Niagara Falls & Niagara on the Lake tour
Raise your hand if you dream of seeing the Niagara Falls once in your life! I’m pretty sure your hand is up right now. And you’re right, the falls are an incredible wonder of nature, you could literally stay there and look at them for hours. [Okay, maybe not hours, but I kept taking pictures for a good 20-30 minutes.] Unfortunately, there’s also a big downside to the experience, but I won’t spoil it for now. 🙂
My hostel in Toronto had a really great price for this day-tour that included pick-up, visit to the falls, boat ride, visit to Niagara on the Lake, visit to one of the many wineries in the area and wine tasting.
Falls and Hornblower cruise: Yay
The falls themselves are a sight to see. If just staring at them in awe is not enough, there are activities that allow you to see them from every angle. Most of them, however, are closed in winter, so make sure to double check first to avoid disappointment. From the Aerocar to the Walk behind the falls, there’s something for everyone.
I decided to take a cruise on the Hornblower, a red boat that takes you a few inches from the falls. Before getting on the boat, you receive a red plastic poncho which supposedly will keep you dry and warm. It’s a lie. On the top floor of the boat, poncho or not poncho, you’ll get 100% drenched. Downstairs is safer, but you’re still at risk on the edges. Wise tip: Unless you go in the summer when it’s really hot outside, don’t play it cool and stay downstairs. I thought I was tough and that I could handle some water on my clothes, but I was wrong. At the beginning of April it’s still cold and you don’t want to spend the rest of your day with every inch of your flesh shivering. Be smart.
Anyway, the whole experience takes about 20 minutes and it’s mind-blowing. The loud sound and the power of the water make you feel small and powerless: you just realize how incredible the force of nature is. Humbled, drenched and happy, you can grab a hot tea or coffee on the way up for a ridiculously high price: in fact, they smartly placed a little cafeteria at the exit of the boat to shamelessly profit from your misery. Skip the souvenir shop and head directly up to take some more pictures from the viewpoint.
Across the street from the Falls: Nay
Sadly, when you turn your back to the falls, the magic gets brutally shattered and a kaleidoscope of tourist traps and kitsch places of all sorts welcome you in a spiral of depressing light signs in cheap Las Vegas style. I forced myself to walk half way up the hill before giving up in horror and running back to admire the Falls a bit longer.
Niagara on the Lake: Yay
Niagara on the lake is possibly the best surprise of the day. I knew somehow what to expect from the Falls, but I had no idea the lovely town of Niagara on the Lake even existed. We stopped by for an hour or so to wander around and that was enough to make me fall in love with the place. After all, how could you not fall in love with a town that organizes Jane Austen themed tea-parties?!
Extremely quiet, Niagara on the Lake’s life revolves mainly around a single road, flanked by little original shops, bakeries, boutiques, coffee shops, ice-cream places and even a big bell tower with no church. For a taste of real gelato, stop by Il gelato di Carlotta, a real gelateria owned by a merry Italian man from Florence. We had a little chat and I got my first gelato of the season!
Wineries and countryside: Yay
Final yay of the day: the scenic countryside that surrounds Niagara Falls. There are wineries everywhere, so where you stop probably doesn’t really matter, you’ll still find decent wine.
As the last stop of the tour, we headed to this cozy and fancy winery, where we got to taste a few different wines and locally-produced honey. The weirdest wine I’ve ever tried is called Ice Wine, it’s so sweet that soon enough it tastes like gum. Not exactly at the top of my priorities, but it was an interesting experience nevertheless.
Book a tour: if you’re staying in Toronto, the price of the tour is usually fair for what you get. Consider a stop in Niagara on the Lake for a night though, it’s definitely worth it.
Tip: Focus on the falls and don’t ever turn around.
Season: in winter you don’t get to try any of the activities, so consider picking Niagara Falls as a destination for a summer trip, when all the facilities are open.
Are the Niagara Falls on your bucket list? It’s time to organize that trip… Go and Explore!
For more destinations, take a look here.