Almost a year ago, my boyfriend and I decided to take the trek out to Niagara Falls, Ontario/USA since we had both never been even though it’s only a 3-hour drive from where we live. We stayed on the Canadian side, as they have much better views of the falls, and overall is a bit cleaner and nicer (sorry, America, they’ve got you on this one!) I know my blog is about the 50 states, but we did see the New York side as well, so I’m lumping it in here!
The Niagara Falls area was long part of the Iroquois Confederacy territory, which was part of five powerful First Nations mostly along the southern edge of the Great Lakes. Those tribes included the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca.
Tourism started in the early 19th century and has been a vital part of the local economy since that time. The falls became known as a natural wonder. Additionally, Niagara Falls markets itself as a honeymoon destination; it is the self-proclaimed “honeymoon capital of the world.” In fact, my mother’s grandparents and parents honeymooned there, and my parents eloped there!
We stayed at the Sheraton on the Falls hotel, because we found a great Couples Package deal: a 2 night-stay that included breakfast, access to the club room where hors d’odouvres were served before dinner, free samples of fudge at the Hershey store, tickets to a local bus tour, 2 free drinks at the Hard Rock bar, vouchers for 2 restaurants- the Fallsview Restaurant, and Jamie Kennedy’s Windows restaurant, and two tickets to two different wineries that included a tour and tasting! We couldn’t pass that up!
We got there on Friday, checked into the hotel and walked around the city. Seeing as our hotel was literally on the Falls, we just walked across the street to see the natural wonders. To be honest, before we left I was excited and was thinking, “cool, we’re going to see these waterfalls, it will be fun!” But that doesn’t even come close to what you see, feel, and hear once you get close to them. The Falls are breathtaking. They literally don’t even come close to what you’re expecting when you go to visit, they truly blow your expectations out of the water (I guess I intended that pun.)
The roar of the constant flow of gallons upon gallons of water is incredible, and the feeling of witnessing something so natural, so giant, and so stunning compares to the vibrations you feel as you walk closer to the railing to get a better glimpse. The Falls are absolutely mesmerizing, at one point, Brian and I were just staring at the Falls for a few seconds watching the water tumble and crash over itself and into the basin. Once we were able to break ourselves away from the trance, we explored the city a little bit, and then decided to head up to the Fallsview Restaurant for dinner.
The next day, we set out to get up close and personal with the Falls and go on the famous “Maid of the Mist” boat tour. I’ll be honest, I’m totally fine with boats and I love swimming, but this tour was actually a bit scary! Maybe it was the fact that between the two falls, over 600,000 gallons of water is crashing down, basically on to you. Nonetheless, we hopped in the boat with our blue plastic ponchos and set out to sea. (Note: you WILL get soaked, be prepared!)
The views from the boat were even better and more stunning than what we had seen the day before. To be honest, I can’t even really describe it and I know I wouldn’t do it justice, so I’m going to post my photos below for you to be the judge of that.
After running across the street to our hotel to dry off, we took off to the Trius at Hillebrand Winery and Estate for our first of the day, and first ever wine tasting and tour! The Trius Winery is a beautiful estate, located on a beautiful field full of grapes ready for picking. They have been making VQA wine (wine that is made from 100% Ontario grapes) for over 30 years, and you can tell it’s their passion. The place is spectacular, and includes a private room (featured below) that you can rent for a party, rehearsal dinner, or just a regular dinner for your friends and family.
Following our tasting at the Trius winery, we headed down to the even larger, and beautiful Peller Estates. This winery began in 1927, when Andrew Peller first arrived in Canada from Hungary. Soon after, he began to pursue his dream of making premium wines, and created the beautiful Peller Estates for his family to now run.
Both wineries make the most amazing Ice Wine. Ice Wine is a very special dessert wine, and is quite difficult to make. The grapes must be frozen, and the temperature HAS to be 32 degrees on the dot in order to get the right juice from the grapes, and since the grapes are frozen, there isn’t a lot of juice that comes out of them so the bottles are much smaller than regular wine bottles. The Ice Wine is the most delicious wine you’ll ever taste (if you like sweets! It’s very sweet, but not too sweet that you can’t drink it.
After our wine tours, we headed back to our hotel to relax and get ready for dinner at Jamie Kennedy’s restaurant, Windows. The restaurant offers spectacular views of the Falls, and since it was our anniversary, we had premium window seating. The restaurant was beautiful, and we had the most delicious, savory, and exquisite lamb I have ever had in my entire life. And that’s saying a lot because I’m half Lebanese and we love lamb! The lamb melted right off the bone into the perfectly whipped mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables. We still talk about that dinner to this day!
Of course we went down to the bar to finish off our night with our free drinks, and ordered some (pretty strong) cocktails to continue celebrating. Afterwards, we went back up to our room to enjoy the fireplace and views of the Falls that are so magical when they are lit up at night.
Sunday was our last day, but we still packed in some fun. We toured the Midway, saw all of the gift shops, carnival-type games, and restaurants, and took a stop over to the SkyWheel. We rode all the way up to see even better views of Niagara Falls, the Niagara River, and the entire city itself. That was definitely worth doing! Before we headed out, we had to stop in the Duty Free shop to see if there was anything that we couldn’t live without, and hopped in the car to head back home to America.
All in all, you might think that Niagara Falls is “just” a waterfall, but speak to anyone who has ever been there and you’ll know that it’s way more than that. It will blow your expectations right out of the water, and you’ll know why it’s such a hotspot!