A Special Trip:
My husband’s birthday is in December, and I try to do something memorable for him every year. This year, I had the bright idea of taking him to Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, for a birthday dinner. I figured that we never know what spring can bring, so let’s go to Canada now, while we still have the chance. If you don’t know what I mean by “still have the chance”, a brief explanation is in order:
US-Canadian Passport Requirements:
A passport is required for air travel between Canada and the US, but not for land (car/pedestrian) or sea (boat/marine) travel. (The car/pedestrian thing strikes me funny: My late grandfather emigrated to the US from Germany, and he would never take a car to Canada, but he would walk over the bridge. I am a natural-born US citizen who lives within a two-hour drive of the border, so I have never hesitated to travel by car to Canada.)
Passport restrictions are scheduled to tighten in the summer of 2008, requiring all US-Canadian travelers to have a passport or equivalent. (Please refer to: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cbpmc/cbpmc_2223.html for details.) After marrying my husband, who doesn’t like to fly, I let my passport expire and never renewed it. It would cost $270 for our family of three to get passports, and, quite frankly, I’m not sure if it’s would be worth it for us. That being said, I want to take advantage of everything our “Neighbor to the North” has to offer while I still can.
Niagara Falls is one of the great wonders of the world. But did you know that Niagara Falls actually has two falls? The American Falls are on the American side (obviously), and The Horseshoe Falls are on the Canadian side. The best vantage point to view both falls, in my opinion, is on the Canadian side.
If you were to ask people in this area (Western New York State) how many times they’ve been to Niagara Falls, they’re likely to answer, “A thousand.” or “A million.” It’s the best day-trip going in this neck of the woods! As a matter of fact, a lot of people go to Niagara Falls for reasons other than viewing The Falls.
There are “hot” concerts, casinos, and a ton of tourist (mainly wax) museums in Niagara Falls, ON, Canada. Beside that, there is great shopping; great restaurants; the Butterfly Conservatory; Botanical Gardens; and fantastic people-watching, as people from all over the globe come to visit The Falls. I, myself, admit to making many trips to Niagara Falls, ON without stopping to look at The Falls. (You’ve got to understand- I’ve “seen them a thousand or a million times.”)
But this time was different, this time I wanted to go with the express purpose of taking one long, last look at The Falls. And I wanted to give that to my husband as a gift.
An Icy Wonderland
Of all the times I’ve ever been to The Falls, I’ve never been there in winter. And we picked a winter-y day, indeed! The temperature was 17 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 8 Celsius) and the ground was covered with snow. Hubby and Son were loathe to get out of the car, but I insisted.
One great thing about going to Niagara Falls, ON in the winter is the availability of parking. As soon as The Falls came in to full view, I spied a parking spot. Being no stranger to Niagara Falls parking, I pulled right in! We walked across the icy street, to the icy sidewalk, and looked at The American Falls. They’re amazing. They’re majestic. They’re… “The same as always,” my son said, “let’s get back in the car.”
Seriously, it was windy and bitter cold. We could see The Horseshoe Falls from where we were standing, but there was no way we were walking that far in this kind of cold! We got back in the car, and lo and behold, found a parking spot really close to The Horseshoe Falls. We saw a man wipe-out on the slippery sidewalk, but I was undaunted. I had a mission here- we were going to look at The Falls.
Once again, we all got out of the car. I had forgotten that the observation area for The Horseshoe Falls puts you in an area where there’s quite a bit of mist from The Falls. The salt trucks were busily salting the road near The Horseshoe Falls, and the “mini” salt trucks were doing laps on the sidewalk- all to no avail. The distance from the car to the railing was about 50 yards. By the time we were 25 yards into it, we were wet. By the time we reached the railing, the mist on our hair, scarves, and even my purse, had turned to ice.
By now we were all laughing! “Nice birthday present,” my husband joked. I held my arms up, “But look at the beauty here!”
And then it happened. We had that beautiful moment of silence when everyone stopped to appreciate the wonder of nature. “Look at the ice on the trees.” The ice clung to the trees in magnificent beauty, unmarred by power outages and storm conditions. The Falls roared below us, kicking up a wondrous mist that quickly froze into icy splendor.
My son pointed out a sign, illegible under a layer of ice. We laughed! We posed for pictures! The railings, too, were ice covered- the curlicues that were so visible near The American Falls were hard to detect under the thick coating of ice at The Horseshoe Falls. The funniest thing was the lookout spots. Niagara Falls has (basically) huge binoculars on stands that you can use to get a closer look at The Falls. This day, they were covered with about four inches of ice and had icicles hanging down from them. The only thing that hadn’t iced up were the actual lenses. Another laugh! Another photo op!
Niagara Falls, Ontario in the winter is not for everyone. It’s especially not for adults who have any troubles with walking or balance; or for small children, in general.
Niagara Falls, Ontario in the winter is for the adventurous! (Particularly for those who are able to do “the icy-walk-shuffle”.) It’s gorgeous!
If you’ve been there a million times, but never in the winter, it’s worth going. If you live far away, and plan on a Niagara Falls trip being a once-in-a-lifetime trip, plan on going in the summer!