North America · Travel

2016 Summer Vacation (Part 2) – Toronto & Niagara Falls

The weather has been overall pleasant since we arrived, other than a few sprinkles on day 1.  It was still fairly hot, though not as humid as in weeks past, which made this a perfect day to hit the beach.  But first, we checked off another sightseeing destination by visiting Toronto’s famous ‘House on the Hill’ – Casa Loma.


Casa Loma was built by a wealthy businessman Sir Henry Pellatt as his private home in the early 20th century.  This medieval  castle not only showcases beautiful gardens and fountains on its grounds, all of the rooms/suites were elegantly decorated with an old European flair.  It also contains secret passages, underground tunnels and towers that the kids got to explore and found interesting.  The free self-guided audio tour was helpful in learning all about its rich history.  One thing that surprised me though was to find out that a lot of movie scenes were filmed in Casa Loma, most notably ‘X-Men’ where the castle’s interior was used in various scenes of Xavier’s School.  Being a huge movie fan myself, this bit of information was more than enough to geek me out.  🙂

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(Alex has now apparently entered the phase of making faces while getting pictures taken...)
(The Boy has now apparently entered the phase of making faces while getting pictures taken…)

One of the goals the kids had for this summer was to swim in more Great Lakes.  They have upto this point gone swimming in Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, and Lake Huron.  Therefore, of course we could not pass up the opportunity to go swimming in Lake Ontario during our little cityscape.  We ended up at a nice big beach area called Woodbine Beach just a little east of the city center, with changing facilities and paid parking available.  The kids had a great time swimming around and playing games in the water, though unfortunately there was no wave jumping since the water was very calm.  This sure was a nice way to spend our last sunny afternoon in Toronto!


We had a one last stop to make after checking out of our Airbnb the next morning.  I suppose you can’t really visit Toronto without paying homage to the Hockey Hall of Fame, right?  None of us is a hockey fan (sorry, we are the football and basketball type).  The kids have never even seen a hockey game on TV, and the only time the hubby and I would watch hockey is if and when our local team is playing for the Stanley Cup.  Nonetheless, we still managed to spend almost 2 hours in there.  There were of course tons of memorabilia all around and also a 30-minute 3D movie about hockey.  But the best part for us was the interactive games area.  You can try taking penalty shots against the simulation, or try blocking penalty shots from various famous simulated NHL players by being the goalie.  None of us scored any points against the goalie, but the Boy actually made 4 out of the 8 saves!  Not bad at all for never held a hockey stick before.

(The entrance to HHOF is on the lower level of a shopping center)

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After spending some more time playing a game or two of air hockey, and sitting at ESPN Sports Center’s broadcasting desk reading off the tele-prompt, we headed upstairs to see the Stanley Cup so we can take an obligatory picture in front of it.  🙂  The Esso Great Hall is where they house the cup and it is by far my favorite room of the entire place.  It was originally Bank of Montreal and is a great piece of architecture with its interior rises up to a beautiful stained glass dome, and I love all the carvings/framings/moldings all around the hall.

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Next up, Niagara Falls.  I personally have been to Niagara Falls 4 or 5 times already.  But every time I return and walk down the hill towards the falls, that very first moment when I lay my eyes on Horseshoe Falls, it never fails to take my breath away and give me goosebumps.  The majestic of it all and the amazing wonder of nature is really indescribable for me.  I could stand there and stare at it all day and just relax and clear my mind.  It’s kind of therapeutic for me really so maybe that’s why I kept going back…

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We did the customary boat ride getting up close to the falls.  The boat tours are now operated by Hornblower on the Canadian side, replacing Maid of the Mist, which still operates the tours on the US side.  We also did the ‘Journey Behind the Falls’ which is always a very cool experience to be right next to the thundering roar of the mighty Horseshoe Falls.  The kids were especially in awe to learned that there were people plunging over the falls (whether it be daredevil acts or accidental) and actually survived.  After dinner we ventured back out to see the colored illumination of both the American and Horseshoe Falls.  Every evening the falls are lit at dusk by these huge projection lights up on a hill in the colors of the rainbow.  And since we were there on a Friday night, we also got to enjoy the fireworks show at 10pm.  Pretty awesome way to wrap up a day, wouldn’t you say?

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