Niagara Falls, New York solo trip

Old Jul 9th, 2024, 06:19 PM
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Niagara Falls, New York solo trip

My parents took me to Niagara Falls, Ontario, on summer vacation approximately when I was 9, and I went again with my mom when I was about 20. Both trips were combined with a trip to Toronto. I had never been to the New York side. I planned this trip ten days in advance, when I found out my workplace would be closed for 4 days, from Thursday, July 4th through Sunday, July 7th. I left at about 9:05am but I didn’t arrive until 6:25pm, even though google maps said the distance was 243 miles. It took almost 2½ hours to get across the boarder from Port Huron, Michigan, to Sarnia, Ontario, probably because there was a lot of traffic and construction on half the bridge and a lot of lanes of traffic going through different booth had to all narrow onto just one lane over the bridge. I stayed at Gorge view Hostel on 3rd street in Niagara Falls, NY. It was a clean well run place. It worked because I was traveling solo. Then kitchen was clean and had a working electric stove, pots, refrigerator, and utensils and dishes. I was able to drive out to Wegmans and buy some groceries after checking in, which took away my need to buy restaurant food. The hostel is about 0.4 miles walking distance from Schoelkopf Power station, where I saw the daily 10 minute fireworks launched from the Canada side.



Friday, July 5th : I walked to the Cave of the winds. I bought a ticket at about 9:45am. The tickets give a specific time; my time was 10:18. It cost $21. The tour starts with an exhibit room on some history, then a film lasting about 10 minutes, then you can walk along the wood decking and stairs close to the Bridal Veil Falls. I got wet but less than I expected, probably due to the rain poncho they gave me. My clothes dried in under 3 hours. It was hot, about 87ºF. After Cave of the winds I had plenty of time to walk to Niagara Falls Observe point and Terrapin Point. Then I walked a paved path to Three Sisters Island and Mirador Sur Three Sisters Island. The area wasn’t super crowded like the other areas. I hadn’t planned this exact path in advance; Google maps worked at least half the time I tried looking at it on my phone. When I started walking back I couldn’t get google maps to work but in travel I have a talent for accidentally remembering how to go back just the way I came, which is what I did. At some point I saw the Nikola Tesla monument; the American and Bridal Veil Falls from a strange angle rather close to the tops of the falls, and the rapids just upstream of those falls. I skipped the Maid of the Mist boat ride; I had originally wanted to go on the observation tower but I skipped it because the line was super long but I walked across the pedestrian sidewalk on the Rainbow bridge and into Canada. Yes I had to go through a border checkpoint and the employee on the Canada side asked a lot of questions. I saw the Falls from the Canada side and some minor landscaped gardens and pond surrounded by a wall. I didn’t bother with any of the other tourist attractions. I only spent under 2 hours on the Canadian side. In the evening there was a long fireworks display launched by Seneca Casino on the New York side but there was some very light rain and I didn’t bother walking to see them. I walked about an 8th of a mile outside and barely saw a little bit of fireworks through some trees.



Saturday, July 6th, 2024: My first stop was driving to Old Fort Niagara. At 10am there was a “demonstration” of cannons; obviously they only put some kind of gun power in the cannons but they didn’t put cannot bullets or cannon balls in them. At 2pm there was a reenactment of a battle between the French and British, as if people trying to kill or hurt each other should feel like a nice adventure or like watching two sports teams play a game. It took me about 2 hours to see the fort, and a little more for the museum. Then I wasted time walking to a picnic table near a swimming pool in the neighboring Old Fort Niagara State Park. My next stop was Whirlpool State Park. I drove even though I knew about the free Discover Niagara shuttle, because I didn’t trust that I would find where the shuttle would stop and I didn’t trust that I wouldn’t have to wait for an excessive amount of time for the shuttle to appear. By coincidence I saw the shuttle waiting at the fort and arriving or leaving Whirlpool state park. Maybe I made a mistake not taking it. After walking through the bathroom building at Whirlpool state park, I turned left on the trail, then went back to the entrance, then saw signs and realized that I could hike down to the bottom of the gorge. I turned right, then found the stairs down. The sign said there are ¼ mile of stairs (one way). I sat on the semi-flat rock platform at the bottom of the gorge not less than 20 feet from no more than about 15 people total there, for about 20 minutes. I had seen this area from the trail at the top of the gorge after I had turned left just after going through the bathroom building. On the way back when I saw the stairs I hiked to the top, continuing past guard rails and the trail I could have turned right at and taken to the entrance. I ended up at a road and had to use google maps to figure out that I was “150 feet” from the park entrance. I felt like I walked 300-to 500 feet to the entrance. Then I bought a bottle of water and under$15 worth of supplies for that evening and my trip home. I saw the fireworks launched from the Canada side, at 10pm, again.



Sunday, July 7th, 2024. I left the hostel at 9am. The first border crossing into Niagara Falls, Ontario, took only about 5 minutes. At one point I ran into slow traffic, drove off the freeway, stopped, at a driveway to drink water, some dogs were barking like crazy, and some guy walked from the house to my car to see what was going on. Hopefully I wasn’t in danger of getting shot. I didn’t think Canada had rest stops close to the freeways. Then I was able to stop twice at two “On Route” places, which are close to the freeway and have a gas station and a building with bathrooms (they call them “washrooms”) and fast food and a gift shop. I had to wait about 45 minutes to get to a booth at the border crossing into Detroit. This time I went crossed at the Ambassador Bridge instead of driving into Port Huron. At the booth the employee searched the trunk and did partially searched through my stuff and asked a lot of questions. Also I stopped at a park in Woodstock, Ontario to eat and stand, and at another time I stopped at a Home Depot to use their “washrooms”. I was delighted to see that many of most of the products were labeled in Imperial or United States measurements (they all give the metric measurements too). It would be a shame if use of Imperial or U.S. measurements went extinct.



For hiking and parks, the New York side is much better than the Canada side. For tourist attractions the Canada side is much better. I didn’t go to any welcome centers or touristy stuff outside the parks in New York; The New York side seems to be less than 10% of the carnival-like ambiance and tourist attractions as on the Canada side. Most of the city of Niagara Falls is ghetto poor residential neighborhoods which might superficially look ok; the few sidewalks I walked on, on the way to and from the hostel were in quite good condition.



The Hostel worked out ok; I didn’t hear any snoring. I even conversed with a few pleasant people in the kitchen.
michaelpianko is offline  
Old Jul 10th, 2024, 11:28 AM
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Michael,

Thanks for sharing your experience. The first time I saw Niagara Falls was on a family trip where we too stayed on the New York side. Around 13 years old at the time, I didn’t notice the economic situation of Niagara Falls NY but remember enjoying the spray from the Cave of the Winds and liking some of the park space and views. I’ve been back twice to the Niagara Falls area as an adult, more on the Ontario side and probably my favourite thing in addition to admiring the natural wonder and power of Niagara Falls is cycling along the Niagara River by the winery and farmer’s markets, especially toward Niagara-on-the-Lake, a pretty town where river meets Lake Ontario, which is quite different from the town of Niagara Falls.
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Old Jul 10th, 2024, 05:07 PM
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Absolutely love Niagara on the Lake, a charming and historic town with lots of fine restaurants, charming residential architecture, wineries, War of 1812 fort and the Shaw Festival. My husband and I did this as well as a weekend in Toronto, following a business trip for me at the Niagara Falls Convention Center and Sheraton Hotel. I hadn't been to Niagara Falls since I had been 10 years old. I remember the Cave of the Winds and this time we did have a chance for the Maid of the Mist. These falls are very impressive.
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Old Jul 10th, 2024, 06:59 PM
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You have inspired us for a road trip. Perhaps when autumn sets in.
Thankyou.
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