Living in the Northeast I’m always looking for a great weekend trip that won’t break the bank. Given Niagara Falls is practically in our backyard, I figured I’d finally give it a try. My first impression of the falls is that it can suit any type of trip; family, couples, and groups of friends. Wouldn’t recommend this for the budget solo traveler but then again you could still make it a good experience if the reason for the trip is to have some alone time. As I take you through my trip at Niagara Falls, let’s first dive into the main question that everyone asks; United States side or Canadian?
- Less touristy
- Close to the falls
- View over the back of the falls
- Reminds me of a mini Vegas
- Very touristy
- Many parks
- Views of the front of the falls
- More attractions and hotels
I ended up choosing the Canadian side and was very happy with my decision. Although it was more expensive, there was entertainment at night and enough restaurants to choose from. I’d like to note that the travel time didn’t play a factor, there’s about a 10 minute difference in driving time to get to one side to the other. The other factor in play was the time of year. We chose to go to Niagara Falls in the beginning of November, kind of a dead time for certain attractions. The winter kicks off with some beautiful fireworks and light shows on the Canadian end which swayed our decision.
Getting to the falls was surprisingly easy. Usually when heading to natural beauties it’s difficult to find your way, but there may have been a total of two turns and it’s very well advertised. The drive took about 5 hours from NYC, and that includes two stops which were abundant along the highway. The border was also very convenient, the falls is only 10 minutes from the checkpoint and the countries did a good job of making it easy for us. No complaints whatsoever!
I booked a room in the Fallsview Marriot and the views were absolutely spectacular. Take a look at the picture I took from the room, it was breathtaking. Worth every penny, and the service was remarkable as well. Glad I ponied up the extra couple of dollars to stay here instead of the other hotels with only decent views. I honestly cannot say enough about the hotel, it made the trip.
Upon arriving we dropped our bags in the room and headed to the restaurant in the hotel, Terrapin Grille. I’ve been to resort towns before and am used to poor quality food, but the food here was worse than I expected. Not only was the food terrible but it was expensive. Again, you should expect to pay a premium in resort towns but this felt like I was being taken advantage of. The reason I chose the resturaunt is because it boasted fantastic views of the falls. Our room was on the 19th floor, the resturaunt was on the 2nd and there was no reason to pay the premium to eat here. There are also trees blocking your view of the falls. Needless to say you should learn from my mistakes and save your money.
On our second day we purchased the Niagara Falls Wonder Pass. This was a great buy, allowing us to do the journey behind the falls, the movie, and a third thing. Niagara's Fury was a movie for little kids. They give you a poncho but you really don't get that wet in there. Good learning experience, though I do wish they had one for us older folk. The Journey Behind the falls is really cool, they built concrete tunnels where you actually walk behind the waterfall. It also has an exit at the bottom so you can snap a few photos, probably the coolest part of the attraction. You can also take the Maid Of The Mist boat ride to the base of the waterfall. It was closed when we went but everyone else was raving about it, would have done it if it were available. Important thing to note here is that you’re going to get soaked, bring waterproof boots, pants, and a jacket. We weren’t as prepared as we should have been and froze our asses off for the most part of the day. 30 degree weather and mist is not ideal in a sweatshirt.
That night we hit the marketplace which was open for the winter festivities. There were fireworks along with a light show. Light show left a lot to be desired, again another attraction that was meant for kids. They did light up the falls at night, good touch and can be enjoyed by all.
The following day we decided to take it easy, sleep in and snap a few photos around the falls. We ate lunch at Elements which had fantastic views, felt like the restaurant was hanging off the edge of the falls. The food here was also atrocious and expensive, only thing preventing us from spending the day. If I could do it again, I’d eat before I went and get a window seat and sip on hot cocoa for a while.
That night we went to the casino which was surprisingly packed with groups on their mid-20s to 30s. Very unexpected to see how hard people were going, felt like we were outside one of the casino’s in Vegas. Plenty of bars along with a club, could be a hot spot if you’re looking to get after it. We ate at Ponte Vecchio for dinner which may have been the only good meal we had the entire trip. Now please note this was not like eating at Quality Meats in the city but I did feel like I got my money’s worth. The attire was fancy, I wore a suit and didn’t feel overdressed at all. Again this meal was expensive, total for two was $200 with a few glasses of wine but it was a nice weekend cap.
We planned to stop at the Old Fort on our way home but the weather wasn’t cooperating, improvised and decided to break in Buffalo to grab some wings. Our friend gave us two options, Anchor Bar where the wings were “invented” or Duff’s where Obama famously tried the wings. Anchor seemed like a better idea given the history, and although they had a cool décor there were only three different flavors on the menu! If I were to make the trip again, would try Duff’s to see how they fared.
All said and done, this was a great weekend trip and we had a blast. Remember if you’re making the trip, be sure to pack waterproof gear and bring your passport. Happy traveling!