If you are looking for a getaway in the Northeast then consider the Niagara Falls area. Niagara Falls is located just north of Buffalo, NY on the American side, and continues across the Niagara River to the Canadian side.  From American cities, Niagara Falls is about a 6.5 hour drive from New York City, 4 hours from Pittsburg, and 3.5 from Cleveland. From Canadian cities, Niagara Falls is 1.5 hours from Toronto, 6 hours from Ottawa, and 6.75 hours from Montreal.  While Niagara Falls is best know for its waterfalls, which are actually 3 separate falls, there is a lot of history in the region, and there is a lot to see and do on both sides. If you do not already have a passport prior to going to the Niagara Falls region, you should definitely obtain one in order to fully explore the area.

The Falls

Horseshoe and American FallsCredit: phatefullifeNiagara Falls is the collective name for 3 falls on the Niagara River: Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls. The Horseshoe Falls is also know as the Canadian Falls and is mostly in Canada. It is also the biggest and most impressive of the 3 falls. It gets its name from the distinctive horseshoe shape the waterfall has. The falls are 170 feet high and about 2,200 feet wide and approximately 90 percent of a Niagara River flows over the Horseshoe Falls.         

American and Bridal Veil FallsThe second of the falls is the American Falls. Located on the American side of the border, the American Falls are 183 feet high and 830 feet wide. Also on the American side are the Bridal Veil Falls, which are located right next to the American Falls, separated by a thin piece of land between Luna Island and Goat Island.  Bridal Veil Falls are 181 feet high and 56 feet wide.  Combined, Bridal Veil and the American Falls constitute the remaining 10 percent of the Niagara River. 

Maid of the MistCredit: phatefullifeTo fully experience Niagara Falls, you should take a trip on the Maid of the Mist.  Maid of the Mist is a boat tour departing from both sides of the border and brings passengers past all of the falls, culminating with coming face to face with the Horseshoe Falls.  You get so close to the falls, that it literally is raining.  Be sure to wear the poncho provided to you, as you will get wet without it.  The ride is about 20 minutes and reasonably priced.



Getting Around

Rainbow Bridge(123196)Credit: phatefullifeThere are three main brides that cross the Niagara River and the United States/Canadian border in the region.  The Peace Bridge is the largest and connects Buffalo, NY to Fort Erie, ON.  The Peace Bridge does not provide a view of the falls, but the river and northeastern Lake Erie provide nice scenery while crossing the bridge.  The Rainbow Bridge connects Niagara Falls, NY with Niagara Falls, ON.  This bridge provides an excellent view of each of the falls (depending on the direction you are going).  The Rainbow Bridge allows direct access to the tourist areas of Niagara Falls NY/ON.  Finally, the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge connects Lewiston, NY with Queenston, ON, which is the northern most bridge in the region.  This bridge doesn’t provide a view of the falls, but is the preferred crossing if you are traveling to an area near Lake Ontario.  Both Queenston and Lewiston have some beautiful natural scenery.  There is a fourth bridge called the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge – however, this bridge is reserved for railway traffic and NEXUS-holding passenger vehicles only.

Canadian Attractions

Fort Erie Tour GuidesCredit: phatefullifeJust over the Peace Bridge on the Canadian side is the historic Fort Erie, for which the city is named after.  Fort Erie was a pivotal position during the War of 1812.  Originally built by the British, the fort changed hands several times during the war, as it is strategically positioned near the Niagara River.  Today, Fort Erie is open to the public.  It also has a museum and tours provided by guides in period dress. 

InniskillinCredit: phatefullife

In the northern Niagara Region, on the Ontario side of the border, is where many icewine producers can be found.  Icewine is a type of dessert wine.  What makes icewine so unique is that it is produced from grapes that were frozen and still on the vine.  The chemistry of this produces a smaller amount of very sweet wine.  Because of this, icewine can be found in a higher price range and generally comes in a smaller bottle than what other wines are sold in.  The regions’ many producers offer tastings at the wineries, so if you are in the region, you should stop in for a taste, at minimum.  The first icewine producer in the area was Inniskillin, located in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON.  The winery offers an expansive tasting room and patio (for the warmer months).  The staff is very knowledgeable and friendly, so consider stopping there.  While in the area, consider visiting the downtown of Niagara-on-the-Lake. This town's buildings have been well-preserved and many date back to the 19th century. Be sure to visit Queen's Royal Park, which looks over the Niagara River and across to Fort Niagara in the United States. 

Niagara ParkwayCredit: phatefullife

For a scenic drive in the area, consider driving on the Niagara Parkway, located on the Ontario side.  This road runs north-south along the Niagara River and offers stunning views of the river.  There are many places to stop on the road and enjoy the scenery. A suggested route to drive, when entering Canada from the United States is to cross into Ontario via the Peace Bridge and drive north on the Niagara Parkway to the northern town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, taking time to stop at the many attractions along the route.  To return to the US, cross the border at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.

Fort NiagaraCredit: phatefullife

For sports fans, the city of Buffalo has several professional sports teams.  The Buffalo Bills are the city’s NFL franchise, having been in existence since 1960 and being in the NFL since 1970.  The Bills play in the Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, NY.  For hockey fans, the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres have been playing hockey in Buffalo since 1970.  They play in the First Niagara Center, located in downtown Buffalo, NY.

The Niagara Falls region is one of the most scenic places in North America.  The falls are something that one has to see to truly understand the beauty and power of this natural wonder.  The surrounding area has played a pivotal role history and has evolved into a global tourist destination.  Not far from Niagara Falls is Toronto, so if you find yourself in Toronto, consider taking a trip down the QEW and visit the Niagara Falls region!