What to see in Canada?

My boyfriend and I are planning a week long trip (5 1/2 days) to Canada for vacation this August. I’m flying up to Buffalo early on a Monday morning to meet him (he’ll already be in NY for the Watkins Glen race) and from there our plan is to check out Niagara falls Monday morning/afternoon. From there we’re planning on going to Toronto then Montreal and then on to Quebec City before heading back down to New Hampshire for his cousin’s wedding on Saturday.

We’re planning on spending a day or two in each city, something like Monday night/Tuesday morning Toronto, Tuesday night/Wednesday in Montreal and Thursday/Friday/Saturday morning in Quebec City. So not a lot of time to see much but we would like to at least see some highlights of each city if possible. We’ll probably be doing some camping and staying in some hotels.

What should we check out? Is there one city that’s just cooler to visit than the others? We’re flexible on rearranging our time table. Also, he’s super into beer so if there are some local bars with great selection be sure to let us know. Food suggestions are welcome too. We’re all about trying the local fare.

It’s too much in such a short amount of time. You’ll see nothing and spend all your time driving. In that time frame, I recommend limiting your trip to Toronto and Montreal, spending a couple of days in each. Downtown for each city would be the place to start. Montreal and it’s surroundings have plenty of great local breweries. If you want to camp, though , you’ll likely be at least 30-40 minutes outside the city in both cases which will limit your time to visit even more. You might want to look into hotels or hostels.

I’d agree that you’re doing far too much in too little time. Your plan is essentially the same as saying “We’re going to visit Los Angeles, San Diego, and Mexico City in five days, what should we see? Oh, and we’re not planning on actually staying in the city.”

  1. Don’t camp. Stay in the city.

  2. Give up at least one of your proposed destinations and possibly two. Since seeing Quebec City requires doubling back I’d suggest you drop that at least.

  3. If you are not used to being in genuinely foreign environments then Montreal should be your primary destination, it being the most foreign of Canada’s two really big cities. Toronto is a very cool city with lots to do but it’ll seem more familiar to you than exotic; it’s a lot like Chicago without all the wind.

  4. Once you’re in either downtown Toronto or Montreal, just get a guidebook and find good restaurants convenient to where you’re staying. They’re huge cities with more eateries and fine beer-serving establishments than you could possibly exhaust.

Also, if you want some fine eating and beer for lunch on your way to Montreal, get off the 401 at Kingston (about halfway between Toronto and Montreal) and get downtown; no city has such a concentration of fine eats in a small space. It’s also a very charming little city with a lot of Canadian history in it, and would be fun to visit for lunch if the weather’s nice. I strongly recommend the Kingston Brewing Company on 34 Clarence Street for excellent microbrews and the best chicken wings ever made.

Toronto has a very good zoo and a great science center. You can’t do justice to the center in one day. They have good restaurants and entertainment .

Let us know when you arrive and we’ll show you around. :slight_smile:

Are you driving? I must warn you that 5.5 days is not enough to see one city, even if you were instantaneously transported there and back. Given that it takes roughly 2 hours to drive from Buffalo to Toronto, plus however long it takes to cross the border… and it takes five to seven hours to drive from Toronto to Montreal, and an equal time to drive from Montreal to Quebec City… and then you have to get to your final destination, which will take another day… you could easily fill all the holiday with driving alone. You won’t have much time in each city.

Just a few of the things to see in Toronto:

The Royal Ontario Museum. One of those museums that tries to cover everything, it has collections from dinosaurs to Chinese art. http://www.rom.on.ca/

The Toronto Zoo: http://www.torontozoo.com/

The Ontario Science Centre: http://www.ontariosciencecentre.ca/

The Distillery District, a cool Victorian industrial complex that has been renovated into art galleries and condos. It’s about a twenty-minute walk east of downtown. http://www.thedistillerydistrict.com/

Other museums include shoes. ceramics, textiles, hockey, television, and art.

If you plan to camp, you can in Rouge Park on the eastern edge of the city. It’s also sort of close to the zoo, but if you want to get there from downtown and you haven’t a car, best to take the train to Rouge Hill station and take a cab to the park. (This is also the fastest way to the get to the zoo–take the 85A bus from Rouge Hill station.) http://www.rougepark.com/
Glen Rouge campground: About Rouge Park - Rouge Park

City of Toronto visitor’s page.
Tourism Toronto

The BF was a bit miffed at the thought that we wouldn’t get to see anything with the way we have things planned out. I figured we’d probably need to drop at least one city. If we do it’ll probably wind up being Toronto. I know he wants to see Quebec City the most. He’s been to all three cities before on family trips ages ago, I haven’t been anywhere in Canada yet.

He says he wants to do some nature sight seeing too, thus the reason for camping but I’m iffy on that, I’d rather spend the time in the cities, we’ve got plenty of nature down here in VA.

We love doing road trips, thus all the driving around. The 5 hours between cities doesn’t really phase us, we’re using to making longer drives for shorter trips than this. On Sunday we’ll be doing the whole 12+ hours from New Hampshire to VA to get back home in one day. (God, that’s going to suck.) And we’ll be going from Quebec City to NH so there shouldn’t be any doubling back on that route.

Does anyone have any recommendations for cheap accommodations? Staying in hotels for a week will get pricey (another reason for trying to camp for a night or two, save some $$$).

We have a couple of guide books already that we’ve been flipping through for ideas. Do we need to worry about exchanging any money before we go up or should we get by fine with debit/credit cards and some American money?

You don’t need to exchange money before you go, but get Canadian money out of ATMs using a debit card, or use a credit card. Even if shops accept US money, they’ll do so at a poor exchange rate.

Will you be renting a car? If you want to visit Montreal and Québec City, it might be more worthwhile to fly directly to one of those two cities in order to save yourself a day of driving from Buffalo.

I’m sorry I can’t recommend cheap accomodations, since I live here and have friends/family in all three of these cities, so that’s where I stay when I travel! I can, actually, recommend one good campground just outside Québec City - Camping Juneau in St.-Augustin-des-Demaures. It’s probably a 15-20 minute drive to downtown, but it’s right on highway 40, so it’s really easy to get to from Montreal. Nice camping spaces, very clean showers and washrooms, and good pricing. I’ve stayed there a few times, but less because we wanted to see the city than because we wanted to have a campfire and drink ourselves silly with friends.

As for nature in the city; Montreal’s Biodomeshould be able to take care of that, along with a walk on Mount Royal. The Old Port (of both cities, actually) are worth a visit, and there are plenty of terrasses and good food to be had pretty much anywhere.

Beer: Perhaps the most well known will be the Unibrouebrewery, based in Chambly (about 20 minutes from Montreal), though they are easily found in a lot of restaurants, bars and dépanneurs across the province. The Fourquet Fourchette restaurant downtown has some very good food and most, if not all, of the unibroue selections.

Dieu du Ciel also makes some fantastic beer, and has a nice pub on Laurier street, near St-Laurent Blvd. I need to go there again…though I observe that their website isn’t exactly awesome.

Les 3 Brasseurs (WARNING STUPID ADVERTISNG MUSIC is a bit of a chain of restaurants/brewpubs around Montreal, though I note they are expanding to Toronto - they have a couple of locations right downtown and are a favourite amongst McGill and Concordia students (from what I’ve seen!) I love their Amber beer.

I have yet to try Benelux…really no excuse, as they are a very short direct bus ride from my place.

You can’t go wrong with McAuslan, which makes fantastic beer and is a sponsor of my dragonboat club. Drink their stuff.

You might findthis list useful.

If you want to load up on Québec beer without trying to hit every brewery in the province, may I recommend this dépanneur? They specialise in Québec beer. The beer guy is there most evenings and weekends, and speaks Passable English. They carry some fantastic beer, but also some weird-ass brews that should only be consumed for the sake of saying that you did so. Oh, and they carry beer from Lennoxville’s Golden Lion Pub, my first drinking “home” (legal, anyways…!)

As for cash, the Canadian dollar is rather strong right now. Your American bucks won’t go as far as they would have a few months ago, but who knows where the world will be in August. Check your bank/debit cards - on the off chance that they are Interacenabled (look for that logo on the back), then you can use those pretty much anywhere (we love our Interac system), but most merchants will take either MasterCard or Visa… American Express is a little less likely to be accepted. You can exchange money very easily in both cities.
If you do go to Québec City, check to see if the Moulin à Images will be playing while you are there. They developed this last year for the 400th Anniversary, and are bringing it back this year because it’s was so well-received. It visually shows Québec’s history and culture…it’s truly amazing to watch.

Good point.

{Excellent recommendations about Quebec beers snipped]
I’m sorry I can’t recommend beers or other alcohol in Toronto, as I don’t drink the stuff myself and know little about it. I will add that beer is not sold in corner stores in Ontario. To buy alcohol, you have to go to either an LCBO liquor store, a Brewer’s Retail “Beer Store” (yes, that’s what they’re called), or a particular brewery or winery’s direct outlet (at their plant, or sometimes in places like a grocery store). Or, of course, you can go to a restaurant or pub or other venue with a liquor license. Perhaps one of the other TronnaDopers will chime in?

Yeah, that happened rather quickly.

As far as I know, US debit cards will be handled as Mastercard or Visa credit cards at Canadian merchants. I’d be surprised if US banking cards had Interac logos (pleased, but surprised). Many places take Interac when they don’t take Mastercard or Visa, and almost everyone takes Interac. You can use cards with the Plus or Cirrus logo at ATMs with those logos. There are a very few ATMs that give out US cash as well.

Toronto does have the Steam Whistle **Warning: sound of a steam whistle (go figure)**and the Amsterdambreweries. I’ve only had Steam Whistle once or twice, but I recall it was pretty good.

Back when I lived in Hamilton, Lakeport was our house beer (it was cheap and pretty good), but we also really liked Waterloo Dark from the Brick Brewing Company (Waterloo, Ontario) and the Wellingtonbeers (Guelph, Ontario). I doubt you could call Sleeman’s a microbrewery anymore, but they were pretty good too. We drank a lot more Niagara area wines than beer back then, since it was cheap and plentiful. In Québec it’s the other way around; cheap beer, more expensive wine.
Downtown Toronto has the Beer Bistro which is slightly overpriced, but home to a fantastic collection of local and imported beer, many of which are on tap.

A similar place (with better food) is Montreal’s Bières et Compagnie, located on St. Denis street, a very popular shopping and bistro street. I think you could call the food there “Québecois”. Oh, and for a good poutine, hit La Banquise - it’s open 24/7 - they carry the Boréalebeer, all of which are quite tasty.

Hmmm… it seems my friends and I go out for beer a lot. Who knew?

The BF is actually driving up to New York a few days before me to watch the Watkins Glen sports car race so I am flying up to Buffalo where we will meet up and start our travels from there. That’s why we are starting out in Buffalo. We will have our own car, not renting.

Thanks for all the tips on the beer and breweries. It feels like every time we travel we make plans around what good beer can be had so I’m sure we will check out a few of those.

The Image Mill sounds neat, I think we’ll have to make an effort to see that.

Oh, also on the poutine, I think I want to try some (even though it sounds so bad for my heart!). I don’t want to look like an idiot when ordering it. How do you say it? Is it poo-tine? Poo-teen? What’s the correct pronunciation there?:slight_smile:

The pronunciation that most closely aproximates the french way would be:

poo (short “oo”) tin (as in tin can)… all in one word.


If you don’t have tickets yet and are planning to skip Toronto then I would fly into a different city, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany are big enough markets, or if you can find something to Elmira or Binghamton then you can meet your boyfriend and putter around finger lakes for a day – the area really is gorges (hah!). I’ve been to Niagara Falls a bunch of times, it’s beautiful but if your main destination is Quebec then I wouldn’t go out of your way to see the falls.

That is definitely close enough, and you’ll have no trouble ordering if you say it like that. If you want to add a bit more Frenchiness to it, say the second part with a ts/tz sound… poo-tzin. We love to afficate our consonants here, and it is, in fact, characteristic of Québec French as compared to France French.

My experience in Vancouver was that shops accepted U.S. currency, but would give change back at par–usually a bad deal for those holding USD, excepting a brief period recently when the CDN rose above par with the USD. Still, it wasn’t a huge deal and I was thankful for the convenience when I needed to buy something to eat and hadn’t been able to exchange any currency yet. This was at a snack bar in Stanley Park, and they didn’t take plastic.

Don’s Fish and Chips in Brockville, right off the 401 between Toronto and Montreal

I am going up to visit Grandma and Grandpa next week and will be stopping at Don’s at least once.

Well, while you’re in Niagara Falls, NY, you can see…er, the casino is nice. No, go on the Maid of the Mist, like Brad Pitt recently did. Like seeing the Grand Canyon, it’s something you only have to do once, but you’ll remember it always.

But you can’t go to Buffalo or even drive through it without going to Ted’s Hot Dogs. I’m totally serious. Ted’s is the bomb. Sure, there are nicer restaurants between the Buffalo Airport and Toronto (especially if you take a side tour to Niagara-on-the-Lake), but Ted’s is unique, and you won’t drop more than $10 between the two of you.

Rocks and trees.

Very apt description of the 401 between Toronto and Montreal.

Nah, except for the bit near the Thousand Islands. Most of the 401 passes through agricultural land. Now, you want rocks and trees, try the Shield country. Highway 60 through Algonquin Park is a good example.