Niagara Falls…

Niagara Falls-21Niagara Falls! Slowly I turned…step by step..inch by inch…

For those of you who know…YOU KNOW!  And for those of you who are scratching your heads right now, wondering what the heck that first line was all about…it’s a classic bit from the old I Love Lucy television show that I will never in my life be able to forget!  Forget about all the other things I’d ever heard about Niagara Falls and why it’s been so wildly popular to so many people and for such a long time on such a consistent basis!  My #1 reason for going there (I hope my wife doesn’t read this!) is due to the above mentioned bit I’d seen a hundred times in re-runs as a kid!

Niagara Falls - 1

Vanessa, Devan & Dennis

My wife, on the other hand, believes that I wanted to go because she thought it would be a nice family vacation for us all.  Don’t get me wrong! It absolutely was and she is gifted at making good, solid choices and decisions about most everything she puts her effort into. But in my heart of hearts, Lucille Ball was the one who gets the commission on that sale!  Sorry babe… I Love Lucy!

We live just outside New York City, across the Hudson River in New Jersey.  Being relatively new to the area, we decided that driving the six hours to Niagara Falls would be a great way to familiarize ourselves with the countryside and the state of New York.  Having a 23 month old baby in tow was slightly daunting to us (as he was prone to getting car sick every time we decided to go into the city or to Long Island), so we decided to split the drive into two segments, staying at a bed and breakfast along the way.

My wife had found this little place on the internet and it sounded really quaint and nice (and affordable, too!)  So we headed out in the afternoon to explore the state and the famous falls.

Along the way, we nearly pooped our pants when we saw (and promptly turned around to stop and indulge ourselves at) a Waffle House!  Nothing says “I love you” and “loosen your pants” like Waffle House!  After we’d gotten our fill, we headed out to find the bed and breakfast.

When we finally arrived at Chryslers Bed and Breakfast, it was exactly what it sounded like (quaint and nice), but nothing like what we’d expected or hoped for.  Don’t get me wrong, it was very pleasant.  It was just that we’d imagined someplace a bit more modern.  The people who ran the place were an older couple that were as nice as could be and a bit talkative, too!  Basically, this place was these peoples home and we stayed in an old bedroom that was once inhabited by one of their now grown children.

Niagara Falls approach I can’t be 100% sure, but I don’t believe there had been any work done to upgrade the room in a way to bring it in line with what one might expect to find at any motel, hotel, inn or other “pay-to-stay” type of road-side joint I’ve ever been to or heard of.  Again, let me say that it was clean and the people were very nice!  I have nothing bad to say about the experience.  I am simply stating that I had something totally different in my head prior to our arrival, hence it did not quite live-up to my preconceived perceptions…

Niagara Falls-08-Devan kicki' itNiagara Falls-18-touristsNiagara Falls-14Niagara Falls-09-trolleyNow that I’ve beat that dog nearly dead… let’s move on!

Up and out, on the road by 10am, excited to be going to Niagara Falls, a place of infamy, history and weddings!  Beautiful views along the way to go with our driving music of The Beatles-Abbey Road, Beck-Odelay!, Radiohead-OK Computer, and Bjork-Post…

We hit traffic about 20 miles out from Niagara, which only proved to heighten our anticipation. First you see the signs, then you reach the bridge over a river and onto an island before taking some bizarre round about way along who knows what until you’re finally spit out into downtown Niagara Falls.  Of course we wanted to see it first thing, but we knew our hotel was where we needed to go first.

Niagara Falls-16-hotel

Niagara Falls-13

Giacomo Hotel behind my son Devan

Niagara Falls-17-hotel

My wife had booked us at a place I would have never thought of myself, mostly because it was so nice!  I’m more of a simpleton by nature (mostly based on cost…as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve labeled myself “El Cheapo”) and am a basic hotel kind of a guy.  The place she had us staying at is called The Giacomo.  It is a premier luxury boutique hotel and worth every penny!  The service is awesome! The decor is unique, daring, vibrant and elegant wrapped into one.  There is a Mayan influence that can be most notably seen in the downstairs bar area.

Niagara Falls-09-aerial view

View from The Giacomo

The Giacomo is located in the United Office Building (art deco architecture-build in 1929-the tallest building in Niagara Falls) just a stones throw away from the Niagara Falls State Park and all the activities and attractions you could hope to do and see.  There was live music at night, right next door, as well as a very special laser-light show set to Pink Floyd’s The Wall, performed live by an accomplished group of musicians, including orchestral components.  Way cool!

Niagara Falls-02Niagara Falls-01Niagara FAlls-03-Maid of the MistNiagara Falls-05The Niagara Falls State Park is well laid out and has plenty of space and opportunities to do a wide array of activities for all visitors, regardless of age or ability levels.  One of the most popular attractions at Niagara Falls is taking a ride on The Maid of the Mist.  This is a boat which visitors take to get up close and personal with the waterfall.  Everyone is given a plastic poncho to help keep their clothes from getting completely drenched, loaded onboard and taken for a tour of the American Falls and the Canadian Falls.  It is one thing to see the falls from up above, but it is quite another thing to see them from down below.  This is the one thing that is a definite must see and do for you and your family, friends or whomever!

Niagara Falls-12Niagara Falls-11Niagara Falls-10Niagara Falls-20In  a close second place, is the Cave of The Winds! Here, you can actually walk right up next to the American Falls via some walkways, stairs and viewing platforms that have been erected for the public to get close, get a real appreciation for the sheer power of the waterfalls, and potentially go deaf (YES! IT’S VERY LOUD RIGHT NEXT TO THE FALLS!).

Niagara Falls-07Amongst the numerous other thing there are to do and see while in Niagara Falls, here is a list of what I personally recommend (in no particular order): Aquarium of Niagara, Niagara Adventure Theatre, The Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, Niagara Scenic Trolley, Rainbow Air Helicopter Tours and the Niagara Holiday Market.

A few other points of interest for you to consider are the Falls Wedding Chapel (this is for you adventurous types!), Whirlpool Ket Boat Tours, Seneca Niagara Casino, Hyde Park Golf Course, Niagara Arts & Cultural Center and the Niagara Science Museum.

Lots of people make the trek over the border to Canada while they’re in Niagara Falls.  I mean, why not?  You are right there, after all!  However, for some reason that I still can’t think of, we didn’t… We wanted to!  We’d planned on it!  But, for some reason, we just never made it to Canada.  No big deal!  There’s always next time.

Niagara Falls-15We decided to venture out and catch a slice of life outside of the immediate area next to the actual waterfalls (where ALL the tourists are) and have a meal, elbow to elbow, with the locals.  We found a little Italian restaurant that had big portions for reasonable prices.  Part of that, I believe, was due to the fact that the place looked and felt like it was the home to more little league pizza parties than to the casual diner, but hey, that’s part of the charm! I wish I could tell you the name of it, but to be honest, I don’t think it matters.  I think it may have been the only Italian restaurant  around… Or at least, it was the only one worth eating at. I was standing outside the restaurant when I took the picture you see here…

By the end of our little family vacation, we’d had ourselves a really nice time!  There was lots to do and in all truthfulness, it wasn’t very expensive.  No matter what your budget, you can have an excellent time in Niagara Falls!  Remember, this is your vacation, so do whatever it is that you like or want to do!  Nothing is stopping you except for yourself.  Have fun!


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