I have wanted to visit the famed Niagara Falls for most of my life — it’s one of those places on my very long “list of places to see”. So when my family and I were planning our trip to visit Kirtland, Ohio and Palmyra, New York (two LDS church history sites popular with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), we knew we had to make the detour to see Niagara Falls. It’s sort of on the way, but not really. It’s about a 4-hour drive from Kirtland, and 2 hours from Palmyra (1 hour from Buffalo) Crossing the border to the Canadian side added another 45 minutes for us.
Friends had told us to stay on the Canadian side because the “views are better” and things are more developed over there. Well, yes, that turned out to be true, but it was far from what I had imagined the place would look and feel like. In my mind I pictured the magnificent falls in a quiet setting, surrounded by pristine wilderness, sorta like the waterfalls in Yosemite. Ha! Not quite! The Canadian side of the falls is anything but “pristine” or “quiet”. It has been developed to feel a lot like — well, Las Vegas, actually (minus the Eiffel Tower and Pyramids). Flashy hotels and casinos with spectacular views overlooking the falls line the street that runs along the river, accompanied by high-end shops, restaurants and amusement park-type attractions like “Ripleys Believe it or Not”. There is even an indoor water park. As if the waterfalls themselves were a secondary attraction. Well, the waterfalls ARE the main attraction, but without all the other “stuff” to do, no one would stay very long. However, with all the entertainment now available at Niagara Falls –aside from the falls– it is a family-friendly destination. You could spend a full week there (and a boat-load of money) and not run out of things to do. For our family, we were only interested in seeing the falls this time around. And that’s all we had time for.
We arrived late at night, but still in time to see the falls lit up by colored lights from our fabulous vantage point on the 20th floor of the Embassy Suites hotel. We splurged on this hotel stay because of the location, view, and their wonderful, hot breakfast.
In the morning, my family and I enjoyed the half day we spent along the green, flower-lined riverwalk taking in the views. The falls themselves ARE pretty amazing! From the Canadian side, you have stunning views of all three falls — Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. You are looking across the river at the front of the waterfalls, which is the best view of them, in my humble opinion. We never saw them from the American side, but the view there would be from behind the falls.
We took the half hour ride on the “Maid of the Mist” boat that takes you right up to the base of Horseshoe Falls. The views from below are as good as views from above, and you definitely get a better FEEL for the falls — roaring, powerful and WET!! Those ponchos they give you are practically useless when the boat stops for a full 10 minutes (os so it seemed) in the middle of the “mist” coming off the powerful falls. “Hurricane” is more like it. Even with my raincoat on underneath the poncho, it could not repel the wind and water whipping around in all directions. We got soaked! You WILL get soaked! No one escaped the drenching. But it was a beautiful, sunny day and we were soon dry again.
As we left Niagara Falls behind and drove back across the border, I felt contented that I had visited yet another beautiful “must-see” place in the world . It was well worth the stop!