Niagara SkywheelIt's the beginning of August and that means my annual family road trip is coming up. Quality time here I come! The destination and date were set months ago but it took forever to get down to the nitty gritty ... like, where the hell am I staying?
First things first ... how many nights and where? We decided on two nights in Niagara Falls and three nights in Toronto (which, for the Canadian ignorant, are both in Ontario and are about a 90-minute drive from each other). After getting our passports in order and doing a lot of research, this is what we came up with on places to stay and things to do.
Since we'll be in the car for possibly nine hours, our hotel in Niagara really mattered to us. We wanted a pool (to cool off the kids) and a gym (to burn off all of the crap we are bound to eat). The Doubletree Fallsview Resort and Spa was recently renovated and is walking distance to the main strip of activities near the Falls. Sold.
We get in late the first night so we really only have one full day in Niagara; this is what's on the agenda:
Maid of the Mist: I did this when I was 10 years old and still love looking at the pictures of my entire family in those yellow rain coats. We'll get there when it opens (which is 9 a.m.) and since rides are about 30 minutes, we can go early and still have the whole day ahead of us.
Niagara SkyWheel: Get on, take some amazing pictures, get off. My daughter is infatuated with Ferris wheels so this will be like a Ferris wheel on steroids to her, and I will get to sit back and relax for a little bit. This is a win-win in my book.
Elements of the Falls: One must eat, so why not do it with a view of the Falls. Plus, their menu says they have spinach artichoke dip ... that can count as my vegetable for the day, right?
Niagara Helicopter Ride: I have a 4-year-old boy in awe of anything related to planes, trains, or automobiles. The ride is 12 minutes (including boarding time) and they give you a discount if you print out (and color or connect-the-dots) their online helicopter picture.
Marineland: If only we had another day. I won't actually have the time to do this because we just can't possibly squeeze in anything else — but orcas, belugas, sea lions, and walruses are always surefire hit!
Next we drive to Toronto where we are staying at the downtown Delta Chelsea Hotel, which is walking distance from a slew of attractions and seems extremely kid-friendly, with a massive water-slide at their indoor pool.
Our highlights there will be be:
Ontario Science Center: I remember this place from that visit when I was 10 years old and am guessing hoping it will live up to my expectations. It was the first hands-on science museum I'd ever been to and my parents had to literally drag us out to leave. Added bonus for going before September 4, we get to see a Harry Potter exhibit.
CN Tower: Currently the largest freestanding structure in the world! Take an elevator up and stand on a glass floor looking down 1,122 feet. YIKES!
Ontario Place: It's a family entertainment area with a water park, a marina, and lots of rides. Bonus for the kids ... they have the largest (so says their website) outdoor soft play climbing structure in Canada.
Toronto Zoo: This zoo has over 5,000 animals representing over 500 species and the animals seem to be spread out over many acres of property ... not crammed into small fenced-in cages.
The Beach: This is a summer vacation, right? Relaxing by Lake Ontario for a little rest and relaxation sounds absolutely perfect right about now.
Have you been to any of these places and are there others you would recommend?
Image courtesy NiagaraFallsLive.com