Author Topic: Niagara + Toronto With Teens  (Read 1091 times)

Offline Yonah

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Niagara + Toronto With Teens
« on: August 27, 2018, 03:28:11 PM »
I've been a lurker here for quite a while, and thought I'd drop a TR for my recent trip to Niagara and Toronto.

Travelers - me and the wife plus three boys - two in HS, one in grade school.

Sunday, 8/19: After a 6+ hour drive, we arrived at our hotel - the Wyndham Gardens Niagara Fallsview. The best thing about this hotel is it's location - about a 10-minute walk to the falls via Murray Street (it was also close to Chabad ~ 5 min walk). Unfortunately, while the hotel may have had a falls view at some point, it no longer does, courtesy of some of the other hotels that are closer to the falls. Although we didn't initially request it, we received a 'falls facing' room upon check-in. While we couldn't see the falls, we did get good views of the nightly fireworks. We were also able to get a cot and a fridge in our room. The hotel was definitely not the ritz, but was clean, and relatively modern. The only downside to this hotel was that the pool was small and very crowded. The staff were helpful and accomodating, however, while checking out, I did notice an angry guest checkout early after complaining about the maid service timing -however, it was clear that he wasn't a native english speaker, and given I had a positive experience, it's possible his bad experience was due to a communication misunderstanding. All we managed to do Sunday night was to walk to the falls and up the strip of museums and attractions. There were huge crowds everywhere. Rather than try one of the rides or museums, we opted to swim at the hotel.

Monday 8/20: I woke up early before the family to get in a run. The Niagara Vistors Center (where the entrance to Journey behind the falls is) was just under a mile from the hotel, so I ran just past it and back for a nice 2-mile run. It definitely took longer than my usual runs as I stopped to admire the scenery and take some selfies. in sharp contrast to the crowds of the night before, the falls were essentially empty - save for a few more joggers and some early bird tourists. I also got pelted by a small rain shower and a lot of mist. It was awesome. Once everyone was up and ready, we went to the Horatio Hornblower boat tour, thankfully because we went early (around 10am) the crowds weren't big and we were able to go right away. It was an enjoyable little trip, and we all got a little wet.  Afterward our two teens did the Zipline alongside the falls. It was pricey at $59 CAD, but my kids said it was well worth it. The zipline starts directly above the Hornblower docks, at height of about 3 stories above the cliffs. It runs about 1/2 mile down to about a 100 yards from the Journey behind the falls caves. We then went to get tix for the Journey Behind the falls, but the wait was long. Two bits of advice to people considering this - the time they give you is the time you are allowed to start lining up to enter the caves, and you can pick that time in advance. I'd suggest you a) get your tickets early, even if you want an afternoon reservation, and b) pick a reservation time 10-15 minutes before you want to be in the caves, knowing you'll need to wait online. I think all 3 of my kids enjoyed the caves more than the boat ride, especially as the walls of the caves are decorated with facts, tidbits, and stories about the falls. That was our one day doing things 'Niagara' and we all enjoyed it. Next, off to Toronto.

Tuesday 8/21: We left Niagara in the morning and headed to the Outlet collection at Niagara for some school shopping. While we did manage to buy one or two things, and save a few $$, the prices weren't that much better than at American Outlet malls, even considering the exchange rate. My guess is that this mall is more geared towards tourists, and has a smaller selection. After shopping, we got to our Hotel on the far side of Toronto at 4pm or so. I got this hotel as a Priceline Express Deal for $115 (US) and I was quite pleased - the hotel was the Westin Prince. All things aside, I thought the location worked well for us. It was equidistant to downtown Toronto, the Jewish Neighborhoods of Bathhurst/Thornhill, and the Theme Park (Canada's Wonderland) that were on our itinerary.  After checking in, we headed down to the Toronto Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre. Unfortunately, while there are a fair amount of restaurants in the Toronto Area, there aren't many downtown. We found that there is a branch of the King David Kosher Pizza chain in the food court of Mount Sinai Hospital. The Pizza was okay, not great. I also ordered the Poutine - which was also okay, but my kids didn't like (they had plain fries instead). While waiting online, a woman with a Quebecois accent told me that they only place to eat poutine is in Quebec itself. All told, I spent about $45 CAD for my family of 5- warning for the Kosher consumer, this is the only kosher restaurant in that food court. I thought that the Aroma Cafe was kosher, until I saw that they served bacon. From there we went to the Rogers Centre. Parking in Toronto (like any other major city) can be a royal pain. For the Hospital, I found street parking at $4/hr. For the baseball game, I paid $22 USD in cash to park across the street from the stadium. We managed to get $20 seats via TickPick.com - and we were located in section 140, directly over the Left-Field bullpen, with the hopes that we could catch a HR ball - while 5 of the 6 HR hit in the game came close, we weren't so lucky. The stadium itself is pretty nice, but I was told by regulars that it's nicer when they open the roof. They also have a set where they broadcast in-game and around the mlb updates for SportsNet (Canada's Answer to ESPN). Bonus - Former met Cliff Floyd is an analyst from them, and two of my kids got to meet him and take selfies. There is a kosher stand at the stadium, and prices (In CAD) are in-line with what you'd pay at other ballparks - i.e. $6 hot dogs. When the game was over and we walked out, the CN Tower (which is next door) was all lit up and beautiful. While I was upset about the amount of $$ I payed to park, I was very glad to be across the street when the game was over.

Wednesday 8/22: Our plan was to hit the Hockey hall of fame and the CN Tower, but because it was rainy and cloudy, and because we really loved the Hockey Hall of fame, we stayed there the whole day. Full disclosure - our family are huge hockey fans, and this is something we've wanted to do for a while. Not wanting to pay another $22 to park, I discovered a Municipal parking lot (Green P - apparently a very humorous name for teenage boys) on Church Street and the Esplanade, about a 5-10 walk from the HHOF. From the outside the HHOF is deceptively small. There is the small original hall of fame on the corner of Yonge and Front streets, but the building is attached to Brookfield place, a very large office complex with shops and restaurants on the ground and lower levels. This is where the HHOF entrance is, and in addition to that building, they have another 60,000 square feet of exhibit space. Beyond the traditional Hall of Fame stuff - memorabilia, jerseys, etc. They also have a lot of interactive games such as a Goalie challenge and a Shootout challenge. they also have a section devoted to the history of broadcasting hockey that allows you to call a play-by-play of famous moments in hockey history. All of the shootout/broadcasting challenges are also recorded and you can share them on social media or download them to your computer - free of charge. We also watched a 3D short movie where ice chips, body checks and the puck flew out at you from the screen. Finally we were able to get our picture taken with the Stanley cup (it's finished it's tour of Europe with Alex Ovechkin). After a long day at the HHOF, we headed to 'The Village' for a late lunch. We ate at Aish Tanoor - a Middle Eastern place. We all had Laffa sandwiches with different fillings - Shawarma, Koufta Kebab, and Schnitzel. The food and service were very good, all told the meal cost ~ $90 Canadian for the 5 of us.  At this point, one of my kids had a problem with his apple device, so we headed to the apple store to see if they could fix it. We decided to head to the Yorkdale mall. The mall is a very high-end one - this was obvious right away, upon noticing the plethora of high-end watch shops like IWC and Vacheron Constantin. While it was a very nice mall, clearly it was above my pay grade. We did, however help get my son's device fixed, and thankfully, parking was free. While we did eat a late lunch, we still wanted some dinner - unfortunately, it seems that many of the Kosher Restaurants in Toronto close early. We found Howie T's burger bar in Thornhill. This was a self-seat burger joint. Not the greatest, but the portions were generous, and the burgers and onion rings were enjoyed by all. The total was less than $60 canadian for all 5 of us.

Thursday 8/23: We visited Canada's wonderland in Vaughn Ontario. This is a theme park a la six flags - lots of exciting coasters and rides as well as a small water park. We learned that costco had discount tickets, and after several tries of trying to buy tickets on Costco's Canadian website, we decided to try to buy them in-store. Thankfully, there was a Costco about 5 minutes from the theme park itself, and we were able to buy our discounted tickets. We got to the park within the first half hour of opening, and it was already filling up. We decided to take on the water park first, and then the rides after lunch. The waterpark was underwhelming. The slides were pretty tame, and unlike most lazy rivers where you can keep floating in circles, here the Lazy river is discontinuous, and although they allow you to continue, they make you get out of your tube, and get back on again. After the water park disappointment, we ate lunch and went on the coasters. I personally rode three - The Fly, Wild Beast, and thunder run - all of which do not invert, but were enjoyed by me, and my thrill-seeking children. The three of them combined also managed to go on - Backlot Stunt Coaster, Behemoth, Flight Deck, the Mighty Canadian Mine Buster, and Vortex. All told, they would have loved to try other rides, but the lines were ridiculous. We only lucked out on one ride - it had an hour long wait, but it was shut down for about 30 minutes, and we got there just as it opened up. We also didn't really get to go on any non-coaster rides. Needless to say, a good time was had by all. Afterward, we went to Dr. Laffa - the Vaughn Location - it's about 20 minutes from the park. We had an almost identical meal to the one at Aish Tanoor, for almost the identical price. While the food at Dr. Laffa's was good, we all preferred the food at Aish Tanoor better.

Friday 8/24 - we left early to get home in time for shabbos. On the way we stopped at Duty Free, the deals weren't great, but with one caveat - they gave a preferred exchange rate for US cash of 0.70 (that's about 0.08 per USD). As an example, a $100 of liquor would be $79 USD if you charged it, but $70 USD in cash.

That's it for now - here are some links of the places I mentioned, comment if you have questions:

Links:

Dr. Laffa: http://www.drlaffa.com/
Aish Tanoor: http://www.aishtanoor.com/
Howie T's: https://howiets.ca/
King David Pizza: http://www.kingdavidpizza.ca

Wyndham Gardens Fallsview: http://www.niagarafallswyndham.com/
Westin Prince: https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/yyzpw-the-westin-prince-toronto/

Hockey Hall of Fame: https://www.hhof.com/
Canada's Wonderland: https://www.canadaswonderland.com
Hornblower Boat Tours: https://www.niagaracruises.com/
Journey Behind the Falls: https://www.niagaraparks.com/visit/attractions/journey-behind-the-falls/
Wildplay MistRider Zipline: https://www.niagaraparks.com/visit/attractions/wildplay-mistrider-zipline-falls/

Niagara Outlets: https://www.outletcollectionatniagara.com/
Yorkdale Mall: https://yorkdale.com/

Offline ludmila

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Re: Niagara + Toronto With Teens
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2018, 04:13:20 PM »
Thanks, nice TR, drlaffa and aishtanoor have good Israeli food, falafel, humus, shwarma , sabich  etc
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