Head for this destination and no matter what country you live in, you not only get to say you’re going out of town, or out of state, you’re going out of the country.
The Niagara Falls region offers two countries and two spectacular thundering falls to captivate your cameras and your quest for natural, unspoiled scenic surroundings.
We packed our small motor home and journeyed from Michigan, through Canada and into the gorgeous Niagara Falls region over Labor Day weekend.
Leaving after work Friday, we stayed in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Woodstock, Ontario the first night, before exploring Niagara-on-the-Lake the next morning.
We highly recommend the scenic parkway route into the falls area. The start point is Niagara-on-the the Lake, where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario. This architecturally intriguing town showcases a series of Victorian homes and shops, so quaint you feel like you’ve been swallowed up in a storybook.
Be sure to spend an hour or more exploring the restaurants and shops before heading to the more congested falls region. You’ll be glad you did.
For other quick stops as you head south toward the falls, watch for fresh fruit stands, bike rentals and wineries.
For something truly unique, locals recommend the Ice House Winery at 14778 Niagara Parkway, Niagara On the Lake, Ontario.
This unpretentious building offers a full selection of wines crafted from fruits that were frozen before being plucked from the vine. Their ice wine slushies are amazing and certainly something you won’t find readily available elsewhere.
The Canadian side
Once at the falls on the Ontario side, you’re in the place you want to be for at least half a day and well into the evening.
You’ll see the American Falls and Horseshoe Falls from the front side, with photo ops a’plenty.
You can walk the riverside and shoot photos from many angles.
Wander, explore and enjoy.
Niagara Falls, Ontario is a buzzing town with lots of tourist hype, including a zipline, gift shops and plenty for the teens and kiddos to enjoy.
But don’t get so soaked up in the attractions that you skip out on the main one—the falls.
Make sure you stick around past sunset when the falls light up in multi-colored displays.
We were fortunate enough to catch a limited run outdoor water and light show that traced the history of the falls in a stunning display of lasers, fountains and lights but that show concluded in early September.
The American side
After our night escapades, we headed across the bridge to New York, found the nearest Wal-Mart parking lot for our overnight stay, and fell asleep tired, dreaming of our next day’s adventures.
We woke early and still had a bumper-to-bumper trip into the falls area. RVs are directed to park on nearby Goat Island. Parking is free and you can take a trolley back to the main tourist areas for $3. In fact, that same $3 lets you ride around all day.
We hitched a trolley ride to the iconic Maid of the Mist boat tour, a ride I remember well as an 11-year-old.
Being a holiday weekend, the snake line for the ride took 90 minutes to get through, but the up-close and personal view of the falls, with the water spray in your face, makes the line-time worthwhile.
Don’t worry about bringing your own rain coats—they’re provided. You can even keep them as free souvenirs.
After Maid of the Mist, we walked the bridge back to Goat Island and explored the scenic overlooks.
Still can’t decide which I liked better—seeing the full-on view of the falls from the Canadian side or the up-close-hear-and-see-the-thunderous-water-rushing experience of the American side.
Treat yourself to both.
There’s something almost mystical about watching the water careen down the river, then suddenly drop seemingly off the edge of the earth in a huge plummet of water smoke below.
From this side, you can get right next to the edge of the American Falls and the Horseshoe Falls.
It’s a perfect place for photo ops.
Head north to dine
If you’re hungry after a day at the falls, it’s worth the trip to drive up the scenic parkway on the American side to a town called Lewiston. —The restaurant at 115 N. Water St. is a converted coal silo, and appropriately named, The Silo.
The beauty is, it’s an open air, circular restaurant overlooking the Niagara River.
Food is good, especially the steak and cheese sub loaded with crispy hash browns, and prices are jaw-dropping reasonable. The kids’ meals even include a free drink and ice cream cone at the on-site caboose ice cream shop.