- Niagara Falls
This drive begins in historic Philadelphia and wraps up the itinerary in Toronto, Canada.
The Philadelphia to Toronto Drive Guide also includes additional stopovers in Gettysburg, an optional Cherry Springs State Park stargazing opportunity, as well as Niagara Falls.
If you’re looking for a hotel that’s both luxurious and historic in Philadelphia, go with the BelleVue Hotel. Located on South Broad Street, it’s centrally located in the heart of the city center.
Traffic can be heavy in this area, but once you’re settled into the hotel, it’s a perfect location for walking to most major attractions in the city.
If you want to stay in the highest hotel in North America, then you’re in luck. The Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center is the highest at the moment, outranking hotels in Chicago and New York.
There’s even an infinity pool on the 57th floor. All of this opulence does come at a fairly hefty price, so there’s that caveat. Room rates typically start at $585.
3 Philadelphia Dining Suggestions
1. TALULA’S GARDEN: Although scoring a reservation to this popular dining destination can be difficult during peak times, definitely give it a try. Talula’s Garden was my favorite dining experience in Philadelphia.
Look for a vine-ensconced hideaway with cozy tables tucked into every corner of the courtyard. Inside, the restaurant is multi-tiered, giving each dining section its own cozy, living room feel.
The “Taste of the World” cheese plate is as extravagant as it sounds, and you can follow it with some rich mushroom cannelloni and cavatappi with short rib and tomato confit.
If you’re too full to order a dessert, the restaurant still will satisfy your sweet tooth by giving you a complimentary salted caramel and dark chocolate to close out the meal.
The menu is slightly limited, so be sure to look at the selections ahead of time to make sure some options interest you before making a reservation.
3. THE FOOD HALLS AT READING TERMINAL MARKET: A dining option where there’s truly something for everybody. Whether or not you choose to eat at one of the restaurants housed inside the Market, you should take a moment to walk through the halls.
It’s a fun experience regardless, zig-zagging your way through the maze of merchants selling cheese, meats, fish, herbs, flowers, produce, and bread.
If you want a “sit-down” dining experience within the Market, stop into Molly Malloy’s–a casual spot that’s great for a snack or a beer and a chance to rest your feet.
Top 3 Historic Philadelphia Attractions
1. The National Constitution Center
A visit to the National Constitution Center is a must, even if you’re only in Philadelphia for a short time.
Start the tour in the impressive “Signer’s Hall,” filled with 46 life-size bronze statues of the Founding Fathers present at the historic moment of the signing on September 17, 1787.
2. Independence Hall
You could easily spend an entire day at the museum – so much to see and do – but your historical tour of Philadelphia isn’t complete without a visit to Independence Hall located directly across the green.
Although you can (and should) purchase your tickets in advance, you’ll most likely still have to wait in the snail’s pace of a security line snaking its way around the red brick building. So, prepare yourself. Click here for the link to reserve tickets in advance.
This tour is popular, but it’s a must if only for the moment when you stand in the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed all those years ago. Knowingly committing an act of treason couldn’t have been an easy decision, and yet, here we are.
3. Reading Terminal Market
READING TERMINAL MARKET: With over 80 vendors, this indoor market that opened in 1893 is a buzzing hive in the center of Philadelphia. You’ll probably need around 1-2 hours here to see it all fully, plus I suggest picking out a vendor and enjoying a snack.
The next historic stop on the Philadelphia to Toronto drive is Gettysburg. Located approximately 140 miles from Philadelphia, most driving routes take a little over 2.5 hours with no stops.
The drive from Philadelphia to Gettysburg can feel long at times, but the views are lovely as you pass through the quaint towns along the fringes of Amish country in Lancaster County.
Where to Stay in Gettysburg
I stayed 2 nights in Gettysburg at The BrickHouse Inn B&B, and I highly recommend it. I would happily stay here again should I find myself back in the charming town of Gettysburg.
Located only a few blocks from the town square, The BrickHouse Inn B&B provides off-street parking behind the Inn with a stone pathway leading you through a quiet garden, past a koi pond with a few lazy fish gliding about, then onto a wrap-around porch lined with rocking chairs.
Exploring the Town of Gettysburg
If you arrive after 5:00 p.m., most shops will be closed, but a walk downtown is still filled with interest. Historical markers line the sidewalks providing information about houses being occupied and used as sniper posts during the Civil War. Also, get ready to see a lot of plaques indicating that Abraham Lincoln passed this spot on his way to deliver the now-famous Gettysburg Address.
You can taste local wines and ciders in the main square at the Adams County Winery Shop & Gift Shop. If you want to browse or buy Civil War artifacts, then step into the Union Drummer Boy–a fascinating store literally filled with history.
Best Place to Eat Dinner in Gettysburg
GARRYOWEN IRISH PUB: For authentic Irish food in a warm, friendly atmosphere, be sure to check out this restaurant and bar located a few steps away from the main square. Hearty, traditional Irish food is served here like Shepherd’s Pie, and the cozy bar area is fully stocked with Guinness on tap and a large variety of Irish whiskey.
Gettysburg Civil War Visitor Center & Battlefield Tour
Before you begin touring the battlefields, your first stop needs to be the Civil War Visitor Center: a museum filled with extensive exhibits chronicling the war and the “Battle of Gettysburg” in detail. They even have a restored cyclorama depicting “Pickett’s Charge” created by Paul Philippoteaux in 1884. Weighing in at 12.5 tons, the 377-foot-long and 42-foot-high painting is a sight to behold.
If joining a group tour with a guide is not your preference, you can explore the battlefield at your own pace in your car using the “Auto Tour” option that guides you through each location in the order that the events took place.
The auto tour begins at McPherson Ridge, where the battle began around 8:00 a.m. The fields are wide, open, and green–completely ordinary except for the gray monuments dotted here and there.
Without these monuments, you would never suspect that anything violent could have ever happened in such a peaceful place.
At Seminary Ridge, you can view the memorials to North Carolina and Virginia that face the fields where Pickett led his infamous charge of 12,000 men on that fateful day.
The tour continues to “Little Roundtop” and through places with names that defy the horrors of war, such as “The Wheatfield,” where over 4,000 had lain dead or wounded. “The Peach Orchard” was where the Federal cannon had once shattered the day. “Plum Run”…”Spangler’s Spring.”
Such soothing, melodious names, forever haunted by those thousands who died on these grounds.
The tour fittingly ends on “Cemetery Hill” at “The Angle,” where the battle ended. Many believe the events at “The Angle” signified the turning point of the war.
The Battle of Gettysburg had begun on July 1st, 1863, and on July 4th, Lee’s army began its retreat.
Depending on how quickly you tour the museum and battlefields, the sun may be beginning to set by the time you reach the National Cemetery, but it’s an appropriate way to end the day. Large trees line the pathways of the cemetery, offering a canopy over the grave markers.
Optional Star Gazing Trip: Cherry Springs State Park
If you are a serious stargazer or have always wanted to see the Milky Way without the interference of light pollution, then you should consider visiting Cherry Springs State Park.
Located 4 hours away from Gettysburg, Cherry Springs is the second International Dark Sky Park in the U.S. and the only one located on the East Coast.
Note: If you need to break up the long drive north from Gettysburg to Cherry Springs, stop off for lunch at Skeeter’s Pit BBQ overlooking the Susquehanna River.
The drive up to the top of the mountain is a long one, and you need to make sure that you have plenty of gasoline and food supplies because there are no options for re-fueling or dining for miles.
Also, check the moon phase in advance to determine whether a stargazing visit to Cherry Springs State Park is worth it while you’re there.
If the moon is in a full phase, you won’t see much of the Milky Way or shooting stars.
I speak from experience. When the night finally became fully dark when I stayed at Cherry Springs, the bright full moon rose over the trees and washed out the sky like a giant flashlight.
If you decide to stargaze at Cherry Springs, the drive from the state park to Niagara Falls is approximately 144 miles and will take a little over 3 hours to drive with no stops.
If you’re driving directly to Niagara Falls from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the drive will take you most of the day: 340 miles and clocking in around 6 hours with no stops.
However and whenever you arrive in Niagara Falls, the first stop should be: The American Falls.
The view of the American Falls from the New York side is unbelievable. The mass…the roar. But, this view pales in comparison to the view of Niagara Falls from the Canadian side.
You’ll need to drive across the Rainbow Bridge through the Canadian border (have your passport / ID card ready). If you’ve been driving all day, you’ll most likely be ready for a rest before continuing your sightseeing.
Where to Stay | Marriott Fallsview Hotel Niagara Falls
I recommend this hotel for its incredible views of the falls alone (although the rest of the resort is quite nice).
Situated at an angle directly overlooking the Falls, from my 18th-floor room, I could sit in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows and enjoy the stunning views of both the Horseshoe and American Falls.
Best Niagara Falls Restaurant with a View
THE SKYLON TOWER: If you’re looking for dinner with a view, then get a reservation at the revolving restaurant located at the top of the tower.
Even though it is a fine dining restaurant, it’s still a rather “touristy” experience. For example, before taking one of the glass-enclosed, exterior-facing elevators to the top, the staff takes your photo in front of a green screen.
Suggestion: Try to time your dinner reservation so you are still in the restaurant at 10:00 p.m. The nightly Niagara Falls fireworks show blasts off at 10:00 p.m., and the views of the show from Skylon Tower are excellent.
Visiting the Falls
Standing at the corner curve of the Fall’s edge, you can feel the cool mist brush your skin while marveling at the mass of water gushing over, ton after ton.
Inside the Welcome Center, you can experience the 4-D attraction, “Niagara’s Fury,” or for a more hands-on experience, go for the “Journey Behind the Falls” experience where you descend 150 feet by elevator, then walk through a tunnel to 2 observation decks located behind the falls.
You most likely will get wet from the spray, which is why a poncho is provided and included in the 21.95 ticket cost.
For the traditional Niagara Falls experience, book the Hornblower boat tour (Maid of the Mist on the American side). Ponchos are also provided, and you will DEFINITELY need every square inch of them.
Ridiculous looking? Yes. But it definitely helped when the moment of truth came.
The mist from the American Falls isn’t too bad. The “mist” at the base of the Horseshoe Falls is a blinding maelstrom of torrential rain.
I couldn’t even really see or hear anything through the whirling water and the roar of the falls. Afterward, I was freezing cold with soaked shoes, but I don’t regret the experience.
Touring the Town of Niagara
Unfortunately, the town of Niagara Falls matches the exact description of a “tourist trap.”
Cheap souvenir shops and corny entertainment fill practically every block, and it all seems inappropriate considering the natural wonder and beauty of the falls.
For a truly lovely town to visit, I highly recommend driving the 30 minutes or so to Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The picturesque town is brimming with beautiful Inns, interesting shops, and fantastic restaurants.
The road trip from Niagara to Toronto is not that far – expect it to take around 1.5 hours.
But, the drive can be slow due to pockets of sluggish traffic.
Toronto is also a hub for sporting events which can also slow you up.
In my case, 3 sporting events were taking place on the evening I arrived, which meant navigating throngs of people on the way to the downtown hotel.
Where to Stay in Toronto
The Delta Hotel: Located in the heart of the downtown district with views of the waterfront from your room, this hotel is luxurious and convenient for exploring Toronto on foot.
The rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows, which give the feeling that you’re literally on top of Toronto.
Toronto Restaurants To Try
TRATTORIA TAVERNITI: Trattoria Taverniti is a tiny family-owned and operated authentic Italian osteria on College St. They serve fresh pasta, and all the sauces are made in-house.
Toronto is loaded with amazing restaurants, and since I was only there a couple of days, I was limited in how many I could sample. But one thing I do remember is that I didn’t have a single bad dining experience while in Toronto.
What to Do in Toronto
Royal Ontario Museum: The museum is quite an interesting (as well as informative) way to spend the day. Don’t miss the rock and gemstone exhibit with its gorgeous collections of earth’s natural formations gleaming in every shade of color.
Looking for more road trip action across the country? Check out: