Stunning Niagara Falls is only about an hour’s drive from Toronto, so during our holiday we decided to take a road trip and spend the night in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Sometimes referred to as the 8th natural wonder of the World, it really is quite an incredible collection of waterfalls.
Although Niagara Falls are accessible from both the U.S and Canada, the Canadian side of the falls is by far the more impressive. From both sides you can take a boat trip right into the Mist of the Falls, taking the Maid of the Mist from the American side and the Hornblower from the Canadian end.
We decided to do a real authentic road trip and stayed in a Motel not far from the falls. The Cadillac Motel was a cool 50’s style Motel, complete with a huge king-sized bed and an old school décor. What’s more, it was in a great location relative to the falls and was cheap and cheerful.
The town of Niagara itself gets a bit of a bad rap. It has been described as tacky and grubby, but if I am completely honest, I liked it! Sometimes you just like a bit of tack on holidays! Ok, so fair enough, you would expect Niagara Falls to be in the middle of some national park and not beside a fun fair. Still it seemed to be a great place for families to visit, with everything from haunted houses, Ripley’s believe it or not, tenpin bowling and amusements. We had a great time trying to win novelty prizes and it felt like a real holiday place. We also popped into one of the casinos to try our luck, but unfortunately, I went home with just a rubber duck and a fridge magnet to my name!
If you are also feeling like splashing out, you should take a visit to Sweet Jesus ice cream. I ordered a birthday cake ice cream and I was handed this wonderful creation, topped with a lit candle and the server even sang happy Birthday to me! (I didn’t have the heart to tell her that my birthday was 6 months away)
If you plan to visit Niagara, I would recommend buying tickets in advance to save money. We were only staying for one night, so we bought the Classic adventure pass, which cost $65CAD and included the hornblower cruise, journey behind the falls, Niagara’s Fury and the white water walk. The passes also include 48 hours free bus journeys around the area which was really handy.
The first thing we did when we arrived, was to go on the Hornblower Cruise. This cruise brings you right down into the mouth of Horseshoe Falls and gets you more than just a little bit wet, but don’t worry, they provide you with free ponchos. For the best views, get yourself a spot up the top of the boat. The Falls were the ultimate combination or beauty and power and I was stunned by the ferocity of the Horseshoe Falls in particular.
After the cruise, we went up to Niagara’s Fury, simulated interactive show which shows you what it was like when the falls were created. I wasn’t sure about this at the start, but it was worth doing.
Finally, we went on the journey behind the falls, which again gets you up close and personal with the Falls themselves. I was really surprised by the sheer power of the water and you guessed it….. we got soaking wet again!
Even though the white water walk was included in our ticket, we were getting cold from walking around in our wet clothes, so we decided to give that a miss. We warmed up with a hot chocolate from Tim Hortons and a few sneaky Timbits.
The next day we bought tickets to go up the Skylon Tower. We purchased a joint ticket which included a 3D film, but the film, in my opinion, was a waste of time. The tower itself was a bit run down and could use a bit of TLC, but the views from the top, more than made up for this. You can catch a full 360 degree view of Niagara Falls town and more importantly, can see epic views of both sides of the falls.
Although Niagara Town is bright, commercial and touristy, just a short scenic drive away, lies the quaint and beautiful town of Niagara-On-the-Lake. We took the scenic route, driving through Niagara parkway, stopping off to see its huge floral clock and some other pretty view points on the way.
Oddly, we discovered that Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to the Shaw festival, a theatre festival inspired by the works of Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw. We noticed some distinctly Irish characteristics in the town, including a statue of G.B. Shaw himself, which is probably why I felt so at home there.
Another must do in Niagara on the Lake, is a visit to one (or some) of the many vineyards. You can drive or cycle along the wine routes, dropping in to taste at any of the wineries. You also have to taste some of the locally produced ice wine, a sweet dessert wine made by frozen grapes. There are very few places in the world that can produce this type of wine, due to the freezing temperatures required. I paid $10CAD (about €6.50) to taste 3 wines and this was taken from the price of the wine I purchased.
On the way home from Niagara we stopped off in the Outlet Collection at Niagara, a huge open-air retail park with fantastic discounts on designer items. I ran out of the place with a bargain Michael Kors handbag at 80% off!!!
If you happen to be heading to Toronto, I would highly recommend a trip to Niagara Falls. There is something for everyone, from the full-on funfair, to the quieter Niagara-on-the-Lake, but the falls themselves are something you really have to witness to fully appreciate.