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Things To Do In Niagara Falls In A Day (Non-Clifton Hill Edition)

I was hosted as media to attend the Exclusive Media Preview of Currents: Niagara’s Power Transformed in Niagara Falls. Things to do in Niagara Falls revolve around visiting the Niagara Parks Power Station twice. This is not because they treated me well. I will always tell my readers as it is and you will see that in my below summation.

Niagara Falls, Ontario is truly one of these places that has something for everyone.

Fine dining? Yes.

Great locally made wine and beer? You bet!

Stunning scenery? You got it and you won’t see this anywhere else.

Kitchy and ridiculous shops and haunted houses? Find them on Clifton Hill.

Attractions that make you scream as you sail through the air? Holy hell yes!

I’ve been going to Niagara Falls since I was a child. In fact, my family and I even lived in the area for a couple of years when I was growing up. Every year it evolves a little bit more and continues to entice all of us from near and far to keep returning. Returning not just to gaze and marvel at the spectacular Horsehoe Falls, but to the city and its personality that we love and adore.

 

Things To Do In Niagara Falls In A Day

I am one of those Toronto people who without fail, return to Niagara Falls year after year for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes it’s to hear and observe the roar of the falls. Often, I can be found taking my kids to a waterpark that is connected to a couple of different hotels. On that same trip, you can find me also at the speedway, in the arcades and in one of the wax museums telling my kids who that famous movie star is in wax from before their time. If I have a free afternoon, I might make a special trip to pick up wine from Niagara On The Lake and then take a drive on the parkway. I feel like I know this area fairly well and I have planned a day trip itinerary here that gives you the view and feel of the power of Niagara Falls, Ontario and sprinkles in some recreation and enjoyment of food and drink.

Journey Behind The Falls amazing landscape

How Do I Get To Niagara Falls

Whether you are driving from Toronto or London or Windsor, Ontario, once you get to the QEW, take Queen Elizabeth Way all the way south, past St. Catharines and then take the ON-420 exit toward The Falls/Niagara Falls/U.S.A. This will take you to Stanley Ave/Regional Rd 102. Take Niagara Pkwy to the parking lot by the Table Rock Welcome Centre. 

Here’s a valuable piece of advice for when you drive into the city – Do not cross the Rainbow Bridge! The Rainbow Bridge is the bridge to the USA.

For this one day itinerary in Niagara Falls, I am making a bit of a different recommendation. I am recommending that you drive to Niagara On The Lake first to see some of the wineries and the parkway. But honestly, my first recommendation would be to park your vehicle and bike to some of the wineries in the area. In the map below, start at the northern markers in Niagara On The Lake.

If you do not have access to a vehicle, you can take a Go Train from Toronto to Niagara Falls. Check out Go Transit’s website for more information.

 

Bike The Niagara Parkway To Two Sisters Winery

The first stop on our one-day itinerary in Niagara Fall, Ontario is a cycling stop. If you have a bike rack for your vehicle and can bring your bicycles, do it! Park at the McFarland House Parking Lot, it’s a spacious lot with a park and lots of green space. In the summer, there is a fruit stand with excellent local options – be warned they accept cash only for payments there.

The ride to Two Sisters Winery from the McFarland House parking lot is just over two kilometres each way if you go straight there and back on the bike path. However, if you have the time, it’s definitely worth exploring more by bike. There are a couple of other wineries on the way or from that same parking lot starting point, you could also ride south and in two kilometres, you’ll find a couple more amazing wineries.

My advice? Park at MacFarland House, ride to Two Sisters Winery with your backpack. Buy a couple of bottles of wine (Eleventh Post is one of my favourites!), cycle back to your vehicle. Drop off wine. Get back on the bike, head south on the bike trail to Reif Estate Winery. Buy wine. Return to vehicle.

You’re welcome for the workout you put in to deserve that wine!

Across the street from Two Sisters Winery on bikes

WILD PLAY NIAGARA – ZIPLINE OVER NIAGARA FALLS

Once you have driven into the city of Niagra Falls and parked by the Table Rock Welcome Centre. Walk north on the sidewalk along the Niagara Parkway, past the exceptional view of Horseshoe Falls (pause and take it in, but you’re going to want to stop and take some pictures!), past the Nicola Tesla statue to the Wildplay Zipline check-in centre. It is highly recommended that you book this in advance through the Wildplay website. They do assign time slots and it’s like a reservation, and it’s popular but organized and not overwhelming in terms of the number of people you will find here.

This is an exceptional attraction that I have actually been able to do twice now!

Zipline with 4 people on it. Wildplay Zipline To The Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario

Check out Fun Things To Do In Toronto With Friends to see the video from the first time I did this!

Taste A Beer Flight at Queen Victoria Place Restaurant

Chances are good, you would have already walked past The Queen Victoria Place Restaurant when you packed at Table Rock Welcome Centre. This is the place to get a $10 beer flight and have a great view while you enjoy it! The beer flight offered is a Niagara Craft Beer Flight that featured Table Rock 1885 Ale, Blackburn Brew House Old Scow Lager, Niagara Brewing Company Beer Devil IPA and Oasthouse Barn Raiser Ale. My favourite beer on the flight was Blackburn Brew.

Niagara Craft Beer Flight at Queen Victoria Restaurant, Niagara Falls. Beers from Oast, Table Rock and Niagara Brewery

Niagara Parks Power Station During the Day

So the first question here should be – where is the Niagara Parks Power Station?

The Niagara Parks Power Station is south of the Table Rock Welcome Centre and as you can see in the photo below, it’s just beyond the Horsehoe Falls.

Horseshoe Falls and Niagara Parks Power Station aerial view
Photo courtesy of Niagara Parks (Niagara Parks)

And then the second question is what is the Niagara Parks Power Station?

The Niagara Parks Power Station is a decommissioned hydro plant from the early 1900s. It operated from 1905 to 2006 and it once provided power from the Niagara River to parts of Ontario and New York state. Now, it’s an “entertaining and educational experience” that highlights the history of electricity and is a unique architectural structure that shows guests how this hydropower station generated electricity.

During the daytime, you can explore exhibits, restored artifacts and see the history of the area. This isn’t all you can do here. Hang tight, because I recommend you come back in the evening.

Self-guided tour inside the Niagara Parks Power Station
Photo courtesy of Niagara Parks (Niagara Parks)

Journey Behind The Falls

I love, love, LOVE visiting Niagara Parks Journey Behind The Falls. This is an absolute must-do for any visit to Niagara Falls. First, you will need to descend 125 feet and walk through 130-year-old tunnels in bedrock. Then, you will feel the vibration of the Horseshoe Falls long before you see them. You’ll find incredible cave-like portals that open behind the falling water before you make your way to an observation deck with the most stunning views of the falls ever!

Did you know that up to 2,800 cubic metres of water thunders over the brink of the Horseshoe Falls every second, travelling 65 kilometres per hour? That’s a lot of water!

Niagara Falls, Ontario and New York and the Rainbow Bridge as seen from Journey Behind The Falls.

 

Dine: Dinner at Table Rock Restaurant

After a fun day of cycling along the Niagara Parkway between wineries, zipping down the zipline, taking in the roar of the water at Journey Behind The Falls and touring the brand new Niagara Parks Power Station, head to the Table Rock Restaurant in the Table Rock Welcome Centre for the best dining view of table rock and the closest restaurant to the falls. The floor-to-ceiling windows are exceptional for viewing!

All of the food is as locally sourced as you can get and incredibly delicious. If you are there at dusk, be sure to check out the colour-changing water masterpiece outside the window.

Table Rock Restaurant salad Niagara Falls

Niagara Parks Power Station At Night

It is rare that I advise anyone to return to the same location twice in one day. However, you’ll want to check out Currents: Niagara’s Power Transformed. Currents is an amazing light and sound show that immerses you into the iconic power plant machinery and history of the region. You get to witness the Niagara River flow down from the walls and onto the floor in lights and then electricity begins to pulse from the generator, flowing up the walls and onto the ceiling. It’s an experience to take in to truly describe!

Where to Stay In Niagara Falls

If you opt to stay overnight in Niagara Falls, there is no shortage of accommodations that are available. There are hotels to satisfy all budgets and levels of comfort. Some of my tried and true preferences include The Sheraton Fallsview Hotel, The Skyline Hotel and Waterpark and Hilton Niagara Falls Fallsview.

On my most recent media trip, we were treated to a stay at the Old Stone Inn. It has chargers for electric vehicles, which is a big bonus. The unfortunate drawback is that there was construction happening outside early in the morning. I did not find the bed to be the most comfortable I had ever slept in. People who like really firm beds will love it though!

Think you can fit any more activities into your day there? I’d love to know what else you see or do in Niagara Falls. Comment below if you have some hidden gems that you recommend.

Be sure to check out Niagara Park’s website here to buy attraction tickets.

Thank you to Niagara Parks for hosting me as Media for the preview of Currents, Niagara’s Power Transformed and showing us a wonderful day.

What To See And Do In Niagara Falls In A Day (non-clifton hill edition). Niagara Parks Power Station, Journey Behind The Falls and Table Rock Restaurant

Learn To Camp – Family Camping Tips

The kids and I were guests of Ontario Parks and participated in their Learn To Camp program at Six Mile Lake Provincial Park.

As always, our opinions are experiences are our own.

Miss M and Little Man might be seasoned explorers but I just took them their first-time tent camping ever. Yes, they have slept in yurts at MacGregor Point Provincial Park, cabins at Bonnechere Provincial Park, Minka tents at Presqui’le Provincial Park, but never a tent on the ground. I felt like a failure. Especially since I am an experienced back-country camper – you can see my portage on the Serpertine Loop in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park here.

Have you ever taken your children camping before? Or thought about doing it but figured it would be too much work? Let me tell you, setting up a tent is super easy. As a single mom, I actually thought that this would be hard even though I can set up a tent all by myself. With the help of the Park Ambassador, Olivia and the Learn To Camp program at Six Mile Lake Provincial Park, the kids learned how to set up their tent at the campsite and be good campers.

Why Should You Learn To Camp?

For me, camping has always been a way to commune with nature and appreciate the minimalist part of life. And certainly be disconnected from the outside world and spend quality time with friends and my family. Hello 3G or no cell phone range! Camping was a summer tradition with my parents and siblings growing up and I have some of the best memories of campfires in the evenings, riding my bike through campgrounds, fishing, splashing in a new beach every week and making all sorts of new friends from all over North America.

Camping is awesome for families, for friends and for anyone who wants to camp and enjoy nature. Read on for family camping tips and camping hacks with kids.

Roasting marshmallows at campsite while learning to camp at Six Mile Provincial Park

Who Can Learn To Camp?

Everyone can learn to camp. As a parent, I can definitely see how camping with kids is not easy. As a single mom, it’s difficult. When I go with friends, we all are experienced and know how to set up camp and prepare food and bear-proof our site without teaching moments required. But, my job as a parent is to teach my kids about, and how to thrive in life. For them to learn to camp is teaching them extremely important life skills. Camping teaches kids how to identify and set up a site, set up a structure for shelter, how to build and maintain a campfire, cooking meals over a fire, animal and campsite cleanliness and safety along with camping without leaving a trace. They will also learn how to respect and treat nature well.

Camping also involves a lot of physical work. It’s not tough work to put up tents and set up camp, but some coordination is involved. If you have never camped before, don’t worry! I’ll list everything you need for your first camping trip below and I’m going to tell you how easy it was for my kids to set up our tent.

Six Mile Lake Learn To Camp - identifying the right spot to set up the tent and unrolling the tent.

How To Set Up A Tent Camp

With the help of Six Mile Provincial Park‘s ambassador, Olivia, my kids got to work figuring out which part of the campsite was the best to set up on and why. First, we got to choose our tent spot and that was done by making sure the area was flat and free of rocks and debris. This was we can sleep soundly without blood rushing to our heads or a stone poking in our backs.
Hot tip for new campers – you can book time with a Park Ambassador at one of Ontario Parks participating parks for a free 30 minute socially distanced one-on-one workshop right at your campsite for car campers only. You can learn all about what they can teach you and more here: Learn to Camp. My kids wanted to learn how to set up camp and then also took part in the Discovery Program in the park as well. More on that later.
Now that found our tent spot, we unrolled the tent and found the tent door. We moved it to where we wanted it. Not too close to the fire pit and also not facing away from the dining table. Third, we assembled all of the tent poles and slid them into the sleeves and clips.
Six Mile Lake Provincial Park Learn To Camp. Putting poles through the tent to stand it upright.
Then we raised the tent by making sure the two longest poles crossed at the top and secured them to the tent. They bent into a flexible arc and nothing required too much strength, but I don’t think myself or one of the kids could have done it on our own with a tent this size. Once we had the tent framed up, we pegging the tent into the ground so it won’t move in the wind. Securing the tent with pegs keeps our sleeping area secure.
Lastly, we put a fly over the tent to protect us from any rain or harsh sun. So if my kids can put up a tent, anyone can do it. Once you arrive at your campsite, I cannot stress how important it is to make the best use of the daylight and get your tent and site set up BEFORE you make yourself comfortable.
Six Mile Lake Provincial Park Learn To Camp, setting up a tent

Is Camping With Children Safe?

⁣⁣⁣Camping will always be safe as long as you take proper precautions to protect yourself from animals, keep your campsite clean and have the right equipment. You can be any age and have a safe camping experience. Unless you have a motorhome with full electricity, the iPads and tablets are going to run out of batteries and the children will learn camping skills. If you deem children playing in dirt as unsafe then camping might not be for you.

Children of any age can camp, from infant, onwards. Similar to if you were to take your child anywhere else for a vacation or getaway, you pack and plan. Here are some family camping tips and tricks:

Before the camping trip

  • Meal plan – Pack and prepare foods ahead of time that the kids eat at home.
  • Bring snacks they like, remove them from packaging at home and pack them in Tupperware or reusable containers.
  • Pack favourite items such as a toy or stuffie that brings them comfort.
  • Plan activities and games. Bring buckets and shovels like you would to the beach. Bring nets to catch butterflies or fireflies.
  • Pack clothing for all sorts of weather. Evening and nights can bring cool temperatures.
  • Pack bug repellent. Do not apply bug spray containing DEET to children younger than six months. Try to keep them covered instead.
  • Bring sunscreen, but for infants, younger than 6 months, use a hat and keep them in the shade.

At the campsite

  • Take the children on a walk of the campsite and identify the boundary of where the children can go and still be in sight of adults.
  • Make sure each child has their own flashlight. Headlamps are best for kids because they can’t put them down and lose them.
  • Make sure the children are aware to not leave food out anywhere so they aren’t feeding chipmunks or attracting bears.

Kids Learn to Camp at Six Mile Provincial Park

Tips for Camping With Infants

Infants are of course welcome to camp with the family as well. One of the things to keep in mind is that a tent is literally cloth or canvas and sound travels. We all have different methods of parenting and dealing with our babies when they cry. The one piece of advice I would love to see followed is to take the crying baby out of the tent and bring the baby into your car to calm them down. Be courteous to others and create a sound barrier between your baby and the rest of the campground, please.

Portable cribs or playpens from home with a receiving blanket or a stuffie can help infants have something familiar to keep them calm. Portable playpens can be moved in and out of the tent so that you can keep the baby outside and in the shade while cooking and they’re contained.

What Are The Benefits of Children Learning To Camp?

Children will learn a lot about being active while camping unless they just sit at the picnic table all day. Sulky teens will definitely be bumps on the logs for a couple of hours, but not the entire day. There is so much to do outdoors while camping. Every campground I have ever been in is full of children of all ages riding bikes or exploring.

Allowing the children to have a bit of independence in the outdoors instills a sense of adventure. City kids actually able to go beyond the confines of their yard? Inconceivable!

Personally, I want my kids to love the outdoors, be filled with adventure, and travel like I did growing up.  By having them learn to camp and teaching my kids about camping and exposing them to as many experiences as I can, I hope my legacy will live on in them and I hope they can respect the outdoors and leave it a little better than they found it.

Six Mile Lake Provincial Park beach with kids playing

What Do I Need To Pack To Go Camping?

You definitely need to pack the necessities when going camping. Beyond a tent and food, there are quite a few things I call essential camping items. If you are going to go camping more than once, I highly recommend creating a camping kit with waterproof Rubbermaid bins that can easily be re-packed and loaded into a trunk.

I have divided gear into a few different categories

Tent Camp Gear required for the campsite:

  • a tent for sleeping
  • a tent for dining (optional)
  • tent poles and pegs
  • a mallet
  • air mattress or air pad
  • sleeping bag (one for each camper)
  • firewood and kindling (if you think you need 1 bag, get two)
  • fire starters (matches / lighter)
  • axe
  • water jug
  • flashlights
  • batteries
  • rope
  • tarps
  • insect repellent
  • sunscreen
  • first aid kit (also a good idea to keep on in your vehicle)
  • duct tape
  • deck of cards
  • garbage bags

Camping Gear required for cooking and food preparation:

  • table cloth
  • camp stove and propane
  • washbasins (this is where the reference to dollar store hits)
  • biodegradable dish soap
  • paper towels
  • hand sanitizer
  • aluminum foil
  • pot
  • frying pan
  • cutting board
  • can opener
  • scissors
  • kitchen utensils such as tongs, flippers
  • marshmallow/kabob roasting sticks
  • plates, bowls, mugs, cutlery

Personal Items To Pack For a Camping Trip

  • clothes for all weather
  • rain jacket
  • rain boots
  • toiletries
  • bathing suits
  • quick dry towels
  • cooler with food (prepare meats at home first if possible in marinade)
  • non-perishable food
  • snacks

Be A Good Camper! Tips To Be A Kind and Courteous Camper

With an increased influx of new campers and people in Ontario Parks in the past couple of years, comes a whole new set of challenges. Camping is a learned behaviour, not something we know automatically how to do or how to behave while we are doing it.

Here are tips for new campers to be kind and courteous to everyone:

  • Leave your site cleaner than you found it. If there was any garbage on your site when you arrived, pick it up and dispose of it. Always pick up after yourself and ensure you haven’t left anything behind when you depart.
  • Do not wash dishes under water taps or in comfort stations. Please invest in basins from the dollar store, boil water and do it at your site.
  • Plan ahead and come prepared, this means arriving while there is still daylight to set up camp and knowing in advance that you need to buy firewood from the camp store.
  • Grocery shop at the nearest town before you arrive so you’re not driving your vehicle in and out constantly.
  • Check the Ontario Parks website before you leave so you know what facilities and activities are available before you visit the park.
  • Respect radio-free zones and noise limitations beyond certain times. Your camp neighbours may or may not enjoy your music after dinner.
  • Don’t feed the wildlife and please don’t try to attract animals.
  • Don’t chop down branches from trees for firewood.
  • Respect nature and the environment you are in.
  • Please keep your dogs and furry friends on a leash.
  • Stay on the trails in the parks.
  • Leave no trace.
  • Take only photos.

Six Mile Lake Provincial Park Living Edge Trail Boardwalk hiking etiquette

How To Keep A Clean Camp And Avoid Attracting Animals

One of the most important pieces of camping knowledge you could ever have is how to avoid attracting animals to your campsite. Here’s some common sense: animals smell food and they will come. You can mitigate the chances of them getting into your coolers and bags if you put them away.

At night and when you are not at your campsite, be sure that you have stored all food, drinks, coolers, dirty dishes and especially toiletries in your locked vehicle. Anything with a scent can attract wildlife. Garbage bags left out will attract animals. It’s good practice to try to camp as waste-free as possible. whatever waste that is created should be hidden in the trunk of your vehicle.

Try not to leave garbage in your fire pit or burn your garbage to dispose of it. There could still be small bits of food scraps that will attract animals. Pro tip – cans do not burn, but they are recyclable! In Ontario Parks, there is a place to bring all of your garbage and all of your recyclables. Please utilize it.

Here’s a term to learn – greywater. This is the term for your soapy, dirty dishwater after you have washed your dishes. Do not dispose of greywater by pouring it into the bushes at your campsite. First, all food should have been scraped off into the garbage first. Use a few drops of biodegradable soap in a basin with water to wash dishes. Rinse and when you are done, dispose of the greywater either at the vault toilets or at a sanitization station for trailers. If you want all the tips and tricks for washing dishes while camping, please see the Ontario Parks blog post on it here.

Six Mile Lake Provincial Park Site 86

What Else Is There to Do At Ontario Parks Campgrounds?

There are many activities and facilities at the over 340 Ontario Parks locations across the province. Hiking, fishing, birding, swimming, canoeing and biking are amongst the many activities you can partake in. Different parks have different amenities. I would highly recommend that you go to the website of the park you intend on visiting first before heading there. Some camps are only for day usage.

Six Mile Lake stand up paddleboards and kayaks available to rent

Did you know that you can rent canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards from numerous Ontario Parks locations? There is no need to bring your own canoe, kayak or SUP, especially if you don’t own one! For an idea of rental costs, I paid $45 for a four-hour canoe rental from 1:00 pm to 5;00 pm. The kids and I were lucky enough to take advantage and spend an afternoon paddling around Six Mile Lake while we were camping there. I was trying to teach them the J and Y stroke as my own father once taught me, but the lessons weren’t sticking, haha, next time 🛶

Some parks do not offer rentals at all. If you are hoping to rent any equipment, please check the website of the specific park to ensure that the facilities are operating and/or available.

Six Mile Lake Canoe Rentals. Mom and kids in canoe.

Discovery Program For Kids at Ontario Parks

One of the coolest things to do on this camping trip for Miss M and Little Man was to partake in the Discovery Drop-in program. Olivia was happy to greet the kids at the drop-in area and take them down to the marsh for wildlife catching and identification. Some really cool things the kids learned were how to figure out if a frog is a male or a female frog and how to spot signs of distress in frogs when kids are out catching them.

Six Mile Lake Discovery Program wildlife identification session

Other workshops are provided by park staff at the Discovery Drop-in during the months of July & August. Kids can have the opportunity to explore the park, observe plants and animals, and discover the wonders of nature. For up-to-date information, you’ll have to keep an eye out for the weekly calendar of events posted throughout the park you are visiting. Check the park information and activity section on the Ontario Parks website to see if the Discovery Program is available where you will be camping.

Six Mile Lake Discovery Program frog catching

⁣Turning Kids Into Campers For Life

For a first-time tent camping, my kids enjoyed it a lot. They had a lot of fun at Six Mile Lake Provincial Park. We were there for two nights and it felt like a short trip to us. We would definitely camp for longer next time!
While you’re in the outdoors, you might also want to check out my guide to Hiking Etiquette here!
Learn to Camp at Ontario Provincial Parks - family camping tips and tricks for first time campers and kids starting out. Packing list and how to be a good camper.

Hiking Etiquette – Guide To The Trails

For any newbie starting out with hiking, one of the most overlooked thoughts is the etiquette for hiking. New hikers might worry most about shoes. Maybe they will worry about the distance. Both of these are valid thoughts. However, hiking etiquette and knowledge of the outdoors is as important and some of these lessons you can only learn from others on the trail with experience or a lot of experience yourself.
Hiking is one of the most popular activities at Ontario Parks and a hike is a great way to explore the park. As a highly experienced hiker with numerous Ontario, Quebec, other Canadian Trails, USA and France trails of various levels under my belt, I’ve seen it all on the trails. Maybe not all, but I’ve seen a lot. Trash, noise pollution, feces, groups making problems for others. None of those examples are the kinds of things we like to see on the trails.
Coming from a place of privilege, that is I grew up in nature – I understand how to respect the outdoors and others in the space because it was taught to me from a young age. I recognize that not everyone has that luxury and therefore does not know how to conduct themselves in our parks or conservation areas. Fortunately, Ontario has over 330 Provincial Parks and 2,000 km of trails for residents to get out, learn and experience nature.
Six Mile Lake Provincial Park Hiking Trails

Hiking Etiquette On The Trails

As you prepare for your first or next outdoor adventure, here are some tips to keep in mind. I’ve put together a little bit of hiking trail etiquette that might come in handy (and I do expect a challenge here and there on some of these).

Interested in some of the best family-friendly hiking trails in Southern Ontario? You’ll want to read this.

Safety First On The Trails

Whether or not you know a certain trail because you’ve hiked it many times or it’s your first time out there, keep your personal safety at the forefront.

Always plan ahead for your hike. I, for one, have been one to not follow my own advice and have been caught incredibly uncomfortable with wrong clothing, wet shoes and too far out with no snacks and in a field past dark. While I am fortunate enough to never have been in a situation where I required rescue by the Ontario Provincial Police or other search and rescue operations, I very well could have been. Ways to avoid that situation are by planning ahead and that includes:

  1. Checking the weather forecast in advance.
  2. Checking what time sunset is that day as it changes daily.
  3. Choosing a trail, calculating the distance and how many hours of sunlight you have so you don’t get caught out in the dark.
  4. Wearing the right hiking shoes or boots for the terrain. Please no flip-flops or sandals on the trails for your own good!
  5. Packing spare clothing such as a sweater or breathable pants in a backpack for temperature variants.
  6. Packing spare underwear and socks.
  7. Leaving a hiking plan or a location with someone who is not going with you. Even if you text a friend and tell them you’re hitting the trails, just leave a record of your whereabouts.
  8. Bring snacks that have a good amount of protein to keep you going.
  9. Download an app such as AllTrails.com to help you map your routes.

Six Mile Lake Living Edge Hiking Trail

Pack it in, Pack it out

Garbage is a big deal. I wish it was as easy as saying don’t litter. And you would think that people would know to not litter. But they still do. A lot.
I cannot stress this enough – what you bring onto the trail with you, take it back out. Pack it in, pack it out. Take everything out with you, all of your food wrappers, tissues, toilet paper, pop cans, beer bottles, dirty diapers and your dog’s poop. I mean, you wouldn’t leave all that garbage lying around in your living room, would you? Would you really?
Try to utilize reusable water bottles and pack bento-style lunches or snacks. Whatever wrappers have to be used, shove them in your backpack and take them home to dispose of.
Garbage at trail head, pack it in, pack it out

When Nature Calls…

Ready to hear about hiking bathroom etiquette? Some people poop like clockwork at the same time every day. They can set a timer by it. Some do not and therefore, plan a bathroom trip before you start your hike. If you can, plan ahead and look to see if the location you are heading to does have a facility to relieve yourself.
Here’s the thing, not every trail or park has washrooms or port-a-potties or thunderboxes that can be utilized. If you have to pee, squat and drip dry ladies. Don’t leave tissue in the bushes. If you insist on wiping with a tissue, either bury that tissue with a stick or pack it out with you. Going number two off the trail isn’t always a great option out there. Your fecal matter can damage sensitive habitats and honestly, it’s gross for park staff to have to clean up or for fellow visitors to stumble across. If you have an emergency pooh, dig yourself a six to eight inches deep hole far away from the trails and water and then cover up that hole when you’re done. And please, pack out your toilet paper. Yep, take it with you, those sheets or squares that you wiped with.

The thunderbox. The poop box. Better than no poop box when back country camping.

Your Dog Should Be On A Leash

Sorry, but not sorry, if you’re bringing your dog on a hike and you’re in a public area, please keep them on a leash at all times. The exception to this rule is when you are in a designated leash-free area.

I might not like your dog and while you want to pin that on me as a “me problem” and not a “you or your dog problem”. I do tend to like most dogs, but my daughter is terrified. No amount of assurance that your dog is friendly is going to change the trauma of her childhood. And she’s not the only kid out there who has had a bad experience with dogs. Not every hiker is going to appreciate your super awesome dog. Not only that, dogs could potentially disrupt and accidentally harass the area wildlife and that’s illegal in Ontario Parks.

Did you know that an unleashed dog could accidentally lead a bear down the path towards you? Would you like your dog to encounter a skunk or porcupine while out galavanting?

Honestly, bad and ill pre-prepared pet owners have ruined it for everyone. Too much poop mid-trail. Sure, for every bad dog owner, there are a thousand fantastic dog owners. No doubt. But, carry the dog waste out with you too. They poop, you scoop and carry it all the way back with you.

Man wearing rainboots hiking with his dog on a leash

Respect Other Hikers

In the past couple of years, Ontario Park’s Trails have become super popular. This means we have to share the space with more people than ever. Be sure you research the trail before you set out. Some trails are multi-use and you will encounter cyclists or horses. If you’re on a bike, ring your bell if you hear or see hikers on the trail. Hikers should move to the side of the trail to allow the cyclists to pass.

Many hikers are looking for a true-to-nature experience and want to quietly observe the wildlife and take in the surroundings. If you can pass by them quietly, not trample loudly through the brush and keep your voice down, that would be appreciated. Move to the right like you would in traffic. If you’re on a single-lane trail where someone cannot pass without falling into the bush, try to be respectful. In a group of hikers? Allow the solo hiker to pass.

If you must listen to music during your hike, try to use headphones. Music played through a speaker as you hike, even to motivate your kids to get moving can be very disruptive to both flora and fauna as well as your fellow hikers. Hearing “Cotton Eyed Joe” on the hiking trail being played by a mom trying to convince her kids to get moving is the last thing any hiker wants to encounter. And I say this as a fellow Mom. Just don’t, okay? That song has too many other meanings in the Urban Dictionary to be wholesome. Bribe them with ice cream instead. Ice cream can be purchased at the Park Store. Follow me for more Parenting 101 Lessons!

kids at Forks of The Credit Provincial Park best hiking trails for families in Southern Ontario

Stay On The Trail

All too often, shortcuts through unmarked or unbroken landscapes have negative, long-lasting impacts. While it’s super exciting to traverse over land you feel like no one has ever walked over before, going off-trail could harm some sensitive plants in the area.

Or you could get lost and not find the trail again or be able to easily retrace your steps.

Or you could walk into poison ivy if you don’t know about the rule of three (leaves of three, leave it be!).

And there is always the possibility of going through tall grass and having a tick land on you. Ticks, while small, are bugs with big impacts that could leave you seriously ill for the rest of your life.

Best hiking etiquette advice out there? Stay. On. The. Trail.

Six Mile Lake Provincial Park Living Edge Trail Boardwalk hiking etiquette

Don’t Feed The Animals

See that adorable little chipmunk who’s on the trail and checking you out. So cute, right? Little Chippie looks like he wants a snack. Well, don’t feed Little Chippie human food! You’ll teach Little Chippie unnatural animal behaviours, you could make Little Chippie sick.

Also, you could attract bears.

Chipmunk in Algonquin Provincial Park

Leave Nature In Nature

Rocks belong where you find them. On the beach, on the road, on the trail, you get the picture. I know that as a mom, I have rocks that somehow belong inside my house and rocks that belong outside my house.

It’s just a rock, what’s the harm? Well, nature isn’t done with them yet.

And those painted rocks? No. Don’t paint rocks and take them to the parks to leave. Yes, they’re cute and little Johnny worked hard on it. However, many paints are a plastic coating and that plastic coating on the rock in the parks adds another source of plastic for the ecosystems to absorb. Sure, there is eco-friendly paint out there little Johnny may have used and maybe he brings a smile to the face of other hikers. Not all hikers are going to love the artwork. The wilderness is that – it’s meant to be raw and untouched. That cute little pink, painted rock sticks out like a sore thumb.

Nature is meant to be enjoyed by all, but seriously, leave it how you found it. Take only photos, leave no trace.

Hope these hiking etiquette tips help anyone with any questions. And if you have anything you would like to add, please do so in the comments!
Happy trails!
Tips and tricks for the hiking trail, hiking etiquette, hiking trail etiquette in Ontario Provincial Parks

Fun Things To Do In Toronto With Friends

The Greater Toronto area can be a tremendously fun place to get together with your friends for exciting activities. Now that restrictions are lifting and we are allowed to partake in activities again (even if socially distant), we are all looking to fill our calendars with bucket list-type excursions. I’ve compiled a list of my favourite outdoor activities to share of fun things to do in Toronto (and around Toronto as well)! So take note of all of these fun things to do in Toronto with friends.

Fun Things To Do In Toronto With Friends

In this section, we will focus on some of the fun things to do in Toronto with your friends. Let’s get getting away from the basic patio hangs and indoor bowling alleys to outside activities. Most of these are things to do in summer in Toronto and a lot of these can be considered fun activities for date nights in Toronto.

The Docks Driving Range

DJ? Foot trucks? Sunshine? Golf Swings? All that and more at The Docks Driving Range – Downtown Toronto’s only outside driving range. Not driving vehicles to be clear. There can be nothing more humbling and entertaining than learning to golf with friends. Bust out those how-to Youtube videos for this session.

Unlimited balls for 30 minutes are $22.50, bargain for an hour at $40.

Don’t worry if you don’t own your own clubs, you can rent a driver and an iron that is sanitized between uses.

 

Axe-Throwing

Care to put your lumberjack skills to the test? Axe throwing is great for birthdays, bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, corporate team building or reuniting with a group of friends.

Here, I test my mettle and aim at BATL – Backyard Axe Throwing League in Toronto with Chris from Rudderless Travel and Kevin from Wandering Wagars. Check out who stays on target, and who won’t be invited on the next camping trip.

Various price points depending on number of people in your group and time you throw for.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Have you tried SUP yet? Done standing up on a large surfboard with a long paddle, balanced on the water, stand-up paddleboarding is a fun way to get a full-body workout. Not only that, your workout is done while exploring Toronto Harbour or the Humber River or Scarborough Bluffs.

Did you know that SUP tones and strengthens your core, arms, legs, and aligns your whole body from the soles of your feet up? Grab your friends and paddle around. Rentals, lessons and group bookings are available. Check out Oceah Oceah.

Wander Kensington Market

Second-hand clothing, vintage boutiques, craft brewery, mom and pop shops, charming coffee, gelato and delicious fusion food… Find it all in Kensington Market in the west end of Toronto’s Downtown Core. Best described as the intersection of where all different cultures and generations come together in one eclectic and lively blend, Kensington Market is absolutely worth wandering for hours on end. Every single shop is worth a visit.

My friend Chris from Rudderless Travel and I profile it here in The Planet D’s video about the Top Things To Do In Toronto.

 

Cycle The Toronto Islands

Did you know you can take your bike on a water taxi or the ferry over to Toronto Islands? This is my favourite thing to do with friends in the summer. We take a ferry to Hanlan’s Point and then pedal our way across, making sure to lunch at the Riviera and chill at Ward’s Island Beach. Weekends are busy on the ferry and on Toronto Islands, especially at Centre Island. Plan to go to Toronto Islands between Monday to Friday.

The cost of the Toronto Ferry is a bit cheaper than a water taxi.

Cycling Around Toronto Islands in Autumn

 

Fun Things To Do Near Toronto With Friends

Downtown Toronto is exciting for sure, but you can hop on a GoTrain, or get in your car. Now you can hit some other interesting events and activities that aren’t the usual go-to’s. Here are some of my recommended fun things to do near Toronto with your friends.

Haunted Walk at Pickering Museum Village

Looking for a spooky Saturday evening? Head to the Pickering Museum Village in York Durham Headwaters, which is only a half-hour east of Downtown Toronto for a Haunted Ghost walk and a scary good time! Take a date because you’ll want to hold their hand!

Your guide takes you on a walking tour of the historic village at night and you will hear stories from the past that still haunts them today. Hear about paranormal investigations that have found evidence of spirits and ghosts in old buildings there, and hear stories of past tragedies that actually took place in Pickering’s past.

$25 per person for the hour walk.

Waterfall Hiking

Bet you only thought there was one waterfall in Ontario and it’s Niagara Falls?! Being a resident of Toronto, and a lover of nature, I am incredibly lucky to be able to explore so many conservation and green spots in the surrounding area. Of all of the exciting parts of the outdoors to hike and appreciate are waterfalls near Toronto. You’ll find waterfalls outside Toronto and the suburban areas. Some you can swim at the base of too!

Grab your friends and keep a spare pair of shoes and socks in the car for when your feet inevitably get wet and check out my list of places of Best Waterfalls Near Toronto To Hike.

Hoggs Falls, Flescherton, Grey County, Eugenia Falls

Treetop Trekking

Ziplines, suspended bridges, aerial courses, Tarzan yells, fresh air and traversing from platform to platform? Sign us up! There are quite a few locations around the Toronto area – Barrie, Brampton and Hamilton to name a few.

Nothing bonds you and your friends more than literally depending on each other and a cable, on a platform about 30 feet in the air.

Pricing varies depending on the activity package and the number of participants.

Treetop Trekking Ganaraska with Kevin and Chris

Ride The Bine Beer, Wine & Cider Tours

Ontario has certainly emerged as a powerhouse producer of some of the best craft beer, wine and cider in the world. Having done Beer, Wine & Cider tours in Norfolk County with Amanda and Ride The Bine, I can unequivocally say that our safety, social distancing and hygiene were of the utmost importance. I have confidence recommending this tour to anyone wanting a safe and enjoyable guided beer and wine tour with a fantastic animator who knows everything there is to know about the area!

Norfolk County is two hours southwest of Toronto. The Ride The Bine experience is truly priceless. Pricing depends on the tour choosen.

Tour Ontario’s Lavender Fields

Okay, so hanging out in Lavender fields is only for the photo opportunities. There’s nothing thrilling or life-altering bonding when tiptoeing through the fields. Unless you’re truly into picnics. Maybe you are, but if you want to visit a lavender field with friends, I highly recommend Bonnieheath Lavender and Estate Winery because there’s a cidery/winery attached to it.

Lavender in Ontario blooms from mid-late June to the end of July. Admission per lavender field varies. Always be sure to visit the gift shop for lavender-scented candles, oils and lavender-infused cookies!

The founders of the Toronto Bloggers Collective in the lavender at Bonnieheath Lavender and Winery
Photo courtesy of Ride The Bine

Wild Play Niagara – Zipline Over Niagara Falls

One of the most incredible and thrilling activities in all of Ontario is the Wild Play Niagara Falls Zipline To The Falls. Having done this with both my daughter and my friends Chris from Rudderless Travel and Kevin from Wandering Wagars, I can attest to the amazing experience this is.

After you strap in and leave the deck, you soar past the American Falls and land atop the falls observation deck at the base of the Horseshoe Falls. The view is truly amazing. You’ll want to ride it again and again.

This is not an inexpensive activity, but nothing in Niagara Falls is cheap.

Back-Country Camping in Kawarthas Highlands Provincial Park

Canoe portage and camping go hand in hand. Like peanut butter and jelly. Mix in some of your best friends and suddenly it’s the best trip ever… or is it? Nothing brings a friendship closer than canoe portaging and tent camping in the wild!

Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park is the newest Ontario Provincial Park. It’s a great backdrop for adventures, canoes portages, and back-country campers. It’s also home to some of the best sunrises and sunsets Ontario has to offer those who wander. It’s only 90 minutes from Toronto by car.

There is a ton of planning that goes into making a camping and canoe portage with friends successful. Food, tents, sleeping bags, cooking gear, washroom habits all need to be taken into account and planned accordingly. With a bit of planning, a camping trip is a huge bonding experience.

For more tips and tricks on how to survive such an experience, check out How To Back Country and Portage Camp With Friends.

Travel writers on portage, back country canoe portage and camping trip

 

What are some of your favourite activities around Toronto to do with your friends? I’ll be sure to come back and update on things to do in the winter in Toronto.

Looking for Toronto accommodations for your next trip? Check out what Booking.com has to offer (and as a small note, I make a very tiny commission on your booking at no extra cost to you).



Booking.com

Live in the Toronto area? Be sure to check out my list of Free and Cool Things to see and do in Toronto!

Interested in other things to do in the GTA? The Exploring Family has a lot of Brampton ideas for the family.

Stay safe and have fun!

Fun Things To Do In Toronto, things to do with friends in Toronto, fun activities for friends in Toronto, What's fun in Toronto

Best Waterfalls Near Toronto To Hike

Being a resident of Toronto, and a lover of nature, I am incredibly lucky to be able to explore so many conservation and green spots in the surrounding area. Of all of the exciting parts of the outdoors to hike and appreciate are waterfalls near Toronto. There are no waterfalls in the City of Toronto. There is a mini-waterfall in Evergreen Brick Works that is more like a sewer runoff.

You’ll find waterfalls outside Toronto and the suburban areas. Some you can swim at the base of too! Bet you only thought there was one waterfall in Ontario and it’s Niagara Falls?!

Where to Find Waterfalls Near Toronto

All of the waterfalls near Toronto, Ontario that I am recommending are ones I have personally visited and hiked the surrounding area. I will be focusing on two main areas – Grey County and around Hamilton, Ontario. Not on this list is the obvious location of Niagara Falls because there are so many other areas to enjoy!

The waterfalls I am listing in this post and are on the map above are:

Hilton Falls, McGowan Falls, Hoggs Falls, Eugenia Falls, Inglis Falls, Tews Falls, The Devil’s Punchbowl, Sherman Falls, Tiffany Falls and Smokey Hollow Falls.

All of these waterfalls are within two hours of driving from Toronto. You should have your own transportation to reach these locations. It’s fairly impossible to get to all of these waterfalls relying on public transport.

Waterfalls Near Toronto To Hike

Hiking in the area of waterfalls means there is always a chance of getting wet! It is a good idea to pack extra articles of clothing in your vehicle. I always recommend bringing a second pair of shoes and socks in my vehicle when you hike. If you do get wet, you will have dry socks and shoes as a backup. Alway hike safely by letting others know where you are going. Bring a daypack with you that contains sunscreen, bug spray and a small first aid kit.

Hilton Falls, Milton

Hilton Falls is a 10-metre spectacular waterfall view roughly a two-kilometre hike from the parking lot in the conservation area. That’s the feature photo for this post! It’s an amazing place to go on a hot day to cool off, to feel the mist from the water and get amazing Instagram shots. Seriously, search these waterfalls up on Instagram!

The last time I was there with my kids, other families were walking behind the waterfall and kids in bathing suits at the base. These waterfalls have been REALLY busy on nice days and weekends. Plan to go on a weekday and early for fewer crowds. This one has always been a personal favourite of mine as I discovered it back in my Sheridan College days and would make many treks out there to clear my head.

This conservation area is closest to Milton, Ontario. There are entrance fees there for parking and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you need to reserve your space online in advance of your visit. It’s one of the best hiking areas in the area for families and it a very easy trail for everyone to hike.

Hilton Falls, Milton. The author taking a selfie in front of the waterfall with kid

McGowan Falls, Durham (Grey County)

I visited McGowan Falls in Durham after a trip out to the area butcher. It was my first time there and was kind of amazed that to access them, I walked up a residential street. How lucky are the people who live there?!  Imagine having a waterfall at the end of your street! The locals told me that on a normal summer day, people fish at the base of the falls and kids swim above them.

Although it is only partially natural (the head of the falls is controlled by a man-made gate), I still enjoyed watching the waterfall over the rocks. When I visited, there was minimal water flow. Others have witnessed much more water flow.

There was no fee to park at this conservation area. It’s a great place to bring a picnic basket and blanket on a nice day.

McGowan Falls in Durham Ontario, part of Grey County is a lovely waterfall about 90 minutes from Toronto

Hoggs Falls, Flesherton (Grey County)

From the parking lot, it’s a short, half a kilometre and gorgeous hike on the Bruce Trail alongside the Boyne River to the waterfall. It will not take you more than 5 minutes.

At the top of the falls, there is no viewing platform or fence. Please hold onto your children and exercise caution when viewing from the rockface overlook. You CAN get to the bottom of the falls two ways. One is climbing down a rope. Or there is a side trail that takes you down to the river. You can if you’re okay with risking getting wet, hike alongside the side trail. I have made the trek to Hogg’s Falls a couple of times and have done the viewing both ways.

If you are feeling ambitious and the trail is open, you can hike all the way over to Eugenia Falls too!

Read more about Hoggs Falls and the history of the area here. No charge for parking here.

Hoggs Falls in Grey County, waterfalls near Toronto

Eugenia Falls, Eugenia (Grey County)

If you’re not in the mood to hike the trail or are physically unable to do so, you can drive between Hoggs Falls and Eugenia Falls in under 10 minutes. The loop trail between Hoggs Falls and Eugenia Falls is 12.6 kilometres. You’re more likely to find crowds at Eugenia Falls as it’s stunning and is found just off the main road. Head there early or on a weekday to try to avoid others. 

The falls can best be described as majestic, tranquil, spectacular. Eugenia Falls is 30 metres high and is the tallest waterfall in the area.

Eugenia Falls can also be accessed from the Bruce Trail, which is one of the longest marked hiking trails in all of Canada. The trails and area used to be very open for sightseeing, however, there have been many accidents lately. Exercise caution, do not climb the wall for a better look. The area can be slippery when wet. Access to the base of the falls is closed.

Parking here is handled by a private company. The charge is $6.

Eugenia Falls, Grey County in early autumn, September 2020

Inglis Falls, Owen Sound (Grey County)

There are a handful of waterfalls around Owen Sound and Inglis Falls is the most impressive! Inglis Falls is an 18-metre cascade waterfall. The hike from the parking lot is roughly ten feet to see this waterfall at the top. However, the hike in the conservation area to see the falls from other angles is worth it.

Inglis Falls is very powerful, beautiful, rugged and spectacular. When I was there, rough paths to the gorge’s bottom were closed off. I would guess that they would be very risky to attempt, so stick to the marked and accessible trails.

As with other waterfalls, the falls were initially a mill, fallen into disrepair now a conservation area. Parking at Inglis Falls is handled by a private company (MacKay). The charge is $6 through the app or online.

Inglis Falls, Owen Sound, waterfalls about two hours from Toronto

Tews Falls, Hamilton

Tews Falls are gorgeous! This is a must-do hike in the fall for the gorgeous colours. This trail is only a kilometre between the falls and the Dundas Peak lookout, it’s a breathtaking vantage point.

There are areas where railings/barriers are in place so that visitors do not fall. This means do not try to climb around them. Safety first! Stay on the marked trail at all times. Due to the popularity of the location on the day we visited, instead of taking the main trail to Tews Falls from the lookout, we took a side trail for 0.8km. Then, we joined up with the main trail for the remainder of the hike to Tews Falls.

 This is a pretty epic hike and one of the best ones I like to take my kids on. Check out more photos here for Tews Falls and Dundas Peak.

The parking lot for the Spencer Gorge Conservation Area is open from the end of May until the end of October. Your spot must be reserved in advance. The parking fee for each vehicle is $10.50 and there is a reservation fee of $10. There is also a per-person admission fee of $5 for each visitor aged 5 and up.

Tews Falls, Hamilton Ontario, waterfalls near Toronto

The Devil’s Punchbowl, Hamilton

Devil’s Punchbowl Conservation Area in Hamilton’s east end, is on the Bruce Trail and offers up two separate waterfalls: Upper Falls is a 33.8-metre ribbon waterfall and Lower falls, is a 5.5-metre classical waterfall.

Devil's Punchbowl, waterfall in Hamilton Ontario. On the Bruce Trail
The Devil’s Punchbowl Falls can be a trickle when it hasn’t rained in a while. The photo above best illustrates that! And it’s what you will see in the video here. The steep gorge with colourful layers of rock encircles the falls. The formation of the Devil’s Punch Bowl occurred 1 million years ago after one of the four great ice ages.

It’s a bit of a tough hike for younger kids and it’s a very steep incline both up and down, but manageable with the right attitude and shoes. Best accessed from the Dofasco 2000 trail.

If you park at the conservation area at top of the Devil’s Punchbowl, the cost for parking at the lot is $6 for the day.

 

Sherman Falls, Hamilton

The first thing you need to know is that Sherman Falls is on private property and the owners can close the area off at any time. It is not your right to hike here, it is a privilege.

Sherman Falls is a 17 metre-high curtain waterfall that is between two other local waterfalls, Tiffany Falls and Canterbury Falls. The water flow here is good at all times of the year. The trail is easy to navigate. This is an extremely popular place to come for romantic walks and photos and you can walk quite close to the base of the falls. Other nicknames for this waterfall are Angel Falls or Fairy Falls.

There is a paid parking lot approximately 400 metres away from the waterfalls. The daily charge is $5. It’s a moderate-level hike from Sherman Falls to Tiffany Falls on the Bruce Trail and takes roughly thirty minutes.

Sherman Falls, Ancaster, Ontario, magic hour pre-sunset

Tiffany Falls, Hamilton

Tiffany Falls is a lovely 21-metre cascade waterfall. From the parking area, you hike approximately 10 minutes into the woods along a dirt pathway that crosses Tiffany Creek a couple of times. It’s an easy hike for most family members, but as with most of these areas, it’s not wheelchair accessible or easy to get to for the mobility impaired.

This waterfall can be accessed all year long. In the winter when the falls are iced over, you can climb them with a climbing company from the area. To get your photos, it is strongly recommended that you utilize the wooden platform that gives you a great view of the falls and stay out of the water.

Parking is in high demand. The cost is $5 and is limited. On busy days, a by-law officer will ticket vehicles that are not parked in proper spots or did not pay for parking.

Tiffany Falls Ancaster Hamilton Ontario frozen in winter with two kids standing in front of it

Smokey Hollow Falls

At only 10 metres tall, this isn’t the biggest waterfall around, but this powerful waterfall is on an amazing section of the Bruce Trail. It’s a steep hill and there are a lot of steps on this portion of the hike, so it’s a good glute workout!

Parking here is free. Be cautious of staying ON the trail. Venturing off the trail is dangerous and could get you a trespassing citation.

In case you have not figured it out, one of my favourite Canadian winter activities is waterfall chasing! Some people might think that the only time to be viewing waterfalls, or be anywhere near the base of them is summertime. There is something truly majestic and absolutely beautiful about chasing waterfalls in winter and it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world.

I took my kids on a tour of some of the above-mentioned waterfalls. Check out the video below!

 

 

I’m so grateful to live in this part of Ontario where all of this beauty is a short car ride away. Hope you feel inspired to check some of these waterfalls close to Toronto in the future.

Please plan on packing out any trash and litter that you bring in. Respect the trails and the people who maintain them. Waterfalls are located in environmentally sensitive areas – please stay on marked designated trails and obey closure signs.

There are no waterfalls in the City of Toronto, but there are waterfalls NEAR Toronto, Ontario to hike and explore! Come and check some of them out with me! We're going to Hilton Falls, Hoggs Falls, Eugenia Falls, Hilton Falls, McGowan Falls, Inglis Falls, Sherman Falls, Tiffany Falls and Smokey Hollow Falls!

Travel Safety Tips – Help Keep Your Family Safe

Leaving on a vacation to a foreign land for a family vacation is really exciting, a ton of fun and requires serious planning. However, some of the finer details that can actually make or break your holiday happens on the road. No amount of planning can predict whether or not you’re going to face rain for three days in the middle of your trip. Or have your wallet pickpocketed on transit. While the weather is not a factor you can control, you can make sure that you take proper precautions to keep yourself and your belongings safe. Keeping your family safe on the road is a key strategy for a successful vacation. I have all the travel safety tips for you from my personal experience.

I consider myself incredibly lucky that I was raised by a retired police officer. My Dad groomed me to not trust everyone, to look people in the eyes during greetings and discussions. I also have a handshake that’s deadly, we can discuss that one another day. I’m always wondering what’s the ulterior motive when approached by a stranger. My Dad did teach me a lot about personal safety, self-defence and protecting my hard-earned money. Training karate for almost 30 years helps with that too!

Having travelled coast to coast and around the globe, I carry those lessons with me. As a solo travelling mom with kids, I’m a target. There’s no “man to protect” me anywhere in sight. Thankfully, I’ve been able to identify potential issues and deal with them before there has been any loss of documents, cash or personal safety. 

Easy travel safety tips for parents

To keep your wallet, cash and passports safe while travelling abroad, there are a few foreign travel safety tips and tricks I like to use with myself and have taught them to my children. Here are a few of my vacation safety tips and easy travel safety tips for parents:

  1. Use a slim money belt under your clothing. When I travel with my kids and we are without a vehicle, I conceal a money belt on my daughter, under her shirt, with a small sum of cash. Folding cash in a Ziploc bag in your running shoe is another alternative – this is what I do with my son. The biggest reason why I like to keep cash on me when travelling is that I am a scatterbrain on the best of days. Cash will always be king and accepted anywhere. The chances of me losing my iPhone with my Apple Pay on it is high. Not only will I keep cash in my jean jacket pocket, but I will likely slip one of my credit cards in there as well. 
  2. Wear clothing that has zippers and buttons. This way cash or credit cards can’t slide out when you sit down and it’s harder for someone to quickly reach in if they have to tug at a button or zipper first. I like to utilize the front breast pockets on my jean jacket for this or the leg zipper pocket or my cargo green Halla Pants from prAna.
  3. Invest in a purse and/or backpack with slash-proof straps to avoid the cut and run. I have found there are places where it’s best to carry your backpack on your front or find a traveller’s backpack with inside zippered pockets for your passports and cash. I prefer zippered compartments that lock.
  4. Use a backpack with outside locking zippers.  It’s less likely for would-be thieves to tug at your backpack or try to slide their hands in the compartments when there’s more effort involved to get into it. I have a laptop bag that does just this and travel Western Europe with my kids with it.
  5. Keep your hands free. I absolutely despise carrying on a purse with my kids, to begin with. Personally, I would rather have my hands available to hold my child’s hand to lessen the chance of them wandering away.
  6. Never open a map or tourist brochures in public. Ther’s is nothing that screams that you are vulnerable louder than stopping on the sidewalk and consulting large, colourful pieces of paper.
  7. Lock wallets, laptops and cameras in trunks. If you have a car hire or rental, please do not leave valuables on back seats when you’re sightseeing or exploring. That is tempting for a thief to break in. Keep valuables out of sight.
  8. Utilize safes. If your hotel room or accommodations have a safe in your room, store your passports and important documentation there instead of carrying it around with you.
  9. Line up shoes behind your hotel room door at night. When the kids and I are in our hotel or accommodation rooms at night, I line our shoes up in front of the door. If anyone has s spare key to open it while we are sleeping, the shoes will act as a barrier to opening the door quietly. One shoe might even get stuck under the door and prevent it from opening further.
  10. Be seated with your back against the wall. In restaurants or other public seating areas, make sure you can see what is going on around you. If your back is to the wall, you won’t miss anyone coming up behind you and removing your possessions.

The kids and I outside of the town of Cascais on the Atlantic Ocean. With some common sense, you too can enjoy family travel with my travel safety tips.

How To Watch Out For Scams

Often, when you’re travelling in a country where English is not the first language, there are linguistic issues that can arise. Avoid being taken advantage of when out shopping or dining by dealing directly with shopkeepers and restauranteurs. Here are just a few of the scams I’ve encountered when travelling with my children:

Sign Your Name For World Peace

When in line at tourist attractions, beware of teams walking beside the line with clipboards in their hands. On the clipboard, they have “a petition to sign your names in support of world peace” or any other cause. When you sign this petition, you are asked to donate any sum of money at your disposal. Only give cash to a registered charity, not people preying on tourists in a lineup for a popular attraction.

The Innocent Old Lady and Her Gang of Kids

Be mindful of being stalked in a tourist attraction lineup. An elderly lady will target you and send a group of children to alleviate you of your wallet and electronics. My children and I were in line with hundreds of other tourists outside security for the Eiffel Tower. Not more than 5-6 feet away from me was an elderly lady with a cane. She was standing in the shade, watching my children and me. My children were taking turns playing a game on an old iPhone. As we moved up in the line, she moved up, staring at us, we were her target. Soon, there were 3 children, roughly the same age as my kids with her, now watching us. I made sure to let the elderly woman know that I was watching her. Feeling that my children were in danger of losing their device, I motioned from my eyes to her and pointing at the children gathered beside her and I mouthed “no”. Then, I shook my head as a warning. I stood in front of my children, blocking them from their sight and removed the iPhone from their hands. I told my children what was happening, pointing to the elderly woman and the children with her. We watched as they moved away and then fixated on another family in line behind us.

My key takeaway from this experience is to try to buy your tickets for popular attractions in advance. Skip these big lineups if you can. It will hopefully save you time as well.

Is This Your Ring?

On the banks of the Seine River, a gentleman walked up on my left side and dropped what looked like a wedding band. He picked it up and showed it to me, asking me if I thought it was real gold. I immediately started laughing as soon as he asked me the question. I politely said no thank you. He tried to insist that he would “give” me the ring for good luck if I could give him 10 Euros. I refused to open my purse in front of him and wished him a good day. About a half-hour later, we saw him trying the same trick with other tourists a little further up the river.

I had heard about this potential scam in a YouTube video about travelling through Paris. The con artist reaches directly into your purse to grab whatever they can when you open it. Or attempts to sell you a brass ring that turns green a couple of days later under the illusion that it is real gold. The latter sounds a lot like what we encountered. Please do not fall for this!

Your Shirt Feels So Nice

Be on the alert when a couple of children walk up to you and touch your clothing. The kids will tell you they like the fabric and keep touching you. They are skilled pickpockets. These kids are getting their hands in your pockets and taking whatever is not sewn onto you. They can lift your mobile phones and possessions faster than you realize. 

The Cup Game

“Trile” is the cup game that is played on the streets and beaches all over Spain. This game involves three cups and a small object that is hidden under one of the cups. Often you will see this game played on a table. Bystanders can guess which cup contains the object under it. The thing is, you have to pay a small sum of money to place your bet. They’ll tell you if you win, you win a bigger prize. They might tempt you into betting more money by letting you win a couple of times. Once you place more money on the table, that object under the cup mysteriously disappears. And you’re out your money. It’s a gamble. One you will lose.

Another scam I have heard of is the rental car scam. I have heard of travellers being tailed on a highway, outside of a city or town from the car hire place. The other vehicle’s occupants will try to get your attention by telling you that your gas cap is open or that your tire is almost flat. Once they get you to pull over, one person will start trying to speak to you loudly and distract you. Another person will quickly perform a “spot check” on your vehicle. They’ll have your doors and trunk opened quite quickly and will take your possessions while you are distracted by the other person. Please consider this a safety tip for international travel – inspect your rental vehicle all over and ensure everything is in working order.

 

Final Travel Safety Tips

A little bit of common sense can be your best friend on the road. Like a college girl in a bar, always protect your drinks. Please do not leave your drinks unattended anywhere, not even at a cafe. You never know who is watching you. If you have seen the Serpent on Netflix, you’ll know what I am talking about.

If you’d like to read more about the scams the kids and I encountered on our trip to Europe, you can read all about them here in SavvyMom

Hope these travel safety tips are of use to you and your family. Everything I have written about can apply domestically as well as internationally.

Family Travel Safety Tips - Knowing How To Be Safe and How To Avoid Scams When Traveling With Kids