The highlight of our trip to Upstate New York for me was definitely our day trip to Niagara Falls. The Niagara Falls are located on the Niagara River which drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario at the US-Canadian border between the state of New York in the USA and the province of Ontario in Canada. They consist of three waterfalls, the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side and the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Fall on the American side.
We decided beforehand that we would experience Niagara Falls from the Canadian side because I heard there was a better view of the falls when you look at them from Canada.
With my immigrant status it was kind of an adventure to get to Canada but after about an hour of going back and forth verifying everything with border officers on both sides we finally made it. It is important that you bring your passport. It used to be possible to cross the border between the USA and Canada without having to show your passport, but not anymore.
When you cross the Rainbow Bridge across Niagara River you already catch a glimpse of the falls and see the huge amount of mist they produce.
First we went to exchange American Dollars into Canadian Dollars. They accept American Dollars right across the border but you get a better exchange rate if you exchange your money or just use your credit card.
The Canadian town of Niagara Falls is more vibrant than its American equivalent. Here you’ll find the Hard Rock Café (there’s one in Niagara Falls, NY, too), casinos, souvenir shops, hotels, etc., lots of attractions and entertainment while on the American side you’ll visit a National Park. As you can imagine, parking was rather expensive. We paid CAN $20 for the day.
Since I collect Hard Rock Café t-shirts we decided to also have lunch at the restaurant there (5705 Falls Ave. Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada L2H 6T3, http://www.hardrock.com/cafes/niagara-falls-canada/). As usual, prices are a little higher than someplace else but that’s just normal in a touristy area like this. They’re designed in a way so that you’d have to drive outside town to get more reasonable prices.
You have an amazing view of all three falls from the Queen Victoria Park. From there we took a cruise of the falls with the Canadian equivalent to the Maid of the Mist, the Hornblower Niagara Cruises (5920 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara Falls, ON L2E 6X8, Canada, http://www.niagaracruises.com/) for CAN $ 19.95. The boat departs every 15 minutes for a 20 minutes ride into Niagara Gorge. You get a close up view of the American and Bridal Veil Falls and cruise into the Horseshoe Falls. Before you depart you receive complementary raincoats and you definitely need them because otherwise you’ll get completely soaked.
We went there on a rainy day but it didn’t matter since we would have gotten wet anyway on that boat ride. We did the basic tour but you can also book tours where you’ll get access to behind the falls.
At night they have fireworks above the falls and they are illuminated in different colors. We didn’t stay for that though.
We didn’t care for many of the attractions that are gathered close to the falls but we did some souvenir shopping in a few of the many shops. There’s a lot you can do, from gambling at the casinos to visiting a Haunted House or wax museum or playing mini golf on a dinosaur themed mini golf course.
I highly recommend visiting the falls on the Canadian side. The attractions might not be your cup of tea (they weren’t mine), but you just get a much better view of all three waterfalls. It also doesn’t matter what season you visit because it’s misty there anyway (even on a sunny day). It must be interesting to see the falls frozen, too. I was really fascinated by the overall experience and had a wonderful time. It’s definitely a destination with fun for the whole family.