Falling Back into America
By Cate Boyle:
Upon leaving Toronto Union Station and boarding the GO Transit excursion train to Niagara Falls, Ontario we enjoyed a lovely ride through the Greater Toronto Area into Niagara Falls. It only took about two hours to reach the Falls and the train was packed with bikers traveling from Toronto to Niagara Falls for day trips filled with bike rides and touristy activities. The train traveled alongside the Niagara escarpment which runs the longest distance in the United States, and Canada has been created from erosion over time. We were able to see many of the orchards and vineyards that lay in the lowland below the escarpment because it makes for perfect soil conditions and has great climates due to nearby Lake Ontario. We also had a little show by some employees of the Ripley's Believe It or Not museum in downtown Niagara Falls on the train when they snuck up on us with a stuffed two headed pig!
The train left us in Niagara Falls near the Whirlpool Bridge making it very easy to catch the WEGO Bus heading towards downtown. The bus system is straightforward to use, and you can buy a one day pass to travel practically anywhere you need to go in the area.
We spent the afternoon exploring the Canadian side of Niagara Falls for the very first time! We loved walking up and down the path alongside the edge of the Falls filled with tourists and bustling families. The morning was a bit overcast with a touch of rain, but thankfully we stuck around for the sun to come out shining over the Falls creating the most breathtaking rainbow!
As we stood next to the edge of the Canadian Falls, we found ourselves utterly speechless getting soaked by the mist without a care in the world. We had a beautiful dinner at The Keg located on the 9th floor of the Embassy Suites Niagara Falls Hotel which is arranged strategically, so every table in the restaurant has a view of the Falls below. Then, we rode the Falls Incline Railway which is a convenient and comfortable way to get from the Fallsview Tourist area to the Table Rock Center near the Horseshoe Falls. The incline railway runs year round and is fully accessible for all visitors.
We woke up the next morning bright and early to cross over the border back to America! We spent the first part of our day exploring the New York side of Niagara Falls. Most say the Canadian side of the Falls is a better experience. However, I believe that the full experience lies with seeing both sides to fully picture of how incredible the Falls truly are from two different angles.
First thing is first, Maid of the Mist, the greatest experience on our trip thus far! For those who have never heard of it or tried it before, it is an excellent bucket list experience! After being supplied with a much needed bright blue poncho, you make your way onto one of the two Maid of the Mist excursion boats that drives you straight into the middle of the Horseshoe Falls! This experience was unlike any other I have ever had, it was a truly incredible feeling standing on this boat in the midst of the Niagara Falls and feeling so tiny as the water crashes down and the mist rises. If that wasn't enough, you can exit the boat at the dock and hang right up and walk up about four flights of stairs that are adjacent to the American Falls to be drenched in the blinding mist spraying off the rocks.
Niagara Falls State Park has recently undergone an incredible restoration project of both the walkways and landscaping. We loved walking through this side of Niagara Falls which seems a little more peaceful and relaxed as you walk through the different gardens and over the bridges spanning the Niagara River. The park is beautiful and vibrant while giving you the chance to witness the chaos begin as the river turns to rapids before it falls to its fate.
The newly revitalized Niagara Falls, New York station was a great stop on our journey back to America as well. The building itself is pristine and extremely welcoming to all the passengers that arrive once a day from Canada. Upon entering the United States from Canada, you pass over the first bridge to ever span the Niagara gorge leading you directly into the station. Here, the passengers are directed to marked areas of the building to go through customs and then subsequently to their next destination being either back onto the train or exiting the station in Niagara Falls. The building adjacent to the Niagara Falls Amtrak facility is a U.S. Custom House that was used as border checkpoint which is being turned into a museum about the underground railroad at this exact location.
The later half of the afternoon was spent wandering downtown Buffalo. We saw many of the amazing things that Buffalo has to offer including Canalside, Riverworks and the Key Bank Center home of the Buffalo Sabres and three regulation size hockey rinks. Canalside is a beautiful outdoor walking pavilion along the Buffalo River. Lucky for us, it was packed with different vendors and food trucks making for a great day on the water.
We were able to check out the Buffalo Bike Share system that runs on solar power and the Queen City Bike Ferry to cross the river with your bike. Riverworks is a large complex adjacent to the Buffalo River which is filled with activities for all ages including skating, hockey, bars, restaurants and concert venues.
Next Stop Chicago, Union Station!