Toronto / Montreal / QC

As a follow-up to last year’s Western USA trip we’re going to do a loop encompassing Niagra Falls, Toronto, Montreal, QC, FunSpot (in New Hampshire), and the Adirondacks.

I’m pretty sure of the stuff to do at Niagra (though suggestions are more than welcome), FunSpot, and the Adirondacks, but at a loss in Toronto, Montreal, and QC. I’m planning on roughly two days at each city. I’m a fan of Rush but I’m guessing there isn’t that much to do in Toronto related to them. My wife likes reading Charles deLint but it doesn’t look like he is playing music at that pub he usually does.

Anyhow, any suggestions are welcomed!

If you wind up in my neck of VT, I will buy you a beer.

Can a trip to Montreal be complete without getting some bagels fresh out of the oven?

For Quebec City, stay inside the walls of the old city and you can walk just about anywhere. The upper and lower parts of the old city are connected by staircases and a neat diagonal elevator (Funiculaire). I’ll try to add more suggestions later but here are a few:

  • Take a guided tour of the Citadelle and see the changing of the guard (I think we took the tour one day and were able to come back the next day to see the changing of the guard for free).
  • Tour the Chateau Frontenac and/or maybe have high tea there, if you are into that sort of thing.
  • The Musee du Fort offers a short diorama-based presentation of the military history of QC and is a nice way to get an overview of the area.
  • We were able to see a free outdoor Cirque du Soleil show that was, of course, spectacular. Check online for schedules for whenever you are planning to be there. We also enjoyed many of the street circus performers in the upper city as we walked around.
  • Basilique Cathedrale Notre-Dame-de-Quebec is beautiful inside. Two others worth seeing are the Cathedral Of The Holy Trinity (Anglican) and the little Notre-Dame-des-Victoires on the Place Royale in the lower city.
  • There are several interesting museums in the old city. I’ll post a few more specific recommendations when I get a chance.
  • The lower part of the old city (Quartier du Petit Champlain) is very charming, full of cafes and shops and some huge building murals.
  • Definitely partake of some maple ice cream as you enjoy the great views of the St. Lawrence from the Terrasse Dufferin.

Here’s some stuff in Toronto:

  • CN tower. Very touristy
  • hockey hall of fame. If you’re into hockey and not bad even if you’re not.
  • Canada’s wonderland. If you like roller coasters/ funnel cake
  • Dave and busters. A “chucky cheese” type place but not exclusively for children. Very close to Canada’s wonderland.
  • Kensington market is a district off spadina st. Great place to walk around, see unique shops and get a beer on a patio.
  • “the ballroom” is a restaurant/bowling alley. It’s really nice inside unlike 99% of bowling alleys.
  • Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). If you like museums.
  • Toronto islands. Catch a ferry out to the island. There’s a small amusement park or it’s great for biking / taking a walk.
  • distillery district is a nice old timey area.

Some stuff flows out of these suggestions. If you like ROM then art gallery of Ontario might be good too. If you like exploring parts of the city than Chinatown is fun, walking along bloor st is good too.

In Montreal there should be free outdoor concerts at Place des Arts all month… Francofolies, the International Jazz Fest, etc etc.

The Plateau is great for trendy bars and any kind of restaurant you fancy.

Old Port has a really nice waterfront and great architecture, although I’d steer away from food and drink as it’s upriced and touristy (although it can be good for upscale steak and hoighty toity stuff)

Go to the mountain for nice walks and views. Ditto for St helens Island, then hit the Casino.

Do get a St Viateur’s bagel oven fresh (yummmm) 24hrs a day, as well as a poutine from La Banquise (dont’ care much for the stuff but it’s a local favorite)

When I was in Toronto I did most of what borbes listed, except I skipped CN because the weather was meh so the sight lines would have been pretty bad. I hear mostly bad things about the CN tower though, and people regret going up it and consider it a waste.

One place I did have fun at was Medieval Times which was pretty cool to see. I took my mom there for her birthday because it was something different. Make sure you’re ok with eating with your hands as they don’t provide utensils. You also get to call the ladies serving your drinks there bar wenches, which is awesome in my books! My mom almost freaked when I did that and then I had to explain to her that I was living out my movie fantasy of being in the past and calling some random woman I don’t know a wench, plus the girl backed me up and said it’s pretty common place so I didn’t get disowned.

Can’t believe I forgot medival times! Ontario place (amusement park, no coasters) is also right by the water and free this summer

In Montreal, get a smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz’s.

Not sure when you are going to Toronto but for a nip of courage and $175 dollars, you can do the Edgewalk starting in August.

In Niagara, see the falls sure, but then drive to Niagara on the Lake and go see the wineries. Go to the tourist office which is downtown and get a map to the major ones. Then you can have your wife drive you around while you get sloshed. Or you can drive her!

There are so many little restaurants in Toronto I could recommend. What kind of cuisine do you like?

Also in Toronto, in case you need some nerdy retail therapy:

The Beguiling - Canada’s best comics store. First floor is arty comics, second floor mainstream.

Suspect Video - Right nearby The Beguiling. Now that local Waterloo legends Generation X closed doors, Suspect is the best video store in Canada by default. Lots of weirdo titles there.

Sonic Boom Records - Also in the general area. Awesome and huge vinyl and CD warehouse.

Rotate This! - Amazingly, NOT in Mirvish Village! This is down on Queen Street, which used to be the hipster mecca back when I was a wee teen but now is all yuppified and shit. Anyway, amazing record store.

Also, in Montreal, you must stop by Marche Jean-Talon. It’s a shame they won’t let you take Canadian produce back to the US, but you can eat some pretty damn food right there, stock up on amazing spices, and top it all off with some of the most mouth-watering gelato I’ve ever had.

Stay away from Clifton Hill on the Canadian side of Niagra Falls; its a money pit.

Toronto: Definitely take the ferry from downtown to Center Island, Ontario Place, Wonderland and take in a Jays game if you can.

Montreal: Old Montreal, Biodome, shopping on St. Catherines, Olympic Stadium, and La Ronde (amusement park).

I know you don’t have Ottawa on the list, but depending on your route, it may not be too far out of the way. There’s the Parliament buildings, the Byward Market, Art gallery, Museum of Civilization and War Museum (which is awesome).

Enjoy your trip.

Shopping on Ste. Catherine, really? It’s just so touristy! And crammed with aggressive strip club promoters.

I do like the HMV there, though.

Yeah, the HMV is nice. I like touristy though, and things are pretty civilized once you get past the Forum and up by the mall. The bad end was a lot of fun back in the late 80’s and early 90’s just people watching. Saw a lot of great heavy bands back in the day and of course there is Les Foufounes Électrique, the best place in the universe to see live music.

On another note, if you guys are going to be in the Adirondacks, the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake is interesting, and will give you a good feel for the history and culture of the region. Jebus, did it get pricey, though.

If you’re into literature and are passing through Saranac Lake, you may consider dropping by Robert Louis Stevenson’s cottage. It’s a nice little town in its own right, of course.

Or you could go see Fort Ticonderoga, on the shores of beautiful (I’m biased) Lake Champlain. Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold captured the fort in 1775, in a daring predawn raid, warning the British that we were here and not to try and take American arms away, or something like that.

Foufs?! I went there plenty, but unless you’re a dirty punk/rock 18yr old adolescent, or the neighborhood’s changed (it hasn’t much) you’ll have grown out of the St-laurent/St cath corner by now. Although last year I noticed the ol’ red light district between Place des Arts and Foufs was being torn up.

I agree about downtown… sure, hit Crescent st. for english speaking nightlife if you have to, but the shopping is the same as any other large city. The boutiques of the Plateau are a lot more interesting and custom to Mtl. Check out the McGill campus while you’re in downtown, though.

There’s a great game shop on St-Denis near Mont-Royal called Valet d’Coeur.

By the way, I’ve noticed in my travels few other cities have as large a Greek Community and the abundance of Greek/Portugese restaurants that MTL has (because I was hankering), ditto for Afghani. Hit those up (but you’ll notice the Greek fare is more the souvlaki/brochette variety than mousaka traditional --yay!).

Holy crap, what a great list of things to do from all over the region we are visiting. I appreciate all of the ideas (and will definitely be doing some of them). I hate that I can’t respond individually to every poster but you’ve all been awesome!

Omniscia: We’ll be passing through Vermont on the way from New Hampshire to the Adirondacks. Great suggestions on the Adirondacks – I went up there almost every year from age ten to my early twenties as my family has a cabin up there (on Indian Lake). Your suggestion of the museum is dead-on – having been there a number of times I can’t wait to share it with my kids. We normally don’t do many museums but I think it is one they’ll enjoy. I’ve been to Fort Ticonderoga several times and, again, can’t wait to show it to the kids – my son in particular is a huge military nut. I have never been to Stevenson’s cottage, however – that may be worth a detour to Saranac (which is a ways from Indian Lake). We’re also considering doing a Hudson River rafting trip or something.

Timemaster Tim, spiffy: Not a huge fan of bagels but the wife and daughter are, I’ll be sure and do that.

Freezer-TPF-: Great suggestions but you have my mouth watering at “Maple Ice Cream”. Maple (syrup, candies, etc.) is my favorite “flavor”. Will definitely check this out! I’m also looking into staying at Frontenac but at $400/night it may be a one night thing.

theborbes: Hockey Hall of Fame is an excellent idea. I’m torn on the CN Tower. It is pricey and, I dunno, I’ve done the whole “up high” thing with St. Louis’ arch, the Empire State building, and the WTC.

markv: Medieval Times is an interesting suggestion, but we’ve done most of those types of things already (since Myrtle Beach is close, we’ve done Medieval Times, Dixie Stampede, etc.).

sinnick: Oooh, details on this smoked meat sandwich, please! What kind of meat? As for wineries, the wife and I don’t do much drinking and that’s not much our thing – plus I’ll have a 11 and 14yo in the back of the car laughing at me if I get too sloshed. As far as cuisine – Chinese, some Indian, some Thai, Mexican, some Greek. Pretty much anything except seafood.

madkevin: The wife, kids, and I all being nerds your suggestions are very welcome!

Myth: Hmmm, I hadn’t thought much of Ottawa… Let’s say you could do Ottawa or Toronto, which would you do? I’m kind of liking Ottawa after reading up on it some. Smaller, more quaint, and maybe more to do (for my family). Toronto has the CN Tower and the Hockey Hall of Fame but just seems to not have the allure that Montreal and QC have.

Also we’ve got only two weeks and a day or two allotted for the trip and four of those are traveling from North Carolina (on the way up with a stop at Gettysburg, on the way down with a stop at Philadelphia). I’d like to spend three to four days or so at the cabin in the Adirondacks so that makes time a bit short. I probably only really have a time for a day in Ottawa/Toronto and Montreal, with a couple of days for QC. A day in NH at FunSpot and a day or two at Niagara pretty much rounds it out. Maybe I should’ve chosen to fly up and rented a car but that raises the price of the trip substantially ($500 per person to Toronto round trip, really?! Rental car isn’t cheap either…)

I’m basically grappling with which of two routes:

NC - Philadelphia - NH - QC - Montreal - possible Ottawa - Adirondacks - Niagara - Gettysburg - NC

NC - Gettysburg - Niagara - Toronto or Ottawa - Montreal - QC - NH - Adirondacks - Philadelphia - NC

The first is a little shorter, but the difference is < 200mi and 3 hours. Both are roughly 2,500mi and just shy of two days driving (out of 16 or so total). It’s a shorter trip than last year’s journey which clocked in at 3,100mi for roughly the same number of days (I believe that was 18 or so days) so the driving is doable.

I wish I could ditch Niagara and just focus on going up the seaboard and hitting NH / QC / MTL / Adirondacks but I think dumping Niagara (as opposed to just Toronto or Ottawa) is a huge loss. The kids have never seen it, and the wife and I have never seen it proper as we’ve never done the boat ride or walked behind the falls or anything in-depth.

Little note for QC: If you’re in the lower part of the Old Town sector (Petit Champlain) you can take the ferry to the south shore to 1) take some great pictures and 2) drop by our finest microbrewery called the Corsaire on the south shore which is literally a hundred feet from the ferry terminal.