With the hectic holidays over, now is the best time to travel: The holiday crowds have gone back to their day-to-day routine while the natural wonder of winter is on display
The polar splendor of Niagara Falls takes on a frozen display of natural art as ice formations are created with every spray. And don’t miss Toronto, just a short train ride away, with an underground city of activities when the outside temps get too cold.
Whether visiting the American or Canadian side, Niagara Falls becomes an ice sculpture-lovers dream, as the cataract (i.e. falling water) is still plunging at the rate of 3,000 tons per second. The spray creates intriguing shapes and patterns.
The Buffalo News describes “frosted tree branches, tree trunks swaddled in ice” and “the mist from the plunging water that freezes as it lands on the surrounding rocks, railings and everything else.”
Even though the Maid of the Mist tour does not operate in winter, the Niagara Falls State Parkprovides tours of Goat Island, Stedman’s Bluff and opportunities to warm up in the Cave of the Winds Pavilion and the Aquarium of Niagara.
In terms of getting there, Buffalo Niagara International Airport provides the larger airlines like Delta, American Airlines, United, Southwestand JetBlue. However, if you’re traveling on a budget, fly into Niagara Falls International Airport with Spirit or Allegiant Air.
Accommodations vary but, for the best view, head to the Canadian side over the Rainbow Bridge. The Hilton Niagara Fallsview or Embassy Suites Niagara Fallsview provide the closest proximity to the Falls, as well as best view overall.
With more than 14 million visitors per year, winter is the best time to avoid the crowds.
For those visitors hardy enough to walk, a car is not needed. Buses are available from the airports to get you to American lodging as well as the Rainbow Bridge, where you’ll go through customs before crossing over to the Canadian side. The usual touristy attractions are in abundance but can be avoided. At night the Falls are illuminated in a plethora of colors with the bridge providing a gorgeous view, worthy of its name.
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From the Canadian side of the Falls, Toronto is about an hour and a half by car. However, if you do not want to get behind the wheel, a bus/train option is available through VIA Rail Canada just a few short blocks from town. A bus will connect with the train, the ultimate destination being Toronto Union Station in the middle of the city.
Once in Toronto, if the temps are too frigid, not to worry. The city’s PATHUnderground covers more than 18 miles of interconnected pathways of warmth. With 1,200 shops, services and ample pedestrian linkages to public transit, one can traverse the city comfortably.
Underground is great, but make sure to get a bird’s eye view of the city from the CN Tower, located alongside Lake Ontario.
Opened in 1976, the Tower was classified as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. As well as being the telecommunications center of Toronto, the structure welcomes tourists from around the world. Its 360 Restaurant touts the offering of “Canadian Ingredients, Canadian Wine and Canadian Views.”
And, if your heart and stomach can handle it, try out the Edge Walk, “the world’s highest hands-free external walk on a building.”
Once you get back your land legs, head over to the Distillery Historic District. Formerly home to a whiskey distillery, its other-worldly sculptures, independently owned restaurants and bars, boutiques and art galleries all dazzle. (The pedestrian-only, cobblestone streets are even taken over by Christmas markets over the holidays.)
Tired of walking? Take advantage of the GrayLine Hop-On Hop-Off City Tourand hop off at the Casa Loma castle for a self-guided tour of the elegant former home of Sir Henry Pellatt. Filled with period European décor, the castle is a step back in time with secret passages, an 800-foot tunnel, towers, stables and beautiful five-acre estate gardens.
READ MORE: Insider Tips for Travel to Toronto
The Bentway Skate Trail runs under the Gardiner Expressway, offering ice skating, art exhibits and ice carving. Hugging the shores of Lake Ontario, this newly opened space is a gathering place for adjacent neighborhoods as well as a chance to lace up those skates and glide along the trail running a little over a mile. (If your toes feel frozen, there are warming stations available as well as hot cocoa.)
Where to stay in the city?
The Hyatt Regency Toronto is centrally located in the middle of the entertainment district. It is considered an architectural landmark in the city. Completed in 1990, the modernism 20-story high-rise stands out as a masterpiece of design in a metropolis jam-packed with jaw-dropping architecture like the Royal Ontario Museum and The Globe and Mail Centre.
A winter getaway to the Niagara Falls/Toronto region will not disappoint. Yes, it’s cold but layer up and take advantage of the off-season and you won’t regret it!
by Susan Young – travelpulse.com