Niagara Falls, lovely for a warm-weather visit, takes on a whole new character in the ice and snow of winter. As the winter in the region has been particularly severe, reports are emerging that the resultant natural ice formations are better this year than they have been in decades. You were looking for a crazy spur-of-the-moment trip to take? Here is an idea.
Niagara Falls is one of the top ten tourist destinations by number of visitors in the United States, and also in Canada. The geological beauty, the force of nature, and the wetness of it all has been attracting folks for centuries. I have enjoyed the falls twice myself, once as a youth and once with my own children. What I learned is that Niagara Falls, New York is a drastically different experience from Niagara Falls, Ontario.
Consider a comparison between Niagara and a Delmarva beach vacation. Niagara Falls, Ontario is like Ocean City, Maryland. The water is lovely but you also have a tourist city experience with restaurants, shopping, novelties, and nightlife. Indeed, the vibe of downtown Niagara Falls, Ontario is similar to the feeling you get walking the Ocean City Boardwalk. Except in Niagara Falls your fries and gravy will have an additional cheese curd ingredient and will be called “poutine”. On the other hand, Niagara Falls, New York is similar to Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware. The water is still there, along with walking trails and caves and tours. But while you gaze longingly across the river at Canada with all of its high-rise hotels and attractions and bright lights, I hope you packed a sandwich.
I trust that the attached slideshow has convinced you to see the falls, but how are you going to get there? First of all I hope you have a Passport. You are not getting into Canada without one. The view of the falls from the New York side is magnificent in its own right, but you’re getting only a fraction of what the Canadians see. Passport or not, you now have a choice between a $200 one-way flight or a 7-hour car ride. Ouch. Actually, there is a frugal option. Megabus has an overnight Baltimore to Buffalo run five days a week leaving White Marsh at 9:30pm and averaging $55. Once you get to Buffalo you can rent a car, take a shuttle, or (again the frugal option) take a city bus.
If you do decide to do the Mad Max thing and drive yourself, take a break at the 5-hour mark to check out the 50-foot-tall frozen geyser, recently popularized as the Ice Volcano at Letchworth State Park in Castile, NY.