Buffalo Bucket List, No. 11: The Great White North

The Buffalo Bucket List is a series of articles highlighting my journey to achieve the full college experience in Buffalo, from Buffalo wings to Oozefest.

One of the best things about the City of Buffalo is leaving it to go to Canada.

Canada is the friendlier, more European version of the United States. Ontario, the closest province of Canada to Buffalo, is home to Ottawa, its capital, and the biggest city, Toronto. Canada is nearly 10 million square kilometers – get used to using the metric system – which makes it one of the biggest countries in the world, though much of it is uninhabitable.

For a trip to Canada, stick to the inhabitable parts.

“We are fortunate in Buffalo that an international experience is readily available locally,” said Munroe Eagles, professor and director of Canadian Studies at UB and a native Canadian. “Southern Ontario and Western New York are quite similar culturally, but a trip across the border to Canada will expose you to subtle differences.”

Eagles explained differences like bilingual road signs and the metric system are immediately apparent. Others, such as a 15 percent sales tax, aren’t as obvious.

“The longer your visit, the more you’ll pick up many other subtle but significant differences,” Eagles said.

When planning a trip to Canada, it is important to remember to not bring anything remotely illegal. While the U.S.-Canadian border is the longest unprotected border in the world, there is still a border screening process. Bring your passport and have it ready to speed up the process.

You should head to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls for a cheap and quick trip abroad. It’s a bit of a tourist trap, with attractions like a Ferris wheel and a casino, but that means it’s a nice night of entertainment. The falls are lit up at night, making for a beautiful experience. Niagara Falls is also close enough to the U.S. border that you will likely still be able to find American cell reception – thus avoiding roaming charges.

Also, did I mention the drinking age in Ontario is 19? You’re welcome.

Toronto is the nearest major Canadian city to Buffalo and what a city it is.

“Toronto is an hour and a half away to travel, but it is worlds apart culturally. The Toronto region is the epicenter of Canada’s economy and culture. The skyline is constantly changing as new condo and office towers continue to pop up,” Eagles said. “The city is one of Canada’s most ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse and it is a magnet for a good proportion of the almost 300,000 immigrants Canada admits annually.”

Eagles urges every UB student to make at least one trip to experience this amazing city.

The diversity of Toronto is at least in part created by Canada’s official policy of multiculturalism. This policy encourages immigrants to continue their cultural practices, producing the diverse experience, according to Eagles.

Bus rides from Buffalo to Toronto are exceptionally cheap. A round trip ticket can usually be found for around $40. Using websites such as Airbnb – a website that allows people to rent out their apartments for a day or so – can help you save on lodging and ensure a unique experience as opposed to the traditional hotel.

For a more European feel, Eagles encourages travelers to go to Quebec City.

“The city walls and French culture are worth the long drive,” Eagles said.

Quebec City is in the province of Quebec where the drinking age is 18. You’re welcome, again. Quebec is the only Canadian province where most people speak French. In fact, French is the only official language of Quebec. The unique culture of Quebec almost led it to become its own country. Quebec is seen as a nation within Canada and has been recognized by the Canadian government as a “distinct society.”

Wherever you decide to go in Canada, remember it is a foreign country. It is a land to be explored, enjoyed and respected. The proximity to Canada is one of the reasons I came to UB. I’ve met interesting people and had many good times in the Great White North. Now, you should as well.

Daniel McKeon is a features editor and can be reached at dan.mckeon@ubspectrum.com