Given the proximity to the country, traveling to Canada for weekends and summer vacations from Detroit is a terrific option. There are, however, a few things to know, plan, and expect, depending on your ultimate destination. Following are a few important details to know before you go.
The Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit-Canada Tunnel to Windsor represent the No. 1 and No. 2 busiest Canadian border crossings, respectively. Add the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron/Sarnia, and the Metro Detroit area is indisputably the nation's gateway to Canada.
Always consult the government website about border crossings into Canada from the Metro Detroit area, including which route to take, customs concerns, and information about each.
Currency Exchange and Banking
Canada has its own currency. If your destination is a tourist spot and is close to the border, the restaurants and hotels may accept American dollars. Whether or not American currency is accepted, it's beneficial to know the exchange rate for Canada.
Back in the day, elementary schools covered the metric system, but the conversion formulas easily fall from memory. Remember the following tips:
- For an approximate conversion of Celsius to Fahrenheit, multiply the Celsius temperature by 9/5 and then add 32 degrees.
- Kilometers are represented on the underside of the arc on your speedometer. The important thing here is to remember that the “100” sign you see on the freeway does not refer to miles. Generally speaking, a kilometer is approximately a little more than ½ a mile.
Each Canadian province and territory defines its own age at which it is legal to gamble or purchase, possess, and consume alcohol. The legal drinking age in Ontario, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, and Yukon is 19. It is 18 in Quebec, Alberta, and Manitoba.
The legal gambling age is 18 in Alberta and Quebec. In all other provinces and territories, the legal gambling age is 19.
Odds and Ends
While not necessarily any further away than several tourist destinations in the state of Michigan, Canada is another country. Some things remain the same, but some things are definitely different:
Currency: Canadians call their $1 bills loonies and their $2 bills toonies.
Canadian Tire: There is undoubtedly a history of mergers and acquisitions that explain the misnomer, but Canadian Tire is more of an all-purpose store like Target or K-Mart than its name implies.
Freeway Exits: You do exit, but you won't necessarily find the standard McDonalds, hotel and gas station until you travel several miles to the nearest city or community.
Point Pelee National Park in Ontario, Canada, at 40 miles southeast of Detroit, is an easy drive. Situated on Lake Erie, you can observe the nature and wildlife in the park's marsh, swamp, forest, and savannah. Engage in watching over 379 species of birds in their natural habitats. Hike through the oldest part of the forest; bicycle the Centennial Bike and Hike Trail; or canoe or kayak in the freshwater marshes. The park is open year-round.
Windsor, Ontario, Canada, is right across the Detroit River. But to get there, you have to drive south via the Ambassador Bridge or the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. Visit historic Sandwich Towne, which, according to ExperienceDetroit.com, "still retains a number of buildings of historical significance from the 1780s that exemplify the neo-classical and Georgian styles of architecture prevalent during the first half of the 19th century." Also visit the walkable, safe downtown area for museums, theaters, galleries, shops, and restaurants. See lovely Odette Sculpture Park, which offers over 31 internationally recognized sculptures from world-renown artists. The Art Gallery of Windsor is located in Odette Sculpture Park as well.
Chatham-Kent is approximately 85 miles east of Detroit in Ontario, Canada. Canada's involvement in the War of 1812 is commemorated here with a museum and monument. Buxton National Historic Site features structures built by slaves who escaped. Several stops on the Ontario Underground Railroad tour are also found in Chatham-Kent.
Weekend Trips Within Five Hours of Detroit
Spend a weekend in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, where a yearly theater festival attracts some 600,000 visitors to witness live Shakespeare performances and other live classical acts. Stroll along the Avon River to view the famous swans and the extraordinarily pristine parks. Better yet, take a guided or self-guided tour down the Avon River straight to the York Street Information Center. The city, home to numerous cooking schools, has numerous restaurants with a variety of cuisines. For a special treat, stay at the Parlor Inn, built in the 1870s with striking old world charm.
Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada, goes beyond the stunning Niagara Falls and is a bit of a hidden, charming, cultural gem. This historic town gives you tons of shopping, wineries, and the world-class Shaw Festival—the largest repertory theater company in North America. The gardens, history, architecture, and golf are a strong pull for the older visitor. B&Bs and vintage inns are top choices of accommodation here.
The big city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is home to a diverse population where more than 180 languages are spoken. It also has more than 8,000 restaurants, so it makes for ideal weekend getaways from Detroit for foodies. Visit the CN Tower, once the world's tallest building at 1,815 feet and 147 floors; if you dare, literally walk along the edge of the tower on the Edgewalk. Visit the Royal Ontario Museum, the largest museum of natural history and world culture in Canada. Don't miss the St. Lawrence Market, with its more than 120 food vendors. Finally, take a ferry ride to the Toronto Islands, where bicycling and walking are the primary modes of transportation. Rent a canoe, paddleboat or kayak here to get a broad, stunning view of Lake Ontario and the Toronto skyline. Toronto has an abundance of the budget, moderate, and upscale accommodations.