Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Niagara Falls--Pretty, Pricey, and Wonderful

We heard it time after time at Niagara Falls—“People who haven’t visited for 11 or 12 years say they hardly recognize the place.” 

The transformation on the Canadian side of falls occurred, we were told, when the government issued a permit for a casino. Upon learning that, major hotel chains bought up every available foot of property in the prime area for viewing both the Horseshoe and American Falls and launched a building boom. 

The concentration of high-rise hotels brought with it $30-a-night valet parking with few alternatives and outrageous pricing in hotel restaurants. There are ways to beat the system, but we were celebrating, not economizing, so we didn’t hold back very much.

Our anniversary observances usually include casino visits and the best steak dinner we can find. So we set aside some cash we could afford to lose if lady luck was unkind and planned to dine in our hotel’s upper level restaurant, which featured first-class views of the falls at night when lights provide a fantastic spectacle.

“The view is everything,” our trusted advisers said. We thus blew a good part of the budget on a “falls view” mini-suite at the Embassy Hilton. It was well worth it. One local resident said he and his wife once a year book a room at the Embassy and spend a day and a night doing nothing but looking out their window at the falls.

We intended to conserve some cash by visiting only two of the best attractions—a voyage on the “Maid of the Mist” and a trip through the tunnels that takes you behind the falls. Well, that’s what we intended.

What we did was sign up for a very expensive tour of the whole area that included our top-two attractions and just about everything else worth experiencing. That turned out to be a good decision.  We had a great tour guide who presented the history of the area in detail, emphasizing intriguing stories about the various daredevils who have walked high wires and performed other death-defying acts at the falls.

The morning view from our room.

You can get closer on an observation deck.

Or, you can walk through a tunnel behind the falls.

The Maid of the Mist can hold 600 people, but it looks pretty puny going past American Falls.
Whirlpool rapids are among the wildest and most dangerous in the world--we looked, but didn't boat there.

The floral clock is a place to make a wish. We did.

Just as our Maid of the Mist voyage was ending, the sun came out and a rainbow signaled the end of a terrific tour.

Our guide wasn’t exaggerating when he said his tour packed two days of activities into one. We topped off a great day with the most expensive restaurant meal we’ve ever eaten.  Beautiful wife Sandy said it also was the best. Our server rewarded our appreciation with a huge, delicious dessert in honor of our 51st year together.

We took one last look out of our hotel window.

We were 50 miles into our trip home when Sandy said, “It seems strange, but we have some money left.”

We were enjoying the falls and nearby attractions so much, we forgot to visit the casino!



Big John said...

Wow ! ... Some view Dick.

My first visit to the falls was in April of 1978 and believe it or not I appeared to be the only person there at that time.

Little Bug said...

What a beautiful place. Loved every minute of it. The man with the camera did a great job!

joared said...

Loved looking at these photos. We were there in the '60's so am sure there are many changes with all those hotels and casino. Sounds like a fun celebration that made some lasting memories.

Coincidentally, I just finished reading an unsettling novel, "The Falls," that begins in the 1950's set at Niagara Falls by Joyce Carol Oates. She wrote extensive descriptions of the area, river and its power.