A tour of Niagara Falls in all its glory
Think rainbows in darkness, silky smooth water gushing down over rocks. Then in daylight you see how big they really are with the sheer volume of water that explodes over these Falls every moment of the day.
Whilst in New York I felt seeing Niagara Falls was a must, it wasn’t super close, but close enough to do in a few days and when else would I get the chance to see this wonder in all its glory?
I researched into taking a train or bus up and staying in the city of Niagara Falls a night, oh how I wish I’d listened to my gut feeling and done that. I’ve come to love travelling alone, doing everything at my own pace, seeing what I want to see, when I want to see it and eating when and where I want. That is freedom. Tours are not freedom.
I opted to do a 3-day trip to Niagara Falls that included Toronto and the Thousand Islands. It would be wicked to see all three in one trip – why not take three days out and do it? Well I did see parts of all three. I was piled onto a bus full of Chinese tourists where a small Irish family and I were the only native English speakers. There was one Mexican guy, who spoke a little English, but otherwise the bus was 90% Chinese tourists. Somehow I’d missed that part when I booked the tour.
This tour was all about rushing, early starts, seeing naff tacky things and eating Chinese food at every meal time. The tour guide spoke Mandarin and English channels, so that was good, the bus didn’t break down and it wasn’t filled to the brim so I had two seats to myself. Towards the end of the tour I realised the Irish family were Irish and so I could speak to them and one of the Chinese people spoke English if she had too. So, the entire three days were not entirely lonely and awkward. However, I did eat several meals in utter silence as the people around me took photographs of each other and their food… continuously.
I skipped the tacky ‘American Native Show’ – I could hear it and that was enough to make me cringe. I also skipped the IMAX movie in Niagara Falls (why would I want to watch a movie when I’m in such an incredible place?) as well as a few other add-ons that made the tour expensive, compared to the advertised price.
However, I did see the Falls in all their colourful glory on the first night.
There are two sides on the borders of Canada and America. Despite staying on the Canadian side, I saw mainly the American Falls because they were clearer at night. Then in the daylight I could see the beauty of the Falls on both sides. The American side seemed more picturesque with rocks at its base popping out of the falls. However, that is not to say the Canadian side wasn’t impressive. There is just so much more water gushing over the Canadian side of the Falls that the mist makes them harder to see. Unfortunately given the time of year, the famous ‘Made of Mist’ boat tour was shut, but I was still pleased to stand in front of the Falls and capture them on camera without too many tourists around (must have been the end of tourist season).
The town of Niagara Falls shocked me a bit. Coming from New Zealand, our natural wonders are kept natural, even if they are tourist attractions. Niagara Falls on the other hand has been built up into what looks like a mini Las Vegas (or how I imagine it). Think beautiful natural falls, then behind you a small city of flashing lights, tacky food joints, theme park rides and tourist shops. People say the pizza hut near the Pyramids of Giza is bad, well that is hidden compared to the flashiness of this town!
The tour then showed us the harbour of Toronto and Chinatown at night. That was a let down n the tour. I’d really thought we’d have some free time and daylight to check out the city of Toronto.
One thing I will give the tour is the accommodation was good. I paid double as I was travelling alone so I had a room to myself (wasn’t the option of sharing to keep costs down). I may not have slept much as I was starting to get unwell (may have a bit to do with my attitude towards this tour), but the bed was comfortable when I could sleep and the rooms were warm.
Wrapped up in my snow jacket and winter coat again we headed for the Thousand Islands boat trip on the American side. These are literally over 1000 little islands with houses, hotels, lighthouses and trees on them. I wouldn’t say incredibly picturesque (I know I shouldn’t compare them to the waterways in New Zealand), but it was pretty incredible to see how isolated these homes are. Some were small and subtle, others were bordering on castle-status.
So, all in all the tour achieved what I set out to do: see Niagara Falls in day and night. I would have liked to spend an entire day there to check out the different views of the Falls and could have skipped the rest of the tour to be honest, but I’m pleased I went there and saw another incredible natural wonder of the world in all its gushing water beauty.
If you’d like to check out more photographs from my USA-Canada travels, visit my travel photography portfolio »