Last month we published a which-side-is-better report card on Niagara Falls and asked readers to help us out with their own favorite recommendations -- and then the floodgates opened. We were deluged with reports on much-loved restaurants, historical sites, vineyards and other insider tips for visits to both the American and Canadian Falls.
Here are a few of our readers' picks.
Our favorite place in Niagara Falls, Canada, was the Welland Canal. This is where the huge Laker Ships, approximately 400 feet long and sometimes longer, go from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario and out to the St. Lawrence Seaway. There is an observation desk, restaurant and souvenir shop. You can even drive the length of the canal and observe these huge ships. What a thrill to see them in the bottom of the canal and watch the ships rise with the water.
One of the most natural (non-commercialized) and still pristine observation spots is Goat Island, which sits between the two falls. It's accessible only from the American side and has both an auto and pedestrian bridge to it. I run its 11/2-mile loop path at least once a year (last May, at 82) for the sheer beauty of watching the sun rise on the upper Niagara and gradually catch the mist rising high over both waters.
I am partial to the American side of the Falls because it is less crowded and feels much more natural. I particularly like the Three Sisters Islands, which are off Goat Island away from the falls, because they are very tranquil and appear almost unchanged from a century ago.
Other favorites on the American side are the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, which includes a nifty simulated elevator ride down through the rock strata and a remote camera that viewers can operate to spy on areas around the falls. A beautiful drive along the river north of the city takes you to the attractively restored 19th century village of Lewiston and, farther north, to Old Fort Niagara, a restored fort dating back to French occupation in 1726.
We took a small side trip to Niagara on the Lake, about 20 miles away. It is a quaint, well-manicured town with beautiful flowers, including huge hanging baskets. The part of this trip we enjoyed the most were the nearly 30 wineries on the way, and in the area where we were able to sample the delicious fruit and ice wines that make Canada so famous. We stopped in at a couple and found the proprietors to be friendly and proud of their businesses. In my opinion, this sampling and side trip are musts!
Last year we stayed in Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. We ate three evenings at Mick & Angelo's Eatery & Bar (7600 Lundy's Lane). Another block or so up Lundy's Lane (away from the falls), we found a delicious Italian bakery where we had sandwiches made up to go on a picnic at Old Fort Niagara (New York side). We even brought some cannolis back to Virginia with us.
Niagara Falls occurs when the Niagara River cuts through the Niagara Escarpment. The escarpment itself is a very interesting geological feature, visible for many miles along the Ontario shore, with many vistas, parks and lesser waterfalls.
The Escarpment provides a unique shelter for vineyards. Many of the wineries offer tastings and tours.
Old Fort Niagara, on the American side of the river, offers a restored European-style fortification. Fort Erie, across from Buffalo, has a more colonial look to it. In between are various battlefields, forts and historical sites.
The War of 1812 is particularly well-represented, with battle monuments and museums for Lundy's Lane, Chippawa and Queenston Heights. Perhaps the quirkiest battlefield is the little park at Ridgeway, which commemorates an 1866 skirmish between Canadian militia and Irish-American Civil War veterans.
On the Canadian side, I strongly recommend a visit to the horticultural school. It used to be free and is on the gorge-side road that connects Niagara Falls to Queenston. On the New York side is the Wintergarden. Although it has been commercialized somewhat since opening, it still is lovely in the winter and is a good place to eat food bought in the adjacent food court. Artpark in Lewiston is a park for creative arts with resident artists who do their work in public and are available for demonstrations and to answer questions. There is also an enclosed auditorium for shows, a la Wolf Trap.
The border crossing has become much tougher than it used to be -- I used to ride or walk across with no problems, but increased security after 9/11 has made it more rigorous (passports strongly recommended), and a slowdown by Canadian personnel means hour-long waits to cross the Rainbow bridge into Canada.
David E. Maslow
The Skylon Tower Restaurant is at the top of the tower and rotates while you eat. It takes one hour to make a complete revolution and provides a wonderful panoramic view of the falls.
View the Lights on the Falls from the Canadian side at night. These colorful lights light up the Horseshoe Falls and are quite attractive. On the occasional clear and sunny winter day, the ice at the base of the falls is a spectacular sight. The Spanish cable cars are a longtime attraction on the Canadian side, downriver from the falls; this easy ride provides a great view of the Whirlpool Rapid.
We stayed in Ontario and wanted to put in a few words for the Secret Garden restaurant, which is tucked next to a park that overlooks the falls and has several "secret" areas with bridges and ponds. Our children just loved exploring the garden. Also, if you stay on the Canadian side, you can get an Adventure Pass that gives you tickets to the Maid of the Mist, Journey Under the Falls, the Butterfly Conservancy and the rapids walk.
Beware, there are two Sheratons. We accidentally booked the further one; however, we were pleasantly surprised when we enjoyed our stay since we were not in the "commercial" district. In addition, there is a railway that goes up and down from the Sheraton, Embassy Suites, etc.
What to do in Canada: the Niagara Botanical Garden, Niagara on the Lake (great restaurants, shops, etc.) and Niagara on the Lake wineries. Our favorite is Peller Estates. If you haven't had ice wine before, it is something you should try while at Niagara. The grapes are harvested when the temperature goes below zero.
The Butterfly Conservancy is not a stand-alone activity. It's actually part of the entire Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens (www.niagara parks.com/nature/botanical.php). The Niagara Parks Recreational Trail is an off-road 15-mile scenic bike path that runs from Niagara on the Lake (NOTL) to Niagara Falls, and if you walk through the downtown falls area, continues all the way to Fort Erie. Bikes can be rented at NOTL. The whole area is remarkably flat, with many low-traffic roads.
Karen A. Lubieniecki
I have been to both sides and agree with the assessment that Canada wins. One place we especially enjoyed, which is not right in Niagara Falls, Ont., is the Queenston Heights Inn. It's right up the Niagara Parkway, on top of the escarpment, with a gorgeous view of the Niagara River, and has marvelous food.
The article suggested spending a weekend there. On summer weekends, think New Year's Eve in Times Square, particularly on the Canadian side.
I would have included viewing the lights on the falls at night. There is almost no view from the U.S. side. The best vantage point is from the Canadian side, near the foot of Clifton Hill. Many people who stay on the U.S. side even walk across the Rainbow Bridge to see the lights, rather than fight the traffic.
In the Beyond the Falls section, there were some big omissions. First is the Niagara Parkway on the Canadian side (there is no real comparison on the U.S. side). It runs about 35 miles from the Peace Bridge to Niagara on the Lake, and is one of the prettiest drives anywhere.
You also didn't mention the Whirlpool, where the river makes a tight right turn, forming a giant whirlpool. The Canadian side has the Cable Car, which goes across the Whirlpool, but there are some great views from the U.S. side.
There are huge power plants on both sides of the river, about five miles downstream from the falls. There is the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant on the U.S. side and the Sir Adam Beck Power Plants 1 and 2 on the Canadian side. The exhibits and view from the Power Vista on the U.S. side make it an easy winner.
For eats, I'd have to say that the article was terribly deficient. While the Red Coach Inn on the U.S. side is excellent, it is small, and there are other restaurants such as the Como on Pine Avenue in Little Italy, John's Flaming Hearth on Military Road and Schimschack's in Sanborn. There are a number of very good restaurants in Lewiston, seven miles from the falls -- Apple Granny's, Clarkson House and Carmelo's Coat of Arms, to name just three. In Youngstown, near the entrance to Old Fort Niagara, is the Olde Fort Inn.
On the Canadian side, most of the good restaurants are in the hotels. However, if one travels to Niagara on the Lake, there are literally dozens of excellent restaurants. Some of the many wineries in the area also have restaurants.
You did not mention the Spanish Aerocar cable crossing at the whirlpool area or Victoria's Garden at the foot of Clifton Hill. We adored Niagara on the Lake. The floral clock in Geneva is much prettier than the floral clock in Niagara.
We drove from Oakton to Niagara Falls via U.S. Route 15 and crossed at the Rainbow Bridge. The U.S. side was not attractive at that point.
Elna A. Swofford
One great place to eat not mentioned is the Como Restaurant (2220 Pine Ave.). The Como has great Italian dishes in a great atmosphere at reasonable prices. It's a white-tablecloth restaurant that welcomes casual dressers. When we return home for a visit, a dinner at the Como is always included.
Donald, Anita and
You left one very distinctive aspect out of your ratings. Whether you call it customer service, friendliness or hospitality, the American side is totally lacking in it, while the Canadian side exemplifies what it takes to make one's visit a pleasurable memory. Warm smiles, helpful attitudes and nice people were the trademark of the Canadian service personnel and park employees.
William A. Bartelt
Swan Point, Md.
A great place to eat as well as to observe the falls: Table Rock Restaurant, on the second floor of the Table Rock House adjacent to the Falls. Good food and a marvelous view (you can't get any closer without a barrel). Make reservations for a late dinner just before the nightly illumination.
From November to January, the entire city participates in the Winter Festival of Lights. Thousands of displays are set up in Queen Victoria Park, the Dufferin Islands and other areas throughout the city. On most Saturday nights there is a lighted parade.
For a history lesson, check out the Lundy's Lane Historical Society (5810 Ferry St.). Built on the site of the Battle of Lundy's Lane, it contains artifacts and displays from the War of 1812. Fun place to eat: the Flying Saucer Diner (6768 Lundy's Lane). Shaped like a flying saucer, it serves good diner food. The service is fast and servers are friendly.
Frank and Patt Foley
Although it looks like a hole-in-the-wall, a great restaurant is Michael's. Located right next door to La Hacienda on Pine Avenue, Michael's has great pizza, great pasta, and out-of-this world beans and greens soup.
Bob and Sally Rycroft
I totally agree that the Canadian side beats the U.S. side, although you can easily take advantage of the best of both in one trip.
The People Mover on the Canadian side was new on my last trip (2004) and a real time saver. It is a Niagara Parks service and a bus system that goes on a continuous loop on the Niagara Falls Parkway from the Falls to the Queenstown Heights Restaurant and Park. This includes all the spots to view the falls and stops for the Maid of the Mist, etc., plus the Butterfly Conservatory and the Floral Clock.
Phyllis B. Beaty
We found the U.S. side superior by far in the biking department. Visiting the three islands via the biking paths found tolerable crowds of walkers and bikers and placed you less than 200 yards above the falls (even closer at some paths).
Segway rentals were available on the Canadian side, and in spite of the massive crowds on the walkways atop the river walls, one could see well (elevated on the Segway) and maneuver safely and politely (I drew great attention on the Seg). Bikes did not blend well in this environment.
The City Market in the Little Italy section of Pine Avenue is open seasonally on Fridays. Local farmers and other vendors sell their wares in a covered venue that stretches for several blocks.