Our Trip to Niagara Falls

13 Aug

Last week, David and I visited Niagara Falls. This was our first “real” vacation together as a couple (not counting dance competitions and conferences for my job). It was truly amazing, and I’m really glad we went.

We left on Wednesday and flew into Buffalo, NY, then immediately drove to Canada. Google maps was less than helpful, but thankfully we got pretty close to where we needed to be before it was incorrect. The line for customs into Canada didn’t take too terribly long. We flew by without a hitch. I guess we looked honest.

Canadian Falls, seen from Canada

We stayed at the Best Western Fallsview hotel that evening. We chose it because of its proximity to the falls and relatively low price. The hotel was okay – clean, fairly comfortable bed, pretty safe area. It was no Sheraton or Marriott, but it suited our purposes. We were walking distance to the falls (down a pretty steep hill). We ate dinner at the Grand Buffet at the Fallsview Casino. The food was average, but I guess it was a good deal for the area and fact that it was all-you-can-eat. The create your own pasta bar made it all worthwhile, especially since they gave me extra garlic.

We found the Canada side of the falls to be pretty commercial. Pretty much everywhere we looked, there was a hotel and big neon signs. There were talking boxes on the sidewalk on the way to the falls, promoting the “falls experience” 3D movie (when you could just walk 2 minutes and get the real falls experience!). The walkway along the falls was a busy street, and there were lots of tourists, sometimes making it hard to get close to the rail. The view from Canada was wonderful, though, and it was nice to be able to see both sets of falls at one time.

American Falls illuminated at night, seen from Canada

That night, we watched fireworks over the falls. Thursday morning we walked back to the falls for a daytime viewing. We were able to get pretty close to the top of the Canadian falls where the water runs down, which was really cool. I got a little scared of heights on this side, for some reason (but not on the American side).

Merlot grapes at Riverview Cellars Wineary

Thursday we headed up to wine region of Niagara on the Lake. It was a very nice, peaceful drive up the Niagara River. We stopped at one of the first wineries we saw – Riverview Cellars. My research indicated this was a small, family-owned winery, and we like to support small local businesses. We arrived just in time for a tour, which we enjoyed very much. The people were very  friendly and welcoming. They had a little shop, where we bought wine, fruit and maple syrup. We also tasted ice wine for the first time, and it was great – very sweet. We didn’t buy any of the ice wine (too expensive for our taste!), but did get a bottle of Fontana Dolce, a sweet red wine.

We continued to Niagara on the Lake, where we walked up and down the main street and visited the shops. The town is full of flowers and quaint little boutiques, wine stores, cheese shops, bakeries and parks. We had a picnic lunch near the Niagara River and visited an orchard, where we tasted sauces and dips, including the best peanut butter I’ve ever had (with caramel in it). I also bought some turkish delight for the first time, and now I’m a fan. 

Niagara on the Lake

We stayed at the Wild Rose Bed & Breakfast that evening. It was very nice, and definitely worth the low price. We watched the sunset on Lake Ontario (after taking a “scenic” drive involving getting lost for a brief period and almost missing it). For dinner, we ate at the Irish Harp, a local irish pub. It had excellent food, local wine and a live band which consisted of two irish men singing bluegrass. Even though the music was a little loud, I very much enjoyed my evening there.

Friday morning, we ate breakfast with some interesting people from Wisconsin and Ontario and then headed back to the U.S. We stopped back by the Riverview Cellars to make some more purchases because their stuff was cheaper than anywhere else, and then bought some ice wine at the Duty Free store. Customs took about 30 minutes to get through, but once again we came through just fine. I gave the customs guy a good laugh when I presented him with an itemized list of my purchases while in Canada.

Canadian Falls, from the Maid of the Mist boat

We checked into our next Bed and Breakfast, the Rainbow House and then walked along the American Rapids down to the Niagara State Park, where we met some friends at the Maid of the Mist for a boat tour of the falls. We got pretty close to both falls in the boat, especially on the Canadian side. It was quite windy and wet. Thankfully, we had purchased a waterproof holder for our camera, so we were able to get some pretty nice pictures.

Rainbow over the American Falls

Next, we walked around the Niagara State Park for several great views of the falls from the American side, including a rainbow over the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.
David at Cave of the Winds

David at Cave of the Winds

Next was Cave of the Winds – by far our favorite falls experience.  We were literally underneath the falls wearing raincoats, and the water was falling over our heads. It was pretty amazing. We ate at Top of the Falls for lunch, which had great food and an excellent view of the Canadian falls.

Overall, we found the American side of the falls to be a better experience than the Canada side. There are more opportunities for different falls views, and it’s a more peaceful atmosphere because of the grassy park and rapids vs. commercialism and busy street on the Canada side. The bed and breakfast here was very nice, but it was kind of noisy due to being on a busy street.

Friday night we went to the rehearsal dinner for the wedidng we were attending, at Pizza Junction, a famous pizza and wings restaurant in Tonowanda, NY. The pizza was pretty good, although I have to admit I’m still a fan of Cappy’s in Tampa.

David and me near the American Rapids

Saturday we went to Three Sisters Islands at the Niagara State Park, where we got up close to the American Rapids, which flow into the falls. Saturday evening was the wedding, which was a lot of fun, especially during 80’s hour at the reception.

Sunday we woke up way too early and headed back to the U.S.

All in all, we had a wonderful trip and would definitely go back given the opportunity!

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