It was a very good year The year 1885 was a pivotal year in the life of Niagara Falls, NY, a 16-square-mile city about 25 miles north of Buffalo and on the border between Canada and the U.S. If it weren't for what happened that year, we might not have been able to view the
Already, by that time, the area around the Falls was being built up with factories, mills, warehouses, taverns, hotels, and other commercial structures. As well, these business people and property owners were blocking access by putting up high fences and other barriers and charging people to see the Falls. And that might have led to the slow death of the town rather than the healthy 55,000-population resort destination it is today.
So, what exactly did happen in 1885? Bowing to pressure from the 'Free Niagara' lobby, led by the famous landscape artist Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed New York City's Central Park, the New York State legislature passed a law creating the 200-acre
Cascade and they will come Thanks to these efforts, today's Niagara Falls, incorporated in 1892, is a bustling place with a thriving tourism industry that, with its sister city on the Canadian side, annually attracts between 14 and 18 million people and brings in something like USD1 billion a year in revenue for the region. The proximity of the Falls to the metropolitan areas of New York and Toronto put it within easy reach of more than 100 million people.
At the same time, the cheap electrical power generated by harnessing the Niagara River and Falls attracted numerous industries to the area during the early part of the 20th century. Some of these industries, such as Occidental Chemical, EI Dupont, Nabisco, US Vanadium, and Goodyear, remain, providing work for those in the population who aren't connected to the hospitality and tourism trade. Many industries, however, either shut down in the last 30 years or moved to the suburbs or surrounding small towns. After a prolonged economic downturn, the city has been revitalizing its downtown area, thus making it more attractive and viable for both residents and businesses.
But there is no doubt in anyone's mind what the prime pump for the economy is: without the Falls, this city would be simply one more border crossing fallen on hard times due to the collapse of heavy industry and shipping. The Falls form a cascade in more ways than one, including a trickle-down effect for the economy.
High rise to low-slung It is the Falls that supports the 3,000 hotel/motel/bed & breakfast rooms in the region. They allow luxury high rises such as
It is the Falls that bring 50,000 honeymooners a year (drawn, some say, by the negative ions released by the falling water and believed to be strong aphrodisiacs). And it is thanks to the Falls that attractions such as
Around Niagara Falls proper lie a series of historic towns and villages including: Lewiston, home of the Outdoor Fine Arts Festival and Lewiston Museum, Lockport, with its Erie Canal heritage and
Geologic shift makes good Niagara Falls has its own
All made possible thanks to a quirky geologic shift 12,000 years ago that sent the Niagara River plunging down the edge of the escarpment.
The city of Niagara Falls, NY, is eternally grateful and shows that gratitude by making sure each and every one of the millions of visitors gets a free and unobstructed look at that Seventh Natural Wonder of the World.
Niagara Falls, NY, has them all…
Be it five-star high-rise on the edge of the Falls or no-frills campground on Grand Island…
Cozy bed & breakfast on a shady tree-lined side-street or convenient back-up-and-park motel along the main drag…
Downtown deluxe or suburban sanctuary…
Jacuzzi honeymoon apartment or simple single with shared bath…
Family efficiency or business traveler's all-equipped and fax/modem computer ready executive suite…
And it has them in numbers, boasting a whopping 3,700 rooms within the city limits. Of those, there's a concentration of more than 1,800 within walking distance of the Falls and other attractions such as the Niagara Falls Convention Center, Aquarium of Niagara, and Maid of the Mist boat ride. And that's not counting the hundreds more in the surrounding areas such as Lewiston, Youngstown and Lockport (or the many thousands more across the river in Canada).
Action central: downtown Facing the Niagara Reservation State Park, home to the Falls, can be found close to a dozen hotels and inns. All of these, starting with the nearest one, Comfort Inn The Pointe, offer spectacular views of the cascading waters amid a high-class upscale ambience. The “big boys” include Holiday Inn at the Falls and Holiday Inn Select, Sheraton Four Points with amenities for both families and business travelers, Days Inn at the Falls, and Ramada By The Falls, a Gold Key award-winning hotel. For added value, couples with an itch to get hitched can do so right at the Quality Hotel & Suites' Falls Wedding Chapel.
Those looking for slightly more low-key accommodations have their choice of several inns and motels in the downtown area. These include the 18-room Coachman Motel, and the Econolodge, formerly The Red Maple Inn, featuring brailled exits and elevators. If you're a backpacker or like to save your money for shopping and the sights, try Hostelling International-Niagara Falls, where you can get a bed for $13 a night.
Bed & Breakfasts abound in the Niagara Falls area—and not just on the outskirts of town either. Victoria's Angel Rose, for example, is a cozy four-room B&B whose backyard faces the Niagara River while the Rainbow House Bed & Breakfast is a combination inn and wedding chapel, and Manchester House Bed and Breakfast offers homemade breads and muffins for breakfast.
Along the boulevard On the eastern outskirts of the city, Niagara Falls Boulevard or Route 62 abounds with hotels and motels, especially in the area close to Niagara Falls International Airport, Niagara Falls Prime Outlet Malls, and Summit Park Mall. The Best Western Summit Inn lies directly across from the airport while both the Econo Lodge and Howard Johnson Inn are poised at major intersections to help travelers get quickly from place to place.
As for motels, the choice is vast with more than two dozen lined up along the boulevard and ranging from the tiny 3 Star and 17-room Sands to the 50- and 55-room Thruway Inn and Scottish Inns respectively. Some have heated pools; others Jacuzzi suites; some welcome pets; others have kitchenettes. But the motels, small or large, have one thing in common: clean, comfortable rooms at affordable prices.
Pitching that tent Couples and families looking to make Niagara Falls part of their camping vacation have several options, including the Niagara Falls KOA on Grand Island, directly opposite Martin's Fantasy Island, Niagara Falls North KOA, outside the historic town Lewiston, Four Mile Creek State Campgrounds in Four Mile Creek State Park, and the Niagara County Camping Resort, with 240 wooded sites near Lockport. For RV'ers, the Knights Inn grounds along Niagara Falls Boulevard feature the Beacon Trailer Park, offering sites at USD20 a pop. No matter what you choose, it's a swell way to get closer to nature.
Those who like to be in touch with nature but from within the comfort of a cozy, quilt-covered bed need look no further than the line-up of B&Bs along the country roads and Niagara River banks north and east of the Falls. From the stately almost Southern feel of the Cameo Inn and Cameo Manor North along the Seaway Trail in Lewiston to Joanne's Bed and Breakfast in Youngstown with its singing Irish host and Lockport's Hambleton House B&B, a short walk from the Erie Canal, there's something here just for you.
So, whether you choose five-star service and heated swimming pool or pastel-colored motel with pink flamingos, whether you seek your thrills in an antique-furnished B&B or a tent with electric hookup, you're bound to find something to your taste and budget in the land of the roaring waters.
Please Note: Room rates and other costs fluctuate greatly depending on the time of year. So please check all rates to make sure you're not in for a surprise when you arrive.
Roaring Falls, rumbling stomach When it comes to figuring out why those millions of eager tourists flock to Niagara Falls, New York, each year, it's definitely a no-brainer. But even the most die-hard, honeymoon-bound, just-can't-get-enough Falls gawker has to stop and get a bite to eat at some point, right? That's when you might be pleasantly surprised to discover that there is more to Western New York cuisine than beef on weck, Buffalo chicken wings, and Friday night fish fries!
In fact, restaurants in the Niagara Falls area run the whole gamut from upscale hotel dining spots with fancy-garbed waiters to delightful mom and pop emporiums, from theme-based establishments and fast-food eateries to ethnic delights and deli diners. And we haven't even mentioned the country inns whose dining halls take you back to a simpler, less confusing time.
There's an old saying among restaurant reviewers that, when visiting a place you don't know anything about, you can't go wrong eating at a hotel. You might not get the best meal in town but it won't be the worst either. And the service is bound to be beyond reproach. That's definitely the case here where hotels such as Sheraton Four Points and Holiday Inn at the Falls have their own on-site restaurants in the casual Country Kitchen and Phin's Seafood Bistro respectively. Among the best is the Greenery at the Travelodge Hotel Fallsview, offering an eclectic choice of dinner dishes from spaghetti to surf and turf.
A family tradition Becoming a little more adventurous, you'll find plenty of fine restaurants in the area. Many are family-owned and operated establishments serving delicious authentic cuisine. Whatever your pleasure, there is sure to be a chef ready to tame your growling stomach.
The first Indian chef in the city, Jaswant S Chahal, owns Sardar Sahib, an authentic Indian restaurant in the downtown area with a menu that includes family recipes passed down for generations. Make that centuries. The food is mouth-watering and not as scorchingly hot as you might have been led to believe.
Other generational restaurants include Fortuna's, whose secret is the Old World recipes and the use of only the freshest ingredients, and La Palermo, boasting mama's own recipes. And we mustn't forget Como Restaurant, the dream of Italian immigrant Francesco Antonacci when he came to the United States. Opened for business in 1927, today, the restaurant is the largest of its kind, with line-ups to get in.
Running on empty There are also a fair number of the newer trendy restaurants in the city. If you're running on empty after an exhausting day sightseeing, race on down to Duncan's for a Tex-Mex fill up guaranteed to get the engine revving again. Speed is the featured item on the menu. But no, it's not something they serve. It just happens to be a car racing-themed establishment.
For a rocking good time, try Tommy Ryan's Rock & Roll Diner. You can listen to the jukebox belting out your favorite oldies but goodies from the 50s and 60s while you enjoy a king-sized breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And both you and the kids will get a kick out of the 1959 Cadillac... with its front-end hanging above the entrance to Niagara's version of the Hard Rock Café, located at the foot of the Niagara Reservation State Park. Enjoy loud music and good food at this museum of the stars with guitars, clothes and other memorabilia from the likes of John Lennon and Eric Clapton.
Good food meets affordable prices There are a number of restaurants in the area aimed at the traveling family where good food, hefty portions and low prices meet. The Goose's Roost might look like your average family diner from the outside but the food is definitely above average. The Alps Chalet is known as a place to get an affordable home-cooked meal. Here, your little tyke under five eats free. Further out near the Niagara Falls Prime Outlet Malls, the Timber Lodge Steakhouse, with log cabin motif and deer antlers on the walls, serves large portions of delicious food for the hungry traveler with a big appetite for red meat.
Top of the Falls Restaurant, on Goat Island, serves both delicious fare and a spectacular view of the American Falls. It's great for the romantic night out as well as being the perfect location for an unforgettable dinner with the family. The upscale Atrium Restaurant is set in a lush garden atmosphere, and a glass ceiling permits a view of the beautiful sky over Niagara. The Red Coach Inn Restaurant, with its British pub ambience, prepares unforgettable cuisine which you may enjoy fireside when there's a chill in the air. As an added bonus, the restaurant, set within an inn of the same name, offers a spectacular view of the Upper Rapids of The Falls.
Heading out to the country One of the best kept secrets in the Niagara Falls region is the plethora of historic and picturesque small towns and villages in the surrounding areas—each with its own hot dining spots.
Just a short trip north, a brilliant scenic drive, lies the village of Lewiston, located on the banks of the Niagara River. It is the home of the Riverside Inn where you will be treated to delectable cuisine and an awe-inspiring view of the Niagara Gorge from its summertime patio. As well, if you happen to come down at the right time of year, you can take part in the Taste of Lewiston food festival, bringing together restaurants and food shops for a smorgasbord of delicious samplings.
Situated a little further north in the town of Youngstown, home to Old Fort Niagara, the Fyfe & Drum Restaurant allows you to feast on contemporary cuisine, while stepping back in time with its 19th century decor.
There you have it, just a sample of some of the fine restaurants in the Niagara Falls, New York, region. And, of course, if what you really desire is a beef on weck, Buffalo chicken wings, or Friday night fish fry, go right ahead. You're sure to find these delights at just about any of the eateries we've mentioned.
Got you over a barrel Picture yourself surrounded by millions of gallons of swirling water, on the edge of a 170-foot precipice, about to tumble over that precipice to the rocks below with only the flimsiest protection of a barrel around you. Or flying over that same precipice on a jet ski and reaching speeds of 200 miles per hour before crashing!
Now that, you might argue, is the ultimate thrill, and the most exciting way to see, feel and do the Falls in all their majesty and power. In fact, it has been tried 15 times and 10 have survived to tell the tale (jet skier Robert Overacker didn't). You can check them—and some of their paraphernalia—out at the Daredevil Museum of Niagara Falls or at the Daredevils Hall of Fame. But it's definitely not an advisable way to get your entertainment while visiting the area. Besides, it is now against the law.
Fortunately, there are more legal ways to enjoy the Falls, including a trip to Goat Island, part of Niagara Reservation State Park and the dividing line between the American and Horseshoe Falls. For those who like their action wild, wet and woolly, there's the Cave of the Winds, which takes you behind the Bridal Veil Falls through a series of scaffolds (heavy-duty raingear provided). Or you might try the ride to the base of the American and Horseshoe Falls on the Maid of the Mist which started operation in 1846.
The truly adventurous can take the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours, a thrilling if bumpy romp through the white water rapids below the Falls. Or how about a different kind of trip over the Falls? Airborne Adventures, operating out of Gasport, NY, east of Niagara Falls, offers twice-daily balloon flights in season, which take up to four passengers on a one-hour ride over the entire Niagara Region. It's quiet yet exhilarating and all landings are guaranteed to be soft!
An evolving story of creation Moving away from the Falls, there are plenty of things to do for fun and entertainment, both in the city itself and in the outlying villages and towns. For starters, begin in the downtown area and visit the Schoellkopf Geological Museum, which recreates the story of the creation of the Falls including exhibits and a multi-screen theater presentation. Then move on to the Aquarium of Niagara with up-close encounters with sharks, piranhas, California sea lions, and endangered Peruvian penguins. Out near the Niagara Falls International Airport, you'll find the Niagara Aerospace Museum which includes the world's only Bell X-22A, and a rare Lockheed F-94A.
Nature lovers have a choice of several state parks, such as Whirlpool and Devil's Hole, where hiking, biking and picnicking are permitted. Also, a trip to Grand Island brings you to Beaver Island and Buckhorn Island state parks. While at Beaver Island, visit the River Lea House, home of the Grand Island Historical Society and filled with Grover Cleveland memorabilia.
Golfers have dozens of courses from which to choose. The closest to the city are the Hyde Park North Course, the Niagara Falls Country Club, and the Beaver Island Golf Course. For those who like to practice their game, come what may, there's the vast Niagara's Golf Wonderland, with indoor and outdoor golf driving ranges, lessons by PGA pros, and a fully-equipped pro shop.
The waters of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the Niagara River are teeming with freshwater fish of all kinds, from bass and walleye to steelhead, lake trout and salmon. They're also teeming with charter fishing services such as First Class Bass Charters and Doug's Charter Fishing Service. Remember you need a fishing licence, obtainable from most tackle supply and sports stores as well as New York Department of Environmental Conservation offices.
Delights for culture vultures Lovers of the arts also have a solid choice of venues both in the city and throughout the region. For visual arts in the city, there's the Castellani Art Museum on the grounds of Niagara University, the Polly King Art Gallery in the downtown area, and Artisans Alley, a shop and gallery featuring contemporary and traditional works by over 600 American craftspeople.
Outside the city, you'll find the Carnegie Art Center in Tonawanda and the Kenan Center Gallery in Lockport. While in Lockport, be sure to get on the Lockport Cave Underground Boat Ride and the Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruises. And, during the spring to fall season, you're bound to fall in love with Artpark, indoor and outdoor art activities near the historic town of Lewiston that engage the entire family.
For a spot of history, head further north to Youngstown and Old Fort Niagara, right where the Niagara River flows out into Lake Ontario. Built by the French in the 1700s, the fort—directly across from Fort George and Niagara-on-the-Lake on the Canadian side—was used as a major launching site for both artillery and troops during the War of 1812. Today, you can visit the barracks to see how soldiers lived and worked 200 years ago, and there are even educational programs for young people to spend several days here.
Finally, for the shoppers in the crowd, Niagara Falls boasts several of the top malls and factory outlets in Western NY, including the downtown Rainbow Centre Factory Outlet, which also features an OTB Rainbow Racing Room Teletheater, and Niagara Falls Prime Outlet Malls and Summit Park Mall, both located near the Niagara Falls International Airport.
There you have it, Niagara with and without the Falls. If you aren't tired out yet, maybe you should start padding that barrel. Just kidding. Enjoy your stay and be sure to come back if you can't fit it all into one trip.