It took us way too long. Canada is beautiful.
It is big, it’s huge; and we’ve only seen a little bit, but that sliver of the country is enough to sell us on it. While it won’t be any time soon (we have many places we want to see), we will go back to Canada to see other parts of the country. Oui, oui!
This was Monica’s first time to Canada and technically, Cheril’s second. Cheril was actually born there but admittedly knew nothing about it. Her family moved to the states when she was a baby and she’d never been back to her birthplace until now. Such a shame. lol
We drove up alone (about a nine hour trek), but met up with friends who were in town for Caribana, and to visit some of Cheril’s family. As usual, we opted to rent an apartment vs. checking into a hotel. We wanted to be in a regular neighborhood, not downtown, and to have more room without overpaying for it. What we paid for five days and four nights was probably just slightly lower than two days in a hotel room that would offer equivalent space.
We stayed in Riverdale, a trendy little neighborhood that’s in walking distance to Greektown (FOOD!).
As it turns out, the place we rented was just a five minute walk from one of the homes that Cheril’s parents once owned. Yes, we took a walk over to see the old digs. The whole area was very walkable and felt safe and friendly. You must go to Bite Me Grill (casual spot if you can’t tell by the name) for a Greek burger and fries if you find yourself in Greektown! It was heaven. lol Between that and a few other restaurants on the street (Globe Bistro for dinner), you won’t be disappointed. Great food, unbelievably fresh water (tap that tasted like Fiji—the water where we’re from is nasty so we were grateful lol).
Now, what we experienced and or/loved during our visit; from the beaten path tourist stuff to more flamboyant events:
The CN Tower
You can’t visit downtown Toronto and not see the iconic CN Tower. Its Jetsons-like futuristic look is unmistakable. If you’ve never been, it is worth the stop. Tip: have lunch in the 360 restaurant to skip the line to the top. Be prepared that it will take you 45 minutes or so to get back down if you opt to go on the floor with the glass floor (it’s two levels below the restaurant but once you leave the restaurant you can’t go back up through that elevator). We don’t think the glass floor was worth the wait. The rotating views over lunch was, however.
If you’re an adventure seeker, check out the Edgewalk, which will allow you to walk outside of the CN tower and thousands of feet above the ground. We were not interested. 🙂
As pictured at the top of this post and just below, we checked this place out with friends. Really, we all went just because Monica loves castles. It was nice to look at but definitely just for tourists. If you’re not into architecture and castles this place can be skipped. If you do go, definitely skip the walk of the narrow, winding stairway to the tower because the windows are so tiny you can’t see the panoramic view of the city beyond the castle walls. The tower was a waste of time. lol
We alternated between Uber and public transportation to get around town, depending on whichever was faster. So far we are definitely pro Uber (Canada’s subway system is very clean, but a bit antiquated when it comes to ticketing)!
It speaks for itself. Out, bold, and proud. Check it out!
Truly being of Caribbean descent, Cheril couldn’t be in Canada during Caribana and not go! Caribana is one of the largest festivals of Caribbean culture in North America. Good food, lots of parties and beautiful feathers all weekend long. We only went to the parade, but if you’re up for endless soca music and lots partying then check it out next summer!
Most of the parade is free, but you can pay an extra $20 or so to go where the participants are getting ready and deal with less of a crowd. That is the option we chose.
Niagara Falls and more
About an hour or so from Toronto is the beautiful suburb of Mississauga where we spent the day with Cheril’s family for a bbq before heading to the glorious Niagara Falls.
Not including family visits, Niagara Falls was definitely the highlight of our trip. We still can’t believe it took us this long to visit some place so beautiful and close to home. The view is stunning and there are so many ways to take it in that it makes for a great trip for all kinds of families and budget types. If you have kids, you may want to just stay in this area as there are endless activities for families. We stayed just a day and retreated to a hotel about 10 minutes away from the hustle and bustle. A beautiful view can be had for less than $20 CAD on the Skylon Tower, which is even less when converted to USD. A more engaged view can be had via Niagara Helicopters. It’s a bit more money but of course, a different experience. We did both. Warning though, the photos the offer you after your flight are grossly over priced. We only got them because we wanted the shot of us IN the helicopter that included the chopper. lol
Just walking up to the Falls is free! We highly recommend it if you find yourself in the area.
Upside Down house
Who knows? We drove by it but didn’t stop. We think if we had gotten out of the car we would have had a unique view of the Falls in the background. Oh well.
A real noteworthy attraction is the nearby butterfly conservatory.
There are thousands of different butterflies in this place. Above, around and even close to your feet—they’re flitting around the place without abandon and may land right on your nose. Our stop there was a nice last impression of Canada before we hit the road home. It was a treat!
We did a few other things like the Big Bus Tour and wandering around downtown Toronto but neither was enough to get more than this one line mention. We had a great time overall and definitely recommend a visit!
See below for a few video clips of Caribana and our helicopter ride. Thanks for reading.
Until next time,
Cheril and Monica