A few weeks ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to go to Niagara Falls. Because my family was in town from out of country, we thought seeing the Falls in all of their splendor and beauty would be the best weekend getaway that we could all enjoy. So naturally, I immediately jotted this down as a post I could share with you all, whether you’re actively planning a trip there or will after reading 🙂
From little ol’ Delaware, it takes about 7 hours to get to Niagara Falls on the American side. This means that you won’t need your passport or access to Canada (although, disclaimer = the falls on the Canada side are spectacular!). We opted for the car ride, equipped with a minivan and two very observant, talkative little boys. Oh, joy! If you’re planning on driving, the scenery as you make your way through Pennsylvania back country is gorgeous and definitely worth the drive! I will also say that the drive back is that much nicer, as you hit some picturesque spots that only Upstate New York can offer. My suggestion? Get lost! We trailed off from the usual I-90 and somehow made our way onto Route 17 that quickly proved to be the most gorgeous drive I’d taken in a while.
As you make your way to Niagara Falls in New York, you’ll want to keep in mind that the location is always going to be jam-packed with people. If the weather is nice, people will come out. If the weather is cold and snowy, people will still want to come out, because who doesn’t want to see the Falls frozen over in ice?! Regardless, here are some activity suggestions for your weekend trip:
1. Get in line quickly for the Boat and Pier tickets!
Maid of the Mist is a truly remarkable experience! If you only had to chose one thing to do while at Niagara, I would recommend this in a heartbeat. The tickets are generally inexpensive ($18 for adults), but the lines are long; so, be ready to stand for a little bit and get to know your fellow neighbors. Before you board the boat, you’ll receive a rain poncho. This is not optional, and what I mean by that is that they don’t provide this for your convenience. You WILL get very wet, so be mindful of attire and shoes (and your affinity to being wet in general).
The entire tour on the actual water takes about 20 minutes. The boat will sound the horn (which never gets old!) and it will take you as close to the Falls as it safely can. The first Fall you’ll see is the largest one on the American side, with jutting rocks and cliffs protruding out. If that myth of the grandma in the barrel is true, kudos to her! The next Fall is the largest one on the Canadian side. That one was my favorite, by far, especially because it’s bigger and more serene, somehow. Get ready for A LOT of water splashing and coming down. It’s truly a remarkable experience to cheer on with your fellow boat-mates and see these majestic Falls up close. Do keep in mind that taking pictures is a little messy, unless you have a phone or camera that’s attached to something sturdy. The boats are usually packed and people want to take as many selfies as they can. Imagine a sea of blue-hooded people sliding around screaming in joy (or in pain at having lost their phone). It’s like that. Try and enjoy the experience, even if you only get one solid shot.
After you get off the boat, you can take the stairs up to a fenced landing. This will get you as close to the American Falls as possible, and it does provide for awesome picture taking. Be careful of the stairs, though. Because of the constant spray of water, the stone is incredibly slippery, no matter what you may think about the grip of your white Chucks.
2. Save your picture taking for the aerial shot above
In the ticket purchase of your Maid of Mist ticket, you also get access to the Pier overlooking the water. It is beautifully suspended, giving you the perfect aerial view of both the American and Canadian sides of the Falls. As anything at Niagara, this Pier is also crowded with people taking pictures (as you can see below). I’ve found that if you can get close to the coin-operated binoculars and pretend like you want to see through them, people will generally move out of their way 🙂
Also, pause long enough to notice the vibrations on the bridge. Because it is suspended and supports thousands of people walking on it daily, it gives a little back by sending subtle shakes if you’re aware enough. Depending on how much this thrills or freaks you out, I think it’s worthy of a mention!
And of course, if you’re like my mom and would rather be on the good ground below, you won’t miss any views there, either. Yes, it is still crowded, but you get a little closer to the Falls if you keep my coin-binoculars theory in mind.
3. If walking is your thing, the Falls keep giving
Niagara Falls City really has a lot to offer, as it is a touristic destination for most people who visit. With that said, if you have your comfy walking shoes on, you’ll be delighted to know that you can walk across the pedestrian bridge that separates the two sides of the Falls. It is a sturdy bridge, before you ask; and while you walk across, take a gander below at the rushing water headed off the cliff. It’s truly amazing how furious the water is, and standing right above it is quite the experience.
As you walk across, you’ll find many different trails to reach another overlook, this one giving an easier glance to the Canadian side of the Falls. Also there, you’ll find all of the small necessities that make any trip a success: bathrooms and food. Lastly, if you are curious about the electrical successes and evolution of power as it relates to the magnificence of the Falls, check out the many guides and plaques describing this very topic in dedication. There is also a beautiful statue of one of electricity’s greats, Nikola Tesla. Pay your tributes, if you can.
4. Accommodations, food, and entertainment
Lastly, if you are planning on spending a short weekend at the Falls, finding accommodation is actually not a hassle. We opted to stay in Buffalo, as it’s only a 30 minute drive from the actual Falls. Buffalo in and of itself is quite a lovely city, right on the water with beautiful views and a relaxing vibe. If you find yourself in the area, be sure to check out Buffalo’s Canalside area!
As far as food goes, may I suggest pizza? I know, it may sound simple. But in Buffalo, there is a little pizza joint called La Hacienda Restaurant. It was built back before Moses, and the cutest little Italian chef named Aldo owns it. It’s been in the family for ages, and you’ll find that they have some of the best pizza and wings you’ve ever tasted. I ate three. Not slices. Pizzas. Enough said.
And of course, it goes without mentioning that Seneca Casino is a shoe’s throw from the Falls themselves. If you’re looking for a little poker action, this is the place to be. If, on the other hand, you’re like me and could throw your cash on actual shoes, Buffalo also has a wonderful shopping outlet called Fashion Outlets of Niagara. Stock up before the drive home!