Situated on the border of Ontario (Canada) and Buffalo, NY (USA), the mighty Niagara Falls is composed of the Horse shoe Falls on the Canadian side and American Falls in USA. The Horse shoe falls is 173 feet high and 2600 feet wide while the 1068 feet wide American Falls drops to 100 feet pushing between 4 and 6 million cu.feet of water per minute, making Niagara Falls the most powerful waterfalls in North America.
A four hour flight took us from Edmonton to Toronto on Sunday, August 2nd via West-jet. After a brief stay in Toronto we drove to Niagara Falls on Tuesday morning. After passing the city of Hamilton, we took the scenic route along the Niagara river, and arriving at the Falls on time for lunch. The thunderous roar of the Falls greeted us as we approached the legendary falls.
We had a suite reserved at the Niagara Falls Hilton ($325.00), with a view of both the American Falls and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls from our sitting room on the 32nd floor. The initial view was magnificent.
After taking some quick photographs from the Hotel, we left to see the Falls up closely, by climbing down a 2 km long steep hilly road. Here we joined thousands of tourists from all over the world on a wide side walk, taking photographs from different angles of both falls on the way.
While watching the mighty Horse shoe Falls, we have noticed a boat filled with passengers awaiting to see the Falls from below. They were all wearing waterproof overalls to protect their clothes from getting wet from the powerful sprays.
MAID OF THE MIST: That’s the name of the boat that takes you to see the Falls up close. We lined up and purchased tickets (about $15 each) and boarded the boat. There were nearly 100 people in this boat – all wearing a thin blue plastic coat. The excitement reached its peak when the boat actually came very close to the base of the Falls, as it was powerful enough to blow you away. Everyone felt the impact, and suddenly we were blinded by the misty spray until we backed off from the rail and retreated to the middle of the boat. I hurriedly wiped off the water from the camera lens and continue to photograph one of the seven wonders of the world.
Back to the land, we walked around the town and visited souvenir shops – all nearly packed with tourists. It is estimated that 28 million tourists visit Niagara Falls in 2009, with July and August being the peak months when the students are out of school.
Exhausted with walking, we returned to the Hotel. The Hilton had three towers; South, Central and North Tower, and each tower has 6 elevators and every one was filled with tourists, waiting time up to ten minutes to get into one. Our vehicle was parked by the valet, and to get it back there was a 45 minute wait that evening. Leaving the van behind, we hit the roads once again.
Niagara Falls area have several restaurants. We went to Applebees, a modest dining place with a reasonably priced menu (Hamburger with cheddar cheese $13.95). While having dinner, we discussed plans for the following day.
Skipping the hotel suite, we went straight to the Falls Casino, which probably housed a thousand slot machines, card tables and other gadgets to grab your money. The Casinos here are designed to win 90% of your money. Knowing this, we played, like hundreds of others there, and lost, and justifying the loss as part of the fun in a fantasy land! By 11pm we called it a night and headed back to the Hotel for a shower and bed.
Next morning we woke up in time to witness the sunrise above the Niagara Falls. It was gorgeous. Both American and Horse shoe Falls appeared to be calm. We got dressed after showers and headed out for breakfast.
Close to the Hilton, there was a restaurant with a sign saying “All You Can Eat Breakfast for $6.99”. It was a buffet with lukewarm pan cakes and tasteless French toast supplemented by scrambled eggs and bland fruit salad. The waitress asked us if we want orange juice or coffee. We all ordered juice and tea or coffee. Suddenly the $6.99 breakfast became $15 breakfast for each person by tricking you with Orange juice ($4) and Coffee or Tea (3.50) each. Stores like these are designed to rob the people, and it reminded me of the literature I read about the Alaskan gold rush days and Canadian Klondike days where those who found gold were robbed by fast talking ruthless men and prostitutes.
Travelers arriving at the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls can cross a bridge to enter the United States provided they have valid travel documents, such as a passport which is now mandatory for all travelers entering USA and vice versa. I have visited Niagara Falls twice before, and until 9/11, entering the US was regulated by less stringent laws. The Rainbow Bridge connecting Ontario and Buffalo offers an excellent view of both Falls, the sight from the Revolving Tower is also spectacular. If you happened to be here, enjoy a meal at the top of this tower which is equipped with a revolving restaurant.
There are several sight seeing places in and around Niagara Falls, especially if you are on the Canadian side. There is a large IMAX theater that shows a film on Niagara Falls and some adventurous souls who attempted to perform daredevil acts there. There is also a wax museum here and a delightful flower garden.
Souvenir shops sells all kinds of junks, especially T shirts, ball caps and spoons marked Niagara Falls. Street hawkers invite you to buy tickets at bargain prices to participate in various package tours. The town is filled with all kinds of activities for adults and children, and there is not a dull moment here. If you want to visit Niagara falls during peak season, prepare to face the huge crowd and congested traffic.
When we checked out in the morning, we had to wait over an hour to get our vehicle back. Again hundreds of guests were checking out at the same time. The lobby, the waiting room, the elevators were all congested.
If I ever go back to Niagara Falls for the fourth time, it won’t be in the Summer time. It will be in March or April, or September/October in off season. During Winter months there is not much activities here. Hotels and restaurants are nearly empty, and they all provide deep discounts to boost revenue.
There are various Hotels in this area to suit every one’s budget. Remember, you will get better deals before and after the peak season. The nearest airport is Niagara falls/Buffalo International. The Falls is 27 kms from the town of Buffalo, New York state, and 125 kms from Toronto. Despite the minor drawbacks, Niagara Falls provide a fabulous experience to the visitors, a feast to the eyes and a paradise for the photographers.
A very nice write up with beautiful pictures. I visited Niagara Falls couple of times. 2nd time I visited in the night to see the lights on the fall. I was very delighted and amazed after a 5 hour flight from Seattle and then 2 hour drive from Toronto to Niagra.
Walk along with the River is nice and you can see Niagra Fall from the top.
Do post some pictures for the night if you have any, otherwise allow me to update them here.
Ups – If the photo is at Picasa, I think you can insert them as a comment by putting the code here.
I have seen various post cards depicting Niagara Falls at night. On the night of Tuesday, August 4th, we stayed up with the cameras to photograph Niagara Falls under floodlights. To the best of our knowledge, the Falls were never illuminated by artificial lights that night. As Nandan suggested, you are most welcome to post the photos of night scenes of the Falls.
I would love to see the falls. Thanks for the sightseeing suggestions. I have always heard that it is better on Canadian side, but never with an explanation.
Thanks Misty. The Canadian side of the Falls is spectacular, and a walk along the Niagara River is memorable, as the shores are lined with tall trees including Weeping Willows, Birch, Poplar and Maple in addition to a variety of wild flowers. Also, if you go to Toronto, take a ferry to the Central Island and enjoy the fabulous mix of huge trees and hundreds of different flowering plants so skillfully nurtured and looked after by the authorities. It is a quiet paradise away from the bustles of the city.
Jerry,your posts takes me back to October 1978,when I happened to be in Toronto to attend a 10 day International Management Programme of my company, and we stayed at Hilton.Before the start of work,my colleagues from Tokyo and Chicago,five of us, hired a self-driven car and drove to the Falls .You have described the Canadian side of the Falls beautifully,but I didnt find couple of points which I remember(May be the things have changed?) Of-course we had lunch at the revolving Tower(I think it was called something like Skyways?) and got seats near the outer round glass window.Two points. One I remember there was a photo studio ,next to the car meusium on the ground level ,where I got myself photographed in a Barrel ,falling over the edge of the Falls–frightening. I have this photo somewhere.I wonder if that studio is still there?Second I also remember going to the Fall theatre to see the movie of the Fall…the way movie was shot from the front of the pilots seat in the plane–it seemed we,the spectators were almost falling into Falls.Wonder if they still show that movie(It is shown on the American side also)
One more view point ,which is only on the Canadian side and not the American ===is going down in the lift,after you have worn the overcoat and gum boots (not for Maid of Mist,boat ride) and you come out just behind the bottom of the Falls.You stand just behind the screen of water falling down and can touch the fall water and shout to people outside on Maid of Mist boat.I wonder if it is still allowed. After few years,while in New York,Iwent to American side but wasnt as exciting the Horseshoe of Canadian side. But I must tell the viewers here, if they are driving toAmerican side from New Jersey,they must stop at a small town called CORNING,where the Corning Glass Factory is worth a visit and good stay at motel by our Guju brothers.Its also a historical place connected with the American Civil War.Thanks for reviving memories,Jerry.
Your trips down memory lane are interesting as ever :-)
Would you like me to wander around that lane? But I may not have the details anymore.Hence they may not be interesting,wxcwpt as comments to other posts. Thanks for”as ever”
The lift that takes you to bottom of the falls is still there.
The only commercial photographer in Niagara falls we witnessed was the one who snaps the pictures while you pose before entering the ‘Maid of the Mist’. When you return from the tour, the photos are ready for purchase for $25 each, we didn’t buy due to the atrocious price trap.
AS far as I know, there are no lifts going down to see the Horse-shoe Falls from behind. Yes, the revolving restaurant is still there, also there is a skyway bridge that connects the Hilton to the Falls Casino which houses old slot machines, perhaps the rejected ones from Las Vegas Casinos.
My first visit to the falls in April 1968 was peaceful and less crowded, the second visit in September 1995 was also enjoyable. The last visit a couple of weeks ago was very tiresome due to heavy traffic which created congestion everywhere.
Now I read this without rushing through. Some things dont change, whether you are in India or Canada or somewhere else.
The other day, we were at a lunch buffet , @550 per head. Though it didn’t seem reasonable for a restaurant in a mall, on checking the spread we were fairly convinced. Good food, we realized that cola/any drink is not under 550 so you need to order separately. Before we could settle the bill, I stepped out to pick my 4 yr old who preferred to spend that time a play-pen within the mall (the new baby sitters for young parents). I was later told by my wife that we paid 2250 for three people, 1650 was the price for three and rest of it was all taxes. Wow.
Coming back to story, super pics, especially the one where you see Horseshoe in the background of this tall building, probably your Hotel.
I have been to Toronto in 2000 for a couple of days and though we tried to squeeze in a trip, we ran out of time. Someday for sure. Thanks Jerry for the wonderful story, pics and useful information.
Nice post. Great pix except the image of the screen on the flight :-)
Thank you Nandan for relating your experience in a commercially oriented restaurant with a view to trap tourists with hidden charges. I have experienced similar traps in Amsterdam also. Apart from adding a mandatory gratuity, the restaurants in Sweden remain one of the honest establishments when catering to the public. Thank you also for your kind comments and encouragement throughout my time with Ghumakkar’s.
To Patrick: Thanks again for your comments. Of the 6 pics of the flight screen in various stages I took, none of them turned out to be sharp. In several earlier flights including Air Canada, Westjet, Emirates and Air India to many parts of the world, I used to sketch the flight screen in my diary with Bombay-London, Dubai -Dar es Salam & Dar es Salam -Nairobi being most remarkable, especially the last mentioned one, when flying over Mount Kilimanjaro. Of all the airlines, perhaps Emirates displays the best flight screen.
Oh! I totally agree with the Emirates screen feedback …being tad partial here maybe…brand loyalty is at work out here Jerry :O)
Now that Emirates has spread it’s wings to Canada, it’s on my must see list…thanks for sharing ur experience, it surely help!
Thanks Indrani. The record shows I flew Emirates ten times since 2002 and even wrote an article for an India based online media praising the excellent service provided by Emirates Air.
Now that they are operating two non stop flights weekly from Toronto to Dubai, I will be considering to take advantage of it to avoid the Heathrow en-route to India.
with best wishes,
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Your post is wonderful. We are planning to visit in this year end. Hope to see Niagra in 2013. Your post will really help me during my visit.
I am now actually dreaming to visit Niagra especially Maid of Mist.
Thanks for writing detailed description.
Congrats Jerry! This post has been republished..
I have toured many places in Europe and within India.. But havent made any trip to the US/Canada until now.. Hoping that the Niagara falls will beckon me with a maiden trip, soon! Then, this post will be my guide :)
Hawkers, souvenir stores etc are such common eye-sores in these beautiful places, isnt it? Sometimes, the pleasure of the place is washed away by their nagging attitude, huh!
I hope you carry the good memories of your visit and not these inevitables:)