November 2015 – Since we had Thanksgiving & the day after off work, we decided to take a quick, two night trip to Niagara Falls. We flew out early Thanksgiving morning and arrived in Buffalo, New York, after just a couple of hours. We picked up our rental car and headed to a corner that I had been told was not to miss – the corner of Clark St. and Kent St. Being in a bit of a rough area, we only stayed long enough to take a couple of photos and get back on the road.
Crossing the border to Canada was a quick and painless process.
About an hour after we left Buffalo, we were sitting down for lunch at the Shaw Cafe in Niagara-on-the-Lake. After some very tasty sandwiches, we took about an hour to walk around the town. There are numerous shops and restaurants along the downtown area, and the public restrooms (or “washrooms”) are clean and easily accessible. It was a very nice and safe town to walk around for awhile.
We were on a fairly tight schedule, however, and had to return to the car for a short drive to Peller Estates Winery. We had pre-booked a winery tour and arrived just a few minutes early. It was our first winery tour, and we were very happy with the entire experience (being a childfree activity also helped). Everyone was relaxed and just there to have fun and learn a little along the way. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and made every aspect of the wine-making process fun. We toured the vineyard and the cellar, and we tasted several different types of wine. The highlight of the tour was experience the ice bar and trying ice wine (I loved this wine – very sweet but also very expensive by the bottle).
After the tour was over, we continued on our way to Niagara Falls. We had gotten a good deal on a hotel and flight by booking early on Expedia.com. Our hotel, the Tower Hotel, was easy to find due to its unique shape. It was valet parking only, but we didn’t mind since we didn’t use the car again until it was time to return to the airport. The room had a fantastic view of the falls, which had colored lights playing off them at night.
After checking into the hotel, we walked to the Skywheel, a little over a mile away. It was a little cold for us, being in the forties, so we wore jackets (we actually wore these on the plane in order to bring small carry-on bags). Some of the buildings along the way had video projections on them portraying different aspects of Tesla’s life and career.
The wait for the Skywheel was almost nonexistent. We were told that Thanksgiving is not a popular time for Niagara Falls, so we lucked out in wait-time everywhere we went. The Skywheel (paid for with credit card points) was fun, but it was completely enclosed in tinted glass. The view was, therefore, somewhat limited.
On the way back to the hotel, we walked on the pathway along the falls. We didn’t realize that there is no connection to the main road that goes to the hotel (even though we could see the hotel to the right of us), so we ended up having to turn around and walk nearly a mile out of our way. We did pass the Tesla memorial along the way, though, so we didn’t mind the inconvenience. The city also had Christmas light displays setup along the entire trail.
It was pretty late when we returned to the hotel, and we anticipated an early start in the morning. We watched the fireworks over the falls (certain nights during the summer) and went to bed.
This is the view we awoke to the next morning:
After finally tearing our eyes away from the view and getting ready, we set out to the pier to take the Hornblower boat ride to the falls. We happened to squeeze in a trip (pre-booked) on the last weekend it was offered before closing down for winter. Even with our jackets with inner liners, it was pretty cold waiting in the wind to board the boat. We were given ponchos and allowed to stand anywhere we could find space. The boat was not very crowded (probably due to the temperature), and we found a spot on the second level with a great view. The ride was awesome, going straight for the falls (both American side and Canadian side). It was so cold, though! I highly recommend this experience to anyone visiting the falls, but I do suggest going earlier in the year if you are sensitive to cooler temperatures.
After the boat ride, we walked around the town a bit trying to dry off. We had lunch reservations at the Skylon Tower and eventually made our way there, meandering down a few trails that looked quite nice with the leaves’ change of color for the season. We also saw several well-fed squirrels. They were not the light brown squirrels that we were used to in the southern US.
When we arrived at the Skylon Tower, we were taken up to the rotating level for lunch. This was our meal splurge for the trip. In order to eat on this level, full entrees had to be ordered. The restaurant did offer some hamburgers, etc, that were lower cost than most other entrees, however. The menu can be found and pre-planned online, and reservations can also be made from the restaurant’s website. The view from the restaurant was amazing! The floor does a full rotation every hour, so we got to see the whole city from our table.
After lunch, we went up in the elevator and out on the observation deck. It was incredibly windy, making it feel even colder than it was. The view of the falls was great, though. We spent a few minutes before heading back down.
We walked around the city for a few hours after lunch and found some souvenirs for our dogs.
We visited the casino down the road from our hotel and then looked for some dinner. We weren’t very hungry after our big lunch, but we wanted to try something more local. We ended up ordering poutine, a combination of french fries, gravy, and cheese curds. We tried our best but just couldn’t eat very much of it. It was a very interesting dish.
The next day, we had a few hours to kill before heading back to the airport. We crossed the border back into New York (took a little longer on this crossing; we were questioned for several minutes about what we were doing there, where we were going, when our anniversary was, and other random facts). We ate at Hardrock Cafe (via credit card points) and then explored the New York side of the falls. We walked to the observation deck and then onto the Tesla Memorial and onto Goat Island. The trails are very well maintained, and we enjoyed seeing a different side of Niagara. The water movement was amazingly fast, and there were tons of birds on the islands. The trails even had signs for identifying wildlife. We spent several hours walking around before heading back to the airport.