Wednesday, March 4, 2009
My wife and I recently took a vacation to Niagara Falls. We really enjoyed it, so I wanted to share about our experience.
Where to Stay? Sheraton on the Falls
We stayed at the Sheraton on the Falls hotel, and I highly recommend it. But only if you get a falls view room. If you don’t get a room with a view of the falls, you might as well stay at the Days Inn, which I don’t recommend. We had a package deal with our airfare and hotel, so I don’t know exactly how much the room cost, but I think it was about $30 more a night to have falls view room. I was a little hesitant to upgrade, but it was easily the best spent money of the whole trip. Floor to ceiling windows with a spectacular view of the falls, and there was a door in the middle of the window that opened (it had a railing). It was great because it allowed for excellent pictures as well as fresh cool air. We kept the (fake) fireplace on the whole time and opened the door when it got too hot.
How Many Nights? No more than 3
Don’t stay more than 3 nights. We flew in on Saturday and flew out on Tuesday. We could have done everything, and been perfectly satisfied with our trip if we only stayed 2 nights, but we were bored. However, if we stayed another night, we probably would have been searching for things to do.
Need a Rental Car? No
We flew into Buffalo international airport, and took a taxi to Niagara Falls. It was about a 45 minute ride, and cost $85. Taking a taxi is the best way to go. A rental car is too expensive, too much trouble, and not necessary. (Don’t forget $15 per day to park it!). If you stay at the Sheridan, everything but the butterfly conservatory is within a 15 minute walk. A rental car is especially unnecessary during the summer when the “People Mover” shuttle is running.
Are the falls really that cool? Yes
I arrived with high expectations, and I was not disappointed. It is a truly awesome experience to watch the water rushing over the cliff and crash to the bottom. It is fast and loud and violent and powerful, and strangely graceful and calm. And, since we went during the winter the falls were partially frozen, which was really neat. It can almost turn a cold hearted economist into an environmentalist. Almost.
Is Niagara Falls strictly for Honeymooners? Not at all
I was under the impression that Niagara Falls is a honeymooner’s city. I would say that impression is way off base. It would be a neat place for a honeymoon, but it was REALLY kid friendly. I think it might be the Putt Putt/Arcade/Haunted House/Wax Museum/capital of the world.
Do’s and Don’ts
Do walk to the American side.
It is a very short walk and it is really worth it. There is an observation deck that lets you get a cool look at the American falls, and an elevator that takes you to the bottom. It was closed because the walkway was covered in snow and ice while we were there, so we didn’t get to do it. The park was open so we walked all around there. All the shops were closed, but there looked like there were some cool places to eat lunch with good views of the falls.
Don’t do the Sky Wheel; Do the Skylon Tower.
The Skylon tower costs $2 more and it is 10 times as cool. The view is way better, you can stay as long as you like, and you can view the observatory from inside and outside. There is also a revolving restaurant. We ate lunch at the revolving restaurant, and I recommend that too. It is a little expensive, about $30 a plate, but if you eat at the restaurant you can go to the observation deck free. The food is good, not great, but you are paying for the view. We ate lunch and didn’t have to wait at all. If you want to eat dinner there you have to make reservations. Also, they only light the falls up at night during the summer, so if you go to the restaurant at night in the winter, you probably won’t be able to see anything.
Do eat dinner at the Spicy Olive.
It is a couple blocks down Clifton Street, and it is a really nice restaurant. Cheap prices, and great food. Service was a little slow, but they were short staffed and we were not in any rush.
Do stay in Canada.
There is no debate on this one. Also, do me a favor, spend the extra money and get a falls view room at the Sheraton. Totally worth it. I promise, when you are looking back at your pictures 6 months after you take the vacation you will regret it if you don’t.
Don’t do the indoor water park.
We were planning on doing it, but decided not to once we went and looked at it. We had never even heard of an indoor water park before, so we thought it would be cool. I guess if you have kids you might want to check it out, but it was about $45 a person, and it is not very big. I’m guessing it’s even less appealing in the summer.
Do the Journey Behind the Falls.This is the elevator to the bottom of the falls on the Canadian side. It only costs $10, and it is pretty cool. A lot of it was frozen when we went, so we didn’t get the full effect, but it was still cool in its own way. For example they have peep holes where you can see behind the falls, but it was completely frozen. Probably would have been better in the summer, but it was still cool. The bottom observation dock was completely covered in ice and snow too, so it was closed. If you go in the Summer be prepared to get wet because the falls are even more powerful and everything is open.
Meh for the bird kingdom.
It was too expensive ($17) for what it was. I guess I’m just not that into birds, but if you are its pretty cool. If you do decide to do it, spend the extra $2 and get a cup of nectar. The birds will be all over you like the crazy lady from Home Alone 2.
Do pack granola bars for breakfast.
We always do this on vacation, and it seems to really save us money. It cost us three bucks for breakfast for the whole vacation. If you must eat out for breakfast, we recommend Tim Horton’s. It’s close to the Sheraton and it is just different enough from Dunkin Donuts that you get a “Canadian” meal. We did it our last morning there. 1 coffee, 1 hot chocolate, and 4 donuts for less than $7 was a pretty good deal.
Don’t forget to pick up 222s and Cuban cigars.
We actually didn’t get either one, but you should if you want to. Both are legal in Canada, and no problem getting across the border. Our bag’s were never inspected when we crossed. I’ve smoke a Cuban cigar before, and I wasn’t impressed, so I wasn’t interested in them. I did try to get a bottle of 222’s, but they said a pharmacist had to give it to me and it was night so the pharmacy was closed.
Chris Berman on 222s
Do remember the currency difference.
Everything is in Canadian dollars, so it’s not quite as expensive as it seems. Currency exchange rate. $1 US dollar = $1.25 Canadian Dollar. So if a dinner entry costs $15 it really only costs about $11.75.
If you were planning on going to Niagara Falls, I hope this helped you. If you have any other questions, feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org