This is a continuation of our NY / Toronto road trip. Find part one here.
Day 4: Letchworth State Park – Castile, NY
After a long day of museums, waterfalls, and winding New York roads, Letchworth State Park was home for the night. It came highly recommended by a local friend, and it was definitely a step up from the campgrounds we’d been to so far on the trip.
The park itself is 14,350 acres, with nearly 300 campsites. I think we visited at the perfect time of year, because if it was full things would have been a bit crowded, but as it was we found a spacious tent site with plenty of privacy that made the location feel more remote than it actually was.
The park is home to three waterfalls, one of which is lit up at night, a demonstration that proved to be less eventful than it sounded, but made for a fun post-dinner pre-tenting activity nonetheless.
Day 5: Niagara Falls, NY
Years ago Dan accompanied me to a friend’s wedding in Chicago. Our first big trip together, it was also our first (and only prior) time to Niagara Falls. That trip was in November, snowy and cold enough that after we actually saw the falls we were ready to continue on our way.
This visit was warmer, greener, and just as impressive. This stop was the result of a Groupon deal offering a one night stay at the Sheraton at the Falls (a real hotel!) that came complete with free drinks at TGI Fridays, dinner at the Rainforest Cafe, and credit at the casino – all things that we needed to do since we were in Niagara Falls.
We ended up turning in early and, upon entering Canada the following morning, came to realize that what everyone says is true – the Canadian side is so much better. We thought we were getting a good dose of all the best tourist spots, but we had no clue what the other side held. If you’re in the area, do yourself a favor and cross the border. So worth it.
Where we ate:
- Zaika Indian Cuisine. Great for lunch. Buffet means you don’t have to wait for food – perfect when you’ve arrived in town after a long drive without thinking to stop for lunch.
- Rainforest Cafe. If you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all, but hey – what better way to enjoy dinner than under a starlit rainforest sky. Especially when the meal has already been paid for.
- Three Sisters Cafe. Don’t go here. Seriously. It will be tempting as there is seemingly no other place offering breakfast when you want it. If the fact that it’s inside the casino doesn’t give it away, you will come out smelling like an ashtray. Your food will be underwhelming and undercooked. Don’t make our mistake.
Days 6 & 7: Toronto, Ontario
Neither Dan nor I really had any clue about Toronto before visiting – which meant we didn’t really have any expectations to meet, but it also made planning a little difficult.
We had a few suggestions on neighborhoods to stay in and ended up settling on a studio apartment in Kensington Market through Airbnb. (Side note: it actually looks like this listing is now a different apartment than we stayed in, but still the same host in the same building. As always, if you aren’t yet signed up for Airbnb, you can use my direct link and we’ll both get a credit for future trips.) For less than half of what we had paid to spend a night in Niagara Falls, we had a full studio apartment, with kitchen, in the heart of one of the city’s hippest neighborhoods.
We parked the car in a nearby garage for our stay, and spent our time exploring by foot. One of my favorite spots was the Allan Gardens Conservatory – which can be evidenced in my photos from the trip, which are sufficiently lacking otherwise.
The rest of the trip was wandering, eating, drinking. I wish we’d had more time to explore the city more broadly but our own little neighborhood was so diverse we spent much of our time in and around Kensington Market. Of course, after several days of camping we were eager to spend much of our time eating and drinking our way through the area anyway.
Where we ate:
- Moo Frites. Stop #1 after arrival. Where you can totally justify having fries as your meal.
- Sweet Olenka’s. Grab and go ice cream bars.
- Wanda’s Pie in the Sky. This was actually the pick up spot for the key to our apartment, which left me craving their sweets and ultimately taking some to go on our way out of town.
- Krepesz Cafe. I don’t know why the weird spelling. They serve crepes.
- BQM Burger. All burgers all the time. Portobello and soy options for vegetarians.
- Nu Bügel. Awesome breakfast and lunch sandwiches on fresh, wood fired bagels.
Where we drank:
- Templeton’s Cafe. Decent drinks. Cool vibe. Outdoor seating.
- Thirsty & Miserable. Beer only; cash only. Limited outdoor seating, perfect for people watching.
- Bar Hop. Nice outdoor space. They were seemingly opening a second location when we were there.
- Cold Tea. Recommended by a Portland friend, and the fry maker at Moo Frites. Our bartender was sweet and seemingly impressed that we’d come all the way from Maine to try the place. You’ve got to know what you’re looking for to find the place, but definitely worth a visit.
- I Deal Coffee. Our favorite of many coffee shops we visited.
- Moonbean Coffee. One of many neighborhood coffee spots.
- Early Bird Espresso and Brew Bar. We had a $10 coffee. It was gooood.
- Sense Appeal Coffee Roasters. Decent coffee. Small, crowded space.
Day 8: Prescott, Ontario
The last day of vacation was kind of a bonus day. An extra day we’d planned to space out the long drive home and have one more night of relaxation before heading back to reality. It was the perfect way to end our trip, and my only regret is that we hadn’t actually planned more time to relax in this beautiful area.
Prescott is located on the St. Lawrence River, which we drove along for quite a while and eventually crossed to make it back to the U.S. I knew nothing about the area before our trip, and had originally planned to stay in the town of Kingston – based purely on small bits of information that I could find online and the fact that it was a reasonable distance from Toronto. We didn’t stop in Kingston, and I’m sure it’s lovely, but our night in Prescott couldn’t have been more perfect.
We booked what our Airbnb hosts referred to as a “cottage” on the St. Lawrence, and ended up in a three bedroom home with its own private water access and small beach. It was nearly dark when we arrived so we settled in with a few groceries for a homemade dinner and movie. In the morning, I walked out to the beach and watched the sun come up, picking up pieces of sea glass and wishing we had more time to spend in our picturesque cottage by the water.