A few weeks ago I took a trip upstate to see the Niagara Falls. I don’t know why, but I actually only thought Niagara Falls was visible from Canada. Blonde moment, I know. (No offence to blondes).
Since we can’t go to other states or cities due to COVID, I’ve seen a lot more of New York state than I ever imagined.
Niagara Falls lies on the border between America and Canada and in my opinion is one of the wonders of the world. It has been on my travel bucket list for years and I can’t believe I was actually able to tick it off while here.
HOW WE GOT THERE
Like our previous trips, we hired a car through Turo (the AirBnB of car rental) and picked up a 4×4 a ten minute drive from our apartment. The wagon was a fun drive and the whole experience went by with no glitches.
It’s a seven hour journey from New York City to Niagara, so we stopped off two hours into the journey in an area called Ithaca, New York. Ithaca is the home of Cornell University and has a great student vibe.
We grabbed bagels from Collegetown Bagels, walked through Ithaca Commons, found a lot of free little libraries (I really didn’t need any more books) and had some ice cream from Purity Ice Cream before getting back on the road.
The drive up to Niagara was lovely as we drove through the vineyard area of the state and along the Finger Lakes seeing all of the houses with their own piers out to the water, residents sunbathing and splashing around, living their best lives.
On the way back, we stopped off halfway in Syracuse, another town in upstate New York. There wasn’t really much to see here, but we stopped at an Irish restaurant in Downtown and it was probably the most authentic Irish bar I’ve been to in the whole of New York.
WHERE WE STAYED
We chose to stay in the heart of Niagara within close walking distance of Niagara State Park and the amenities surrounding. We stayed at the Wyndham Hotel which was actually our first hotel stay since February!
The hotel was very COVID-friendly with sanitizing stations, no cleaning of rooms during your stay (you could ask at reception for extra towels, shampoos etc.) and pool use by appointment only.
The hotel had parking facilities, a Starbucks (!! I felt like I was back in Las Vegas) and a restaurant on-site. It was a two minute walk from all of the restaurants in the area and a ten minute walk from the park.
THINGS TO DO
It was late evening when we arrived in Niagara and the sun was beginning to set. We checked into the hotel, dumped our luggage and headed to the park to get our first glimpse of Niagara Falls.
It was amazing to see the mist in the distance and also see Canada on the other side. There are a few points of the falls to see, but we mainly stayed around the Horseshoe Falls which had the best view of the larger of the falls. It was amazing to watch as the sun was setting.
The following morning, we showed up for the Maid of the Mist boat tour. Because of the borders, we didn’t think the boat would be able to go the entire way up to Niagara Falls, but it did! We got absolutely drenched, but it was an amazing experience.
There was no pre-booking for this, but the line went quite quickly to get onto the boat. I would definitely recommend the Maid of the Mist but would also recommend wearing the poncho they provide too!
Another activity we did in the afternoon was the Cave of the Winds. Again, we got absolutely drenched and the ponchos didn’t provide any protection, but it was unbelievable.
We were able to book this on the day and selected the last tour around 7.10pm. The Cave of the Winds takes you down under the waterfall and lets you get up close and personal with the gushing water. You’ll get drenched, but you’ll enjoy it.
Luckily for us, there was a rainbow starting and ending right were we stood under the waterfall. For the most part, we couldn’t really see with all of the water, but once you got the water out of your eyes, it was a spectacular sight. Definitely worth the money and worth getting soaked!
WHERE WE ATE
One thing to note is that most eateries around Niagara don’t open very late. Most close at 9pm, so we found ourselves struggling to find somewhere to eat that wouldn’t be a food truck or takeaway pizza.
Luckily, Niagara is home to the Seneca Casino (think Vegas again) where a few of their restaurants are open all night. Entering the casino, we were asked if we had been outside of the state in the last two weeks and also had our temperatures checked.
Every second machine was closed to enable social distancing and the tables were only three people maximum. I won $10 on my first go on a machine and called it a night – I didn’t want to be too greedy!
Niagara isn’t the most glamorous of places and if you had the option between the New York side and the Canada side, I would choose the Canada side. They have zip-lines, cable carts and a revolving restaurant. The New York side has a Hard Rock Cafe and a TGI Fridays.
We grabbed some avocado toast in the morning (naturally) from Spot Cafe by the park and had some dinner from the Hard Rock Cafe before doing the Cave of the Winds. I will say that even though the area was very quiet of tourists, there was an hour minimum wait at most restaurants – something to bear in mind when dining.
A TRIP INTO BUFFALO
The town of Buffalo is a 30 minute drive from Niagara. After Cave of the Winds on our first morning, we drove to Buffalo to sample the original Buffalo Wing at the Anchor Bar.
We drove around Buffalo a little while at it seemed like a very nice area. There are a lot of stadiums and tall buildings, but we only visited two food places before heading back to Niagara.
The Anchor Bar is a bit of a tourist trap but it was just nice to sit inside at an actual bar for a change with some wings and a Diet Coke with sport on the TV too. I wouldn’t say that they were the best Buffalo Wings I’ve ever had (you can find those at Down the Hatch in Manhattan) but at least I can say I’ve had the original.
In Buffalo we had been recommended visiting Chef’s Italian restaurant, home of the famous spaghetti parm. Unfortunately they were only providing takeout and no dining services, but we were able to take a look inside at all of the pictures of celebrities that had visited before.
If you’re ever in Buffalo and they’re back to providing dining, I would recommend checking out Chef’s.
WOULD I RECOMMEND?
I would 100% recommend visiting Niagara Falls, but I don’t know if I would recommend the New York side. I mean, I haven’t been to the Canadian side but I can imagine that it’s a lot nicer and has a lot more going on than the New York side.
Although, if you do find yourself in Niagara, New York, I would fully recommend going on the Maid of the Mist boat tour and the Cave of the Winds. Fully embrace that you will get very wet, but at least you can say you stood underneath Niagara Falls – not many people can say that.
It was definitely worth the seven hour car journey and the views from the Falls are amazing. If it’s not already a modern wonder of the world, then it is in my book at least.