It was Labor Day weekend of 2012, Devin and I had an extra day off work for the holiday so we figured what better to do than leave the country. And while that may sound very glamorous let me assure you it was not; we weren’t fleeing to go to Paris or Italy or Spain as you might imagine when you hear the phrase “leaving the country for vacation”, no… instead were going to embark on a seven hour drive to Niagara Falls Canada…Oh Canada. I had never been before but had always wanted to go, and while Devin had already been twice he was going to have to go a third time.
We took the scenic route to Canada, and by scenic I mean cornfields as far as the eye can see. I don’t know what I was expecting to see on the drive up there, but had I know it was just going to be corn I would have rather stuck to the major throughways, not the two lane highway we were on twisting and turning through the farmlands. The one good thing about taking the cornfield route was that I had the chance to jump out of the car and pick some fresh corn. And even though the corn ended up rotting in the backseat before we were ever able to taste it I know it was delicious.
While we were waiting in line to cross the border I Pricelined a hotel, per our usual M.O. we decided the night before to take this trip and hadn’t made any arrangements. We ended up getting a killer deal at the Hilton which if you are on a high enough floor has great views of the falls. (We weren’t on a high floor so ended up having a view of the casino, but couldn’t care less- our motto is the hotel room is only for sleeping and you can sleep when you’re dead)
We walked the few blocks from the hotel to the falls and let me just say WOW. I’ve never seen a waterfall like Niagara before, everything I’ve seen before is a small trickle of water compared to Niagara. Standing across from the American Falls ½ a mile down from Horseshoe Falls I could feel the mist in the air. And as we approached the visitor center overlooking Horseshoe Falls the mist in the air intensified and we got thoroughly wet. But that was all nothing compared to the Journey Behind the falls tour we took later.
We snapped a few photos of the falls and because you can only watch water fall over a ledge for so long grabbed a seat at the bar in the tourism center to drink a beer…and watch water fall over a ledge. Being so close to the American border was a great thing, we maintained cell service without going into roaming and all the places accepted American Money, which was the only kind of money we had! We got a few recommendations on places to eat from our bartender and settled on AG Inspired Cuisine.
The interior of AG has sparkly chandeliers, crisp white linens, and touches of red everywhere- from the velvet curtains to the leather chairs in the bar; a ton of ambience in the place. The menu was also inspired with local ingredients, a very upscale version of a farm to table restaurant, everything was delicious especially the wine; which ended up prompting our activities for the next day.
Unknowingly we had stumbled upon one of my absolute favorite things to do, wine taste. I hadn’t realized there would be anything more than the falls in Niagara, boy was I wrong, there was actually quite a decent wine growing region! Using a map from our waiter (before this I couldn’t remember the last time I had to guide us off a paper map) we stopped at our first winery- Ravine Vineyard.
We had enjoyed a delicious bottle of their Sand and Gravel Red Coat wine the night before at dinner and I wanted to purchase some to take home with us. Sadly for us they didn’t have any more of that year and the one they were tasting and didn’t match the quality from the bottle the night before so we walked out empty handed. A bit down the same road we came across Chateau des Charmes. This winery grows grapes on four different properties and sells the bottles under four different names, each ranging in price, quality and flavor. We tried our first ever ice wine here, which is made when the grapes freeze so it is an extremely late harvest sweet wine, neither Devin nor I were big fans.
The next winery we visited was my favorite! It was a newer winery that had recently opened, Colaneri Winery. It was styled like a Tuscan Villa and had delicious wine, with pizza from a brick oven. We stocked up on a few bottles of the wine to take home with us which I am so glad we did because the rest of the wineries were a bust.
We took a break from wine tasting and headed into the town of Niagara on the Lake to grab a bite to eat. After eating I really felt like I could take a nap so Devin and I did just that, we settled on a spot in the sun with the cool lake breeze blowing over us and dosed off for a little bit in the grass. Feeling well rested we went on to try Jackson Triggs one of the larger wineries in the Niagara on the Lake region but left unimpressed and although the grounds at Trius were stunning the wine wasn’t. We decided to call it for the night.
We drove back to the Niagara Falls area and pricelined a hotel room for the night this time ending up at the Marriott. The Marriott has two properties, one right on the falls and one a bit further back out of the way of everything else. We ended up at the latter, but again didn’t care it was a place to sleep. We walked away from the falls towards the Ferris Wheel and other touristy places and found a place to eat. It wasn’t great and I wouldn’t go back. There was supposed to be a firework show, we even got a tease of two fireworks before it was shut down due to the wind. We were bummed, how amazing would fireworks over the falls be- maybe next time!
Monday morning was our last day in the area before heading back home so we booked the Journey Behind the Falls tour which was awesome. Basically you take an elevator about ½ way down the falls and can go out on a platform to see it up close and personal and from behind it in the cave. If I thought we got wet a few nights before I had no idea what wet was, even with our yellow ponchos on we ended up getting soaking wet. It was a really cool experience though to be able to get that close to the falls and see the sheer force of it. Wanting to get on the road we took the chair lift up to the hotel, packed our bags and took off for the US.
We had wanted to stop in Buffalo, NY to eat buffalo wings where they were first created, but our poor planning had led to the original place being closed for the holiday. We ended up driving to a few other places that were also closed until we ended up several miles outside of Buffalo at a franchise of Duff’s. The wings were decent, nothing better than any other buffalo wings we had ever tried before.
Having discovered on the way up there that there was nothing to see on the scenic route we opted to take the quickest most direct route possible. It still took another 6 hours to get home, but it was well worth the drive. I had a blast in Niagara and am so glad I got to go see it in person!
That’s my story…
Peace & Love