Thursday, 11 August 2016

Welcome to Canada, eh? Falling in love with Niagara falls....

3-5 August 2016

It was this mommy's and the kiddos first time stepping foot on the Canadian soil. It was a breeze going through the canadian rainbow bridge (immigration) between the USA and Canada as this mommy has a USA GREEN CARD and kids and hubby being American citizens!!! and the bridge being just 300m "long" made it a quick drive. we saw people walking past us leisurely without the need to queue up.

The drive from new jersey (mr. hubby's sister place) to Niagara Falls according to google maps takes about 6 hours! but with 2 small kids and toilet/food/gas breaks, it took us about 7 hrs going ... not bad at all. But I was quite surprise it takes that long to get there. New York is definitely a huge state! Having been lived in Singapore, we've been pampered that we can get from one end to the other in less than 1 hour!

okay less complaining and more grateful as we enjoy the marvelous creation of God.
No words can express how wonderful it is except to BE THERE and experience it YOURSELF!
It's a wonder why Niagara falls isn't one of the 7 wonders of the world...I wonder why? 

Niagara falls is made up of 3 falls:
1) Horseshoe falls (Canadian side)
2) Bridal veil falls (American side)
3) American falls (American side)

After doing just a brief research, it is a wiser choice to be on the Canadian side to experience the full glory of all these 3 falls..

Here's our 3 days 2 nights itinerary:

Day 1
~Left home around 7.30am.
~Arrive at the Canadian side via the Rainbow Bridge 2.30pm.
~Drove straight to Niagara-on-the-lake. It was a scenic drive with lots of wineries along the way. It reminded me of Perth Australia. There are lots of nice looking historic cafes, pubs, restaurants and boutique shops lined the main street. Lots of people were hanging out chilling outside the cafes.
We proceeded to the lake shore where lots of people were sunbathing, having picnics, swimming, walking their dogs, etc. we were just chillaxing by the lake while people watching and admiring the immaculate expensive houses!

~Tried Ice Wine - on the way back from the lake, we stopped by at one of the wineries and tried the famous Canadian Ice Wine. We randomly chose this winery by looking at the parking lot full of cars and lots of tour buses stopped in front.It was our first time trying Ice Wine. According the the wine bartender, Ice Wine originated from Canada (this very particular town) and the popularity has spread over to Asia and Australia. Funnily, neither me nor Mr. hubby has ever heard of it... (maybe coz we're not alcohol drinkers? lols....)
Ice Wine is basically a dessert wine so do expect it to be very sweet. It was very nice tasting but to me (being a Chinese) I can't drink too much of it before being "jelak"! so we just had a glass to taste. It didn't taste like it had much alcohol, but was told it had 10% alcohol content!!!

~we bought BIG delicious peaches along the way as those were in season and being sold everywhere. I was impressed by how this city is so supportive of local produce as everywhere along the way, they had little tents selling fresh local produce and banners that says "support local". Just imagine if every city adopted this practice, we would save mother earth by reducing transportation, emission, packaging, etc!

~evening - we finally checked into our hotel and we took a power nap (kids took their naps in the car) but we, the parents, needed it after the long drive.

~Woke up and took the WeGO bus from right in front of our hotel (the bus is free as it came as a package to our adventure passes that we purchased! more on what the package includes later on). we headed to Queen Victoria Park for the nightly illumination of the falls. We enjoyed the beauty of the lights projected upon the falls that goes from 9pm to midnight. then at 10pm we enjoyed a 5-10 mins fireworks. The fireworks display isn't on every night, only on Sundays, wednesdays and fridays! I would have love to end our Canada trip with this grand finale but with our short trip, we couldnt slot it in on our last day as we were leaving on friday morning. so we treated this as an opening celebration/ welcoming party!

We ate at the famous Tim Hortons cafe. its like Paris Baguette in Korea, Toast box in Singapore...u get the point... it was basically at every corner you look. the sandwiches were nothing to shout about.. it was cold and bland tasting. I could make better sandwiches! but the donuts and coffee were delish! The English toffee coffee was superb! I had it every single day sometimes twice a day...Timbits a.k.a donut holes were recommended but we didn't think it was any different than the ones we get in Kroger USA. But the maple syrup donut was one of the best tasting donuts! comparable to the light and fluffy krispy kreme donuts but it was extra special here as maple syrup originated from its a MUST try!
~took the WeGO bus back to the hotel and called it a day!

Day 2
~had breakfast at the local canadian diner called "Flying Saucer" and we had breakfast "angmoh" way! we ordered an order of BIG breakfast that came with 3 eggs,2 pancakes, potatoes fritters, bacon, sausages, sliced meat, toast... all these supposedly for 1 person??? the waitress were shocked that we ordered just 1 and shared by all 4 of us...we left feeling full!

~took the WeGO bus to start our "adventure pass" adventure.
The package includes:
1) Journey Behind the Falls - Explore the falls from a tunnel dug through the gorge. It was quite a scary moment standing behind the powerful falls with water gushing at full speed and getting sprayed by the mist. Felt like I was in a cold sauna!

2) Niagara’s Fury - there are 2 parts to this show. 1st was a short clip animated cartoon explaining about how Niagara falls was formed. 2nd part was a "real" life show that takes you through rivers and near the falls where you get to experience the movements and wetness. It's kind of like a preview of what is to come next on the Hornblower Niagara cruise, the REAL thing!

3) Hornblower Niagara cruise - hop on a boat for an up-close (and saturated) look at the falls. We were on the top deck of the boat to get the full experience. we were a bit drenched but no worries at all as you will dry within 5 minutes under the hot summer sun!

After the cruise, we stopped for Lunch at the food court right after... the food court was a disappointment as it was overpriced and had only 2 choices.

4) White Water Walk - After lunch, we hopped on a green-line WEGO bus (included in the Adventure Pass) headed north along the gorge. We walked south along the rim of the gorge, enjoying the excellent views of the U.S. side of the border. We spent more than an hour strolling close to the river’s rapids.

We then hopped on the WeGO bus and headed to one of the biggest Floral Clock in the world. It's free and we got a scenic bus view along the falls and river on the WEGO route. They change the floral arrangements twice a season! much work goes into must be the students from the nearby School of horticulture and botanical that does it!

5) WeGO bus 48 hrs hop on and hop off bus! Came very handy as we didn't have to walk much with 2 kids under the hot sun! Not to mention, parking is super expensive near the falls.

~ dinner time - walk down Clifton Hill (a street with lots of restaurants). we didn't find anything we like coz at this point we were craving for something non "angmoh"! we ran into "Beavers tail" and decided to have dessert yummy that even president Barrack Obama had it must be good.
~ took the WeGO bus back to hotel and went back to Flying Saucer again for dinner. 
Still "ang moh" food but at least it's local "ang moh" food...Lols!

Day 3
~ checked out the hotel around 930am and headed to Tim Hortons for a last dose of my English toffee coffee and maple syrup donuts. Stopped by the grocery stores for the MUST BUY snacks to bring back.
Pic of my goodies haul!

~ headed back to the USA side.
~ we stopped by the best museum for both kids and adults and did I mentioned its FREE with FREE parking?
The Niagara Power Vista in Lewiston, New York. (only 4 miles from the US falls).
It opens 9-5 daily.
Great way to learn about the importance of Niagara falls and how the power of water is turned into electricity. The whole musuem was informative and left us electrified! It was very interactive where we get our scan cards in the beginning and had to scan it at every station to complete each activity. At the end once we completed the museum tour, we get to scan our cards to see our mission accomplishments and then print out our picture to stick onto our tags! We spent 2 hours there! could have stayed longer but it was way past lunch time and still had a long drive back home.

~drove back to new jersey - stopped by a Thai restaurant in Rochester, New York to get a dose of the much needed non ang moh food we were all craving...and YES, i was craving for something SPICY!!! you can take an Asian out of Asia but you cant take the Asia out of Asians...CHEESY!

Optional items (which we didn't have time for)

~Take WEGO to Niagara Parkway – best scenic view
~Whirlpool Aero Car. Similar to a cable car that brings you from the canadian side and across to the USA side and back (without needing a passport). You’ll have a chance to observe the dangerous and breathtaking whirlpool. - decided to skip this as we've rode on cable cars before.
~Skylon Tower to watch the sunset from the observation deck, 52 stories above the falls. - decided to skip this as we read the waiting lines were long and food so so.
~Dufferin Islands, the Floral Showhouse, and many beautiful gardens just within walking distance
~Ripley’s "believe it or not" museum, Niagara SkyWheel and other touristy attractions at Clifton Hill
~helicopter ride
~ziplining ~ mr. Hubby inquired about it as he was interested but it was full for that day!
~farmer's market on Saturdays

upcoming attractions: bungy jump!

Mummy Tips:
~buy your adventure pass tickets online as its cheaper. Children under 5 is FREE. Yayyy!
~ do note that the WeGO bus goes all the way to Niagara on the lake but we decided to drive as we wanted to stop by a winery.
~stroller friendly ~ on all the rides taken with our "Adventure pass" and the walkways along the falls!
~food choices - be prepared to have ur kids and urself overindulge in angmoh food... lots of fries, pizza and burgers! to our dissapointment, the variety of food choices were little and there werent many food establishments right near the attractions. you have to walk a distance to get to Clifton hill which has lots of restaurants but be prepared for only angmoh food..yet again! (Sienna was asking for noodles n rice the 2nd day)
~raincoats provided - for all the "wet" activities, raincoats are provided so you don't have to prepare it before hand but do note that they do have kids size raincoats but it was very long for both Sienna and Skyler so we had to improvise and tie it at the bottom to make it shorter to prevent them from tripping n falling.

What to eat in Canada:
(Canadian food overall IS American food)
Beavertail, English tofee coffee & Canadian maple syrup donut from Tim Hortons, ice wine, nanaimo bars (too coconut-y for me), maple coated bacon and basically anything and everything with maple on it.

What we wanted to eat but couldn't find:
Bannock (griddled bread), peameal bacon, Montreal smoked meat sandwich, tourtiere (meat pie), poutine (fries with cheese curd + Brown gravy), butter tarts, coffee crisp candy bar.