Canada North America

Road trip across the border – Philadelphia to Canada

By Neha Kulshrestha  

Sometimes you have an urge to hit the road and take a euphoric drive to the lap of nature. We too get this kind of rush sometimes which coerces us to head out to somewhere new and delve into the world of exploration. This time we decided to take a road trip across countries. Thus, we planned to take a road trip to Canada from Philadelphia. The joy of riding across different countries can’t match. We had 5 days with us and wanted to make the most of it.

The itinerary was very flexible. We wanted to take it as it comes.

Philadelphia -> Lake Champlain, Burlington, VT -> Montreal, Canada -> Ottawa, Canada -> Philadelphia

Day 1:

Around noon, we started our journey to Lake Champlain (/sham-pleyn/). It was a 7-hour journey which we intended to complete in around 8 hours. The concrete jungle beside the highway led us to lush green mountains in NY and as we entered Vermont, we experienced the verdant countryside. Awestruck, we watched the sun slip down behind the mountains casting the beautiful yellow and orange hues across the cloud-speckled sky. After a tiring 8-hour journey, we checked into our hotel in Burlington on the banks of Lake Champlain. We could view the dinner cruises ferrying the lake while we waited for the morning to catch the lovely morning glimpse of this freshwater lake.

Day 2:

The morning lights gave view to the marvelous vista of the magnificent lake that is bordered by 3 states – NY, Vermont (USA) and Quebec (Canada).

 

The views were so inviting, that we dashed out to the boardwalk to experience it up and close. The placid waters, cool breeze blowing, docked boats, mountains in the backgrounds – everything was picture-perfect!

After a hearty breakfast at famous “The Skinny Pancake“, we took the kids to Vermont Teddy bear factory. It was a sweet 30-minute fun tour through the factory where each bear is handmade and has a lifetime guarantee. After big bear hugs, it was time to head onto the road again for some panoramic sights.

 

Nestled on the lake are several islands called Lake Champlain islands connected on scenic route US 2, a must drive route to witness the enthralling beauty. The 40-mile road following into quaint towns sandwiched between the lake, surrounded by green mountains and connected by bridges and hearts. The grey clouds and sprinkles of rain added to the charm. We didn’t even realize how many stops we had taken en route to indulge in these breathtaking views.

Lake Champlain island Grand Isle

We reached the border and with another stamp in our passports, we entered Canada. The first thing we noticed was a change in language on signboards. No, it was not English, but French.

After a 2-hour drive from Lake Champlain, we reached our hotel in Montreal in evening. Wanting to view the city in its full charm, we headed to Mount Royal which gives its name to the city.

Mount Royal (pronounced /mawn row-yal/ as in French) park is on the volcanic hill in the city which has a beautiful lake and lookout points to get spectacular panoramic views of the city. The cool evening breeze, cup of hot coffee, an expanse of skyscrapers and St. Lawrence River in the backdrop was a perfect way to end the day.

Montreal city view from Mt Royal

Day 3:

A good night sleep and yearning to visit the famous Notre Dame Basilica brought us to the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal in morning. The exterior beauty of the basilica was a minuscule of what we experienced inside. Behind the blue hues inside was a magnificent Sanctuary, beautiful stained-window panels, artistic ceiling, ornate spiral staircase and sparkling pipe organ. It was so mesmerizing. An option of tours of the basilica both in English and French. We were lucky to have experienced the playing of the pipe organ. Truly enchanting!!

 

Still swaying in the tunes, we were treated to more music by a band playing outside in the plaza. Soaring desire to unfold the charm of this city of spires, we made our way to Place Jacques-Cartier. What a colorful plaza – street lined by restaurants with patios, vibrant flowers, caricature artists exaggerating its subjects, bands playing their talents. Sitting by the fountains, eating our Thai noodles and admiring the freshness in that place was all we could ask for.

 

Montreal surely made a special place in our hearts. With a desire to visit again, it was time to hit the roads for 2.5-hour drive to the Capital city – Ottawa.

Canada is celebrating its 150 years with many events. “The Northern lights” – a bilingual 30 minute light and sound show on the Parliament Hill in the nights run during summer. It’s a thrilling journey of Canada’s history of 150 years with impressive images and sound depicted in the parliament building. This open-air theater kind experience enchanted our kids.

Day 4:

After watching the spectacular show last night, there was excitement to see the grandeur of Parliament from inside. But the excitement was dismayed by long queues to get the free tour tickets on first come first serve basis. The wait was over after 1 ½ hour and we had our tickets to Center and East block.

With time in our hand for Parliament tour, we headed out to see the Ottawa locks on Rideau Canal which connects to Ottawa river. The manually operated locks on Rideau canal let the boats navigate through it. It is a marvel to watch it  – the water gets filled in the next chamber till it is leveled with the current after which the lock gates are opened and boat crosses over to next chamber. Thus a boat might take about 1 ½ hour to cross about 8 locks. We even walked through the closed gates. My son was amazed to view how patiently the boats were waiting to cross over.

Gates opening at Rideau Canal

This UNESCO World Heritage site is must visit stop to get a sneak into how the water navigation system worked in old times.

From an engineering marvel to the architectural jewel, we walked our way to Parliament Hill adjacent from Ottawa locks. The Parliament hill has 3 buildings built in Victorian Gothic style- Center, East, and West block. After a strenuous security check, the first guide took us inside East block with offices of parliamentarians dating back more than 150 years even before Confederation. Many of the old offices of major dignitaries Governor-general, Prime minister, Fathers of Confederation are preserved to its full grandeur. The intricate details of the possessions and design will surely impress.

Architectural marvel – East block at Parliament Hill

Still, in the enchanted world of history and beautiful architecture, we walked with our tour guide to the Center block. Wait, you have two levels of security checks before you enter this iconic building which houses the Senate, House of Commons and library apart from other offices of members of parliament. The intricate carvings on the walls and wood, large domed ceilings, beautiful stained windows and arched arcades are stunning.

Beautiful library in Parliament

We could see the influence of British monarchy on the interior designs.

Walking down the history lanes, listening to the interesting stories, marveled by the elegant architecture is worth the wait and long queues.

Day 5:

The last leg of our journey was driving back to our sweet home. With special moments from the vacation in our hearts, we bade adieu to Canada. But with a strong desire to be back soon. With a short halt at Thousand island national park, we traversed our way back to the US.

Tips:

  1. Canada uses the metric system of measurement, hence use of km instead of miles.
  2. Use of French language is most predominant in Montreal and Ottawa.
  3. It is difficult to get parking in old Montreal.
  4. There are long queues to get tour tickets at 90 Wellington street, so plan to come around 8 a.m. (office opens at 9) to get tickets. You need separate tour tickets for East Block and Center block. The tour has an option of English or French.

Route Map

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38 Comments

  • Reply
    Star harford
    September 4, 2017 at 11:22 pm

    Very useful tips! It sounds like you had a great trip and saw a lot. I would like to do this too one day.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      September 5, 2017 at 1:51 am

      Thanks..Yes it was indeed a great trip to explore some beautiful places..You should definitely do a road trip..loads of fun..

  • Reply
    zina
    September 5, 2017 at 8:21 am

    I love roadtrips!!!! You know, the trips that actually there is no plan! Unfortunately my kids are still young enough to have such a trip, but I am hoping to repeat it in the future! Great post

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      September 5, 2017 at 1:30 pm

      Oh yes…sometimes going unplanned also has its fun..though you miss some stuff also because of that..
      Sure you should take the kids..they love that experience .
      Thanks and all the best..

  • Reply
    Natalie
    September 5, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Great post. Sounds like you had an amazing time and roadtrip with alot of beautiful views on the way. I want to visit USA and do route 66 one day

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      September 5, 2017 at 1:27 pm

      Thanks…Yes it was an amazing trip..so much to see and enjoy..and good weather added to the charm.
      Yes u must visit US, has some amazing scenic roads..Yes Route 66 is on our bucket list also..though we have passed on it for a bit..

  • Reply
    Odette
    September 5, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    I really enjoyed your style of writing. It’s almost as if `I went on the trip with you and your family. Also how gorgeous is the library in their Parliament. Absolutely stunning!

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      September 6, 2017 at 3:30 am

      Thanks..that’s so sweet of you to say that. Really appreciate it.
      Oh yes the library was so spectacular..we were totally awestruck by the beauty of its architecture and details. Infact it was the only section of Parliament that survived a major fire about 100 years back where most of the Center block was destroyed.

  • Reply
    Joline
    September 5, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    Bienvenue au Canada! 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed your trip! Hopefully next time you can stay longer and explore more places like Quebec and Toronto (where I’m from). Cheers!

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      September 6, 2017 at 3:34 am

      Thank you so much. Truly Canada is so welcoming.
      Yes we were short of time, else had thought of visiting Quebec also, have heard a lot about its beautiful architecture. Hopefully next time.
      We have visited Toronto last year and enjoyed the cosmopolitan city. Reminded us of New York city. 🙂

  • Reply
    Claire Santiago
    September 5, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    Montreal has a breath-taking cityscape. I can’t imagine myself having a 5-day trip, that must be very tiring yet rewarding.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      September 6, 2017 at 3:37 am

      Yes beautiful city. 5 days was surely a short duration and very tiring, but we enjoyed every bit of it. Hopefully next time we will plan for a little relaxed itinerary.

  • Reply
    Ana De Jesus
    September 5, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    I love that your road trip encompassed so much culture and took us through a variety of landscapes. I love the sound of the 30 minute light and sound billingual show that sounds beautiful! X

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      September 6, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      Thanks Ana for those kind words. Glad you liked it.
      Yes the light and sound show was very impressive with great sound and beautiful projections on that huge Parliament building. A must see for sure.

  • Reply
    Laura Dove
    September 5, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    Wow that’s some road trip! I find one hour in the car with my kids a nightmare, let alone nearly 18!! It looks amazing though!

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      September 6, 2017 at 6:01 pm

      ha ha..we also have had our difficult times during the trip. But i guess our kids also love going out so its working..:-)
      We try and keep our kids occupied during the drives..Good luck..

  • Reply
    Alicia Trautwein
    September 5, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    Sounds like you guys had one amazing road trip! What a blast to be able to drive into a different country!

    Alicia Trautwein | https://themomkind.com

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      September 6, 2017 at 6:07 pm

      Yes Alicia it was amazing in spite being planned last minute. It is so much fun to cross borders and explore the culture and architecture of new country.

  • Reply
    Yukti
    September 6, 2017 at 3:39 am

    This is a beautiful road trip from Philadelphia to Canada as it is along the skyscrapers, lush green farms, lakes and beautiful historic sites. Montreal city view from Mount Royal is worth to watch. Building of Parliament Hill in Ottawa is having splendid architecture. Love to see this building. Nice breakup of whole tour.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      September 6, 2017 at 5:55 pm

      Thanks. Glad you liked it. Yes we were awestruck by the beautiful architecture of the buildings and the ornate designs.
      Must visit places.

  • Reply
    Joanna
    September 6, 2017 at 10:01 am

    I love that you included in your trip some unusual things to do, like a visit to the Teddy Bear factory. Those big bear hugs seem to have gone down like a treat for the little ones. I would love to explore more of Canada myself, as I have only visited Toronto so far.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      September 6, 2017 at 5:50 pm

      Thanks a lot. Of course the kids were so tempted to see so many bears around that they didn’t want to leave..
      Yes with more we visit Canada, we realize its very beautiful..lot of natural beauty as well..Hope to get more opportunities to explore further..
      Do let me know in case you need any help planning your trip. 🙂

  • Reply
    Aditi
    September 6, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    Wow, that sounds like such a great and fun experience. I’m always a sucker for road trips, I guess they have a charm that can’t be matched with any other kind of trip imo. Your itinerary for the road trip sounds great, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      September 6, 2017 at 5:45 pm

      Thanks Aditi…Oh road trips are amazing..the liberty to stop and enjoy the beauty around. Hope this will inspire you to try it for yourself..
      Good luck.

  • Reply
    Cătălina Nini
    September 6, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    I am so jealous. I haven`t been to Philadelphia or Canada♥. Do you have Quebec on your list?

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      September 7, 2017 at 12:50 am

      Ha ha..Then you must plan a visit..Yes Quebec is on our list, infact we were short of days else would have visited Quebec city also.
      some other time now. 🙂

  • Reply
    Calleigh Keibler - TheForkBite
    September 7, 2017 at 7:25 am

    There’s a strong temptation to nip across the border and see something of our southern neighbor. Thanks for sharing your experience, with some planning, for sure you can make border crossing a breeze.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      September 7, 2017 at 6:35 pm

      Yes exploring a new country is always fun.

  • Reply
    elenasts
    September 7, 2017 at 9:10 am

    This trip looks amazing. I have the urge constantly but I am trying to fight it so hard because it is impossible to travel that often 🙂 I am glad you had a great time.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      September 7, 2017 at 6:39 pm

      Thanks..Yes i can understand, plan whenever you have time. I also have to curtail my desires to travel frequently. 🙂
      Good luck for your travelling.

  • Reply
    Ellie Chan
    September 7, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    What an incredible sounding trip! I love Burlington and Lake Champlain. I visited when I was much younger but remember it well. I’ve not been to the East Coast of Canada yet but look forward to visiting sometime soon.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      September 7, 2017 at 6:31 pm

      Thanks. I also fell in love with Lake Champlain..so beautiful..
      You should plan to visit Canada..

  • Reply
    Jennifer L
    September 7, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    Oh what an amazing trek you guys embarked on from Philly. One of my favorite family trips I took with my parents was something similar and the amazing sites, foods and history was remarkable. As a bookie at heart, the library at Parliament was just stunning.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      September 8, 2017 at 1:52 am

      I am glad you liked it and it reminded you of your fond memory. Yes the architecture of the library was just amazing and the details of the carvings on wood were spectacular. keep watching this space for more pics and details to come.

  • Reply
    Ali Rost
    September 7, 2017 at 11:18 pm

    My husband and I are huge fans of road trips. In fact, he’s spent quite a bit of time in Canada and we’ve been wanting to go together. If we’re ever lucky enough to, you can be we’ll be making stops at Parliament Hill (for him) and the Ottawa locks on Rideau Canal (for her) x

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      September 8, 2017 at 1:50 am

      That’s great..Feel good to hear people liking road trips. And since your husband has stayed in Canada he will be able to take you to these wonderful places. I like the way you have taken care of liking of both of you. You will really like the Ottawa locks. We kept watching it for an hour and then came back again in evening. 🙂 My son was so mesmerized by it, didn’t want to go any other place. 😉

  • Reply
    Anne Dela Cruz
    September 8, 2017 at 2:49 am

    Wow!! It sounds like you are having a great time in road trip. It looks like a great place to visits. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      September 11, 2017 at 12:40 am

      Thanks.. Oh yes we love road trips, enjoying the places en route to the destination.

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