On our recent visit to the US, we noticed that we'd be passing within an hour or so of Niagara Falls. Well, I say "we". I had no idea where Niagara was, so it fell to Andy to do all the actual noticing, but I was very glad he did, and obviously we planned our route to make sure we had a spare day to spend at the Falls.
There's some debate over whether the American side or the Canadian side of the Falls is "better". Given the simplicity of crossing the bridge between nations, however, it seemed silly to visit Niagara without taking in both aspects.
The American side has a lovely State park, and you can get up close and personal with the raging water.
We decided to walk to Canada, in part because our rental car wasn't insured for international travel, but also because the chance to walk to Canada doesn't crop up that often. It's always fun to stand straddling an international border, with each foot in a different country. The view from the Rainbow Bridge was spectacular, and really gives a great sense how huge this river is.
The Canadian side, by contrast, has arguably the better views, but keeps you at a greater distance from the water (only the American side has signs telling you that it's illegal to swim).
We were really surprised by the number of Amish tourists, on both sides of the river. We've visited the Amish heartlands in Pennsylvania on a previous trip, but I hadn't realised that the Amish lifestyle left scope for taking vacations to tourist hotspots. Many of them even had cameras to capture their own holiday snapshots.
We decided to treat ourselves to an overnight stay in Canada, so I did a little online research to pick out the hotels likely to have the best views. I found a really handy map showing all the area's hotels, on both sides of the river. Thanks to a great deal at the last minute, we booked into the Embassy Suites Fallsview hotel (part of the Hilton chain) for a price that was only about twice what we'd have paid in a mid-range business hotel with no such view. Although the desk clerk tried to sell us an upgrade, we'd already picked our room carefully, and the view was spectacular. There was also a huge jacuzzi bath, and free wine at the manager's reception, so I had absolutely no complaints. The breakfast buffet was decent, too, with plenty of choice and a few cooked-to-order options (and more views!).
Staying in Canada also gave us the best chance to view Niagara Falls at night. There was a storm coming in so we got a bit wet when we ventured out to see the light show up close, but with the lights off in our room, we could enjoy most of the experience without even leaving the comfort of our armchairs.
All in all, Niagara falls is (obviously) a massive tourist trap, but for me it was one of those rare occasions when something massively hyped turns out to be, actually, absolutely worth a visit. I loved every minute, and we'll definitely be going back.