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Detroit to Toronto and Niagara falls help!

Hi my daughter has a volleyball tournament in Detroit June 28- July 2nd. We want to extend that trip and add on somewhere somewhat close. We are from Florida and have never been to Canada or Michigan.

It's myself, husband, and 2 teens. We are very active and like big cities but also quaint towns, food, culture & history but not museums and sporting events. My 17 year old has chosen Toronto with one night at the hotel thats in the baseball field and then a day trip from Toronto to Niagara falls. What is the best means of transportation for Detroit to Toronto and also a day trip from Toronto to NF?

Are there any other great places we should look into before we book Toronto?

Posted by
3936 posts

I think a car rental is really the only way - but when we went, we had our own car, so I didn't look into public transport. There could be a VIA train and most likely a bus (between TO and NF). Someone else can help with that.

I just want to point out - that is a long weekend - Canada Day is July 1, so things will probably be CRAZY. On the flip side, there will likely be some amazing fireworks in TO and Niagara Falls. I'm not sure how Canada Day affects things in Ont (in NS, retail closes that day, but I think in Ont it stays open)- there could be some closures or businesses may have reduced hours. If you really want some fun, you could always head to Ottawa for Canada Day - I'm sure there is a train runs between the two.

Honestly - I imagine NF will be overrun - we did NF close to Canada Day back in '01 - the crowds...ugh. But I will say - when we were in TO over Canada Day, at the time, the subway/tram ran on a reduced schedule, but it wasn't very busy.

The is nothing quaint at all about Niagara Falls - it's like a mini-Las Vegas - full of tourist trap stuff. If you had a car or could catch a bus - Niagara on the Lake was a really pretty town.

Posted by
6876 posts

Its about 244 miles from Detroit to Toronto. Probably, most people just drive but you can fly as well if you need to cut down on travel time (1 hour vs 4 or so).

Here's info regarding Niagara Falls. Rental car is not the only way to get there; there are multiple bus and train options too. For 4 people, a rental car will probably be the cheapest way to get there though. By the way, the Canadian side of the falls is much nicer (the US side is pretty cheesy, at least when I went). Niagara Falls deserves a half day or so (maybe a little more), that's it.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g155019-c97995/Toronto:Ontario:Niagara.Falls.A.Side.Trip.From.Toronto.html

Toronto deserves at least 3 full days if you have it. If you're going to drive all the way from Detroit to get there (or fly), you might as well stay awhile. You don't need a car once you're in Toronto, it's easy to get around without it. Here's a great website for Toronto (you can download or get a copy of their visitors guide too):
http://www.seetorontonow.com/#sm.0001quwekwozkdhkrt52pi0slm4hm

If you like food, culture, history, and quaint towns, try to make it to Montreal and Quebec City one day. It's well worth it. Canada is a gorgeous country, it's definitely a wonderful place to travel in, and the roadways are great for road trips (much more enjoyable than most of the US because it's full of nature and sparsely populated between the cities).

Posted by
288 posts

I love Michigan! There are so many fun things to see and do. I also enjoy Canada!

Some other suggestions in Michigan
Frankenmuth - a cute little Bavarian style town. It has the worlds biggest Christmas store.
Going North from Detroit is Mackinaw Island. You take the ferry over from Mackinaw City. It is a no cars island. You can rent bikes and go around the island.
About an hour north from Mackinaw is Sault St Marie. We really enjoyed watching the big boat so through the locks from Lake Huron into Lake Superior.
An hour southwest from Mackinaw is Traverse City which is beautiful.

Around Detroit - the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village are really cool.
About an hour south of Detroit is Toledo OH and one of my favorite restaurants - Tony Packos. http://www.tonypacko.com/ It is a cool Hungarian Restaurant that is talked about on MAS*H. They are known for their hotdogs and pickles. The one on Front St. is the best. Also famous people sign "hotdog buns" and they display the buns.

2 hours southeast of Detroit in Sandusky OH has Cedar Point, which is a pretty cool amusement park.

I was little so I don't remember a ton about Toronto or Niagara Falls, but our Senior Class Trip in High School was to Stratford Ontario and they have a theater series all summer long that is fantastic. We saw three plays while we were there during the weekend in the same theater! The props, stage, and acting were all terrific.

Posted by
3789 posts

If rental car agreements allow driving across the border, consider rental car given your numbers. Otherwise, if flying to Toronto, then there is a shuttle to NF...no train. It is not a cheap shuttle - could easily be $100 a piece return to Toronto.
as you will still be in Detroit July 1, then our Canada Day is a moot point. By the time the tournament is done, shopping and services will be back to normal July 2
I do not appreciate Niagara Falls other than a quick 'been there, done that' Falls visit. Now, the gardens along the parkways are lovely. But I remember it being important to see on my first trip to Ontario at 15 yo (that was a long time ago, so not as touristy then as now). On the Canadian side, there is a casino (if not 2), Ripley's, cable cars across the gorge. Walk the bridge across the gorge, Maid of the Mist boats. Some things are like Coney Island, or St. Augustine, others will be at least semi destination specific.
As said, Toronto offers a lot. It even has an island and beach. You can bike and picnic it. Numerous markets and regentrified mills that now have stores, restaurants, artisan booths and often entertainment during summer or weekends.

I'd like to suggest the following:
Fly to Detroit, then walk across the International Bridge to Windsor, ON. Board the ViaRail train to Toronto. You pull up into the iconic Union Station (though now heavily in construction mode) right down town. Fly home from Toronto. This saves having to return to Detroit for return home, and provides a scenic train route - which a lot of people don't take advantage of. Not the cheapest, but may be something different for your teens.

Posted by
103 posts

Remember that each of you will need to have a passport, passport card, NEXUS card, or enhanced driver's license to cross the border each way.

If you drive to Toronto, it's most convenient to use the Ambassador Bridge. If you want to use VIA Rail, it's more convenient to use the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. You can park at the VIA Rail station (not free). If you want to wait until you get to Toronto to rent a car, you can cross the border through the tunnel on the Tunnel Bus operated by Transit Windsor. I don't think you can walk across the bridge anymore. I've been driving it since 1988 and never seen a pedestrian. However and wherever you cross, unless you have NEXUS cards, you need to plan for sometimes serious wait times in each direction at the border, particularly at the tunnel when there's an event at the casino.

For the best exchange rate, use bank owned ATMs. I've never had trouble using US dollars to make incidental small purchases in Ontario when I run out of Canadian currency, but the exchange rate is awful.

You'll miss the big annual fireworks show over the Detroit River for Canada Day (July 1st) and US Independence Day (July 4th) which will be held this year on June 26th.

Posted by
1017 posts

As you mentioned liking quaint towns, Niagara-on-the-Lake is about a 20 minute drive north of the Falls (on the Canadian side.)

Posted by
90 posts

Thank you for all of your responses. Flights have been booked from Tampa to Detroit on June 28th and then from Toronto back to Tampa on July 7th. That being said, we will have to figure out the best means of transportation to get from Detroit to Toronto and then on our day trip to Niagara falls as well. Doesn't seem like we will need a car in Toronto so just need to figure out these 2 things. Someone mentioned Montreal and Quebec City, both are places that I would love to see. It seems like with the distance, that might need to be saved for another trip in the future?

In Detroit we arrive at 9 am on june 28th. We will have some time to sight see this day. Recommendations for local things to do, restaurants etc. The next 4 days, we will be tied up and then we will head to Toronto either July 2nd late afternoon or early on July 3rd. Recommendations of different ideas for transportation?

July 3rd we will stay at the hotel at the baseball field and watch a game. July 4-7 I need recommendation for place to stay. I haven't planned my itinerary yet but assuming that there is a general "downtown" area that will be convenient? I might be wrong? Something nice but doesn't need to be Ritz or 4 seasons as we plan on being out of the room as much as possible. Any local famous hotels? If not, just something clean and convenient.

Now comes the planning. What to do in Toronto? We are very active with 2 teens. We like culture but no museums, food, people watching, history, walking tours and just seeing all the city has to offer. We also don't mind renting a car for a small road trip too. We figured that we should see Niagra falls since we have never been and will be so close. Is this a good idea or is there other things that we should check out instead?

So we will have 3 full days and 2 half days in Toronto. Help with my itinerary is very appreciated!!

Posted by
6876 posts

Someone mentioned Montreal and Quebec City, both are places that I
would love to see. It seems like with the distance, that might need to
be saved for another trip in the future?

Yes, definitely another trip. It's not worth trying to do too much when Toronto has plenty to keep you occupied. I wouldn't even bother with a side trip other than Niagara Falls because your time in Toronto is already quite short.

As for things to do in Toronto, I've already sent this link...it has everything (I won't make recommendations because my interests are totally different as a solo traveler with no kids). You can order their visitor guide or view it online. http://www.seetorontonow.com/#sm.0001quwekwozkdhkrt52pi0slm4hm

Posted by
3699 posts

Consider Transit Windsor's tunnel bus service from several points in downtown Motown. After going through border security the first bus stop is at Caesars Windsor casino, a block or two away, and then the main terminal. Although there is municipal bus service to the VIA rail station, it's only a couple of kilometres so I suggest taking a taxi from either of those two stops.
Regarding the well-travelled Toronto-Niagara Falls route, you have several options. Rent a car, although the expressway traffic can be a pain, but it will let you see the area instead of just the falls. Ontario's Go Train commuter service runs a train-bus combo. Or buy a package bus tour through your hotel.

Posted by
8832 posts

Getting a rental car in Windsor and dropping it at YYZ is several hundred dollars less than renting in Detroit and dropping at YYZ.

Having a rental car makes getting to the Falls much simpler.

Posted by
3789 posts

Toronto still has ethnic communities. ChinaTown bustles. Great pasta in Little Italy. Walking the streets of Trinity Bellwoods shows you the gardening style of the original Portuguese communities. Queens Street W is lined with vintage clothing stores, funky shops. Kensington Market. On you hotel request post, I suggested west of Eaton Centre. That area is between these communities and 'downtown'. Toronto has one of those rent bike systems that your family might like, but it is a walkable city. Toronto Island gives an adventure day. Loads to do with a little research.

Posted by
317 posts

I may be a bit late posting, but did want to suggest something with your Niagara trip. If you do plan to rent a car in Detroit and drop in Toronto, I would suggest going to Niagara first. This saves you a bit of driving. I'd then stay overnight in Niagara on the Lake and then drive on to Toronto for the next 3 nights.

Posted by
4535 posts

I'll add another vote for Niagara on the Lake. Consider even booking a night there in a quaint inn or B&B rather than just a daytrip to Niagara Falls (which is just a few hours worth of your time, plus food). Definitely stay on the Canadian side when visiting the falls - there is no reason to go back into the US.

Posted by
90 posts

Thank you to all who have posted! I am currently booking our apartment. I'm thinking of going with an air B &B rather than a hotel as to give us more space. I'm seeing options in the St Lawrence area, downtown and other areas as well by the water. Any input on this?

Posted by
5 posts

If you're hockey fans, don't forget the Hockey Hall of Fame, located in an old building in Toronto that was formerly a bank. You get to see the Stanley Cup.

Posted by
3699 posts

Marc is correct about the Ambassador Bridge; it's been decades since pedestrians or bicycles were allowed on the bridge, and for good reason; it would be a tough and dangerous trudge. Just FYI for others who may have noticed this reference. One exception: The annual Detroit-Windsor marathon, through tunnel and over bridge. Also no walk in the park.

Posted by
444 posts

As a near lifetime resident of Detroit and it's metropolitan area, I think the Henry Ford museum and Greenfield Village would be very worthwhile and I also suggest the Motown Museum.

Posted by
364 posts

As far as Niagra Falls goes, a boat ride on Maid of The Must is a must do- fun for everyone, and they give you rain ponchos because you will get wet- Niagra on The Lake is also beautiful- yes the downtown on Canadian side very touristy but Niagra Falls is amazing and beautiful ! Casino if your into that- a Butterfly museum, horse and carriage rides- fun for all ages.
Happy Travels✨💫