Niagara Falls: From festive winter wonderland to desolate tourist trap
I went on a flash travel deal to Niagara Falls that included:
- a huge, double-room suite at the Hilton Niagara Falls Fallsview Hotel, with jacuzzi, “fireplace” and a spectacular view,
- dinner, lunch and breakfast coupons and
- coupons for the casino spa and a sightseeing tour.
Read on to find out how I experienced both a festive winter wonderland and desolate tourist trap during my short 24-hour jaunt to Niagara Falls.
Smooth and friendly
I traveled from Toronto by GO Train, with connecting GO Bus, on Sunday afternoon, and traveled home again the following day, almost exactly 24 hours later. When the bus dropped me off on Sunday, I took a taxi to the hotel — and, oddly, had the same taxi driver, Derek, on the way back to the GO Bus stop on Monday.
Overall, I had a great time on my jaunt, thanks to the well-organized execution. From the moment I checked in at the Hilton, I was greeted by friendly and knowledgeable staff, who seemed to have a thorough understanding of the deal.
Staying at the Hilton was definitely one of the highs of my trip. I loved the extra-large jacuzzi tub in my suite, my 26th floor view of both the U.S. and Canadian Falls, and having dinner at the Watermark on the 33rd floor: I sat by the window and ate a lobster tail and seafood platter.
The highs and lows of life in Niagara Falls
When I travel, even if it’s only two hours away (the distance from my hometown, Toronto, to Niagara Falls), I try and go with an open mind and no expectation of what I’ll find; I let “the story” find me. And the story I found in Niagara Falls was about the seasonal highs and lows of a tourist town. My short 24 hour Jaunt to Niagara Falls was an exercise in the polarities of life.
On Sunday evening, after checking into the hotel, I walked down to the Falls. The promenade was a winter wonderland. The mist from the Falls created a frozen sheaf over everything nearby — railings, trees, lamp posts — and at dusk it was gleaming with an other-worldly glow. Horse-drawn carriages jingled by, covered in bells and tiny lights. People were skating on an outdoor rink, taking pictures of each other with the Falls in the background — lit up after dark by spotlights that changed from red to purple to green — and warming themselves around an outdoor fire pit. The scent of the fire, jingle of the horse bells, roar of the Falls, and sparkling nightscape was festive and fun. It was Niagara Falls at its wintery best.
I took lots of photos, inspired by the majestic Falls, gleaming ice and festive lights, and went back to my hotel to dress for dinner feeling that I’d had a fun and creatively stimulating experience. Dinner and jacuzzi was great, and I enjoyed the comfort of my room, and my panoramic view.
On Monday morning, I walked back down the street to the Falls and the promenade and felt I was in a completely different town. This time, I experienced Niagara Falls as a desolate tourist trap. The warm temperature had melted all the ice sculptures, there were few tourists and workmen were milling around a huge crane that was parked right at the most scenic point on the promenade. The overcast day cast a gloomy grey tone and drained the colour from the scenery. Music blaring from the empty skating rink, and from the empty Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville restaurant, only added to the surreal feeling of the barren streets. I felt like I was in an episode of the Twilight Zone.
I asked my taxi driver, Derek, about the extremes I experienced during my short stay in Niagara Falls and he said that about summed it up — though he sees the highs and lows as more seasonal in nature. “As soon as they take the boat out of the water in October, the whole town shuts down,” he said, referring to the Maid of the Mist, which ferries tourists up the river to the base of the Falls in summer. Talking to Derek, I was able to glean how difficult it must be to live in a tourist town, and deal with rambunctious crowds in summer and desolate streets in winter. I felt I had both experienced the magic and majesty of Niagara Falls, and also a glimpse behind the tourist facade.
The Magic Moment
My short trip afforded me three magic moments in Niagara Falls: photographing the ice-and-snow covered parkland surrounding the Falls; eating a very large lobster tail while looking out at the panoramic view from the Hilton’s Watermark dining room; and soaking in the jacuzzi tub in my suite. Combined, they epitomize the idea of a jaunt, a short trip packed with fun highlights.
To get the best rooms and the best view of the Falls at the Hilton Niagara Falls Fallsview Hotel, book a room in the new tower, above the 20th floor.
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