Skip to site content
Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader

Niagara Falls: Shared Wealth

One mention that I planned to visit Niagara Falls and people clamored to tell me that I should visit the Canadian side, that it is far superior to what the American side has to offer. What the reason might be for such an uncharacteristic sense of inferiority I cannot tell. I do know, however, that a recent trip to New York state allowed me to finally put to rest all arguments. Contrary to what you may have heard, a visit to Niagara Falls, New York, will offer a rich variety of arts, history and nature.

My visit started with the falls, the anticipation proving too great to allow me to wait. Niagara Falls, a mere whippersnapper of the geological world at just 12,000 years old, now attracts an estimated 12 million visitors each year. The first European to write about the falls was a Jesuit priest on a French expedition in 1678. Since then, the fascination has continued, as I could tell by the plethora of tourists from around the globe, all wanting a glimpse.


Wild and Wet

Niagara Falls State Park was established in 1885, making it the oldest in the United States. The Discovery Pass is the most convenient way to see everything on offer when you are visiting the park. In addition to the Maids of the Mist boat ride, the Cave of the Winds tour, the Aquarium and the Discovery Center, the price also includes a day of unlimited rides on the local trolley, ideal if your time is limited and you want to fit everything in.

After a trip to the top of the Observation Tower, I prepared to get wet on the famous Maid of the Mist. The company that operates this sightseeing cruise provides ponchos to passengers, but even they cannot provide total protection from the powerful waterfalls. Choosing to stand on the deck rather than in the dry sheltered part of the boat, I was able to enjoy the full magnificence of the two falls that combine to make Niagara, sailing first past the base of American Falls and then experiencing the bracing spray of Horseshoe Falls.

Not yet sufficiently sodden, I embarked on the Cave of the Winds tour. After donning another protective poncho and special sandals, I walked the wooden platform beneath Bridal Veil Falls, allowing me to stand underneath the rushing waters. In a moment of particular foolhardiness, I ventured onto the Hurricane Deck to feel the full force created by the waters. Drenched, I was never so thankful for a poncho. A brief hike to the parkland atop Horseshoe Falls enabled me to enjoy the spectacular scenery from a more relaxing and drier perspective.

That evening, after dinner at one of the many excellent nearby Indian restaurants, I returned for another look at the falls. By night, they take on an equally breathtaking albeit different look. A series of rotating colored spotlights shine upon the cascading waters, providing a multitude of visual opportunities for photographers. Since I was visiting on the weekend, I was also able to catch part of the summer fireworks display over the falls, held each Friday and Sunday.


Art and Food in Lewiston

On Saturday, I took the short drive up to Lewiston for the Annual Art Festival. For a small town, Lewiston is significant for a number of reasons. It was the first European settlement in western New York, used by both English and French traders in the region. It served as a strategic spot during the French and Indian Wars and during the Revolution. Given its location on the U.S.-Canadian border, Lewiston later became a key stop on the Underground Railroad.

Foodies should take note that Catherine Hustler supposedly invented the cocktail at her tavern in Lewiston in the early 19th century. Legend has it that drink took its name from the cockerel tail feather Hustler used to stir her gin-based concoction.

Today, the village is home to a vibrant arts community, with a full calendar of open-air theater and cultural events. The art festival attracts vendors and visitors from across the nation; booths of paintings, carpentry, pottery and all sorts of creative endeavors line the main street for several blocks. I watched in awe as teams of local art students competed to create the best chalk murals on the street; students from the local art college also display their wares by Frontier House.

While in Lewiston, a scoop or two of frozen custard from Hibbard’s, a local favorite since 1939, is a must and did not disappoint. I left convinced that I should move to Lewiston and live out my days eating frozen custard and writing on the riverbank. A quick thought of the harsh winters was enough to remind me that it was time to explore our next destination.