Canada by Rail – Toronto, Niagara Falls and More

Travel Dates: September 20-22, 2023

Due to a late start in Jasper, Alberta, caused by a rock slide on the train tracks, we arrived in Toronto about 8 hours late. The late arrival meant we had to move our dinner in the CN (Canadian National) tower from September 20 to 21. But that happened after a full day of touring.

We had a car tour to Niagara Falls and environs reserved for the 21st. Our tour guides assured us we would arrive back to Toronto in town to make that dinner. Off we went! This was not Carla and my first trip to Niagara Falls; we were there for an overnight stay on our road trip to New York in 2016.

I think the views and surroundings of the Canadian side are more impressive than the American side. “Niagra Falls” is actually a set of water falls; the two biggest being American Falls (in the foreground) and the namesake falls in the background.

American Falls (foreground) and Niagara Falls.

I like this picture of American Falls that Jim took. You can see why no one has tried (to my knowledge) to go over American Falls in a barrel.

American Falls. Photo credit: Jim Mattila

But we didn’t just view the falls from above; we took a Canadian Maid of the Mist tour to get right up next to the show. Boats leave in overlapping intervals from the American and Canadian sides. Canadian tourists are given red ponchos (the maple leaf) while American tourists are clad in blue.

Boat ride up to American Falls” one of the Niagra Falls. Tours from the US-based tourists sport blue ponchos
American Falls; Can’t go over these in a barrel.

On our way to Niagara Falls proper we understood why our boat is a Maid of the Mist! Sorry I didn’t get to a high enough vantage point to miss the stunning view of Jim and some other dudes heads.

Horseshoe Falls: Niagra Falls, Ontario

It was late enough in the season that a few of the other activities and attractions – such as the funicular ride – were not active. But we did see a Harris Hawk (thanks, as always for the ID Frances!). S/he had a tether but no human standing by.

Adult Harris Hawk at Niagara Falls (Identification credit to Frances Oliver)

The top of Niagara Falls is breathtaking, the wide Niagara River is flowing down then just drops down a cliff. I created a panoramic image to take it all in.

Panorama of Niagara Falls

When being a tourist, you have to have at least one picture of friends in front of the attraction. Here are Terr and Jim

We’ve found that one of the biggest benefits of taking tours is getting to see things we wouldn’t happen upon ourselves. After leaving the main tourist area we made a stop at the “Whirlpool”, downriver from the falls.

Rapids downriver from Niagra Falls

Niagara Parks School of Horticulture is nearby and the students have responsibility for maintaining some of the surrounding grounds. Jim maintains a beautiful garden at home and took delight in this area. Even in late September the flower clock is bedecked in yellow, green and purple foliage. Quoting from the Niagara Parks website:

 The intricate designs on the face of the Floral Clock are created with thousands of carpet bedding plants and are changed twice each year.

Niagara Parks website
Floral Clock near Niagra Falls. Grad students from a nearboy horticulture school are responsible for maintenance.

From here we headed toward the little town of Niagara on the Lake. I had never heard of it before. Had we seen it on a map, we would have given it a miss. Glad our tour guide know what they are doing.

We stopped at a roadside stand along the way. The produce was amazing.

Beautiful pumpkins for sale at a roadside stand on the way to Niagra on the Lake

Jim caught my favorite picture of the day.

More gourds at the roadside stand. This would make a great jigsaw puzzle. Photo credit: Jim Mattila

We also passed by The Living Water Wayside Chapel at the roadside stand.. Atlas Obscura says that while the sanctuary is definitely tiny and quaint at 72 square feet, the Guiness Book of World Records says there is “no current record holder” for the title of smallest church.

The Living Water Wayside Chapel.

Shortly thereafter we arrived at Niagara on the River. Ohmygosh! Like the flower clock pictured above, flowers abounded even though it was late September.

Abundant flowers at Monika’s Boutique in Niagara on the Lake.

If you know me, you are now looking for the closeup of the flowers. Okay, here you go.

Flowers closeup at Niagara on the Lake

Now I would have taken more pictures but I was mostly busy eating the most delicious ice cream cone I have ever had outside the state of Oregon (Prince Puckler’s in Eugene and the Tillamook Dairy in its namesake city have to be respected for what they bring to the cone.)

I saw this sign in one of the shops and it summed up our current situation perfectly. Customers are often abusive to service staff. This catches my sentiment.


We made it back to Toronto in plenty of time to clean up and get to dinner. The CN tower is impossible to miss. It’s even brightly lit at night, but proved to be difficult to walk to.

CN Tower rising above us.

“Yeah, I see it! But how do we get to it?”

We finally got there after being redirected a couple of times.

The dining room at the top rotates so you can get a view of most of the midwest.

View from the rotating restaurant on the CN Tower

We took the opportunity to celebrate Carla’s birthday. Well, not “we”; I’m kind of slow on the uptake. Jim excused himself for a moment after we gave our dinner order. Turns out he wasn’t just “freshening up”, he let our wait person know and ordered this special dessert as a surprise for Carla. Thanks, Jim!

Jim let the wait staff know we were celebrating Carla’s birthday

Elizabeth, Queen of England, died while we travelled through Canada. There was plenty of coverage in the news and many Canadians and tourists chatted about it. We discovered that the hotel we were staying in once lodged the Queen and Prince Phillip on a tour of Canada. Rumor has it that there is a special bed for the Queen; it was stored away to be used only by her and her husband. Jim and I thought “Hey, the Queen isn’t going to use it any more. I bet it’s a great bed and maybe the hotel would let Carla use it since it’s practically her birthday”. The front desk declined our request.

We have one more stop on our trip – Montreal. There should have been almost another week of travel, but fate had its own plans…..

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