Niagara Falls is an easy hour an a half drive from Toronto, making it the perfect day or weekend trip from the capital city. The town surrounding Niagara Falls is full of hotels, chain restaurants and kitschy attractions like mini golf, wax museums, and fun houses. We were staying at the Four Points by Sheraton, which was connected to two other hotels by a mall and casino. We checked into our room and walked directly back out of the hotel to see the falls. This was my first time seeing this natural wonder and to say I was excited would be an understatement.
The hotels were situated on a hill above the scenic path opposite the falls, so we walked down the steep sidewalk to get there. It was misting when we started walking down, but despite the cloudy weather, I was jumping for joy when we first saw it. It was beautiful. The sidewalk runs parallel to the falls, and there is a large welcome center/gift shop/food court on the side near the larger horseshoe and the entrance to the Hornblower boats and another gift shop on the other side. The main drag (with all the kitsch) is closer to the Hornblower side.
We didn’t want to go on the boat tour in the rain, so we bought our tickets for the next day and then went in search of some dinner. This proved to be a difficult task in this neck of the woods on a Monday evening. We stopped into Niagara Brewing Company for a beer and a snack so we create a game plan for the evening.
We ordered a cheese plate that featured local cheeses and fruit and contemplated our next move. It was rainy and we were surrounded by restaurant chains and tourist attractions. We decided to lean into the kitsch. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped into gift shops, and took pictures with the wax museum statues and the haunted house monsters. We took a wrong turn somewhere and somehow ended up in a very seedy area with deserted restaurants and broke down motels. Running through the empty parking lots in the pouring rain, Mike gave me a look I knew well. It said “why do I let you lead me into these situations”. Once we were finally back within the very warm and dry lobby of the collective hotels, we let the bright lights of the casino lure us in.
We decided to gamble $10 each. Mike lost his right away, but I kept winning and splitting the winnings to bet more. It was thrilling, but I can only spend twenty minutes max in casinos or I’ll gamble my life away so we moved on to Shoeless Joe’s (as I said, really leaning into the kitsch) for dinner. The food was meh and the atmosphere was meh, but it did the trick. We decided to be a little bit fancy and headed to the top of the Hilton Niagara Falls for a nightcap and a view of the brightly lit falls. We got martinis and stared out the window for quite a while, rebuffing the very sweet waiter’s frequent offers for a refill. Once our glasses were empty and we had our fill of the view, we headed back to our room to sleep.
The next morning, we got an early start to fit in as much as possible on our last day in Canada. After a quick breakfast, we walked back down the path from the hotel to the falls and straight to the line for the Hornblower boat. They run every fifteen minutes, so we were able to get on-board fairly quickly. As we moved through the line, we were given short sleeved ponchos to protect against the spray of the falls. The boat was fairly full, with most of the crowd up top. We chose to stay on the bottom level. Once we got going, there wasn’t a bad view to be had: the first waterfall was to the left, the small skyline to our right, the second falls ahead of us and the bridge connecting the U.S. and Canada.
As we pulled up to the first set of falls, the wind brought the mist into the boat and we were soaked everywhere the poncho didn’t cover before long. Being that close to the falls was exhilarating, and the combination of morning fog, mist and circling birds made it feel like an Alfred Hitchcock film. The boat moved on and mike and I clung to the railing, taking in the views and approximately 1,000 photos. The second portion of Niagara Falls was a different experience entirely. The boat could only get so close because the current was strong, but we were certainly close enough to feel the force of it and, again, get soaked through. We weathered the spray to get a glimpse of the falls up close. It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever had the pleasure of beholding. No photo could do it justice, but I’ll try:
Everyone else on the boat was comically running back in forth, trying to get the best view and the best selfies. The boat stayed put for awhile, allowing everyone to take it all in. Once we started heading back, I kept my eyes fixed on the falls. Once we docked, Mike and I decided to check out the Journey Behind the Falls experience, which was on the other side, near the horseshoe. The tickets were sold within the welcome center, which also was the entrance to the experience. It started with a hallway of informational posters detailing the history of the falls, which led to the elevator down to the tunnels. Once off the elevator, we were handed two more ponchos and directed to an overlook that was positioned right next the falls.
It was the best view from the Journey Behind the Falls by far, as the other overlooks just included the running water passing over the holes in concrete walls that separated us and the waterfall. It was a cool experience, but perhaps not quite worth the entry fee, which was $14.
We got a quick, cheap lunch from the cafeteria and slowly, slowly made our way back to the hotel. We were due to check out at 1pm. The sun had finally come out, changing the water of Lakes Ontario & Erie from dark gray to a brilliant turquoise. It was absolutely stunning. I stopped every couple of feet to take photos, which made our progress back to the hotel even slower. I found it so hard to leave, but we had to head home. Niagara Falls will forever be one of my favorite views of all time.
Have you ever been to Niagara Falls? Were you on the American side or the Canadian Side?