Many of you are certain to agree with me on this point: Toronto living can be very hectic. Leisure time is becoming rare, so to have an entire day off can be a bit of a feat at times. I recently had an entire day off, and decided to indulge in the phenomenon that is becoming increasingly popular with Torontonians, The Daytrip. Destination - The Niagara Region.
Enter Toronto company Etours.to, which offers city tours, as well as day trips to nearby hotspots. The company is geared toward tourists visiting Toronto, but us locals may very well be missing out on a very affordable option for escaping the city for the day.
With pickup available at many of the downtown hotels, the tour that I selected leaves around 9 a.m. from the city, returning to the city around 5 p.m. And the cost - $79 per person plus the Martin tax.
We met our tourmates at the Best Western at Carlton and Jarvis early on a grey, rainy Sunday morning. My boyfriend and I were among a group of English school teachers, German businesspeople, and a couple of Dutch tourists. Our tour guide/driver Terrence gave us a rundown of our itinerary for the day. Our first stop would be a winery, followed by picturesque Niagara-On-The-Lake, and then across the very scenic Niagara Parkway route to the Falls.
On the way to the Gardiner, Terrence was sure to point out all visible Toronto landmarks, including the St. Lawrence Market, Dome (er ... Rogers Centre), Air Canada Centre, and CN Tower. Further into the trip, we were able to see part of the lock system along the Welland Canal from the QEW.
First stop was Pillitteri Estates Winery in Niagara-On-The-Lake. Wine tasting before noon, you may ask? It certainly agreed with me! We were invited into a private tasting hall to sample their Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, and the award-winning Vidal Icewine. This was followed with shopping in downtown Niagara-On-The-Lake for close to an hour, which had to include a stop at Just Christmas, one of the best spots to buy ornaments around.
After meeting back at the bus, we headed along the historic and very pretty Niagara Parkway, passing Fort George, and stopping at the Niagara River Whirlpools and the Floral Clock. We arrived in Niagara Falls, and immediately headed to The Maid of the Mist, on one of its last voyages of the season. Even though the waters were choppy, and it was quite chilly, the magnitude of being that close to such a powerful natural wonder quickly made it very worth it. We then had a few hours to explore Niagara Falls, with some choosing to journey behind the Falls, and others checking out food and drink. My boyfriend and I went for a stroll up Clifton Hill, had a leisurely lunch at one of its many restaurants, and did a bit of shopping at the Hershey Store.
After a very full day, we met back at the bus, and returned to Toronto. Daytripping is a part of life in Toronto that I could really get used to. Etours should not just be enjoyed by tourists - Torontonians, get out there and see what they have to offer. And next on the agenda, after enjoying a day trip outside of Toronto, exploring day trips within T.O.
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