Happy New Year everyone!
The holidays have gone by in an absolute blur, as per usual. I’m in the process of taking down the Christmas tree (yes, still) and all our holiday decorations and I’m sad to put everything away. They represent my favorite time of year! But it’s a new year and I’m looking forward to new adventures and everything else 2015 has to bring.
So I want to pick up my Canada trip report again. I’ve covered Montreal & Toronto so now here is the Niagara Falls installment.
Niagara Falls day!
I had originally considered a bus tour from Toronto but none of them offered all of the options I wanted (most of them skipped a few of the sights since the drive to/from takes 3+ hours alone). So I figured we’d drive there on our own, do a tour then stay overnight. We picked up our rental car from Avis and then we were on our way! Except not really. The GPS that came with our car wasn’t working properly – it wasn’t tracking our location accurately. Luckily I had a general sense of where we were or we probably would have started following the directions. After about 10-15 mins of driving around in circles, it finally found our location and we hopped on the freeway. There was no traffic so we arrived at Niagara on the Lake in about 90 mins.
Niagara on the Lake is a small, quiet town located just before the main tourist area.
The main drag is just one long street lined with souvenir shops and boutiques. Rob noticed right away that we were the youngest people there – lots of seniors in big tour groups. Just a random observation. We spent a little while browsing in the various stores then headed over to our next destination – Inniskillin winery.
We discovered Inniskillin a few years ago during our first meal at the chef’s counter at Napa Rose. Rob had ordered the wine flight and received an Inniskillin icewine during dessert. It was so good! Even I can drink it! Because it’s basically like juice. 🙂 The winery is located in Niagara on the Lake so we decided to stop by. We didn’t have too much time so we couldn’t go on the winery tour which was an hour long (and only $5) so instead we opted to do an icewine tasting.
We tried the two sparkling icewine varieties since we’re already familiar with their classic options. Oh man, the sparkling icewines are incredible. The one in the red bottle in particular, especially with dark chocolate.
Next we drove to our hotel Sheraton on the Falls, which is right in the middle of all the action.
We got upgraded at check-in to a deluxe fallsview room – yay! The view from our room was spectacular.
Right at 3pm, we were picked up by Thomas from See Sight Tours for our ultimate tour of Niagara Falls. It turned out that we were the only people booked on the tour so we essentially had a private tour for 4 hours. We were there right after Labor Day, which marked the end of the peak tourist season. Awesome! First we started at one end of the tourist district at the Skylon Tower where we got a birds-eye view of the falls and its surroundings.
I love viewpoints like this!
From there we went over to the Table Rock area to the Journey Behind the Falls where we walked through tunnels behind the Canadian/Horseshoe Falls to see, hear and feel the power of the water firsthand. There are a couple of porthole-type lookouts where you can see the water rushing down. I actually found it really nerve-wracking, primarily because of the sound. The water is incredibly loud and intense.
There are also a couple of scenic lookouts with great views.
We watched as the boats made their way to and from the falls.
My favorite part of the tour was the Hornblower cruise (formerly the Maid of the Mist – though it’s still called that on the US side).
We donned our awesome red ponchos and went straight to the first deck on the very right. This was Thomas’s recommendation for the best view except that you’re guaranteed to get wet.
He was right — it was an awesome view. We had an unobstructed view of the Horseshoe Falls as we approached. For a little while I was thinking that the mist from the falls wasn’t too bad but then right as we turned around there was a sudden surge of water and then my lower arms were drenched. Grrr. As we traveled back to the dock, we had another great view – this time of the American Falls on our right.
So close to the American Falls!
The Rainbow Bridge connects the US & Canada.
The boat cruise was definitely the highlight of the tour.
Lastly, Thomas took us on a driving tour of the area south of the falls. We made stops to see the class 6 rapids…
the Whirlpool Rapids…
and finally the Power Plant.
All in all it was a great tour primarily because we were shuttled everywhere (attractions aren’t super close together) and we also had access to the tour entrances and got to skip the lines (although this benefit was a little irrelevant since crowds had died down significantly after Labor Day). Since we only had one day, the tour was perfect for us and I’d highly recommend See Sight Tours.
We asked Thomas to drop us off at the top of Clifton Hill so we could have dinner at Napoli Ristorante. I found this restaurant thanks to Chowhound and it was so good! They started us off with focaccia and we ordered fried calamari (so light, dipping sauce had a great kick) and meatballs. For our entrees, Rob had the classic spaghetti (he was impressed) and I tried the papardelle with portobello and crimini mushrooms and a goat cheese cream sauce. My mouth is watering right now it was so YUMMY.
We walked off our dinner by walking down Clifton Hill and checking out the over the top attractions. It’s like Las Vegas on steroids. Super obnoxious and overwhelming.
To end our night, we decided to check out Casino Niagara. I found a place to sit while Rob played blackjack. He ended up winning $175 while I was trying very hard not to fall asleep, haha.
You were awesome, Niagara Falls!
For more pics, check our Flickr here.