For metro Detroiters, Canada is quite literally next door. In fact, with the exception of the border crossing, Canada has always felt like an extension of Detroit to me.
My family and I would go to Canada for the weekend, often just for an afternoon. Post 9/11, crossing the border became more tedious and some metro Detroiters backed off for a while. Then the exchange rate went south, and with it, in the eyes of many metro Detroiters, most of the benefits. And I get it. If you’re not going to save money, why go to Canada when there are tons of cities in the metropolitan area that are innovative, chic, artsy? Take your pick.
Exchange rates aside though, Canada is a wonderful place to visit or vacation in.
I’ve twice been to Canada within the last eight months (Niagara Falls and Toronto) and it’s definitely improved (the border lines are tolerable with an average wait of about 20 minutes or less, depending upon what time you come in).
I’d been to Niagara Falls twice, but Toronto somehow eluded me. Couple that with a strong desire for not wanting to drive four hours-plus, and an interest in riding a train (for the first time)…I was definitely in.
VIA Railway is roughly 10 minutes from the border crossing. You can park your car, hop on the train and relax. There was free WiFi, refreshments, plenty of space, and there’s nothing like watching the world unfurl, dip, curve, and open from the comfort of a window seat view.
For someone whose last three trips were all spent behind the wheel of a car with a Mapquest print out and a barely working GPS directing me, the train was a very relaxing alternative.
Two nights in Toronto gave me the basics of the city. I tasted new foods, met interesting people, including a waitress who spoke almost as fast as the Autobot character, Blurr (the animated “Transformers”), a mime, and a host of others. There’s never enough time and before you know it, you’re checking out of your hotel room and en route to home.
Most metro Detroiters cross the border for the gambling (my mother and grandmother occasionally visit) and the clubs, but the change of scenery truly does wonders for both the eyes and the spirit.
Be sure you’ve got an enhanced Michigan State ID, enhanced driver’s license or a passport.
Although the summer is certainly winding down, there’s still time to visit our neighbor, Canada, in all its beauty. Depending on your pocketbook, you could explore Windsor and visit its many stores and shopping centers, or you could go off the beaten path, and maybe discover a new shopping haunt. New music. New art. New restaurants.
In the space of 45 minutes or less, most metro Detroiters can find themselves on Canadian soil with plenty to do.
Personally, I can’t wait for my next train trip.