Monday, December 26, 2011

A day in Niagara

Niagara Falls has captivated me since I first saw the water hurtle over the rocks as a young child, and I loved the scenic drive along the Niagara Parkway from Niagara-on-the-Lake to the city that bears the name of the falls. But I don't make the trip often enough, considering it's just a 90-minute drive away.

It therefore made a lot of sense to make a day of it in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls before heading across the Rainbow Bridge on Nov. 5 to spend the night at the Econo Lodge in Williamsville, N.Y., near the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, where my mom and I were catching a flight to New Orleans early the next morning.

The quaint town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is the home of the Shaw Festival, a number of wineries, some high-end inns and several small shops and restaurants that largely cater to tourists. It was a nice autumn day, so we walked through the town and then down to Lake Ontario to look across to Old Fort Niagara and Youngstown, N.Y. We walked around Fort George before grabbing a sandwich at a reasonably priced diner and then carrying on to the Parkway.

The Niagara River and gorge were visible on the left and we stopped a couple of times to take in the views before arriving in Niagara Falls. The mist emanating from the Horseshoe Falls felt like rain as we walked along the main viewing promenade and back. No matter how many times I've seen them, I'm still left speechless by the power and majesty of millions of litres of water taking precipitous drops down the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls.

I used to like visiting the wax museums, miniature golf courses, amusement rides, arcades and other kitschy attractions of Clifton Hill and nearby Stanley Avenue as much as the falls themselves when I was a child. A number of them from my youth are still around (The House of Frankenstein, Dracula's Haunted Castle, Criminals Hall of Fame), or have relocated (Louis Tussaud's, Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum, Movieland Wax Museum of the Stars), but there are a lot of others that have arrived more recently. None of them lured us inside, however, so we had a hearty dinner at Montana's Cookhouse and then took in the illuminations along the waterfront before shuffling off to Buffalo.

If you're just sleeping for a few hours before catching a flight, the Econo Lodge is okay since it's reasonably priced and offers a free shuttle to the airport and $25 parking for a week while you're gone. But it's not the cleanest or most up-to-date place, so I don't recommend it for more than a night at a time.

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