Where: Niagara Falls and Toronto, Canada
Somehow I had never before been to Canada.
Despite all the other countries I have been to, and despite well within driving distance of it for over six years, I never made my way up north. But no longer!
I think it get’s slightly overshadowed by America’s big day on July 4, but Canada actually celebrates their own wonderful nation just a few days before, on July 1, eponymously named “Canada Day”. As luck would have it, the 150th celebration occurred in 2017 on a Saturday, when I had an extended period off from work (since July 4 was on a Tuesday). So a rental car was arranged, some Airbnbs booked, and just like that we were on our way up!
I really dislike driving, preferring to fly whenever possible, and the prospect of two 6+ hour drives in a handful of days was pretty unappealing, but luckily there’s a good rest stop between Pittsburgh and Toronto – Niagara Falls! The “Grand Canyon of the Water” (whatever that means) was something I had wanted to see, as some of the pictures of it are pretty breath-taking, but in all honesty it was a let down. The falls themselves were smaller than I imagined, and were generating a lot of mist that obscured a fair amount of the falls. The city itself was also very touristy, crowded, and expensive. I guess I am glad we stopped for a night, but overall it isn’t a place I care about going back to anytime soon.
However, Niagara did provide a glimpse of a trend I would see repeated in Toronto – the multiculturalism of Canada. Now, one or two cities are certainly not representative of an entire nation, but Canada actually felt much more diverse than the “melting pot” of the USA – not only in the ethnicities represented, but also in how they intermingled. It was incredible to see, and I am curious if it is a general trend across the rest of Canada.
Toronto itself was an incredible city (I am sure being there in summer helped). It has a few too many high-rise condo/apartment buildings that all look the same for my taste, but also seems very diverse and offers everything you could want in a major city – food, arts, entertainment, culture, etc. The Zoo in particular was well-done and huge, but the Royal Ontario Museum and the Aquarium were also neat. We got to stay in a great Airbnb right in the heart of the Entertainment District, near the ever-funky Queen Street, and had a good time exploring on foot when possible (Toronto is a pretty walkable city).
The only real disappointing thing about Canada? Their fireworks didn’t blow me away (pun intended). I guess the US has something going for it after all, eh?