Niagara Falls 2009 (Ontario Road Trip) – Blast from the Past Post

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Ontario 2009

This is a Blast from the Past post. These posts chronicle our travels and other life events before we started blogging!  These posts are usually heavy on the photos, but lighter on the narrative text.  

In 2009, Ken and I took a week long road trip to Ontario, Canada. We drove from our home in Northern Virginia to Niagara Falls, where we spent four nights, followed by three nights in Toronto. This post covers part 1 of our trip to Niagara Falls!


We left our home in Northern Virginia and began our drive to Niagara Falls. We attempted to avoid interstates and drive some “scenic” roads. We thought there might be some lovely fall foliage since it was early October. And we were right!

Fall foliage on our drive up to Niagara Falls

We crossed into Canada via the Peace Bridge near Buffalo, NY. The line was pretty long to get into Canada, although this may be more streamlined now. This was still fairly close to the time when passports became required to cross into Canada. (And there are other options now too, like Passport Cards).

Crossing into Canada

By the time we arrived in Niagara Falls, it was late evening, and we checked into our hotel, grabbed some dinner, and rested after our long drive. By the way, we stayed at the Sheraton on the Falls. We had some fantastic views from our hotel room!

View from the Sheraton on the Falls View from our hotel room at Sheraton on the Falls View of Rainbow Bridge from Sheraton on the Falls

Maid of the Mist

We started our Niagara Falls trip in classic fashion. The Maid of the Mist. I had been to Niagara Falls a couple of times when I was a kid, but we never went on the Maid of the Mist. Ken went to Niagara Falls as a toddler, and actually has home movie-film footage of him crying his eyes out on the Maid of the Mist. To be fair, it is quite loud and wet!

Maid of the Mist sign

As you stood in line to board the boat, everybody looked the same in their blue ponchos!

People wearing blue ponchos waiting in line for the Maid of the Mist

Even standing in line, there was some lovely scenery of the dock area along the Niagara River!

View of the Niagara River while waiting in line for the Maid of the Mist View of the Niagara River while waiting in line for the Maid of the Mist

We boarded the Maid of the Mist and we were on our way!

American Falls from the Maid of the Mist Getting up close to the American Falls

It was getting difficult to see with all the, well, mist! So we just kind of held up our cameras, snapped photos, and hoped for the best! We got some close up photos of the base of the American Falls. The birds certainly didn’t seem to mind the mist!

Birds standing at the base of the American Falls Base of the American Falls Base of the American Falls

From the Maid of the Mist, we also saw people on the platforms for something called “Cave of the Winds” We’d do that a few days later!

People at Cave of the Winds as seen from the Maid of the Mist

The rest of the boat ride to the Horseshoe Falls (also called the Canadian side), was wet, loud, and amazing!

Riding the Maid of the Mist Riding the Maid of the Mist Riding the Maid of the Mist Riding the Maid of the Mist

Even with our ponchos, we were soaked!

Ken and I on the Maid of the Mist

And with that, the Maid of the Mist turned around and we were docked!

End of the maid of the mist ride - at the dock

Journey Behind the Falls

After drying off from the Maid of the Mist, we just got soaked all over again at Journey Behind the Falls. We bought our tickets, took the elevator down the base of Horseshoe Falls 13 stories below, and walked “behind” the falls!

View of Horseshoe Falls from Journey behind the falls

There were cave-like tunnels connecting the different lookout points, and there were some small areas to get a view of the water coming down in front of you.

Tunnel view of Horseshoe Falls from Journey Behind the Falls

 

Tunnel view of Horseshoe Falls from Journey Behind the Falls

It was wet! Mostly from the falls, but also because it was a fairly overcast and rainy day too!

Journey Behind the Falls Journey Behind the Falls Journey Behind the Falls Journey Behind the Falls

Journey Behind the Falls gets mixed reviews online, and I’m not sure why! I thought it was fantastic, and relatively reasonably priced compared to other attractions in Niagara Falls.

Views of Niagara Falls at Night

Niagara Falls lights up in stunning fashion at night! We walked around with our tripod for a long time taking some shots of Niagara Falls!

View of Niagara Falls (American Falls) at night View of Niagara Falls (American Falls) at night View of Niagara Falls (American Falls) at night View of Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls, at night View of Niagara Falls (American Falls) at night Ken and I at Niagara Falls at Night

Cave of the Winds and the American Side of Niagara Falls

Cave of the Winds is on the American side of the falls (meaning we had to cross the border), and gives you the opportunity to view the view the American Falls at the base! We also walked around top of the Falls!

View of the American Falls View of the American Falls

There is an elevator you can take to the base (different from Cave of the Winds), which we did. We’re not sure how we missed them handing out ponchos!

Base of elevator you can take to the bottom of the American Falls Walking around the base of American Falls Walking around the base of American Falls Walking around the base of American Falls Walking around the base of American Falls

Once again, we were soaked. Are you sensing a theme from this trip at all?

Ken and I at base of American Falls Walking around the base of American Falls Walking around the base of American Falls

Next, we made our way to Cave of the Winds. Not only were we provided ponchos this time, but sandals also!

Sandals provided at Cave of the Winds Ken in his poncho at Cave of the Winds

Cave of the Winds consists of a number of wooden platforms right next to the American Falls. You can get so up close!

Cave of the Winds - Niagara Falls Cave of the Winds - Niagara Falls Cave of the Winds - Niagara Falls Cave of the Winds - Niagara Falls

Water sloshes over the sides, and the constant moisture makes the steps kinda grimy!

Water coming over platforms at Cave of the Winds Green grime on platforms at Cave of the Winds

I was happy to have the sandals! But man, that water was COLD!

Wearing sandals on a cold day at Cave of the Winds View of the Base of the American Falls from Cave of the Winds

Just in case you could manage to light a cigarette in the insanely wet and windy conditions, just remember, no smoking!

No smoking sign at Cave of the Winds

The “Hurricane Deck” is kind of the grand finale of your walk. I think it gets you closest to the falls. It is crazy fun! Again it’s one of those, “I can’t see anything, so I’m just going to hold up my camera and hope for the best!” spots.

Hurricane Deck at Cave of the Winds Hurricane Deck at Cave of the Winds Hurricane Deck at Cave of the Winds

After we were done at Cave of the Winds, I took this picture of my jeans. I was soaked. You can see the wet/dry line. I definitely recommend wearing some sort of weatherproof pants, or bringing your own heavy duty poncho.

Wet jeans after Cave of the Winds at Niagara Falls

Wearing wet clothes is a huge annoyance to me. Seriously, I was one of those kids that would bring three changes of clothes to an amusement park in case I got wet on a ride. I checked the gift shop after Cave of the Winds, but they didn’t have a single pair of sweatpants or any other type of pant that I could buy. So, we just walked around for a little bit more until I started whining enough to go back to the hotel so I could change my clothes.

Here are some photos looking from the top of the American falls down onto the Cave of the Winds platforms.

View of Cave of the Winds from the top of the American Falls View of Cave of the Winds from the top of the American Falls View of Cave of the Winds from the top of the American Falls

And we just took a few additional photos from the American side.

American Side of Niagara Falls American Side of Niagara Falls American Side of Niagara Falls

Whew, we did a lot more in Niagara Falls than I remember! There’s more, so I guess I’ll split this into a two-part series! I’ll post about part two of our trip to Niagara Falls next week!


Niagara Falls 2009 (Ontario Road Trip), Part 2 – Blast from the Past

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Ontario 2009

This is a Blast from the Past post. These posts chronicle our travels and other life events before we started blogging!  These posts are usually heavy on the photos, but lighter on the narrative text.  

In 2009, Ken and I took a week long road trip to Ontario, Canada. We drove from our home in Northern Virginia to Niagara Falls, where we spent four nights, followed by three nights in Toronto.

Whirlpool Jet Boat Tour

When researching what to do in Niagara Falls, I came across this tour. Ken and I opted for the tamer “covered” boat rapids tour, mostly because it was October and the weather was already quite cool in Ontario. Some of the reviews mentioned that you sit essentially hip deep in water after going through the rapids, and that sounded pretty chilly! At the time, we also didn’t have a waterproof camera, and we wanted to get some decent shots of the rapids.

Whirlpool Jet Boat Tour (covered boat)

The pictures just can’t convey how cool this tour was. The boat windows would open during the tamer parts of the river, and then close when going through the rapids. This boat ride was truly fantastic!

View from closed windows on Whirlpool Jet tour in Niagara Falls View of a Lewiston Queenston during Whirlpool Jet boat tour

We were all given headsets to wear so we could hear the guide explain the surroundings, as well as hear guidance when entering a rapid.

Ken wearing headset on boat tour View of Rapids from Whirlpoll Jet Boat tour View of Rapids from Whirlpoll Jet Boat tour

In addition to going through the rapids, the boat did some other fun maneuvers, which resulted in a lot of splashing water up on the sides.

Whirlpool Jet boat tour

And, along the boat ride, you also got to see very cool sights, like bridges, dams, and lighthouses.

Lighthouse as seen from Whirlpool jet boat tour t Scenes along river during boat tour

This is definitely something we recommend if you visit the Niagara Falls area!

Niagara on the Lake

The area that the boat tour departed from was called Niagara on the Lake. Before the tour, we enjoyed the sights and walked around, and then we enjoyed a lovely lunch afterwards. Niagara on the Lake was incredibly picturesque!

Niagara on the Lake Niagara on the Lake Niagara on the Lake

And there was a huge Christmas store in Niagara on the Lake. As Ken can attest, I am a huge sucker for Christmas stores. I bought several Christmas ornaments from that store, both for us and our families!

Christmas store in Niagara on the Lake

White Water Walk

We also visited White Water Walk, an area not far from the actual falls. It is a path and platform along the Ontario River that you can walk along and take in the gorgeous sights!

Platform at White Water Walk in Niagara Falls White Water walk in Niagara Falls View of River from white water walk White Water Walk in Niagara Falls White Water Walk in Niagara Falls White Water Walk in Niagara Falls White Water Walk in Niagara Falls

White Water Walk was also home to a nasty gum wall. I wonder how often they clean this off?

Gum wall at White Water Walk

Walking along the Falls “path” on the Canadian side

There are so many fantastic views of the American Falls and Horseshoe Falls from the Canadian side. We spent lots of time walking the pedestrian path viewpoints.

View from the top of Horseshoe Falls Rainbow at Horseshoe Falls

About one minute after the following photo photo, Ken’s camera just stopped working. Completely. Wouldn’t turn on or anything. We figured it had gotten too wet on the Maid of the Mist and Journey behind the falls. (This was only like the second day of our trip). Later that night we drove back to the American side to buy a new one since all hope seemed to be lost. But luckily the next morning, it started working again and lasted the whole rest of the trip!

Ken taking pictures at top of HOrseshoe Falls View of the Maid of the Mist boat from the Canadian side Ken and I at Niagara Falls Flowers in foreground near Niagara Falls

Skywheel and Around Clifton Hill

A few months ago, I was reading a thread on Reddit about disappointing travel destinations. Niagara Falls was mentioned a few times as being tacky and overly touristy. So, about that thread, maybe I just have low standards, but I disagreed with pretty much every posting about a city/place I had familiarity with. Seriously, how could anybody find the Giza Pyramids disappointing?

Anyway, I will warn you, that the Clifton Hill area of Niagara Falls is quite touristy and tacky. Does that mean you shouldn’t visit it? No, of course not!

Clifton Hill sign at Niagara Falls Skywheel at night at Niagara Falls Clifton Hill area at night at Niagara Falls Clifton Hill

We did take a skywheel ride. I will say that it was fairly overpriced for what it was, but it did give some decent, even higher views of the falls. Plus we had the entire compartment to ourselves.

Niagara Falls Ferris Wheel | Skywheel Skywheel at Niagara Falls View of American Falls from Skywheel View of Horseshoe Falls from Skywheel

And, in case you needed a reminder about appropriate behavior on the Skywheel:

Funny sign on skywheel.

That was it for our time in Niagara Falls! We headed out for Toronto the next morning!


Toronto – Ontario Road Trip 2009 (Blast from the Past)

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Ontario 2009

This is a Blast from the Past post. These posts chronicle our travels and other life events before we started blogging!  These posts are usually heavy on the photos, but lighter on the narrative text.  

In 2009, Ken and I took a week long road trip to Ontario, Canada. We drove from our home in Northern Virginia to Niagara Falls, where we spent four nights, followed by three nights in Toronto.

After our time in Niagara Falls, we drove about 80 miles to Toronto, where we planned to spend three nights.

Floral Clock

But, on the way, we made two stops. First was a relatively quick stop at the Floral Clock. It’s a working clock that is surrounded by flowers and other greenery. It was pretty cool, and worth the stop, especially since it was on the way.

Floral clock near Niagara Falls Clock on the way to Toronoto

Riverside Cellars

Our second stop on the drive from Niagara Falls was at a winery. I had learned that Ontario had great wine country! There were many options to try, but we opted for a wine tasting and vineyard tour at Riverview Estate.

Front of Riverview Cellars Winery in Niagara Falls

The tour was fantastic. I learned a lot about the winemaking process, and how Ontario’s famous “Ice Wine” is made.

Riverview Vineyard tour Wine barrels at Riverview Estates Winery Wine making equipment on winery tour in Niagara Falls | Riverview Estate Vineyard at Riverview Cellars | Winery near Niagara Falls Grapes on the vines at winery tour

Inside, the tasting was lovely, and it was accompanied by crackers, cheese, and fruit.

Wine tasting at Riverview Cellars Wine and cheese tasting near Niagara Falls Wines for sale in Niagara Falls

We even got to taste Ice Wine, which is so exceptionally sweet! We purchased a few bottles of wine (including one Ice Wine bottle), and we continued our drive to Toronto.

Ice Wine tasting

CN Tower in Toronto

Our first stop in Toronto was the CN Tower.. I had been there once before when I was just 13 or 14. And my goodness is it a tall structure!

CN Tower in Toronto from Highway CN Tower CN Tower in Toronto

The views of Toronto from the tower observation decks are truly phenomenal!

View of Toronto from CN Tower View of Toronto from CN Tower View of Toronto from CN Tower

We walked around the Observation Deck for quite a while.

Inside the observation deck at the CN Tower

We eventually meandered over to the Glass Floor. Now, I remember being terrified of standing on that floor when I was 13 or 14, but I eventually worked up the courage. It didn’t take Ken nearly as long!

Glass floor at CN Tower Glass floor at CN Tower

But eventually I convinced myself to stand on it for a few seconds. I realize that there’s no risk of the floor breaking, it’s more just the weird sensation of standing on something so clear and being able to see straight down. It makes my stomach do flip flops!

Standing on the glass floor at CN Tower

Then we took another elevator to the “Sky Pod,” an even higher observation deck, 147 stories in the air! It was close and cramped, much like the 102nd floor option at the Empire State Building that we saw in 2013.

Skypod at CN Tower

The windows were smaller, but it was insane to see the tiny “dots” of buildings beneath us from so high up in the air!

People taking photographs in the skypod Windows in Skypod at CN Tower View of Toronto from CN Tower Skypod View from top deck of CN Tower Skypod at CN Tower View of water from CN Tower

Steam Whistle Brewery Tour

After the CN Tower and a quick lunch, we walked to the nearby Steam Whistle Brewery for a tour. I had never been on a brewery tour, so I was pretty excited!

Steam Whistle sign

But first, of cours, I had a few tastes!

Steam whistle tasting Tasting Steam Whistle Beer before tour

The actual tour was very informative and the guide was fantastic. We were able to see so many of the steps of brewing a commercial beer!

Steam Whistle Brewery Tour Steam Whistle Brewery Tour Steam Whistle Brewery Tour Steam Whistle Brewery Tour So many kegs of beer! Boxes of Steam Whistle Beer

And also very fun was the ingredients for beer set out on a table, so we could smell the individual ingredients to see how they each make up beer!

Beer ingredients on table during Steam Whistle Brewery tour in Toronto

Ferry Boat to Centre Island

Another stop for us in Toronto was Centre Island. It was gorgeous, but wow, was it empty. I guess not many folks go there in October. It wasn’t terribly cold or anything, but I’m guessing it must be just a bigger summer destination.

The ferry ride to Centre Island gave fantastic views of the Toronto skyline.

Views of Toronto skyline from ferry to Centre Island

There were stunning parts of Centre Island, like these:

Centre Island Toronto Centre Island Toronto Centre Island Toronto Centre Island Toronto Centre Island Toronto Centre Island Toronto Centre Island Toronto Centre Island Toronto Centre Island Toronto Centre Island Toronto

And then there were times that the area just seemed so empty, like it was abandoned or something! But really, we found it charming and peaceful!

Centre Island Toronto Centre Island Toronto Centre Island Toronto Centre Island Toronto Centre Island Toronto Centre Island Toronto

We planned on having one more full day in Toronto, but the next day, it was just pouring down rain, and it was forecast to continue to rain the rest of the day. So, we called the hotel front desk, and were were able to check out a day early, penalty free.

We began our long drive home to Northern Virginia. Luckily the rain subsided as drove farther south.

Rainy drive in Ontario

We had a blast on our Ontario Road Trip! Have you been to Niagara Falls or Toronto? What did you think?