In the latest edition of “A bold guide to traveling and eating the world“, a monthly travel and food column here at The Show dedicated to helping travelers of all sizes find adventure, I detailed my love for Torontowith its long streets full of small shops and Restaurantsalong parks and greenery.
Oh, and some really good, deliciously crispy ones Jamaican bites of ackee and salt fish.
On this same trip, my wife and I also managed a quick visit to the Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake area. It was a fun stop filled with wine, weed and apple fritters.
Things to do
kingdom of birds
I have been to the zoo before but have never been anywhere with the number and variety of birds there. kingdom of birds at Niagara Falls, the largest indoor free-flight aviary in the world.
The Bird Kingdom includes elements of the museum it once housed, which you can walk through on the first level of the attraction where you’ll also find turtles, snakes, bearded dragons, and even a tarantula.
Once on the top floor, you will enter the indoor aviary. The Bird Kingdom is designed in such a way that visitors descend from the top floor ramps to the bottom; this mimics the descent from the tops of rainforest trees to ground level. As visitors descend, they come face to face with the birds that are said to live at this level of the rainforest.
There is so much to see! Wherever you turn in the bird kingdom, there is something else remarkable. And don’t forget to stop at Lorikeet Landing to feed the lorikeets and take a souvenir photo.
You are sure to see some rainbows on the trip to the falls, a boat tour operated by Hornblower that takes you through the mist and close to Niagara Falls. For a relatively simple experience, it’s really beautiful. It requires you to do nothing more than be in the moment and experience the power and beauty of Niagara Falls.
Want to be the first on the boat? Take the full Hornblower walking tour, which includes the journey behind the falls – an experience filled with underground tunnels and cave openings – and you have that opportunity. Either way, prepare to get wet!
Maple Leaf Square
The place of the maple leaf looks like a typical tourist trap, with tons of memorabilia as soon as you walk in. But if you keep walking towards the back, you’ll find a newly renovated space dedicated to maple syrup. In addition to an audioguided tour (completely free) to help you discover the history of maple syrup and its intersection with that of First Nations people, you will find a tasting bar and a maple taffy making station. At the tasting bar, you will discover the different types of maple syrup and can try them all. The Maple Leaf Place also bottles and prominently labels maple syrup, which you can purchase once you find the one you like.
Whenever I plan a trip, I look into helicopter tours, and every time I’m disappointed because of the weight limit. That’s until I see the sign up on Viator for the Niagara Helicopter Tour.
This has no weight limit and was only 12 minutes long – the perfect length for someone like me who is still a bit afraid of heights. The view of the falls from the air is breathtaking, absolutely breathtaking. As a bonus, the tour is complete with narration as you fly over the falls so you know exactly what you’re looking at as you watch from the helicopter.
Crush factor: We had to weigh ourselves and include our weight at check-in, but it was not confirmed at check-in or anything of that nature. You must wear a seat belt with chest harness and you will be buckled up by someone. The seat belt was comfortable and seemed like it could easily fit someone taller than me, although I couldn’t see the slack since I was strapped in.
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It had been a while since I had seen a play in a theater. It used to be a tradition when I traveled to seek out local shows, but over the years I’ve unwittingly strayed away from it. While researching the Niagara region, I came across the award-winning site Shaw Festival, and I just had to go see a play. It was such a blast, and totally worth it. We saw “Just to Get Married”, written by Cicely Hamilton, which was about a young woman growing up in 1910, a time when you had to “be married to be whole”. The play takes you through her engagement, family “drama”, wedding preparations and ultimately its annulment before ending on a surprising note. Do yourself a favor and incorporate a visit to the Shaw Festival into your itinerary for a magical theatrical experience.
Crush factor: The seats were surprisingly bigger than I expected, but I still felt a little squashed. Choose a seat at the end of the row for a slightly more comfortable experience. What was surprising was the narrowness of the interior doors. I had to turn and cross them sideways to enter the theaters. The bathroom is also in the basement, accessible only by stairs.
It’s hard to put into words the warmth of service at Casa Mia, a family restaurant who has been in Niagara Falls for over 30 years. Every bite we ate at Casa Mia was wonderful. Our meal was expertly paired with wine, and despite my general aversion to a lot of wine, they managed to nail it. The bread was served with olive oil and butter, so you can enjoy it according to your preference, and it was amazing! We started with a rich and creamy burrata, served on a thick slice of heirloom tomato and sliced peaches.
Eggplant Parmigiana isn’t usually my date, but the mother-son duo in the kitchen just knocked it out of the park. The rigatoni are homemade, which makes for finger-licking good rigatoni bolognese. I can confidently say that in my opinion, having been to Niagara Falls many times and eaten at many restaurants, Casa Mia is my all time favorite in the area.
donuts on the lake
Do you remember the old Starbucks pastries? Before changing bakeries? They used to have an apple fritter on the menu, and to my surprise, I fell in love with the silly pastry. After Starbucks removed them I never had another apple fritter until I walked down Queen Street in Niagara-on-the-Lake and came across donuts on the lake (there may have been some of the perfectly legal green stuff stakes).
The little shop smelled like heaven, the staff welcomed us with open arms despite closing a few minutes away. We immediately ordered apple fritters. It was the best donut I have ever tried. Starbucks never even came close to the pure magic that is Fritters on the Lake. Scratch that – it was one of my ten best pastries ever! In fact, it was my favorite sweet bite I had in Canada, period. Donuts are a perfect balance between dough and apples. Their tartness complements the sweetness of the sugar and cinnamon that sprinkles the hot, made-to-order donut. Make sure you have a drizzle of caramel on top and get some. One is definitely not enough!
Niagara Falls Weed and Wine Tour
The wines and vineyards of Niagara are a must visit in the region, and if you like to treat yourself, Venku Herb and Wine Tour is the way to do it. This is a private tour, the only one of its kind in Niagara Falls, and family owned and operated. You’ll start the tour at Niagara’s largest dispensary, learning more about cannabis in Canada, before heading to the Niagara River to smoke with the best view of the rapids.
Then you’ll hop back in the Ford Transit and head to the vineyards. It’s such a relaxed tour and you’ll learn so much about the region, the wine and have a truly wonderful time. Be sure to pace yourself. There was a lot of booze and a lot of weed, and by the end my wife and I were so, so, so tired. Each winery will offer you a selection of wine samples, including the famous Niagara region icewine, fruit wines and of course, white wines and Red wine.
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