A trip to southern Ontario would not be complete without visiting Niagara Falls, possibly one of Canada’s most well known tourist attractions, and located only a couple of hours south of Toronto. In fact, Niagara Falls is probably one of the most well known American attractions as well, given that the Niagara Falls is another border town, where the two countries face each other across the Niagara river, connected by the border crossing that is the Rainbow bridge.
I must admit, I could not wait to see the Falls, I had always heard how spectacular they are. Upon arrival in the town, we were quite amazed to see how accessible they are; a long boardwalk runs along the side of the crevice, offering instant views of both the Canadian and American Falls. No lining up or entrance fees, they were just there in plain view as you drive in.
Ok, so you have to line up and pay the princely sum of $22.50 to park the car, but that seemed like a bit of a bargain, considering the amazing natural display in front of us. The Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side are the most impressive, and the sound of the water rushing through and even misting over us up on the boardwalk was incredible.
Accessing views to the Falls was the easy part – things then became a bit more complicated. It turns out that Niagara Falls the town fancies itself as a bit of a Las Vegas (or maybe Reno). There are large hotels with casinos and chain restaurants on every corner, and the people come for holidays, spending their money on the natural sights as well as the slot machines. This being summer school holidays, it was very busy – we had planned to do the walk behind the Falls as well as the boat journey, but both had multiple hour waits, and as I have mentioned before it is very hot – too hot to wait for 3-4 hours in the sun for the boat.
Luckily, we secured a timeslot for late in the day to do the Walk Behind the Falls, and it was an amazing experience. An elevator takes you down to a viewing platform right beside the Horseshoe Falls where you have to wear a plastic poncho, or else get very wet from spray. You can also walk in tunnels behind the Falls, where viewing areas have been carved out so you can see (and get sprayed by) the underside of the Falls. Very cool.
As we had to wait most of the day to do the walk, we drove over to Niagara on the Lake – not to be confused with the neon infested Niagara Falls. Niagara on the Lake is a lovely town, situated in Ontario’s wine country (yes, Canada does produce wine). We drove past beautiful wineries and farms on our way there and were then greeted with the prettiest town we have seen since the Maritimes. Niagara is another town the looks across the water to the States, and is famous for the Shaw Theatre festival which is in full swing in the summer months. The town was heaving with people as well, mostly theatregoers and day trippers like us. The heat sent us straight to the waterfront so we could catch a bit of breeze and sit in the shade watching the boats, crucially staying out of the afternoon sun.
The Vegas atmosphere at Niagara Falls only increased as darkness fell, street vendors set up stalls selling cheap plastic tat, and there were more people out on the viewing boardwalk than during the day. Everyone was waiting for the fireworks show that takes place a few times a week. Glowsticks slowly danced in the darkness as people shuffled along. The Falls were lit in bright colours. It was all very strange….
Despite the crowds, fast-food chains and the slow moving lineups, I loved visiting – I will always remember the awesome rushing noise and the feel of the spray hitting my face.