Niagra Falls was a wonder to behold.
Navigating the area and stuffing in all of the experiences we wanted to experience into five hours was another wonder. Thanks to much research and a little intuition, this day of the trip was probably one of the most enjoyable.
We started the day by finding parking in the very busy town of Niagra Falls, New York. My research had advised parking in the state park lot 1, but since I wasn’t driving, I had no say when the driver changed that plan to park in the $5 lot across the road. Turns out, though, that it was a better spot anyway. It was cheaper and we literally ended up directly across the street from where we would have parked before.
Then we started to get our bearings and look for food. We quickly discovered that the food on the American side was touristy and overpriced, so we decided to head on over to Canada.
I’ve left and returned to the US numerous times, and that was by far the easiest border crossing ever. You do need a passport, and maybe the time of year and day of the week make a difference, but we walked into Canada in about ten minutes time. We went through some interesting turnstiles and followed clearly marked signs that said “To Canada”. As a group we showed our passports to the customs officer, and we walked across the Rainbow Bridge which separates the US from Canada.
For moment there, I was in two countries. Once in Canada, our stomach let the way. Here’s a little travel advice: the first restaurant you approach will probably be the most expensive. Skip it. While the views from the Canada side are more spectacular because you see both falls at once, the roads are like an amusement park.
With more time and stamina, we might have found something a bit more authentic, but we landed on the gimmicky Clifton Hills road complete with its oversized everything and pull-you-in attractions. This road was basically covered with American chains, but we did find a Tim Hortons, a Canadian based chain similar to Duncan Donuts. I enjoyed soup, bread, and a cookie for under $5. Here’s another travel tip: bring your own drink (Nalgene water bottle in my case) to save a bit of money.
Then we were finished with Canada. Crossing back into the US required a $1 toll, but it was just as simple. Never once were we checked in security. In fact the officer simply asked us what we were bringing back. I guess we didn’t look too threatening.
Back on the US side, we gave in to the high prices of the boat tour Maid of the Mist. There is a Canadian side version of this called the Hornblower, but we opted the for blue ponchos instead of the red.
It was full on tourist mode, but when in Niagra Falls do as they do. Overall though it got us closer to the falls than we could have any other way.
Overall it was a great day, tiring, but well worth the journey.