24 hours in Ontario – In & Around Niagara

Every year my great aunt hosts a family reunion at her {near} Rochester, New York home. My mom and I have been in the past and we always talk about how close Canada is! Our family has made the trip to the U.S. side of Niagara Falls (which for those who don’t know if right at the border of the U.S. and Canada) but we’ve never actually done any exploring right across the border in Ontario, Canada. We decided this trip we would extend a bit longer than normal and visit Canada right smack in the middle of our Rochester trip. (That way, not only could we start and end the New York trip with our extended family like usual, but we could also break up the long trek home to Virginia after leaving Canada).

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My mom and I left bright and early from my great aunt’s house so that we could get as much time in Canada as possible. We had already booked a night at Sheraton on the Falls so all we had ahead of us was an hour and a half drive and an open agenda.

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With it being a weekday morning we had a bit of a wait at the border but it wasn’t bad at all!  Upon crossing the border, we went straight to our hotel and parked and started exploring! Although we’d seen Niagara Falls before, but we couldn’t help but go there first! Plus, we’d never seen them from Canada so it was a new experience anyway! (And even though you can see it from all over, a force just pulls you towards it to admire!)

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It was super crowded already, but it’s just one of those places that is a tourist attraction and you just have to take it in stride. Regardless, there’s definitely enough viewing space to find a spot along the railing and stay as long as you want enjoying the view.

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While I remember Niagara Falls being beautiful from the New York side, it is even more so on the Canada side! What makes it so awesome from the Canada side is that you are able to see both the Canadian and U.S. falls! Truly stunning! We spent hours walking back and forth along them.

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After that, we walked around Clifton Hill for a bit. If you’re doing Niagara Falls Canada with kids (especially school-aged) Clifton Hill is a must! There are fast food joints, a wax museum, arcades, kid-friendly stores, souvenir shops, and a familiar restaurants. It was just my mom and I so aside from a stop at a restaurant we often go to in our home state, we didn’t stay in there long.

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After eating lunch, we ventured over to the botanical gardens! It was something we hadn’t known about beforehand, but had seen in the distance and knew we wanted to explore more!  And boy am I glad we did! The botanical gardens were gorgeous! We walked through a lot of it, but unfortunately didn’t make it to the butterfly conservatory because our energy was running low. (I’ve heard amazing things so it would definitely be a must do if/when we go again!)

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Since we were in such a touristy (that’s a word, right?) place we figured why not fully embrace it, and went to Hard Rock Cafe for dinner! Even though I’m definitely one for avoiding the tourist traps, a good ol’ Hard Rock Cafe is a must sometimes! Dinner and drinks were perfect and when we were done we hurried back to our hotel to see the fireworks show over the falls! (I believe this is just done in the summer, but check with their local tourism for more information!) The fireworks show was breathtaking! Being up in the hotel, able to look over the falls while the fireworks lit up was a site I’ll never forget!

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(And even if you’re visiting when it’s a time there are no fireworks shows happening, there is a nightly light show in which the falls are illuminated in rainbow colors – gorgeous!)

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The next day we had decided to explore Canada outside of Tourist Central 😉 Thankfully we had driven there so we had our car to quickly and easily leave when we wanted to! Before checking out, however, we decided to check out the breakfast buffet at the Fallsview Restaurant in the hotel. OH. MY. GOSH! Not only do my mom and I agree that it was one of the best meals we’ve ever eaten, but it was one of the most amazing views ever!

From the hotel we drove North to the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, a beautiful town on the shores of Lake Ontario with a bit of wine country. Before going to the little downtown area we stopped at Small Talk Vineyards. Small Talk Vineyards is super cute with a fun atmosphere. They have both vineyards and a wine tasting room on the same plot of land. They have a wagon tour that you can take through the vineyards but it wasn’t running that day because it was raining. Regardless the rain didn’t put too much of a damper on our stop because we tasted a few different wines and happily left with two bottles in hand!

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From there we drove to the downtown area of Niagara-on-the-Lake. We walked around for a bit and saw a bunch of gorgeous and historic buildings. Two of my favorites were the Niagara Apothecary, a historic apothecary, and the Prince of Wales Hotel, which was built back in 1864 and in 1973 Queen Elizabeth II stayed there.

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From there we got back in the car and actually happened upon the Living Water Wayside Chapel. On an impulse we stopped because the tiny chapel caught our eyes and boy am I glad we did! The Living Water Wayside Chapel is the (officially recorded) world’s smallest church. It was so simple and so, so beautiful. It is a full chapel measuring about 10×10 and seats 4-6 people. It is definitely something worth seeing! (And there’s also a great farmers market right next door so win-win).

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From there we did some more wine country road tripping with our next stop being Ravine Vineyards. Ravine Vineyards is located on the outskirts of Niagara-on-the-Lake, in St. Davids. It was absolutely beautiful and although we were grateful that by the time we got there we were enjoying the sunshine again, we didn’t have time to do a vineyard tour. We decided to do a wine tasting insteadt. They had many great wine choices so we stocked up again before leaving this vineyard as well!

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So there ya have it, our 24 hours in Ontario! Our schedule was full, but not rushed, which made it a fun and relaxing trip. If I would change anything in the future it would be to plan the road trip side of it a little better since I feel like we didn’t always take the best routes, but regardless it was a really great time, especially since the road trip made for some quality time with my mama!

 

Have you ever been to Canada? What province/territory did you visit?

 

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