A layover in Toronto is my favorite way to explore the city’s attractions and also get away from it on a nature escapade. I love escaping to the awe-inspiring Niagara Falls each time. However, don’t get me wrong, if you are not a nature buff. There are so many adventures waiting near the falls, including amusement parks, casinos, wine-tasting, colonial towns, and go-karting, that even non-nature-buffs should pack their gear and head to the falls.
First Things First: My Favorite Spots within Toronto
While escaping to the falls is my favorite thing to do on a layover in Toronto, at times, I don’t have enough time on hand. That’s when I stay within the city, doing what I love the most. So some top spots for me are:
Nestled atop a hill in Toronto, Casa Loma is an extraordinary building that looks like something straight out of a medieval fairytale. Originally constructed in 1914 for Sir Henry Pellatt, a Canadian multi-millionaire, the house is now a museum that offers a glimpse into a period of European elegance and splendor with decorated suites, mysterious secret passages, and an 800-foot tunnel. Overall, it is a fantastic place to capture selfies or feel like being in a period drama!
A unique and historic area lovingly transformed into a trendy spot for shopping and entertainment, the Distillery District is now a wonderful place to spend a day exploring charming boutiques, galleries, artists’ studios, and restaurants. And I was lucky to be here around Christmas for the famous annual Toronto Christmas Market, with festive wooden stalls selling unique gifts, a beautiful Christmas tree, and cozy outdoor areas with fire pits to keep you warm.
View from the CN Tower
In my opinion, no trip to a city is complete without observing it from an iconic sky-high observation tower, and the 553-meter CN Tower offers just that in Toronto! I love looking at the beautiful night lights from its observation decks or enjoying a delicious meal with fabulous views of the city and Lake Ontario.
With some incredible times spent within Toronto, let me now take you to the Falls, where I escape to on almost every layover in Toronto.
Falling for the Falls in All Their Hues
Just a short drive from Toronto, Niagara Falls are a jaw-dropping natural wonder! Their sight always makes me stare in open-mouthed wonder at their sheer vastness. Each time I have been here on a layover in Toronto, it has been a terrific experience. Although the Falls can be reached from both US and Canada, I have always loved the Canadian side more.
What does the Canadian Side offer?
Although Niagara is a group of falls, the largest one, The Horseshoe Falls, is on the Canadian side, offering a much better view when visited from Canada. Along with that, the other two falls are also clearly visible from this side, unlike the US side, thereby offering a much more wholesome and panoramic experience.
The crew and I have explored the Falls in all their hues, and each has given us a fantastic time to cherish. Some of my favorite experiences are:
Journey Behind the Falls:
Our first visit to the Falls gave us a truly unique perspective on Niagara Falls. We wanted to get up and close to the falls, so we went for the very famous Journey Behind the Falls experience, and now we know why every tourist raves about it.
This beautiful experience takes you 150 feet underground through an elevator and, from there, through a series of tunnels right up to the base of the Horseshoe Falls for unimaginably stunning views of the falls from behind!
It feels like you are behind a colossal water curtain, a truly unforgettable experience for nature lovers like me.
The White Water Walk to the Falls:
While nothing compares to the “Behind the falls experience,” I even love the White Water Walk along the Niagara River. It takes you as close as possible to the whirlpool rapids. This wooden walkway offers a long peaceful walk with only nature sounds all around, making you totally forget the city woes.
However, instead of walking the whole distance every time, I love spending hours on the viewing deck along the way. I love admiring the beauty all around and giving my mind the most sought-after peace after a long flying schedule.
The Night Time Illumination of the Falls:
While the days are peaceful, the falls look entirely different at night. There is a spectacular light show that illuminates the falls for a truly stunning effect.
Let me tell you; it’s not just another light show. This extraordinary display is seen from the Niagara Falls illumination cruise or the Niagara Falls boat tour, giving you the front row seats to see the illumination from up close. It is truly a hair-raising experience!
Adventures & Amusement: Ziplining, Giant Wheel, GoKarting
While the falls are a natural enchantress, there are a lot of adrenaline-pumping adventures nearby to explore:
Zipline to the Falls:
Zipline to the Falls is one of the most exhilarating ways to experience Niagara Falls. This thrilling ride takes you on a breathtaking journey into the gorge, providing stunning views of the falls.
You glide down 670 meters, soar past the American Falls, and land atop the falls observation deck at Horseshoe Falls base. Best of all, the snow and ice encasing Niagara Falls is spellbinding during the winter months.
Niagara Skywheel & Clifton Hill:
While Ziplining is totally thrilling, there are many more adventures to explore at the falls. One of my favorites is the Niagara SkyWheel. It’s the perfect way to take in the stunning natural beauty of the falls.
This 175 feet high giant wheel offers unparalleled views. On top of that, the gondolas are climate controlled, so you can enjoy in all weathers, without turbulence!
Also, Clifton Hill offers a wealth of activities, including boat tours, hiking trails, theme parks, arcades, and mini golf! And that’s why the crew and I love spending our layover in Toronto here; it’s a new experience every time.
While also in Clifton Hill, the Speedway occupies a special spot in my heart. It takes the thrill to a whole new level, combining kart racing challenge with roller coaster ride excitement.
The course is spread over four acres and features over 2000 linear feet of the concrete racing surface. It feels like flying through a four-story helical spiral and then onto a two-tiered coaster-style ramp that runs into another spiral at almost 32 km/hr.
I love the whole experience because it tests our driving skills, makes us negotiate the hairpin turns, and pushes us to climb the elevated ramp for the checkered flag!
Hidden Gems: Casino, Wine Tasting, & the Colonial Selfie Town
Niagara Fallsview Casino:
If you love high stakes, Fallsview Casino Resort is the crown jewel of Niagara Falls. Built on a cliff overlooking the Horseshoe Falls, the resort offers stunning views, luxurious accommodations, and first-class gaming and entertainment. With over 3,000 slot machines and 130 gaming tables, it is the largest casino in Canada.
Niagara on the Lake:
Nestled just beyond Niagara Falls, this picturesque colonial town epitomizes old-world charm, with quaint shops, picturesque streets, and beautifully preserved heritage buildings forming the perfect backdrop for selfies. The town is also home to a thriving wine industry, with dozens of wineries producing some of the country’s finest vintages.
Whenever we have time, the crew and I love strolling through the town’s charming streets. Sampling the local wines adds a lot of charm to the whole layover in Toronto.
So Long Toronto: Will Return Soon!
A layover in Toronto is bliss, with so much to explore within and Niagara just in the neighborhood. I’ve heard so much about Toronto’s Italian and Greek ethnic enclaves that my bucket list is overflowing. Let’s see what all I get to experience next time.