Cultural Xplorer

A Weekend Getaway to Niagara Falls

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Peering out over the water, I imagined that Niagara Falls had to be one of the most magnificent places on earth.

It had only been a few hours since I had arrived at the Falls, but I was already at a loss for words. As my eyes fixated on the light reflecting off of the water, I drew a deep breath and then sighed, it was love at first sight.

For a good portion of my life, I had dreamed of visiting Niagara Falls, but it was not until my 31st birthday that I decided to turn that dream into a reality.

When I made up my mind to make the drive from New York City to the Falls, I knew that I was only going to have a few short days, so I had to make the difficult decision of seeing the Falls from either the United States side or the Canadian side.

After researching whether the US side or the Canada side was better, I came to the conclusion that I would see both. I heard that the views from the Canadian side were magnificent and the area provided more activities, so I settled on finding accommodation on the Canadian side.

Niagara Falls: Canada Side

On our first full day in the Niagara Falls area, my boyfriend H and I decided to take a wine tour with Niagara Vintage Wine Tours.

When the wine tour ended, our tour guide, Jeremy, told us that if we wanted to see a good view of Horseshoe Falls with minimal crowds, we should venture over to the bridge next to the Marriott on the Falls Hotel.

Jeremy was absolutely right; In addition to having a wonderful view of Horseshoe, we also witnessed a beautiful rainbow forming over the waterfall.

In order to see American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, the other two falls that comprise the Niagara Falls system, H and I had to make our way down to Niagara Parkway.

There is no way to escape the crowds along Niagara Parkway; this is the main viewing point for seeing the Falls. Although the sidewalk along Niagara Parkway can get crowded, it is definitely worth seeing both in the daytime and at night.

During the two nights that H and I were in the Falls area, we hung out in the Clinton Hill neighborhood.

Reminiscent of New York City’s Times Square, Clinton Hill has a number of attractions that both children and adults will enjoy including the Rock Legends Wax Museum, Screamers House of Horrors, and The House of Frankenstein.

My favorite activity in the Clinton Hill neighborhood was riding the Niagara Skywheel. While riding the Skywheel, we had amazing views overlooking Niagara Falls and the surrounding areas. It was especially beautiful riding the Skywheel at night when both the Falls and the city were lit up.

During our last day full day in Canada, H and I decided to go explore the Upper Whirlpool Trails near the famous Niagara Whirpool.

We agreed to do a little hiking from the street level down to the Niagara River. As I peered down over the steep trail that led down deep into the woods, I immediately became nervous and my knees buckled. Not equipped with the proper shoes (similar to my hiking experience in Nicaragua), I was slipping and sliding all over the place. Feeling defeated, sweaty, and tired, I told H that I was giving up and no longer wanted to continue with the hike.

While walking back to the car, H and I ran across a couple coming out of a different section of the woods. Feeling bad for cutting the hiking trip short, I asked the couple if there was an easier way to access the water that didn’t involve sliding down the side of the mountain. The couple told us that a mere twenty or so feet from where we were standing, there were stairs that would lead us to a much easier trail. H and I agreed that we would try the easier trail, and I am certainly glad that we did.

The ‘easy’ trail was absolutely breathtaking. The trees towered above my head and provided shelter from the beating sun and the greenery contrasted sharply against the deep browns of the earth, which gave the trail a beautiful glow.

As we traveled further down the trail, we finally came to the Niagara River. Standing next to the river, I felt a sense of calm pour over me. It was nice to enjoy the silence and tranquility of the water as it lapped over the rocks.

In the distance, H and I could see the Whirpool Aero Car gliding on a rope over the Niagara Whirpool. We could hear the faint murmur of the Whirpool in the background, but from that angle, it was slightly difficult to see.

H and I decided to hike back up to the street and make our way to Thompson’s Point, so we could get an overhead view of the area. From Thompon’s Point, we had a clear view of the Niagara Whirlpool moving rapidly in a circular motion causing the waves to crash into each other.

Our trip in Canada was coming to a close, so we headed back to Lundy’s Motel, a cozy little motel located 10 minutes outside of downtown Niagara Falls.

I loved every part of visiting Niagara Falls from the Canada side. The highlights of visiting included taking the wine tour, hiking the Upper Whirpool Trails, and seeing the Falls at night.

Niagara Falls: New York Side

After exploring the Canada side of Niagara Falls, H and I made our way over the Rainbow Bridge to the New York side.

Many people opt to visit the New York side of the Falls for several reasons: smaller crowds, the ability to get very close to the Falls, and the state park surrounding the Falls.

As an explorer at heart, I was eager to get as close as I could to Niagara Falls.

Seeing the Falls from the New York side certainly did not disappoint. I was so close to the Falls that I could almost reach out and touch them.

H and I decided to walk over to Luna Island, a popular viewing spot off of Goat Island to get close to the Bridal Veils Falls.

As I gazed down over the waterfall, I could see the water from the Bridal Viel Fall cascading down over the heads of the people below as they clutched their yellow ponchos for dear life. One brave soul stood under the fall for several minutes seeming to enjoy the feeling of rushing water pummeling him at 280 tons of force per second.

Outside of Luna Island, another great place to get an overhead view of the Falls from the New York side is from the Niagara Falls Observation Tower.

While it is not possible to reach out and touch the Falls from the Observation Tower, you do get sweeping views of the area that almost compete with the views from the Canadian side.

Niagara Falls: Maid of the Mist

After seeing the Falls from land on both the Canada side and the American side, I felt that there was one final thing I had to do: see the Falls from the water.

H and I chose to ride on the Maid of the Mist, a boat ride departing from New York that allows riders to experience the Falls from the Niagara River.

After boarding the Maid of the Mist from underneath the Niagara Falls Observation Tower, our boat took off down the Niagara River.

As we slowly drifted past the American and Bridal Veil Falls, the mist from reached out to me and scattered tiny droplets of water across my face. I wanted to capture the entire experience on film, and as proceeded to get a good shot of the falls I struggled to keep my balance aboard the rocking boat.

Our boat continued crawling down the river and all of the passengers quickly took out their phones to commemorate the moment.

As we drew nearer to the Horseshoe Falls, I could hear the roar of the water crashing down like thunder on a rainy night.

Alas, we neared Horseshoe Falls and I could feel the powerful force surrounding our boat. We moved close enough to hear the Falls furiously pounding against the river  but far enough away so that we did not get drenched.

The Maid of the Mist made a slight turn and began the journey back towards our docking area. H and I smiled for one last photo as our trip to Niagara Falls came to an end.


Disclosure: H and I were provided with complimentary tickets on the Maid of the Mist during our trip to Niagara Falls in exchange for a fair review. All opinions of the trip are my own.