Oh Canada, Eh!

I keep saying I want to do something spontaneous, just jump in the car and drive. Well, that never happens. I always get distracted or funds are tight. This past weekend; however, we made it happen.

The fellow had an extra vacation day, so I took one of my days as well for a three-day weekend. I had plans on Saturday with my family, but we still had Sunday and Monday. While searching for something to do, we found a coupon on Groupon for a stay in Niagara Falls.

For $77 our coupon would cover accommodations, two wine tastings, a beer tasting, casino credit, credit towards an onsite restaurant, and mini golf. The fellow isn’t a fan of cities so NYC was out, and DC was having metro issues. For that matter, NYC is also a 6-hour drive, so somehow we wound up heading for the border.

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Almost there!

We drove up through NY (with about 7 bathroom stops and 42 oz. of coffee) and made it to the border around 1 pm. When we got to the border, the nice Canadian border patrol officer apparently had never heard of Groupon and thought my WV tags and a 6-hour drive were pretty suspicious for an overnight trip, and his buddy started circling the car. I thought they were going to have me pull over and search us, but I guess I have an honest face because they decided to wave us through.

I was so excited to drive my WV plates across the border into another country right up to the point where I saw my first road sign – speed limit 100 km. I realized then that I really don’t know how fast or how far kilometers are (by the way, I now know 100 km is 60 mph). We sped up the QEW to the falls and our hotel.

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The Canadian border check point

I was pretty concerned with how good a $77 dollar hotel would be, but I was so pleased. (Quite frankly, I think it was the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had in a hotel. It was a Ramada Plaza, and I will definitely try another one next time I’m traveling.) Check-in wasn’t until 4, so we did some preliminary paperwork and then headed towards the falls. Being a tourist town, the “Falls Reserved Parking” cost us $20.00 for the hour we were there, but we were on vacation so I said it was worth it. We parked on the back half of the lot next to the grassy area and saw the biggest black squirrel I have ever seen in my life. He was huge, angry, and not afraid of humans. As we got out of the car, he ran around and jumped right up on the trashcan giving me a menacing look as I snapped this picture.

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Canada, eh?

It was so much colder than we were anticipating. I checked the tourist site, and it said shorts/tee shirt and light jacket in spring, so I assumed that my sweater and skirt combo I’ve been wearing here would be sufficient, but I threw my sneakers in the car as a last minute thought and boy was I glad I did. It. Was. So. Cold. It was raining and at times snowing!

We walked through the visitor center where we were greeted by a giant stuffed beaver, postcards, maple candy, and a view of the falls through giant glass windows. I grabbed a few post cards, some Canada patches, a stuffed beaver, and some Kinder eggs! For those of you who have never experienced them, Kinder Eggs are essentially hollow Easter eggs with a toy inside a capsule in the middle. They are banned in the US and have been for at least ten years as they present a choking risk. Then we went down the stairs to the lower level and out to the falls.

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Kinder Egg

They are magnificent. The overlook area wasn’t too over-loaded by tourists as we went early in the season, so we were able to hang out by the railing and take it all in and snap some pictures.

From there we walked what felt like a mile (I should’ve checked my Fitbit!) to the ticket line for the boat tour. Everyone I had spoken to had gone on the Maid of the Mist which is the American company. We didn’t feel like walking two miles across the bridge to get back to the States, so we went on the Hornblower which is essentially the same thing but with red ponchos instead of blue.

We all piled on board and tried to get our sea legs and not get sea sick and started the 40-minute ride. It was colder that close to the water, so I tottered below deck to get a cup of hot cocoa then out to the railing. (There may have been a Titanic  Rose/Jack in the bow moment just for laughs.) The falls were so close and the power of the water as it hit was spectacular. There were sea gulls flying in the mist, and it was just breathtaking.

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Once we hit land, we went back to the hotel to shower and change and head out to a brewery/tap house tasting that came with the package. Getting there was mildly disconcerting as the main road was out, and we were trying to get the GPS to reroute. The tap house was called the Silversmith Brewing Company, and my fellow was so excited about the quality of beer. I was excited about the giant Bratwurst we ordered because I’d had nothing to eat all day but coffee, bananas, nuts, and granola bars on the ride up. Oh, and half of a Tim Horton’s Sundried Tomato Asiago Specialty bacon egg muffin and a red velvet cookie, both of which were to die for.

Tim Horton’s quickly became my new favorite food place.

Later on the trip, we got a Maple Chill which is marketed with the hashtag #SoCanadian, and it was amazing. I don’t much care for iced coffee or maple syrup, but I could drink a Maple Chill any day of the week!

After the brewery, we headed back downtown for our reservation at the Skylon Tower.

The Skylon tower was opened in 1965 and looks like something from an alien movie. The fancy dining room at the top has a revolving floor, so as you eat it slowly turns allowing you to view the falls. I made reservations after looking at the website but must’ve looked at lunch prices because when we got there for dinner nothing on the menu was below $55.00. I figured it was a special day, so we might as well splurge. I ordered filet mignon medium rare, but it came out blue (extremely rare), but it was still good. At least the portions were large, so I didn’t feel like it was poor quantity for the price. The waitress was condescending which tainted the experience. Over all, if doing it again, I would skip the restaurant and just pay for the ticket to go up to the observation deck and be done with it.

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Skylon Tower (and Margaritaville!)

I wish I could go back in time to the Skylon Tower and experience it in its heyday with women in intricate hairstyles, wearing elegant cocktail dresses, most likely smoking as they sipped their cocktails next to the giant revolving windows as the men talked nearby in their tailored suits. I bet it was fantastic.
After the Skylon, we went back to the hotel and crashed. I’ve never been more tired in my life. (I know I said that after the 10 K race and parade, but this was for real.) The next day we slept in till 6 and then headed home. We were going to stop at the Duty Free Store for more souvenirs but realized they probably weren’t open that early. It was a good thing that we’d gotten some items when we were actually at the falls. We wound back through NY and PA stopping a few times for coffee and to sight see. We also stopped at a little flea market for about an hour but didn’t find anything. We made it back around 3 and spent the rest of the day relaxing in the balmy US weather.

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