Southeastern Ontario

Old Mar 3rd, 2004, 06:15 PM
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Southeastern Ontario

My boyfriend and I are spending 8 days in southeastern Ontario the last week of April. We are spending 2 nights at Niagara, 2 nights in Toronto and 3 nights in Hamilton. I?m planning each step of the trip myself and could use any advice on possible itineraries. I have basic ideas of what we want to see, but I am worried it will be stressful trying to fit everything in.

In Toronto, we want to see the CN tower, Toronto Islands, St. Lawrence, St. James, City Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario, and the ROM. Is this possible? How should we break up the days?

In Niagara we want to do many of the ?tourist? sites: such as Maid of the Mist, Behind the Falls, Botanical Gardens, and the Great Gorge. Is there anything else we should see that wouldn?t be found in the ?tourist? brochures?

And in Hamilton, we want to visit many of the waterfalls and parks in the area, as well as the Botanical Gardens, Gage Park, and Dundurn Castle. Is there suggestions how much time we should give ourselves at each place?

Any help would be much appreciated. Thank you!!!
kaysquared is offline  
Old Mar 3rd, 2004, 07:37 PM
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First, just to sort out terminology; Eastern ontario is normally thought of as Belleville/Kingston over to the Quebec border, and The Golden Horseshoew is Niagra thorugh Hamilton and over to Toronto and then slightly east from Toronto.

Hardly anyone ever stays in Hamilton unless they have a really good reason, and tourism is not that reason very often. Are you sure you want to stay there? Are there friends to say with, or some such?

Otherwise, you might find it easy enough to stay in Niagara and go to Hamilton for part of a day, and/or stay in toronto, and go to Hamilton for part of a day.

Your age and interests and hobbies have a bearing on our suggestions. But, Hamilton has a great war plane heritage museum at the Hamilton airport, and African Lion Safari is not that far from Hamilton.the frive, by the way, from Niagra Falls through Hamilton to toronto, is just about an hour and a half to two hours.

Niaggara on the lake is a charming small town and home of the Shaw Festival. Good hotels, great retaurants, a genuine fort, some art galleries, and just a short drive from Niagra Falls, The Maid of the Mist boat, the casino, the butterfuly conservatory, and more.

Three days in Toronto will cover all you want to see from your list. The restaurant at the top of the CN Tower is excellent, so this could be a combo visit of tourist attraction and good meal. And earlier in the afternoon, while at the south side of the city near the tower, you could go to Toronto Island and wander through the Harbourfront area and take a tour of SkyDome, and even tour the Steam Whistle brewery. And across the street from the CN Tower is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation headquarters, which has a nice, free, museum, if you are interested in Candian television and radio.

You could also, if so inclined, reorganize the day and spend the morning at Harbourfront, visit the CN Tower in the late morning, have lunch at the CN Tower, and then walk up to the Art Gallery of Ontario. Or go the the ARt Galery from lunch, after the CN TOwer visit. Both have good restaurants.

then set aside another day for northish Toronto, inthe Bloor and Avenue Road area. That's the location of the Royal ontario Museum, lots of good shops, excellent book stores and music shops, and more. Plus a Shoe Museum.

City Hall's just worth a walk-by, plus some french fries from the trucks that are out front.

Hamilton's gardens are excellent if you like gardens -- there are gret greenhouses at Niagara Falss, too, and in Toronto, there's Allan Gardens, at, more or less, Jarvis and Gerrard. Big indoor conservatory with great flowers, planted in large part by a friend of mine.

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Old Mar 3rd, 2004, 08:12 PM
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Now that you have mentioned the boundaries for southeastern ontario, I realize I had heard that before. But the term the Golden Horseshoe is new to me. Thank you for that bit of information.
We do not know anyone in Hamilton, and understand it is not a tourist attraction, but that is really the basis of it's appeal. We are very excited about all the natural beauty it has to offer. But we are having difficulty finding an inexpensive place to stay while there, so I am looking back into staying in one of the other cities instead.
It is reassuring to know that we can fit in a good tour of toronto in just a few days. Thank you!
kaysquared is offline  
Old Mar 3rd, 2004, 09:47 PM
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Natural Beauty & Hamilton?

Anyways, BAK is absolutely correct. There's absolutely no reason to stay in Hamilton. And definitely not three nights! Toronto to Niagara falls is only about 2 hours by car. If you have extra time after the Niagara areas and Toronto, you may want to go somewhere else. Kingston/1,000 islands or Ottawa, or anywhere...
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Old Mar 4th, 2004, 06:13 AM
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I agree that Hamilton is not a place to stay. It is, in the downtown / central area a dirty, unappealing industrial city. The Royal Botanical Gardens, however, are huge and excellent and Dundurn Castle is nice if you enjoy such things.
Niagara on the Lake, as noted above, is a charming town. There is plenty of Canadian history in the Niagara area. There are restored forts at Fort Erie and Niagara on the Lake. The Queenston Heights battlefield is interesting and also nearby is the home of Laura Secord, a well known Canadian heroine.
The gardens along the Niagara Parkway are excellent [taking into account that April is the start of the blooming season for outdoor flowers in Ontario,] and I highly recommend the scenic drive from Niagara Falls to Niagara on the Lake. There are several very good wineries with boutique shops along this route.

A note of caution in Toronto. Allan Gardens is in a bad neighbourhood, with a large population of drug users and homeless people. [Not to imply in any way that homeless people are by definition 'bad'.....]. Don't go there alone and don't even consider going there at night. I do volunteer work in the area several evenings a week and it is nasty.....


gannetmusic is offline  
Old Mar 4th, 2004, 06:57 AM
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K : I am very interested in where you have been getting your info. Until today, I had never seen the words "Hamilton" and "Natural beauty" in the same sentence!!! Sorry, but I don't want you to be disappointed. You are planning on spending almost 1/3 of your vacation in Hamilton. Hamilton is a smokey, fume-spewing, polluted steel town.
You may want to concentrate more on Toronto & Niagara. You can cover the Hamilton parts that interest you on your way to Niagara from Toronto. Or, on your way back if you plan on ending up in Toronto. (When does Maid of the Mist open for the season?)

wow is offline  
Old Mar 4th, 2004, 09:16 AM
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Can anyone recommend a hotel in the Niagara on the Lake region. There are several "Vintage Inns" in the area, but I'm not sure which would be the most kid friendly. Which has a nice swimming pool? Which has the best location?
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Old Mar 4th, 2004, 10:33 AM
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OK. I am taking your advice in regards to Hamilton. We have decided to stay longer in Niagara. Although it was not the city of Hamilton that we were so fascinated, but rather it's surrounding areas, we are going to make it a day trip instead. Thank you for showing us the reality of our decision.
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Old Mar 4th, 2004, 10:57 AM
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Hamilton and Natural Beauty - 200 years ago - maybe - now only if you like industrial dumps. The Botanical gardens are lovely and Crawford Lake Conservation Area is fascinating if you like native Canadian stuff or miramictic lakes or vultures (they soar off the cliffs at Crawford Lake). But it would be very easy to do the Botanical Gardens and Crawford Lake as a day trip. If you want to see a lovely small waterfall in a park like setting - on your way from Niagara Falls to Toronto, watch for signs saying "Balls Falls Conservation Area" near Vineland. Definitely worth a stop.
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Old Mar 4th, 2004, 03:58 PM
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JMM's suggestion reminded me that Vinelands Winery also has an excellent restaurant (although definitely in the "splurge" pricerange, lunch is cheaper than dinner).

If you like wine, you may want to add a vineyard tour or two in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region - I know Hillebrand and Inniskillin both do good tours and tastings (havent been on the others) and several of the vineyards also have excellent restaurants.

I just took a quick look at the Shaw Festival website ( and several of the plays start early-mid April.

If interested you could do what we do for one of our favorite summer "treat" days out:

go up to the Niagara on the Lake region and tour a vineyard. Eat at the vineyard or in NOTL, then go to a play. NOTL is pretty but very touristy - but it is fun to spend 1-2 hours wandering up and down the main street browsing in the stores, having icecream etc. so the timing works well for an afternoon vineyard tour, early evening meal then play.

If you are staying in the Niagara area anyway, this leaves you the morning to do something else or just relax (or you could do more than one vineyard + restaurant!)

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