After breaking away from the East Coast, we headed for our next bucket list travel item, the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.ย But first, we had to get all the way across the rather large state of New York. We stopped at The Villages RV Park at Turning Stone, a surprisingly green campground owned by a casino (full review here)…

Pond surrounded by greenery at Turning Stone RV Park
Not what we typically see at casino operated campgrounds….

and returned to Darien Lakes State Park which we last visited in 2017.

In between, we had the pleasure of moochdocking at the five star RV resort known as “Sue and Dave’s lakeside cottage”….

When we last saw them in San Diego (their blog is Beluga’s Excellent Adventure), they told us their driveway (which comes complete with full hook ups) would be open to us when we came across New York. Their place is awesome, to say the least.

Pier over lake

I mean, it’s not everyday we wake up to a water front view from our bedroom window…

View of lake from bedroom window

and get to have coffee while sitting on Adirondack chairs on a pier over the water….

Adirondack chairs on pier over lake

We stayed in their driveway for two nights, enjoying some fantastic meals, excellent conversation around the fire, and S’mores – because fulltime RVers know a thing or two about S’mores.

S'mores in front of outdoor fireplace

Of course, Thor was in heaven. Not only did he have access to his very own lake, but he also got to play with Lewis – the always happy, energetic, and lovable Poodle who permits Sue and Dave to drive him around the country.

The pups hit it off – once Lewis told Thor to “take it down a notch on the crazy” – and they ended up running and swimming for hours. It was basically like camp for dogs.

Sue and Dave took us out on a pontoon boat to tour the lake (I wasn’t kidding about the five star treatment) and Thor got to go on his first boat ride.

The weather was lovely, the company was fantastic, and the dogs had a great time… It was truly a perfect weekend. Thanks again, Dave and Sue!

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is extraordinary for two reasons. First, because, well, look at it:

The American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls
The American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls
Horseshoe Falls
Horseshoe Falls

…and second, because somehow, these comparatively small natural phenomena (compared to say, the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park) support enormous amounts of tourism. It is truly remarkable how many ways the local tourism bureau has come up with to capitalize on these waterfalls. From boat rides to Ferris wheels to rotating restaurants and wax museums, a funicular, and an IMAX theater, if there is a way to keep people busy (and spending money), they will find it.

Seriously…

People ziplining in front of Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls Adventure Pass

Niagara Parks is the local government tourism authority in Ontario. They manage many of the attractions that get visitors up close to the falls. We bought their “Adventure Pass,” which offers discounted admission to several of these attractions as well as a 48 hour pass on the WEGO bus line (discussed more below). In the end, we thought this was a good purchase as it included several fun activities that interested all the members of our group (we were meeting family at Niagara, so our group had a large age range). If I were advising someone who was only planning to visit the area for a day, I might suggest skipping the pass and just choosing one or two of the activities, but if you have more than a day, it is a worthwhile purchase.

The Hornblower Cruise

The Hornblower is the Canadian version of Maid of the Mist. Both boats take visitors out past the American Falls (see featured image at the top of this post) and into the center of Horseshoe Falls.

Hornblower cruise boat in front of Horseshoe Falls

The boat ride was an absolute highlight of our time at the falls both because it offered unparalleled views and because it was just so much fun! The cruise takes all of about 15 minutes from the time you are efficiently boarded to the time you return.

Tourists boarding a Hornblower cruise

Once you leave the dock, you motor out past the American Falls. Here, you might feel a bit of the mist, but you’re far enough away that you won’t really get wet.

View of the American Falls from Hornblower cruise
As you pass the falls, you can look back and see the viewing platform folks on the American side use to observe the falls….

As you continue on toward Horseshoe Falls, which is on the Canadian side, you’ll start to appreciate the stylish plastic ponchos provided with your ticket purchase. The closer the boat gets to center, the more you find yourself enveloped in the mist that rains down. The sound is deafening.

View of Horseshoe Falls from Hornblower boat680,000 gallons of water flow over Horseshoe falls each second. The falls are 188 feet high and the water falls 32 feet per second, hitting the base with 280 tons of force. The word that comes to mind when experiencing the falls from the center is “relentless.”

Horseshoe Falls viewed from Hornblower boatInterestingly, the falls are eroding very quickly. In fact, over the last 12,000 years, they’ve retreated some 7 miles! And while the rate of erosion has been significantly slowed over the years, it is still continuing at a noticeable pace.

Infographic showing Niagara Falls retreat due to erosion over several hundred years

One of the reasons the falls are eroding slower now is that each night, roughly half of the water that would flow over the falls is diverted to a hydroelectric power plant for conversion into electricity – which is shared by Canada and the U.S. So, if you were to come down to the overlooks at 3:00 A.M., the flow would be significantly less than it is during the day.

Hornblower cruise retreating from the falls
We can’t recommend the boat ride enough. Nothing compares to the experience of being surrounded on three sides by this incredible force of nature.

Journey Behind the Falls

Journey Behind the Falls allows visitors to explore the series of tunnels that were built behind Horseshoe Falls. Two of the tunnels lead to openings behind the falls where you can see the endless sheets of water coming down.

View from tunnel of water falling

The other tunnel leads out to a platform located right next to Horseshoe Falls. From here, you can watch the cruises travel into the churn…

Maid of the Mist boat in Horseshoe Falls

and contemplate the jaw dropping view of the side of the falls.

Side view of Horseshoe Falls

The White Water Walk

After the water goes over the falls, it flows down a series of rapids. These are Class XI rapids. Your typical whitewater rafting company doesn’t even mention Class XI rapids because they are generally not considered survivable. And spending any amount of time watching this river will convince you, too, that these rapids are not survivable. The intensity with which the water flows is simply breathtaking. Here’s a 15 second video I filmed…

The water’s green hue is due to the erosion of materials – mostly dissolved salts and rock flour picked up from the limestone bed, shale, and sandstone that underlies the falls.

Niagara Parks built a raised walkway that runs along the rapids which visitors can access from street level via elevator.

White Water Walk at Niagara Falls

Along the walkway are several interesting displays about the speed and depth of the rapids, the makeup of the water, and the wildlife that can be found in the area.

Rapids viewed from White Water Walk at Niagara Falls

Niagara’s Fury

This is a 4D movie experience (ie: you stand in a large round room with a 360 degree film display and as the film plays, there are special effects around you – snow and rain falling, lightning and thunder, etc.). It had the potential to be great, but was just OK. It was part of the Adventure Pass so we went, but I don’t think it’s worth spending extra for.

Imax Movie & Daredevil Museum

Niagara Falls is home to an IMAX theater that is unrelated to the Access Pass. We visited for two reasons: first, to see the movie; and second, because the building houses a museum containing the various contraptions people have used to go over the falls.

The building, which I failed to take pictures of, was clearly built many years ago and hasn’t been updated since. It was all:

Cast picture from Beverly Hills 90210

And the movie was even older – as in, it was filmed on film. You know… Film?ย  Weird, right? While we’ve seen some awesome IMAX movies, this was kind of a dud. Between the low quality film and the corny writing and acting, it was disappointing, to say the least. Even more so because the striking visuals associated with Niagara Falls would provide incredible material for an IMAX movie. Such a missed opportunity…

The daredevil museum, on the other hand, was a true testament to just how nuts people are. And we do appreciate people who are nuts. There were all kinds of contraptions and the stories that went along with them. Probably about 1/4 of the attempts captured at the museum ended in fatalities…because people are nuts.

Anyway, the displays were interesting and it’s worth checking out if you’re in the area.

Clifton Hill

Clifton Hill is a huge park full of family friendly attractions just up the hill from the falls. There’s a separate Clifton Hill pass one can buy that includes things like a Ferris wheel, mini golf, a wax museum, and some indoor rides. There’s also a go-kart track (which is not part of the pass). Since we were meeting up with family, it was great to have lots of choices for things to do. We all took part in bits and pieces while the kids visited just about everything.

Nighttime Fireworks and Light Shows

Each night during the summer, there are fireworks over the falls (schedule here). It’s about a 10 minute show and it was a fun way to cap the day. The city also lights up both sets of falls with various colored lights – anything from uniform colors that change every couple of minutes demonstrating all the colors associated with 1989:

…to colors that mix and change:

Niagara Falls lit up at night in blue

Niagara Falls lit up at night in red, white, and blue

Like everything in Niagara, it’s equal parts tacky and cool.

WEGO – A Great Option for RVers

RVers visiting the Canadian side of the falls have a couple options for camping. Importantly, several of these campgrounds are located right on the WEGO line – which is the shuttle bus service that travels in and around the major sightseeing areas downtown.

We had mixed results with the shuttle bus. Some days, it was on time, reliable, and quick. Others, the opposite. As a general rule, it would take about 15 to 20 minutes to get downtown in the morning, while it would take 30 minutes to an hour to get home later in the evening. It was great in that it meant we didn’t have to drive and hunt for parking downtown, but it was frustrating when we were trying to meet people and never knew what time we would actually arrive.

To be fair, we happened to be in Niagara Falls on the weekend of a huge cultural festival which brought an additional 50,000 visitors to the area. It is possible that the buses would have been more reliable if not for that, but who knows? And at the end of the day, having a bus service that stopped right outside our campground was awesome.

Niagara on the Lake

Finally, just about thirty minutes north of Niagara Falls is the definition-of-quaint town of Niagara on the Lake. The town is pristine and idyllic with beautiful homes, a main shopping district bursting with flowers, and numerous restaurants that feature inviting outdoor patios.

After a lovely lunch at a little Greek restaurant with my brother and sister-in-law, we headed away from the downtown area.

Oooh!! What do you think of when you see this?

Wayne Gretzky hockey jersey

Pinot Grigio, exactly!! Good guess!

Yes, Wayne Gretzky is now the purveyor of a fine line of wines and whiskeys just north of Niagara Falls – though, through the magic of a bartender who forgot the part about keeping up appearances, we learned that Wayne has only shown up at the facility a handful of times since it opened. Apparently, he’s not actually out there figuring out which grapes will result in the citrus nose and elegant finish we’ve come to expect from The Great One.

None of which makes the place any less fun. There’s lots of cool memorabilia, tasty beverages, numerous sitting areas, beautiful views of the vineyard, and all the lawn games you can think of.

We stopped by a couple other wineries, but – for serious – Wayne’s wines were the best. Go figure.

Next up: We start our explorations of a completely new-to-us state: Michigan!

_______________________________________________________________________

Where we stayed:

The Villages at Turning Stone RV Park, Verona, NY

Darien Lakes State Park, Darien Lakes, NY

Scott’s Family Campground, Ontario, Canada

29 COMMENTS

  1. Niagara was so much fun, and thanks for joining us at Niagara-on-the-Lake. Your reviews are spot on! From going to the wax museum, Iโ€™d tell folks to skip that as well. Great pictures!! Canโ€™t wait to see you again in Nashville!!

    • Yeah, I saw some photos from inside the wax museum….You were not kidding! Those were some creepy figures!! We had a great time with you all too. Next up: Music City!!

  2. Haha, “Equal parts tacky and cool” perfectly sums up Niagara Falls! I agree, there is something very “Vegas” about the Canadian side of the falls. It’s fun reading about your experience of the many tourist attractions that we missed. I’m betting that visiting with kids would be a whole different adventure. ๐Ÿ™‚ Just like your experience on the Hornblower, we LOVED our boat trip on the Maid of the Mist. If you should ever return to Niagara, check out the Niagara Power Vista Visitor Center. You and Kevin would enjoy it, and so would any kids you might have along.

    You had perfect weather for your visit at Sue and Dave and Lewis’s five-star lakeside resort! They are, indeed, excellent hosts. Including the big furry one, LOL.

    Your photos of Niagara Falls are gorgeous, including your capture of the rainbow over the Hornblower. And that photo of you and your nephew is adorable!

    • It was so funny when I got your post earlier this week about your time at Niagara Falls. There was so much overlap, but also so many differences. It is truly incredible how much there is to do in that small geographic area. We’d absolutely love to visit the hydro plant and hike a couple of the trails to round things out. Even with a week in the area, we still only scratched the surface. It was definitely the perfect place for a family trip – there was something for everyone and zero chance of anyone getting bored.

  3. Long before we started full-timing, I “kidnapped” Steve and whisked him away to a long weekend in Niagara Falls. It was late November so the crowds we non-existent. Due to the fact it was in the 20’s we skipped the boat ride, but did nearly everything else you mentioned. We absolutely loved it. Hard to believe some of the contraptions people have used to go over the falls!! Glad you got to knock another item off your bucket list.
    PS. If Sue and Dave ever need someone else to mooch-dock, we volunteer. We don’t have a four-legged playmate for Lewis but I will make Steve do his best! lol

    • There is something so appealing about the idea of visiting the falls during the winter. It must be so cool to take it all in without the overwhelming crowds. And I would absolutely love to see the falls when they’re frozen and surrounded by snow. Buuuuut, the cold… OMG, I cannot even imagine what it must be like to be in such a damp place when it’s that cold. Brrrr….. Anyway, if you do get the chance to meet Sue and Dave, I have no doubt y’all would get along just great!

  4. Your pictures and commentary perfectly captured magnificent and tacky Niagara Falls! Itโ€™s a must see place for itโ€™s nature made beauty and the man made insanity that surrounds it. Weโ€™re so glad that your travels brought you to us this summer. We all enjoyed the visit thoroughly!

    • “Nature made beauty and man made insanity” – what a perfect way to describe Niagara Falls! Thanks again for the hospitality. It was so nice to take a break from the campground scene and hang out with friends for a couple days. Thor still hasn’t shut up about needing a lake house though. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Oh yeah, I didn’t even think about that. That town must be absolutely gorgeous all lit up with Christmas lights… though, that assumes they can find the town under all the snow!

  5. Sounds like a fun time and I’m surprised you were able to pull yourselves away from Sue and Dave’s place. Such a beautiful setting. Hope you’re staying warm in MI. Fall is definitely in the air in the north woods. Can’t believe we’re running our furnace first thing in the morning while my daughter in Phoenix is still trying not to melt.

    • We are thoroughly enjoying Michigan. It’s generally been in the mid 70’s during the day and low 60’s at night: perfect weather to sleep with the windows open! We did have one crazy cold night the other day though – heat on, fireplace on, warm fuzzy socks… the whole nine yards. THAT I was not ready to handle yet. But generally, it’s been great to be here at this time of year.

  6. Great post… this area is on on bucket list for US travel. Trying to figure out is we will do it in the RV or while we are on the Great Loop on the boat.
    So glad Thor is enjoying the RV lifestyle… is is such a handsome boy!

    • Oh wow… what a cool idea to visit while touring on the boat! I didn’t even think about that, but what a great stop! And yes, so far, Thor is enjoying the lifestyle pretty well. He doesn’t love the actual travel days, but getting to go new fun places every couple days or weeks,, seems to keep him pretty happy.

  7. Staying at Dave ans Sue’s is such fun! You can understand why our first visit (before the cottage and they lived two miles away) kept us there for a month!.. You get so spoiled. Too bad this little gem spot is so darn far away. I’m sure Lewis loved having a play friend. Glad Thor was able to settle to Lew’s idea of excitement!! Having your own lake is quite a treat.

    I don’t remember anyone doing Niagara Falls quite as in depth as you did. You did it all. What a fun stop!! The bus sounds like the way to go. We had trouble parking when we last visited with Dave and Sue. Love the beautiful little town of Niagara on the Lake. The flowers are amazing.

    Michigan is an amazing state. Too bad it has winter!

    • I do think it would be much more convenient for their friends if Dave and Sue would move their cottage a bit west so we could all take advantage of it more often. I’ve heard Lake Powell is nice. How about there? What do you say, Dave and Sue? Let’s do this!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Visiting a tourist destination with family was definitely a different experience than our usual practice. If it had just been Kevin and I, I expect we would have done one or two of the touristy things and then probably hike or something like that. It was fun to approach this visit in a different way and see and do all of these things, but man, it was exhausting! On the other hand, since we did it all, it’s one of the rare places we don’t necessarily feel the need to go back to.

      So far, Michigan has been great! We have finally managed to land in a place with good weather at the right time. Hooray!

    • It is absolutely a bucket list worthy stop on a big ole American road trip. And it’s nice that RVers don’t have to drive 30 minutes and then hunt for parking downtown. It’s one of the easier tourist places we’ve visited.

  8. We were there 6 years ago and I can just imagine the insanity on the Canada side now. I don’t even recall seeing that zip-lining at that time. But your pictures and the adventures you did brought lots of fond memories of our biking and hiking there. Meeting up with family in a natural and touristy setting added a new dimension to your adventure.
    I only know Gretzky as a player of ice hockey ๐Ÿ™‚ not associated with Pinot Grigio ha ha ha
    You are one of the lucky guests at the five star Sue and David lakeside cottage. It is so darn far away that we know we won’t make it there anytime soon. Lewis and Thor are now best buddies. I can imagine the chaos and joy both of them brought to everybody.

    • I think we can all agree that everyone would be much happier if Dave and Sue moved their cottage west, especially since all the cool kids are out there anyway. I’m pretty sure we can convince them if we all work hard enough… perhaps a text message every hour or so? That should do it. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Niagara Falls was great and I’m glad we took advantage of as many options as we did, but there was still so much more – including all the hiking. What a crazy place!

      Thanks for the compliments on the pictures. My brother and I took our tripods down to the waterfront to play with some night photography. It’s a fun place to practice because of the changing colors. I can definitely see what I did wrong and would love to go practice some more, so it was a good learning experience.

  9. Can’t wait to get back there, Dave has only been on the US side, I’ve been on both. It was a planned stop on our canceled Canadain tour this year. Great photos, I do enjoy watching the falls at night.

    • Thanks! I had been on the American side many years ago, but not the Canadian side, so it was cool to get both perspectives. I hope you guys get to visit at some point. It’s definitely a fun and relatively easy stop for RVers – which is not always the case with these super touristy places.

  10. I’m glad I saw Niagara Falls as a kid when all that touristy stuff didn’t phase me. TBG hasn’t seen it, but I don’t think I could convince him to go even if I wanted to. It really is amazing and beautiful, though. I like the behind-the-falls shot. It makes me so nervous just looking at the pictures of all the people crammed on those boats. Niagara-on-the-Lake looks like a winner! Your posts are making me excited to get back to the Great Lakes region next year.

    Lewis looks like he was a great host for Thor, and I think we need to make friends with these Dave and Sue people LOL!

    • I think you guys might like to visit in the offseason. You’d have to bundle up, of course, but I think it would be a pretty awesome place in the late fall or winter. There would be no crowds, no tourist crap going on (I assume they shut down the boats and other attractions by late September or early October), and you’d just have miles and miles of hiking trails (on the American side), and gorgeous views all to yourself. When you get away from all the touristy aspects, it truly is a remarkable natural phenomena and something everyone should experience.

  11. Magnificent photos of the falls. So very dramatic. The boat trip looks fun and way more up my alley than say those hanging chair thingies that swing over it. No thanks.

    Photos and description of the poochies was great and brought back many memories of taking our dogs places and the enjoyment one gets watching them having a blast.

    Peta

    • Yeah, we’ve recently come to the conclusion that things like zip lines are for the younger kids and, sadly, we are no longer in that age bracket. I think somewhere in your late 30’s or early 40’s, the reality of your own mortality strikes you and things like that don’t seem like such a great idea anymore. Happily, there’s still plenty for us old timers to do while in a place like Niagara Falls to keep us happy. ๐Ÿ™‚

      And yes, I think we humans get as much joy from watching our dogs have fun as they do themselves….

  12. This is a great and helpful post, yet I still can’t figure out whether we would love or hate Niagara Falls. Maybe a little bit of both — I do love a certain amount of kitsch but I simultaneously dislike tourist traps. Regardless, I agree it’s part of the Great American Road Trip so no doubt we will end up there eventually, and your post will really help us navigate the many, many entertainment options.

    • Haha… yeah, you’re gonna hate it. No doubt about it! But… you HAVE to go. It’s like the law…. I think you might like staying on the American side a bit more – maybe at one of the state parks and mixing in some hiking along the way. The Canadian side definitely has better views, but is ALL abut the tourism.

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