Basically, this is my rough guide to Toronto and the Niagara area of Canada. It is purely based on my experience as a tourist in February/March 2001.
As soon as we arrived in Canada we headed off to our hotel, so I guess that's where I'll start. We stopped at Bond Place Hotel, situated on Dundas Street East. It's location is ideal if you plan to spend a lot of time in Downtown Toronto as it is just a couple of minutes walk to Yonge Street and the Eaton Shopping Center. The rooms are typical of most hotels I've stayed in, with en-suite bathroom and controlled heating & air conditioning (which took us a few days to figure out, but I'm sure the average person could work it out in a second!).
One place which is a must if you are visiting Toronto is the CN Tower - The World's Tallest Freestanding Structure on Land (It also has World's Longest Metal Staircase and World's Highest Wine Cellar!). I'm not one for heights, but this place is great. The views are amazing, you can see for miles and miles over the city and Lake Ontario. There is one view which may not suit people who are afraid of heights, the view from the Glass Floor, 342 metres up! But don't worry, the glass floor is perfectly safe - it's able to withstand the weight of 14 large hippos (I wonder if anyone has tried that?!). Getting to the viewing platform is a breath-taking ride in itself. The glass-fronted elevators take you up there at 15 mph, something which I hadn't expected. There is plenty to do at the CN Tower, what with the views, the shops, the restaurant & cafes, the arcade and more.
Next to the CN Tower is the SkyDome (now renamed 'Rogers Center'), home to the Toronto Blue Jays. We didn't go in, but we did visit the merchandise shop and go to the SkyDome Hard Rock Cafe (overlooking the SkyDome pitch, we would have had an excellent view had a game been on).
I'd never been in a Hard Rock Cafe before, but I was very impressed by the service we got. The gentleman serving us took our order and came back for a chat, asking us where we were from, what places we'd visited in the city and offering us valuable knowledge of places to visit in Toronto. (I found this to be typical of a lot of people in Toronto, every one seemed so friendly). The meals were huge, but very tasty!
Talking of food... A great place to go to eat is the food court at the Eaton Centre (housing more than 320 shops and restaurants, 17 cinemas and a hotel!). It has food from all over the world. On several occassions I chose Chinese, and by the end of my time there the woman behind the counter would see me coming and start serving up the meal she knew I'd choose (Yes, I am that predictable!). Oh, and then there's Arby's Roast Beef Sandwiches with curly fries - another must to try. I'd say the Eaton Centre certainly caters for everyone's needs when it comes to food.
Toronto has many places to drink, but one place we went to was the Elephant and Castle on Yonge Street. A pub which reminded me of home, the only difference being that I got a free top-up of my drink of Coke (I was quite surprised when the barman didn't want any money for a second drink - It's not something that happens often where I live).
Going back to the Eaton Centre... With it's large range of shops, catering for everyone's taste, it's difficult to leave without buying anything. It's so big you can spend hours there without realising it. It's situated at the heart of Downtown Toronto (and a stones-throw from Bond Place Hotel) and is hard to miss. Well worth a visit, especially for those of us who can shop until they drop!
Yonge Street is the longest street in the world, it's almost 1900 km long. Of course, we didn't have time to walk it all (Image what an walk that would be!), but we did walk a fair distance of it, certainly to beyond the shops. In Downtown Toronto Yonge Street is full of businesses, shops and lights, and it's the main street of the city. It's definitely a street to spend some time on, there's plenty to find.
We visited the cinema a total of 4 times (within a week) while we were in the city. It was difficult not to since the prices were so cheap compared to the UK (I think it worked out to £1.50, except when we went on the Tuesday when it worked out to 75p each to see a movie!). One mistake I made was to ask for a large drink and popcorn... the tub the assistant picked up was so big I thought she was going to put the popcorn in it until she started pouring drink into it. I'm sure there was still drink left at the end of the movie, despite the pair of us sharing. Anyway, it's all value for money.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is the most beautiful town in Ontario, if not Canada. Our first stop was a cafe/restaurant for our lunch. I can't remember what the place was called, but the food was lovely. I had a roast turkey sandwich in gravy, I'd never had it before, but it was delicious. We only had 3 or so hours in the town, so we made the most of it, looking around shops and finding some beautiful sights. I think my most favourite place in the town was the bandstand, it looked so beautiful in the wintery snow. If I was to get married, I'd love to get married in that town and have my wedding photos taken at the bandstand (that's just how much I loved that place). It's well worth a visit, especially if you're heading out to Niagara Falls anyway.
The first time I saw the falls was by helicopter and I'd definitely recommend people see them from the sky, whether you've seen the falls before or not. It is such a magnificent sight to see. We flew over the falls with Niagara Helicopters, who provided us with a commentary to go with the spectacular views we could see. I'm scared of flying, but once I saw the views I was in awe and the fear of flying disappeared (though I was still glad to have my feet firmly on the ground when we landed, despite wanting to see more!).
So back on the ground, the falls can be seen close-up (as you can see from the photo). The falls can be seen from even closer by taking a ride on the Maid on the Mist Boat ride. We missed out on that as it doesn't run during the winter months. (It usually re-opens in April, but the opening date is dependant on the amount of ice that accumulates on Lake Erie during the Winter). But we got wet enough just standing at the side of the falls, from the vast mist created by the falls.
The shops and restaurants of Niagara Falls are very touristic, so there's plenty to keep the average person's attention. We took a wander around the place (including a visit to the Hershey's chocolate shop) and got something to eat before heading back to see the falls for a final time.
The falls are beautiful at night-time, too. They are all lit up and are just spectacular. Well worth the wait for dark to fall. Seeing the Niagara Falls at night marked the end of our 2001 trip to Canada as our flight back to the UK beckoned.
It's definitely a trip I would love to do again.
(Thanks to Graeme for his memories of the trip).