This 176 feet of misty waterfall, is a not to be missed attraction in the USA or Canada. Though a majority of the Niagara falls lie in the USA, many who have viewed the falls, both from the American as well as the Canadian side are of the opinion that Canada offers a better view.
The best season to visit Niagara is during June to August when the volume of water flowing down the Falls is the highest. Niagara, most probably, is one of the places that receives the highest number of tourists. At the Niagara Falls Park, you will find a fleet of Chinese operated tour buses that bring in tourists from New Jersey and Manhattan. You may initially be put off by the number of tourists that swarm out of these buses and fill the food courts and parking lots. However, once you get inside you will realize that the huge park is well equipped to handle the traffic.
I, however, have never been a big one for these tourist buses. I find it difficult to enjoy a place when I know I have to conform to someone else's schedule. Moreover a trip for me must have a little of everything- sightseeing, good food, and above all, a great companion or rather no companion at all.
So, if you are planning to visit the Niagara Falls (on the USA side) and do not plan on doing the monotonous tourist bus routine, but plan to venture into the neighboring areas on your own, here are a few tips that can help you plan your itinerary.
- Spend an entire day at the Niagara Falls. The Park authorities have arranged for a tour called the Maid of the Mist (for which you need tickets) that will take you to the heart of the falls itself. The journey is truly exhilarating and well worth the money.You can also take the walking tour 'Cave of the Winds' for a truly torrential experience.
- If possible, leave your sunglasses in the car as they will be of no use here and you will only risk spoiling them near the waterfalls.
- Try to avoid the hotels near Niagara Falls. They charge you exorbitantly during tourist season, and do not provide enough amenities that can justify the price. It is a better idea to drive to Rochester and stay at one of the hotels there, especially if you are planning a trip to the Thousand Islands. We stayed at Hotel Radisson in Rochester that was far more comfortable and reasonably priced than the Holiday Inn near Niagara Falls.
- Take a river cruise down Thousand Islands- an archipelago of an odd thousand islands on the Saint Lawrence River that flows along the US-Canada border. These islands have some famous houses with interesting histories, and make for a pleasant excursion.
- The most popular cruise is Two Nations departing from Alexandria Bay. It takes its passengers into the Canadian waters as well.
- Now all this water may have you craving for some fun on land. There are quite a few go-karting tracks around Thousand Islands. Also, shops in this place serve some of the widest varieties of chocolates I have seen.
- It is a scenic drive back to Rochester from Thousand Islands. You will need to drive all the way back to Rochester even if you are planning to return to a nearby area the next day, since it is the closest place where you can find commercial lodging. Stop at a few places on the almost deserted road to enjoy the rarity called silence.
- Make a trip down the shores of the Finger Lakes that are a cluster of eleven lakes, arranged in the shape of the fingers of a hand. It is not possible to drive along the shores of all the lakes. So it is a good idea to drive down the shore of one and return along the shore of another. Choose the lake based on the time you have. We chose to drive along the Cayuga and Seneca lakes, the longest and deepest lakes of the cluster. And what a drive it was! We had made our trip sometime in June, and the alleys of vineyards, their green color slowly taking an auburn hue, were a delight. There are plenty of wineries and creameries- big and small- that dot the shores of these lakes. Their wooden rooftops shimmer in the soft June sun, We stopped at every second winery for wine tasting at $2 a person. They served very little quantities of the lovely liquid in small shot glasses. However, since we had made stops at so many wineries, we were quite tipsy by the end of it. Add to it the warm breeze of the June sky, and a panorama of expansive vineyards, you have made yourself a nice little tropical getaway.
- If you are a serious connoisseur of wine, and plan on buying a bottle yourself, I suggest that you do not potter but make stops only at the best and award winning wineries. There are creameries here too, which serve up an unbelievable variety of cheese, just for the tasting.
- But do remember that the wineries and creameries close to outsiders before evening. So it is best to visit these on your onward journey, and simply take in the pleasures of a scenic drive on the way back.
- If you love food, then Anchor Bar in Buffalo City is a must stop for you. This is the place where the famous buffalo chicken wings were invented. The city holds the National Buffalo Wing Contest every year where restaurants try to outdo one another in serving up the juiciest Buffalo chicken wings. Duff's Famous Wings had been the latest winner and was a hot favorite among chicken wing lovers at that time. We tried the wings at the Anchor Bar on the way to Rochester and the ones at Duff's on the way back.
- Finally, if you plan to visit the Niagara Falls on any holiday between May and September, you may be able to view the spectacular fireworks that set off at 10 pm for a duration of about 10 minutes. I have heard they look amazing over the waterfalls, but I was so busy hogging down my chicken wings that I missed it.