On the highway to Kitchener – visiting old friends 🚘
“Welcome to Canada”, Patrick, Tristan’s old and very good friend from school, welcomed us warmly at the airport in Toronto. For some time we had wanted to come to Ontario to visit Patrick and his Canadian girlfriend Ashley and we finally made it. 🙌 We were looking forward to an exciting time together with many new impressions and were absolutely not disappointed. Holidays with locals, experiencing the country authentically and genuinely – what could be better? 🙂
Out of the airport building we took the full highway towards Kitchener, about an hour’s drive from Toronto. My first impression was: big, bigger, Canada! 😮 It starts with the pick-ups and big trucks on the wide roads and ends with the huge skyscrapers in Toronto, the big portions in the supermarket and restaurants and the endless nature with its wide forests and huge lakes, which looked more like a sea. It is just all really big!
Arriving in Kitchener, the streets reminded me of the streets in the typical North American series like Desperate Housewives, where every house has a nice front garden with a veranda and in the morning the newspaper is thrown on the lawn by a mailman. The little town is a good starting point to make nice trips and dive into Canadian life. By the way: Kitchener is known as the “secret” city of the Germans, because the twin cities Kitchener and Waterloo have a very high German presence and even host the second largest Oktoberfest in the world every year. 🍺
Tip no. 1: Enjoy a real Canadian breakfast with pancakes, maple syrup and peameal bacon 🍳 and watch the many black squirrels in one of the surrounding parks. 🐿
The Canadian way of short vacations: staying on a beautiful cottage 🏡
Typical Canada in summer? This is definitely a time out on a cottage! With the rising summer heat, the desire of Canadians to escape from city life, stay on a cottage in the beautiful nature on their days off and just relax, is growing. For a few days we were allowed to be guests at Ashley’s parents’ cottage in the Kawartha Lakes region, about 90 minutes northeast of Toronto, and enjoyed the time very much. 🌤
Holidays on the cottage means: cold lakes, scenic views, boats cruising by ⛵, fishing 🎣, just lazing in the sun , sitting together and enjoying a beer. 😎 And what is also very important: Outdoor activities! On the one hand a cottage weekend is for relaxation, on the other hand a little action is a must. Jatzky driving, standup paddling, cornhole and beer pong tournaments or just casually chatting with the neighbors and taking a ride on their boat – amazing! (as the Canadians often say)
Tip no. 2:
For early risers: enjoy the sunrise at the jetty! In the early morning the fog still lies on the lakes and the sky takes on great colors – fascinating! 🌅
For night owls: a cosy campfire with S’Mores! These are sweet sandwiches made of cookies, marshmallows and chocolate – be sure to try them. 🔥
During our holiday on the cottage but also during the whole stay we got to know the Canadians as extremely open, warm and tolerant people. 💕 They joke a lot, laugh loudly, apologize for basically everything and wear their heart on their sleeve, so we always felt very comfortable.
To get an insight into the nature of Canada, I highly recommend a side trip to the cottage. It should not be missing on your Ontario vacation to-do list.
Stopover at the beavers: the Blue Mountain Village 🍁
On the way to Toronto, where the Beaver River flows into Nottawasaya Bay, is the beautiful Blue Mountain Village, perfect for a break. The village is especially known as an alpine ski resort, but also reminds in summer of a wellness oasis due to the large pond and the adjacent resort. All around you will find the pretty colorful Muskoka chairs, some shops, boutiques, restaurants and beavertails! What? Beavertails? 😳 Yes, but in a sweet, fried and absolutely vegetarian version! 😅
Tip no. 3: If you prefer something hearty, I recommend Poutine. The typical Canadian dish consists on thick chips, cheese cubes and gravy (sometimes with a topping like Pulled Pork). 🍟 I have eaten a big portion and was totally enthusiastic!
Before going to the big city, do you want to take a trip to the nature? No worries, the Scenic Cave Nature Adventures are right next door. The hiking trails lead along crystal clear creeks, caves and caverns in the middle of beautiful Canadian forests. Along the way you will find cute wood carvings of beavers and bears 🐻 and the longest suspension bridge in Southern Ontario which provides the best views over Georgian Bay.
Toronto – I love you! 💗
Ontario consists mainly of forests, lakes and gigantic nature and then there is the metropolis Toronto, for me one of the most impressive cities I have seen so far, very different from what we know in Europe. Words I use to describe Toronto: individual, hip, creative, multicultural and insanely tolerant (not for nothing there are districts called Chinatown, Little Italy, Greektown, Little India, Korea Town). And what else belongs to it? The skyscrapers! 🌆 At the first impression everything in the city seems to be huge again, but you find your way around relatively quickly. In case of doubt, just look at the CN Tower, the highest building in Toronto, and you’ll always find your way back. We spent (unfortunately only) one weekend in Toronto, we were totally excited and felt very comfortable. My tips for a perfect weekend in this beautiful city:
The CN Tower is a MUST and let’s be honest, you can’t get past it either, because it is so high that you can even spot it from the plane. 😍 The 553m high tower houses a nice if overpriced souvenir shop on the ground floor (maple leaves, moose and bears wherever you look) and a fabulous rotating 360° restaurant from where we enjoyed the breathtaking view over the city during lunch. You can also see the Toronto Islands where you can best see Toronto’s skyline (they are already on my bucket list for the next trip to Toronto) and if the weather is good, you can also see the Niagara Falls.
Tip no. 4: You definitely want to enjoy the view from the CN Tower over the city? Combine this fabulous experience with lunch. The entrance fee, just to stop at the different floors, costs between $39 – $54 per person. So why not eat at the restaurant for the money and secure a seat right by the window. 😏
Right next to the CN Tower is the Rogers Centre , the home stadium of the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team and the Steam Whistle Brewery, which makes its own pilsner. Outside you can have a look at the old steam locks. 🚂
You (like me) just can’t get enough of those skyscrapers? 🏙 Then start your city tour at the harbor front of Lake Ontario on Queens Quay West, where you have a direct view of the giants of the city. Continue along Bay Street until you reach the intersection of King Street – there you will find the famous Financial District – skyscrapers en masse!
Tip no. 5: Directly on the harbor front is the Amsterdam Brew House, an award-winning Toronto craft brewery with a restaurant. The beer is delicious, the atmosphere relaxed and the service very nice. 🍻
In general, the waiters and waitresses in Canada are incredibly friendly and they like to have a chat with you. Maybe not at least to get a good tip. 🙊 By the way, the tip is usually 15-20% in Canada and can be selected directly with credit card payment, super easy.
Next to the financial district is the old and new city hall with the colorful Toronto lettering in front as well as the shopping paradise in the background – the Eaton Centre! 🛍 There you can find e.g. a Disney shop, Canadian fashion at Roots and a Kate Spade boutique, where Ashley took me, I’ve been a fan ever since! 😁
Tip no. 6: growling stomach – how about a real hot dog from the street? 🌭 The cute stalls are scattered in the city, but don’t take anything from the open containers. Why? There are rumors of various bodily fluids inside…🤐
In the evening it is worthwhile to make a side trip to Yonge-Dundas-Square. The square with the famous neon signs at the northern end of the Eaton Centre is one of the busiest places in Canada and it reminds of the famous Time Square in New York.
Tip no. 7: very close by is the 3 Brewers microbrewery, where you can test one meter of delicious beer – be sure to try it! In Canada there are many microbreweries, so the beer repertoire is very diverse.👌
Finally, I recommend a visit to the Distillery District, the artists’ and amusement district, where a large whiskey distillery once stood. In the pedestrian area there are many restaurants, bars and boutiques, among others a nice gin distillery and the only sake distillery in North America where you can also do a little tasting. It is totally beautiful and inspiring to stroll through the cobblestone streets and fantastic to end this fabulous weekend in Toronto. 😍
Natural wonder Niagara Falls 🌎
Just two hours from Toronto is the Niagara Region with the famous Niagara Falls, the largest waterfalls in North America and wonderful to combine when you are in Toronto anyway. Unfortunately, the waterfalls are quite a tourist magnet and in good weather the crowds of people just flock to the hotspot. Basically it is possible to experience the Niagara Falls in different ways: from the water with a boat that goes to the edge of the falls ⛴, from the air with a helicopter 🚁 or from the land during a walk. 🚶 We decided for the latter, as we were still a bit groggy from last night. By the way, if you bring some more time with you, you can drive from directly over the bridge to New York.
Ontario Summary 🌼
On to Canada! This country has so much to offer. We only got to see a tiny bit of it and were thrilled. I am sure that there is something for everyone in this country, whether pure nature or big city feeling. And what makes the holiday perfect are the extremely open and friendly people. I will definitely come back! 👋