Good-Bye Toronto, Hello Niagara Falls!

View from my hotel in Toronto
Last month I found myself Trekking To Toronto with my youngest daughter Jamie so that we could a) see Hugh Jackman in concert at the Princess of Wales Theater (he was very, very good!) and b) Jamie could hop on a bus to go visit her friend in Manitoba before I wandered down to Niagara Falls for a long overdue visit to one of the world's most spectacular sights.  See?  Sometimes I actually wander with a purpose and not just distractedly!

Following our one night in Toronto where I stayed at the Best Western Primrose Hotel in the downtown area - an okay place to stay at but nothing special to write about even though it did have the nice view that you can see in the picture to the left - I set out the next day for Niagara Falls without benefit of either a GPS that worked north of the American border or someone to read the map to me.  This was definitely no time for distracted wandering but it apparently was time to get a little turned around as I tried to read the directions I had printed out along with the street signs that came up way too fast causing me to miss an occasional turn and end up going in what was probably the totally wrong direction not just once but twice!  I knew that I wanted to get to the Gardiner Expressway which runs close to the shore of Lake Ontario and would lead me to Queen Elizabeth Way (known locally as the QEW) but getting there proved to be a little bit tricky resulting in me getting honked at once by some guy in a Prius who probably used some colorful language to describe my horrendous American driving habits!  It wasn't  tricky enough though that I didn't take a moment to grab the camera and snap a picture whilst driving through downtown Toronto long after being waved good-bye to by the guy in the Prius ... well, at least I think that was "good-bye" he was waving at me!

Driving out of Toronto

Fortunately I've driven in quite a few big cities in my time - New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, Washington DC, etc. - so I wasn't frazzled by the Toronto streets and after a short while I was able to get myself turned around in the proper direction and located the Gardiner - to use the vernacular of the locals! I would loved to have taken a few pictures once I was on the highway as the Gardiner passes directly under the CN Tower but there's a big difference between grabbing a quick shot while stopped at a light and trying to grab a quick shot whilst driving at 65 mph - or in this case right around 100 kph!

Not too far outside of Toronto, the Gardiner merges into the QEW and becomes one of Ontario's busiest highways with close to 200,000 average vehicles per day on some sections. Though the history of the QEW dates back to 1931 it didn't receive its current name until 1939 when, in May and June of that year, King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth (the "Queen Mother") toured Canada and the United States as King and Queen of Canada. George VI was the first reigning monarch of Canada to visit North America (although he had been to Canada previously as Prince Albert and as Duke of York) with the purpose of the visit being chiefly in anticipation of the rumblings coming from Nazi Germany as an effort to bolster support for the United Kingdom in a war that they were sure would come. Additionally the trip served as the chance to mark George's coronation as King on May 12th, 1937 following his brother's abdication of the throne in order to marry divorcée Wallis Simpson. Although the aim of the tour was mainly political, the King and Queen were enthusiastically received by the public and the highway received its name to commemorate the visit.

La Grande Hermine II - St. Catherines Ontario.  Originally a replica of Jacque Cartiers
As I drove along the historic highway, I made sure to keep both hands tightly on the steering wheel and both eyes on the road as traffic was very heavy to say the least! As a matter of fact, it wasn't until I was close to the city of St. Catherine's, thirty-two miles south of Toronto if one were to swim across Lake Ontario, that I even realized that I had never even turned the stereo on!  It was at that point that I also noticed what looked to be a listing, semi-sunken pirate ship in the not-too-far distance and decided that a break from the road was in order to check out the rusting remains.

As I later found out, the ship is La Grande Hermine II - a replica of La Grande Hermine (The Big Weasel) that was sailed up the St. Lawrence River by Jacques Cartier in 1535. The life-size replica of the vessel was featured at Expo '67 in Montreal where it served as a floating restaurant before it was moved to Quebec City and put on display in an artificial pond located in a city park. After three decades of being largely ignored, the ship was sold to a businessman who had it brought up the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City to its current location in Jordan Harbour where the owner had it intentionally anchored to the harbour floor in a listing position with the idea of re-opening it as a floating restaurant. Unfortunately the idea of opening the ship as a restaurant never came to fruition as shortly after acquiring the ship the businessman went bankrupt leaving La Grande Hermine II sitting forlorn and abandoned in the harbour. In 2002 the ship was set on fire by what police believe were arsonists and to this day the burned-out and rusting hull sits just off of the highway in the cove built for it waiting for people like myself to come along and take pictures.  Rumor has it that during the winter when the lake is frozen it's possible to walk out to the rusting hull but I'm not sure I'd be quite adventurous enough to do that.  Though there might be some interesting pictures to be found should I ever find myself up that way in the dead of winter!

Having stretched my legs and my cramped fingers, I climbed back in the car and continued down the QEW where I soon found myself in Niagara Falls, Ontario aka The Honeymoon Capital of the World.  Ya think?

Yep, I was in Niagara Falls!

As it was too early to check into my room at Kilpatrick Manor but definitely not too late for lunch, I decided to drive over to Skylon Tower and treat myself to lunch atop the 520 foot tower that was built in 1964 and opened on October 6th, 1965.

Skylon Tower

At Skylon I had two options for lunch; I could either dine in the tower's Revolving Dining Room (maybe just a little bit fancier than I wanted) or I could have a relaxing casual lunch in the Summit Suite Buffet Dining Room.  Both options included the Ride-to-the-Top and admission to the indoor/outdoor observation deck at the top of the tower via the "Yellow Bug" elevators which carry passengers to the top in just 52 seconds.

Elevator approaching the top of Skylon Tower

As the restaurant only revolves once per hour and I wasn't sure how long I was going to be there as well as feeling a bit wrinkled from the road, I opted for lunch at the more casual buffet and climbed aboard the elevator which whisked us to the top.  Along the way I got what would be my very first glimpse of the American Falls.

My first view of the Falls from the elevator
To say that view rather took my breath away would be an understatement!  When you're looking at something like that, it's pretty easy to forget that you're traveling up the side of a very high tower in an elevator that operates with a guide rail on its back side only!  And to think I used to be afraid of heights!  Ha!  Anything for a picture these days, eh?

The Buffet Dining Area of Skylon Tower

The lunch buffet was very tasty with a nice variety of salads, vegetables, pasta, and meat choices (the beef was so good I had seconds!) as well as a nice array of desserts which went quite well with my leisurely cup of coffee as I enjoyed the view that was spread out below me. Fortunately the restaurant wasn't too crowded as I was eating later in the day so there was no problem with my wandering around and taking pictures. My guess is that the staff rather expects diners to do just that!

The American Falls as seen from Skylon Tower
Another shot of the American Falls with a Maid of the Mist boat passing in front. 

Observation deck on the American side of the Falls
The Observation Deck on the American side of the Falls. 

The Rainbow Bridge
The Rainbow Bridge which carries visitors back and forth between New York and Ontario.

Following lunch, I made my way up to the Observation Tower to check out the rest of the area: 

The Observation Deck of Skylon Tower
As you can see, there really weren't too many other people around and that was fine by  me as you all know how much I love crowds! 

The North Grand Island Bridge in New York
The North Grand Island Bridge which carries Interstate 190 across the Niagara River between Grand Island, New York and Niagara Falls, New York. I would later take this bridge on my way home.

Horseshoe Falls
The spectacular Horseshoe Falls - also known as the Canadian Falls - over which approximately 90% of the Niagara River flows. 

Looking through the fencing on top of Skylon Tower
The other 10% of the Niagara River flows over the American Falls which includes the smaller Bridal Veil Falls to the right.

The Canadian Border Crossing on the Rainbow Bridge
The picture above gives you a slightly closer look at cars waiting to pass through the Canadian Border Check on the Rainbow Bridge as well as part of the Niagara Parkway which travels from Fort Erie to Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The Clifton Hill Area
The Niagara SkyWheel and Dinosaur Adventure Golf are part of the Clifton Hill area of Niagara Falls which offers an array of attractions, resort hotels, restaurants, shops and nightclubs - rather like what you might have expected to find at Coney Island or Atlantic City back in their heyday!

View to the southwest
Of course there is a casino ... 

... and a really tall hotel ...

The Sheraton Hotel
... and another casino or two.
I'm not really sure how many casinos there are as I wasn't interested in them in the least but if you like them - and a lot of people do - they're there. 

Passengers loading onto the Canadian Maid of the Mist boat
From the top of Skylon Tower you can also get a good view of passengers boarding the Maid of the Mist on the Canadian side. 

The Maid of the Mist
And when they say that it's the Maid of the Mist ... 

The Maid of the Mist in the Midst of the Mist!
... they really mean mist

Bridal Veil Falls and the Cave of the Winds
On the America side of the river tourists can experience the Cave of the Winds which takes them up close and personal with Bridal Veil Falls. 

I'll be telling you more about that later but for now I'll leave you with another picture of the American Falls which really are best viewed from the Canadian side and especially from above if you get the chance to go up Skylon Tower or perhaps one of the higher hotels that are located near the Falls. Even though the American side has their observation deck, tourists are still looking at the Falls from a sideways angle and to really get the full effect you need to be looking at them straight on because no matter how many pictures I may show you, you can't really grasp the enormity and beauty of the Falls until you see them in person. Get a passport - you won't regret it! 

A view of the American Falls and Observation Tower from Skylon Tower


  1. Wow! I almost forgot you went to Niagara Falls.

    Slowly I turned... sorry. Huge Stooges fan.

    That Cave of the Winds touristy-excursion-thingy sounds a bit askeery to me. One must wonder if the rocks are finished falling. Me thinks probably not.

    While your photos look fabulous... my un-love affair with height will likely keep me from visiting in person.

  2. I always thought that Niagra Falls was just one HUGE waterfall, no idea that it is made up of a few. Well if I did know, it is not a memory that stuck.

    I suppose the one that I associate with being 'Niagra' is the Horseshoe one. Colour me confuzzled!

    Well actually less confuzzled now that I have read your blog post :)

  3. Nice post with great photos! I've never been to Niagara maybe one of these days!

  4. wow that boat was super over loaded looked like to me anyways. Ha.... I hate being a passenger in a car in a big sitting when the driver is taking pictures and driving...ask Shannon... I saved us several times from a collision... With Shannons response being.. "I Know".... horrid.... I have never been to this place ever... the falls look small to me for some reason. Great pictures by the way

  5. My parents took me to Expo '67 ~ of course I was only 4 at the time. haha

    I don't like crowds much either, and it appears you lucked out by getting to the restaurant for a late lunch.

    The photo of the folks boarding the Maid of the Mist is fantastic. Love the perspective and the designs created by the waves.

    Fun post, Duchess Linda of NUT!

  6. I was last in TO (as the natives call it) in 1986 - arriving by Air canada, so the views of Lake Ontario were bland from upstairs, and naturally n look at the falls. I thought Toronto was okay, a modern North American city with massive LA style traffic on the 401 (is the QEW the official name of the 401?). I did eat at the revolving restaurant on top of the CN Tower. I'd prefer that my restaurant not move, but the views are spectacular. I'd love to get back to this province, someday...and to the falls!

    Nice review!

  7. I love Niagara and really enjoyed seeing again through your lens. You got some amazing shots from high up. Great job!!! Keep wandering!

  8. Such stunning pictures you took of the falls and now you know why Steve & I keep returning there so often:-) Would you believe I haven't been up in the Skylon Tower since 1976? lol My fear of heights seems to be getting worse as I get older. Steve is determined to get me up there, though, so watch this space! There are 2 casinos in NF and although we don't go all the time, we enjoy the playing the slots every once in a while and they also both have excellent buffets:-)

    I don't like Toronto at all, much too busy for me! lol I won't even drive in there so I give you a lot of points for having done so when you've never been there before!!

    So cool that you also stopped to check out that "pirate ship", I just love it:-) xoxo

  9. Wow. Not a flat comment - just overwhelmed! I'm kind of like Claire, wasn't quite sure what was where. Great observations and helped me remember a bit. I watched a documentary about the falls not too long ago, but obviously didn't remember much. (But I can't tell you the name of the book I'm currently reading either)!
    I ate dinner in a revolving restaurant and I'm trying to remember where...Good great Uncle Charlie - my memory is really shot!!!!! Maybe in Hawai'i? Makes sense, I guess.
    I really admire you for "seizing the day" and taking some great opportunities for photos. I'm not traveling anywhere soon but I sure have great memories - and photos - of the places I've been!


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