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Not only is Toronto a fascinating destination in itself, it makes a great base for exploring Niagara Falls, just 80 miles (130 kilometers) away. This astonishing natural wonder straddling the US-Canadian border marks the dramatic halfway point of the Niagara River on its course from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.
A day trip takes you through scenic Niagara Peninsula before you arrive at the thundering waters. Take in this awe-inspiring sight over lunch before you get more intimately acquainted with the Horseshoe Falls. Depending on the time of year, you can take an exhilarating ride on the Maid of the Mist boat, with their famous blue raincoats ensuring you stay dry(ish). Otherwise, experience the roar and mist from a different angle on a walk behind the cascade. Or if you really want to get your heart racing, take the afternoon Whirlpool Jet Boat tour. After a panoramic view over Whirlpool Rapids, toast the formidable falls at a local winery on your way back to Toronto.
Take some time to explore Toronto on and around Lake Ontario, starting with the regenerated Harbourfront. Where else would you find a spot like Spadina Quay, protected wetlands in the shadow of skyscrapers? The skyline, by the way, including the enormous CN Tower, looks even more impressive from the water.
But of course for at least half the year you’ll be looking for indoor diversions. You’re in luck! Still at Harbourside, visit Toronto’s version of London’s Tate Modern, a contemporary gallery in a converted power station. The nearby Distillery District now produces great exhibitions, performances and meals rather than whiskey. 401 Richmond is yet another thoughtful renovation, a whole gallery precinct inside a reconditioned warehouse. Down the road, the huge Art Gallery of Ontario has recent additions designed by local boy Frank Gehry, while the Toronto Dominion Gallery of Inuit Art has compelling works by indigenous Canadians.
Canada’s capital Ottawa is an appealing city year-round.
You can explore the capital by road and by canal on a hop on, hop off tour or opt for a short introduction with free time for your own exploration.
If you visit just one of Ottawa’s fantastic museums make it the National Gallery of Canada. Other museums of interest include the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Canadian Museum of Nature, and the Canadian War Museum to name but a few!
Just a few minutes from Parliament Hill and across the Ottawa River in Gatineau stretch the rolling hills of Gatineau Park. A popular spot for hiking, picnicking and biking, and, in winter, cross-country and downhill skiing, this natural wilderness is full of nature trails that wind around its forests, lakes and lookouts. Free to enter and explore, the park looks particularly spectacular in autumn when the leaves create a landscape of warm, fall colors.