#1: The Falls
Once you see the rolling waves, the sheer pressure of the water, and the huge 188 ft waterfall drop down to the abyss below, your jaw will drop. With fast rapids that can go as fast as 41 miles per hour, and currents that go as fast as 22 miles per hour, the mighty Niagara has been a destination tourists and locals.
Whenever I thought of Niagara Falls, I would automatically think of scenes from famous movies such as, when Superman saves the young boy from falling off of the falls (Superman, 1980), the romantic wedding scene between Jim and Pam (The Office, 2009), and when Evan Baxter (Jim Carrey) had a complete meltdown in Bruce Almighty (2003). The famous Niagara Falls has been featured in so many movies, but the magnificence of the falls is something that everyone should see for themselves.
I have always wanted to visit Niagara Falls, so when my friends and I had the opportunity to go, we were thrilled! We decided to go in late February. You’re probably thinking, “why would they go to freezing Canada in the Winter?” After looking through Groupon, we found a couple of great deals to stay at the Four Points Hotel by Sheraton in Niagara Falls for as little as $59.00 a night! As our luck would have it, we had great weather while we were there also. It was still cold, but being from Michigan, we had the proper coats, boots, and gloves for the outside activities. The Four Points Hotel had everything. A casino attached to the hotel, indoor restaurants, coffee shops, and boutique stores. The best part of going to Niagara Falls during the slowest time of the year? All of the free coupons!
Sadly, we did not have any luck catching a boat tour. If you visit the falls between late spring and early fall, you’re in luck! Get up close and personal to the falls by going on a Niagara Falls Boat Tours. Prices for adults range between $20 and $30 per person. The Hornblower Niagara Cruises offer several tour options.
If cruises and boats are not your thing, another option is to hike around the falls. Apparently, Niagara State Park is one of the oldest state parks in the United States. Hike the Great Gorge to be mesmerized by the scenic overlook. Need a little bit more of a challenge? Visit the Devil’s Hole. This 2.5 mile trail is moderate for hikers that want a view of the swirling and rushing waters at the bottom of the gorge. Okay, you want to hike because you need to burn off thousands of calories? The Whirlpool Rapids Adventure Hike starts off on the Niagara Gorge Rim Trail and descends steeply into the gorge to see the rushing currents in the Whirlpool State Park. That would be my workout for the month!
#2: Fun Attractions
Our coupon book consisted of several wine tasting specials, restaurant deals, and tickets for free rides at Clifton Hill. From our hotel, it was only a 15 minute walk to Clifton Hill, which you cannot miss. You’ll see a huge ferris wheel, called the Sky Wheel. Once you enter into the park, you’ll see Niagara Falls Brewery, rides, and several gaming areas to explore.
I highly encourage you to use your free coupons. Otherwise, the attractions are a money pit. For one of the rides that we didn’t have a coupon for, I ended up spending $30 for two tickets! Even if you do not want to go any rides, it still is a fun place to explore for free. We ventured out to Clifton Hill during the night time where we were able to witness a colorful light show that took place on the falls. It was beautiful!
#3: Visit Local Wineries in Niagara Falls and Try Ice Wine
After a full day of exploring Niagara Falls, we were excited to visit a couple wineries in the area due to the popularity of ice wine. Ice wine is more common in Canada due to the harsher, colder weather, which is the perfect climate to make ice wine. This type of wine is made differently from your standard wines. To start, thousands of icy marbled grapes are harvested from vineyards. Once they are plucked, the icy grapes are sent through a grape crusher once they reach -8 Celsius or 17.6 Fahrenheit. This temperature allows the flavor to reach the perfect sweetness and for the most juice to be extracted from the grape. In fact, only 10-20% of the liquid in frozen grapes can be used to make ice wine. It takes 2 to 3x more grapes to make frozen wine, then your normal Pinot or Merlot. This is why ice wine is more expensive. A typically bottle of really good ice wine can range between $60 to $120.
Niagara Falls has over 20 different wineries to sample only the best ice wines. We were able to visit three different wineries and one distillery:
- Peller Estates
- 13th Street Winery
- Trius Winery and Vineyard
- Wayne Gretzky Estates and Winery/Distillery
Our favorite winery out of the three was Peller Estates, located north along the Niagara River. Here, we were offered a flight of three wines. I chose to try their Private Reserve Rose, Private Reserve Gamay Noir, and their Private Reserve Sauvignon Blanc. By signing up for their online newsletter, they gave us one more sample for free. Of course, I had to try the ice wine so I opted for the Signature Series Oak Aged Videl Ice Wine. With notes of butterscotch and honey on the palette, the final result was an overwhelming caramel flavor. It was heavenly.
“You make 100% of the shots that you don’t take” – Wayne Gretzky. Perfect quote to live by as we found ourselves sipping some of the finest whiskey at Wayne Gretzky’s Distillery. While we enjoyed our whiskey, we watched as others took their shot on a hockey rink, located just outside the distillery.
While sampling some of Wayne’s wine, beer, and whisky, we came across this rich, Canadian Cream Liquor. The aroma on this liquor had hints of almond, cream, nutmeg, and chocolate. My friend Brittany, whom you know as Brit on the Mi Food Chronicles blog, was so obsessed with this liquor that she took home two bottles. They were gone two weeks later. This liquor is super creamy and very smooth, and can be enjoyed on the rocks, or mixed with coffee. The next time we visit Niagara Falls, we will definitely need to stock up.
That wraps up our first trip to Niagara Falls. Our next Travel Spotlight will be based on our trip to Toronto, which is only a 45 minute drive from Niagara Falls! Until our next Niagara Falls adventure, here are some other restaurants, wineries, and bars that we will be visiting next time:
- Gelato de Carlotta – Amazing Gelato and dessert options
- Stratus Winery – Cozy but cool winery, which offers beautiful views
- Two Sisters Vineyard – Visit their cafe to try one of their amazing pizzas or pasta dishes!
- Visit the historic Old Town of Niagara on the Lake
- Chateau des Charmes Winery – A French themed winery
- Trius Winery and Restaurant – Rose All Day at their Rose bar
- Have Afternoon Tea at the Queen Charlotte Tea Room
- Peller Estates Winery – Niagara’s only igloo lounge
- Have a picnic at Niagara Falls State Park – A BYOB and lunch, but with an incredible view!
- Spring Lake Winery Cafe – An incredible view of the falls and wine sorbet for dessert? Yes, please!