My mom and I were talking one day and we both realized that we needed to get away for a few days but wanted to do something low key. I’m not sure how we decided on Niagara Falls, but since it was a short flight away and the Rogers Cup tennis tournament was being held there soon we decided that Toronto would be the perfect choice. We ended up not going to the tennis tournament but we did take the day trip to Niagara Falls as planned. My mom has been to the American side and since she was pregnant with me at the time technically I’ve been there too, but I considered this my first trip to the Falls.
My cousin decided to join us on this trip so we needed a hotel that had a room that would accommodate all of us. The Homewood Suites Toronto-Oakville fit the bill and you can read my review of the hotel here.
Since the flight was just a little over an hour, we decided to fly economy on this trip and upgrade at check-in if upgrades were available and reasonably priced. The outbound flight from DCA to Toronto Pearson (YYZ) on American had a one cabin configuration so upgrades weren’t offered During check-in we had the option of purchasing Priority Access for $31 per person, which included priority security lines where available and priority boarding. Since we would be departing later in the day and I wasn’t sure how long the security lines would be, I thought it would worthwhile to purchase the priority access. Also, since we were carrying on our bags the early boarding meant we could avoid fighting for overhead bin space since I knew this would be a small plane. DCA did not offer a priority security lane so I was bummed about that, but I figured we would still have priority boarding so we could get our money’s worth that way. Our flight was directed to board on the lower level and we got in a line to board a bus that would take us to the plane. I asked the agent if there was a priority line and I was told there was not. I was a little surprised because my cousin did have a zone assigned on her boarding pass and I wasn’t sure where the priority boarding would come into play because I was pretty sure once we got off the bus everyone would just board the plane and we wouldn’t have any kind of priority. That is exactly what happened. So not only did we not get the priority security line we also didn’t get the priority boarding. Those were the only two benefits advertised as part of the Priority Access upgrade so essentially I paid $62 for nothing. Upon my return home I called American to request a refund and they directed me to the refund site to submit my request. As of the time of this post my request is still pending, but I will update this once they have reviewed my request.
Our original outbound flight had us departing DCA at 10:05am and arriving to YYZ at 11:44am, which would have given us plenty of time to explore downtown Toronto before heading to the Rogers Cup. Unfortunately, I received the dreaded email from Expedia that American had changed the departure and arrival times for our outbound flight. We would now be leaving at 3:02pm and arriving at 4:45pm, which was a change that I was not happy about. It not only meant that we wouldn’t have any time to explore downtown, but it would make getting to the Rogers Cup in time a bit iffy since I wasn’t sure how the traffic would be going from the airport to the hotel and then the hotel to the tournament. I had procrastinated on buying the tennis tickets and by the time I was ready to book them the price had gone up so much that I no longer felt it was a good deal so we decided to wait to see if they would run any promotions as the tournament date neared. The opposite ended up happening and the prices continued to increase so we decided to scrap the tournament all together. We were then left with the decision of what to do once we arrived in Toronto and got settled in, and since the hotel was within walking distance of a movie theater and several restaurants we decided to just have dinner and see a movie.
Once we arrived at YYZ we went to the limo stand expecting to book a limo but there were only town cars available. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I’m not sure if what we call limos are considered nice taxis in Canada? Anyway, while doing research on ground transportation options I learned that Uber assesses a surcharge to rides originating at YYZ so once that was factored in it was actually the more expensive option. The Toronto Pearson website has a lot of great information on taxi and limo options (which you can find here) and the flat rate prices to Oakville ranged from $54-59 CAD.
After checking out all of the dining options, we decided on East Side Mario’s. I wasn’t familiar with this chain prior to eating there but I would compare it to an Olive Garden but more casual. There seemed to be several youth sports teams eating there and I saw several families with young children as well. Our booth wasn’t as clean as it could have been as there were crumbs on the bench and spilled liquid on the tablecloth, not to mention the crayon scribbles that covered the brick on the windowsill. I ordered the baked penne bolognese, and it was ok but not great. My meal came with a choice of salad and I ordered a Caesar salad expecting it to be the size of a side salad, but it was the size of the salad bowl you get at Olive Garden so we all had some of it. Our server was very nice and patiently explained to us how to use the credit card machine since we had never paid table side like that before. I think I would go there again but it wouldn’t be my first choice.
After dinner we walked over to the Cineplex movie theater to see what was playing. We were planning on seeing Ghostbusters, but the next movie didn’t start for another hour and by the time it let out it would be a bit late for my mom. I wanted to see Jason Bourne but my mom and cousin weren’t interested in it so that was out. They were both ok with seeing Bad Moms, which isn’t my kind of movie, but since it was two against one and the next showing was in just 20 minutes we decided to see that. The movie was about what you’d expect it to be, and if you liked Bridemaids you’d probably like Bad Moms but Bridesmaids was much better.
We got an early start on Saturday morning since we had to meet the Niagara Falls tour at the Central Coach Terminal in downtown Toronto at 10:00am. This would be our only time in the city so I wanted us to get there early so we would have time to walk around. We got there around 8:45am but since it was drizzling slightly my mom and cousin decided to wait in the terminal while I did some exploring. Of course the first thing I saw was Eaton Centre so I went in to see if the stores were open. Unfortunately they were not, so I just walked through the mall for a bit and ended up on the other end by the old City Hall. I headed back to the terminal and by the time I got there it was time to head outside to catch the bus.
We booked the Gray Line Niagara Falls Lunch+Cruise tour through Expedia, and since it was an all day tour I feel that it was good value for money. Our guide was Alwyn (not sure of the spelling) and he was great, I just wish more people paid attention to what he was saying because he passed on a lot of valuable information about Toronto, the Falls and Canada in general.
We were running a bit late due to traffic so our first stop at Trius winery was shortened so we could stay on schedule. I appreciated the chance to taste the locally grown (very sweet) ice wine, but that’s really all we did here since our stay was so short so I felt this stop could have been eliminated.
Our next stop was at Niagara on the Lake, and this was a nice little village where we walked around and got some gelato. The village was holding a jazz festival that day so it was nice to have the music in the background as we enjoyed the nice weather and scenery. Our third stop was to the Sheraton in Niagara Falls where we had a buffet lunch. The view was amazing but unfortunately I can’t say the same for the food as the options were very limited and the quality wasn’t great. There was, however, a nice balcony off the dining room where most of the group went to take pictures.
After lunch it was time for the highlight of the tour, the piece de resitance, which was of course the Falls. Alwyn dropped us off with a guide from Hornblower cruises and she led us directly to the elevators that would take us down to the pier. I would recommend booking the Hornblower through a tour because if you didn’t then you would have to wait in very long lines that we were able to bypass. The line to board the boat was long but it moved quickly once the boat arrived. We were given ponchos to wear and you will definitely need them! The boat ride was a lot of fun and once I stopped stressing about having to get back on the bus with a soaking wet skirt I had a good time. Plus, my skirt dried by the time we got on the bus so I was stressing about nothing, I would definitely choose different clothes next time, either pants made from a quick drying fabric or shorts and a hand towel to wipe down my legs.
After that, we made one more stop to get a different view of the Falls and then we made our way back to Toronto. The tour was very well run and I would recommend this tour for an overview of Niagara and the surrounding areas.
On Sunday we called for a taxi back to YYZ and we got there with plenty of time to spare. Our return flight on Air Canada offered business class upgrades for $174 CAN per person, which we thought was a bit expensive for such a short flight. Once again we had economy seats and I have to admit that it’s been a while since I flew economy but the seats on both flights weren’t bad. I wouldn’t choose to fly economy on longer flights but since these were just over an hour it didn’t really make sense to me to pay extra for First/Business Class. The Air Canada flight overall was more comfortable than the American one because the plane was newer (and had a USB port in the seat backs plus infotainment) and it was super quiet, probably the quietest plane I’ve been on.
My trip to Toronto was way too short and I’m already thinking about going back there, possibly for my birthday in a couple of months or for next year’s Rogers Cup. I love these short weekend trips to satisfy my need to travel but the bad thing about them is that they always leave you wanting more!