Escape to Niagara, USA Day 1
Before you say it…yes we know the Canadian Falls (Horseshoe Falls) are more impressive; however, this was a last minute trip and we do not have passports. We are not disappointed.
Traveling to Niagara
Day one includes our travel from West Virginia to Niagara Falls. It was about five and a half hours of easy travel. We encountered construction delays on 79 North, but no major hold ups.
In Erie, PA we picked up 90 East. The toll on this road was only $3.15 start to finish. The scenery was lovely. Vineyards are everywhere.
We chose to stay in an economical motel. The Stay Inn and Suites. (2760 Niagara Falls Blvd). The place is very clean, Family owned, but simple. This is not luxury so don’t expect it. It is away from all the tourist destinations, quiet and about a 15 to 20 drive to the Niagara Falls State Park. The outlets are 4.5 miles away with plenty of food options.
Food (if you are a foodie…don’t miss this)
It was time for dinner. We went to Savor. (http://www.nfculinary.org/savor) This is the restaurant for the Niagara Culinary Institute. If you want fine dining in shorts and t-shirt, this is the place. They have a nice outdoor dining area, as well as, a nice dining room. We went for dinner and we splurged…we don’t have an opportunity for fine dining like this in our little town.
Joe had the duck bruschetta and I had the eggplant for starters. Both were very good, but I’d go with the eggplant everyday and be happy. I’m not a huge arugula fan and the bruschetta had arugula. The duck was good, my husband loved it. The eggplant dish was a play on eggplant parmesean. The whipped ricotta melted into the perfectly battered and fried eggplant. (My mouth is watering thinking about it.)
I had a glass of the Niagara Institute Reisling. It was delicious. Joe had a Canadian Molson beer. He loved it, something he occasionally enjoyed years ago going into Canada from the Boston area. I was not impressed but I don’t much like beer in the first place.
The bread service. The waiter brought an assortment of 3 bread items with a lemon mint whipped butter. The first were cracker sticks…they tasted like an everything bagel.The second item a cracked pepper roll in rendered duck fat. The last selection foccaci. This is worth blowing you diet.
Main courses. Joe had Squid Ink Linguini with Seared Scallops. Scallops are not my thing, it’s a texture thing, these tasted amazing. I was a little unsure of Squid ink anything. The pasta was divine. I could eat that regularly tossed with EVOO and garlic. My main course was a Lobster Roll. In West Virgina, seafood is not readily available. The lobster was buttery, the bread soft and crispy (an art in itself). Now I love lobster rolls…but the star on this plate was the garnish carrot. I hate cooked carrots, but I wanted a side order of my garnish. Sweet, buttery and a little spice I could not quite place. Yummy.
We had no plans for dessert…then we saw the menu. I had a Street Coffee. It had amaretto and chambord topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. My dessert was lemon three ways. Joe has tiramisu and an amaretto.
When we finished dinner we were full, but not uncomfortably so. We were about to walk it off anyway. A special note, the service was amazing. Our waiter answered questions about the menu and his service was impeccable. Moreover, I watched him quality check food as he picked it up from the pass. (I only noticed because I love me some Hell’s Kitchen) He even returned a plate not up to snuff. Please keep in mind, many of these people are students of the Institute. They are knowledgeable but in some cases still learning the ins and outs of fine dining. Our waiter was perfection, but I observed others stumbling a bit. AMAZING EXPERIENCE! I would truly only dine here for my visit if I could afford it.
Probably should have addressed this before dinner, but dinner was so good I jumped the gun. Street parking was $3 per hour near Savor with a max of two hours. About 50 yards ahead you have paid parking at a Niagara Entry Gate. (This is not the visitors center you are seeking) Parking at the gate was $20 for all day and you can come and go if places are available. About a block away is one of the Niagara State Park parking lots. The cost here is $10. Street parking can be paid cash or credit card. Parking at the Niagara Gate is cash only. The State Park is credit card only at the exit. There are pay stations that take cash but you have to pay before you line up to exit…unless you have a credit card.
Beware this is a highly congested area. In fact a little boy ran out in front of a trolley and was hit. Not sure how serious his injuries. (Special nod to emergency responders. I was shocked how fast police, fire and rescue arrived given the crowds. They were fast, friendly and efficient from our vantage point.) Carry as little as possible because you will do a lot of walking. Hold on to your kids. Crowds, trolley and bike traffic are heavy on peak days.
Niagara State Park – part 1
Did I mention there are beautiful views everywhere? Walk some of the less congested paths and see the rapids or gorge. Have your camera ready!
The first day our plan was to go see the falls and stay till they light them up at 9PM. After looking at the falls we walked to the observation deck. You get a great view of both American and Canadian Falls. You can see the gorge as well. It’s amazing how the violence of the falls calms so quickly. We took the elevator down to the gorge level. Our elevator operator advised us if we were going on the Maid of the Mist to do it now because Saturday would be packed. We took his advice. There was no waiting, except for the incoming boat to dock and the passengers to disembark. Our boat (one of the last for the night) was perhaps 1/4 full. We could move around easily. Excursions during the day are packed and have frightening long lines.
The Maid of the Mist costs $18 alone for the ride. We purchased a discovery pass for $45 that allowed entry to multiple attractions.
You will get wet on this ride. You are provided a poncho so your clothes stay dry, but unless you cinch the poncho you are given you will have wet hair and a wet face. The water flow over the falls is regulated as well. At night the water flow is decreased, according to our guide. This may account for our lack of being completely soaked.
The Maid of the Mist should not be something you avoid. The Canadian version is the Hornblower. Take the boat under the falls. Photos do not do it justice. You feel the spray, hear the thunder of water and feel the power of this impressive natural wonder.
Lighting of the Falls and Fireworks
We tried to watch the lighting of the falls from the observation tower. If you do the same, get your spot early. Frankly, tourist, from everywhere have become quite rude…bring your patience. The falls are lit at 9PM, but you can’t see the beauty until it is good and dark. It’s worth the hassle to see. It is truly beautiful…just remember it is a tourist attraction and some people don’t share well.
The fireworks were nice. We found a bench near the Maid of the Mist gift shop. We could see most of the show. There were some trees obstructing the view, but no major crowd.
Perhaps we got lucky on this. Once we were clear of the parking lot, the traffic was next to nothing. Once again remember you are in a tourist area and by default, everyone’s driving sucks in these situations.
It was a great first day. We did alot in a short period of time. Once back at the hotel, we crashed. I’m not sure if we even said goodnight we were so tired.