Finally, some new travel content for this blog! Last weekend, Mr. Chuckles and I ventured out on an overnight trip to Niagara Falls – here on the Canadian side, of course. Covid-19 cases are on the rise in our province again and this may be as far as we will be able to travel for awhile, so I made sure to savour every moment of this opportunity to get away.
About Niagara Parks
The Niagara Parks in southern Ontario encompass 16 square kilometres of attractions and parkland sitting along the Niagara River. This includes the famous Canadian segment of Niagara Falls, and the Niagara Parkway which spans 56 kilometres.
The star attraction here is certainly the Niagara Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which has also long been under contention for inclusion as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Niagara Falls include three waterfalls situated at the southern end of the Niagara Gorge, spanning the border between Ontario, Canada and New York State, United States. Together, the Falls drain Lake Erie into Lake Ontario via the highest flow rate of any waterfall in North America, with a vertical drop of over 50 metres (160 feet).
I realized that I forgot to include this on my recent post about UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but I have actually visited several times. However, my last trip was over a decade ago, so this weekend was a chance to experience the Falls anew, as a more seasoned traveller.
At 128 kilometres from downtown Toronto, Niagara Falls is an easily accessible day trip from the city. Driving there takes about 2 hours, but we opted for the bus and train. During the summer months, VIA Rail runs direct service from Union Station in downtown Toronto to Niagara Falls. On the off season, you can take the GO Train to Burlington Station west of Toronto, and then transfer to GO Bus Route 12 with service to Niagara Falls. Total travel time for us was about 3 hours.
Within the Niagara Parks area, there is a local bus service called WeGo that has a few routes with stops at main attractions. Our hotel offered us a complimentary 48 hour pass as part of our amenities package. Uber is also readily available.
We stayed at Marriott On the Falls in one of their suites. Fancy! This Marriott has a business hotel aesthetic so it wasn’t necessarily much to write home about, but we had a great view of the falls from our room and the place was clean. Mr. Chuckles liked the bed and claims that it cured his chronic back pain. They did have some major organization issues during check-in. We, along with several other guests, were made to wait over two hours to get into our rooms. The staff were very apologetic and courteous, but they were getting reamed out by some really angry people and probably need to sort out their system.
Exploring Niagara Falls
Our first afternoon was spent exploring the feature attraction, the Falls. One of the most popular activities here is a ride on the tour boats, Hornblower for Canadians or Maid of the Mist for Americans. I’ve done this before so opted out, but we did get to make some interesting observations while looking on from overhead. There sure are some glaring differences in approach to Covid precautions between us Canadians and our neighbouring friends in the USA. Note the contrast in crowd control/physical distancing on the boats. 🤔
As an alternative for viewing the waterfalls up close, we checked out Journey Behind the Falls. This took us through a series of tunnels beneath Horseshoe Falls, extending 46 metres behind the waterfall. Along the way, we were able to observe the water cascading in front of the open cave entrances.
The observation deck opens up directly below and adjacent to the waterfall. What a view!
Evening lights on the Falls
After a delicious dinner at Weinkeller in Clifton Hill, we took a walk down along the Parkway to see Horseshoe Falls at night. Special lights from the Illumination Tower beside Queen Victoria Place transform the waterfalls into a multi-coloured masterpiece every evening beginning at dusk.
And with that, our day came to a close. Next up: Exploring Niagara Falls beyond the falls.