wild, about 2 women, one who rescued baby elephants in Kenya & one who rescued baby orangutans in Borneo & set them free when they were ready to survive the wild.

We left around 4PM because we were starving (the museum café had closed), so we walked to Byward Market to the Continental Deli on York St. It’s a Polish/European deli, & we bought bread, ham & pickles & ate outside. We spent the early evening walking along the Ottawa River & the Rideau Canal.

For dinner, we ate at Play, one York St. in the Byward Market, on the corner of Sussex. (www.playfood.ca) Thanks to Mathieu for recommending this restaurant!! It was one of our top 2 favorite restaurants. The menu consists of small plate items & sides. I like this idea because you get to try different food items. Our waiter recommended 2 plates per person, with a mixture of light dishes & heavy dishes. So we ordered a shrimp dish, fish, steak & pork. The dishes are very creative & fresh. We also ordered a side dish of bok choy & tomato/zucchini au gratin.

We ended the evening with the Sound & Light Show in front of Parliament. It was fun & the night air was perfect.

DAY SEVEN: GATINEAU PARK

We stuck with our original plan, which was to visit Gatineau Park today, even though it was overcast & we hadn’t seen all the museums we wanted to see. It was nice getting out of the city. I like to mix things up a bit when we travel. Gatineau Park is so pretty! We walked along the Sugar Bush trail, then drove to the Huron & Champlain lookouts for spectacular views of the Ottawa River Valley. Then, thanks to laverendrye again, we visited the Mackenzie King Estate inside the park. He was the prime minister of Canada for 22 years & was passionate about nature. It started to rain lightly but we really didn’t care because it was so pleasant walking along the pathways. We visited the small restored cottage, Moorside (his larger home), the gardens & ruins that Mackenzie King built with stones from other buildings. I loved walking down the path through the wildflower meadow (or moor, I should say) to Moorside; it’s so pretty!

Then we had a late lunch at Les Fougeres, 783 Route 105, Old Chelsea, Quebec. (www.fougeres.com) It’s about a 5-minute drive from the park’s entrance. Thanks to Ron & laverendrye for recommending Les Fougeres. This was our #1 favorite restaurant, which tied with Play! We both had the meat pies: I had the lamb pie & DH had the duck pie. We also shared a game pate.

Because we were sleepy from drinking the French wine & beer, we ended up taking a nap when we returned to our inn.

This was our last night in Ottawa, so we walked along the canal & the river some more, then stopped at the Rideau Center Mall to check out some stores. Because we had such a huge late lunch, we decided to have an inexpensive, light supper, so we ate at Richtree in the mall. We never eat in malls, but this restaurant intrigued us, the food looked good & it was cheap & quick.

My one regret is that we didn’t have time to see more museums, but we loved everything we did. Ottawa is a beautiful city and a great walking city.

DAY EIGHT: GANANOQUE & THE 1000 ISLANDS

After another delicious breakfast at McGee’s Inn, we checked out of the inn & drove to Gananoque & arrived there about 11:30AM. Our accommodations for the night were at the Victoria Rose Inn, 279 King Street West.(www.victoriaroseinn.com) The inn is beautiful and definitely one of the nicest places we have stayed in. The rate was $179, including tax and a full breakfast. I highly recommend the Victoria Rose!! All the rooms are beautiful with high ceilings, & breakfast is served either on the screened-in, wrap-around porch or the patio overlooking the gorgeous landscaped grounds.

For sightseeing, we took the 2 ½ hour boat cruise of the 1000 Islands with Gananoque Boat Lines. This is our first trip in the 1000 Islands, & they are very pretty. We thoroughly enjoyed the cruise. We sailed around Heart Island & saw Boldt Castle; there was actually a wedding ceremony about to begin when we sailed around. There is a snack bar on board if you get hungry. After the cruise, we walked around downtown Gananoque. It’s a very picturesque and quiet town, perfect for a night or two. We met a couple at our inn who stayed there for 5 nights & used it as a base to explore other towns.

For dinner, we ate at Moroni’s, a Greek/Italian restaurant. We dined outside on the patio. They were having specials on some dinners. I ordered Moussaka & my husband ordered lamb shanks. Both dishes came with a Greek salad, rice & potatoes, all for only $13.00 each!! The food was delicious!

At night we saw the play, Lend Me a Tenor, at the 1000 Islands Playhouse, 185 South Street. The theater is located right on the St. Lawrence River. The play was hilarious; we laughed from beginning to end & the acting was superb! What a great way to end our vacation!

DAY NINE: A DELICIOUS BREAKFAST & THE END OF A GREAT TRIP!

This morning we dined outside on the patio for breakfast. The inn offers one choice each morning for breakfast. Today they served a frittata, which was excellent. It came with toast. There is also a breakfast bar, consisting of fresh fruit, yogurt & different kinds of cereals.

We stopped at the Skydeck on the way home. I thought it was pricey for what it is: $10 per person. But we did it anyways because I wanted to get a bird’s eye view of the 1000 Islands.

We stopped for another delicious lunch in Oneida, NY: the Calypso Cay, overlooking the Oneida River. I had a crab cake sandwich & my husband had a fish sandwich, & both were served with chips & a pickle.

We made it home safely. Even though I like to fly to faraway locales, I also like driving vacations because it seems much less stressful. You really don’t have to worry about being anywhere on time or rushing to airports, train stations, etc. You can get up in the morning & leave whenever you want to. We love Ottawa & I would like to return some day to see the other museums we didn’t have time for on this trip.

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