We recently took the kids on a road trip to Ontario, Canada. From our hometown in Michigan it’s a little under a four-hour drive to Hamilton, Ontario, which is where we were staying, and another 35 minutes to Niagara Falls from there. Now as far as road trips go, this was by far one of the easiest, because I changed up my mommy-road-trip-game with one of the greatest mommy hacks I’ve ever discovered, and can’t wait to share with you. But that is for another upcoming blog post (insert wink-face emoji here).
Ontario, Canada isn’t always a top travel destination for parents of young children. Maybe we forget about it amidst all the other character marketing we’re surrounded by, I don’t know, but Ontario has a plethora of kid-friendly destinations for families. Plus it’s an easy drive from the North-East United States. But either way, put Ontario, Canada on your family-vacation-bucket-list.
Some of the places we went and loved:
- Niagara Falls at night: It’s pretty much a no-brainer that one can’t come to Ontario without visiting these majestic beauties. They really do leave you in awe and speechless, and that’s during the day. During the day there’s so much to do just around the waterfalls, such as the Maid of the Mist boat ride (which is a must-do for any Falls first-timers), zip-lining over the Falls (for those dare-devils brave enough. I truly commend you), and many sight-seeing attractions. On this trip we visited them at night, and watched a fireworks show right over the water. It was one of the most beautiful fireworks displays I’ve ever seen, and only added to the beauty of the Falls. All shows happen promptly at 10 pm, though check beforehand on the night you’re visiting to make sure it’s taking place. Link below: https://www.niagaraparks.com/events/event/niagara-falls-fireworks-series/
- Niagara Falls Promenade: This is like a mini-pier city right next to the Falls. It’s an easy walk between both, so you can park at the Falls and walk to the Promenade, or vice-versa. There are so many activities for kids, families, and adults on the Promenade. This is also where the major hotels and restaurants are located. My older daughter went on a go-cart ride while my younger one played mini arcade games. There were also many museums, a cool Jurassic themed mini-golf area, and more ice-cream and candy shops than I can even count. My kids were basically in heaven.
- African Lion Safari: Located in Cambridge, 30 minutes from Hamilton and about an hour from Niagara Falls. This was amazing. The premise of this safari, as designed by it’s owner back Colonel G.D. Dailley in 1969, is that animals are free to roam around his zoo while humans are caged inside their cars. Now Michigan has a great zoo, and the amazing Toledo Zoo also isn’t far away, so we know our fair-share of animal interacting. However, this was the first time I felt like we actually viewed animals in their habitats, actually interacting with one another the way they were meant to. We saw lions practically right next to cars, monkeys actually on top of cars and eating real bananas (I don’t know about you but I always thought the monkey-banana thing was a joke/hoax, until now), elephants, including the cutest little baby elephant my daughter Mira named Dumbo. It was a great day to remember, and an activity I highly recommend to all ages, young and old.
- MarineLand: This gem is located close to Niagara Falls. We did not go to MarineLand on this trip due to time constraints, although we do plan on taking the kids next time. However I have been there as a kid with my own parents a few times, and do remember it being a lot of fun. It’s basically Ontario’s version of Sea World where visitors have the opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with marine wildlife and some amusement park thrill rides.
- An unlikely halal (and amazing!) restaurant choice: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen in Ontario and Windsor. Due to a high Muslim population in Ontario and Windsor there are many halal restaurant options, and Popeyes was one of them! In short, it was amazing and everything a greasy-fried-chicken-sandwich should be (try the cajun chicken sandwich, trust me on this one)—so good in fact, that we (unhealthily) ate it two days in a row—had to get our halal Popeyes in while we could. A quick Google search, or phone call to the location, will tell you which locations are halal, but we ate at the one in Niagara Falls on the Promenade and another one close to the Safari in Cambridge.
Another reason why we loved Ontario, Canada so much, and this is purely my American ethnocentrism speaking here, but Ontario’s landscape, climate, food choices, and language is so similar to the United States (they speak French and English). Obviously this is because they are neighbors, but a fact my family highly appreciated, especially navigating the roads and restaurants. Driving felt like we were on our own highways, and it was easy to find anything I needed for the kids, if I had forgotten anything. In a way I still felt like I was home, and that made this trip so much more convenient.
Now this is just my personal opinion, but I also believe the Tim Hortons coffee shops in Canada are so much better than ours in Michigan, and this is going to be a pure Michigander review, as there aren’t many Tim Hortons around the United States, but I’m going to throw it out there nonetheless.
I hope my review and recommendations inspired you to visit our lovely neighbors of the north (even though Windsor, Ontario technically south of us—fun fact!). And it’s imperative that once you cross the Canadian border into Ontario you stop at a Tim Horton’s coffee shop and have an Iced Capp. And maybe one on the way home as well. Right after eating a cajun chicken sandwich from Popeyes. Or two. But who’s counting on vacation anyway.