I can’t believe my mom has waited this long to venture to Niagara Falls. She hasn’t visited the falls since she was a child and was just as excited as I was to head there this July. It was basically the midway point traveling to visit family on the East Coast.
From Chicago, our drive to Niagara Falls was 8.5 hours. We decided to stay on the Canadian side, as the views are much better and who wouldn’t want to add another country to their bucket list! Don’t forget your passports. It was thrilling crossing over the Peace Bridge entering Ontario.
If you think a weekend in Niagara Falls would be a fun adventure for yourself or your family, here’s our helpful itinerary:
On the way to the East Coast:
We left Naperville, Illinois at 4am (my mom’s a morning person) and arrived at the Oak’s Hotel at 2pm Eastern Time. The shining star of this hotel is the spectacular panoramic view of Horseshoe Falls. Our jaws dropped the minute we stepped foot into our room and drew back the curtains. Yes, there are fancier and pricier hotels to stay along Hotel Row with similar views, but for one night, the Oaks was absolutely perfect for us. The 14th floor also has an observation lounge with even better views than the rooms.
We decided to grab a late lunch/early dinner and headed right out of the hotel door for a liesurely walk down the main street where there were plenty of restaurants to choose from. We ended up choosing Margaritaville because Canada aligns perfectly with a tropically themed restaurant, don’t you think? 🙂
After eating, we decided to head to the falls. We took the incline down the hill for $7/person. There’s a beautiful view from this gondola ride as well and we were fortunate to spy our first rainbow from here!
Getting so close to the most powerful waterfall in North America was absolutely amazing! We just stared in awe for the longest time. In the course of two hours walking around, grabbing an ice cream cone and admiring the falls, the sky drastically changed at least five times from ominous stormy clouds to the bluest skies with expansive rainbows. We counted 14 rainbows in all!
Do not souvenir shop in the welcome center down by the falls. Total rip off! Everything is extremely overpriced. We ended up buying souvenirs around Clifton Hill. There are so many fun things to do there and we were able to purchase t-shirts for my friends for $4.99 each, rather than $25.99!
After hours of ogling the waterfall, we took the incline back up to hotel row to walk around and explore a bit more. Since it was a Friday, we were excited to see the Falls Illumination show and fireworks. (Fireworks are held Monday-Friday at 10pm during the summer months-check the schedule for dates/times when you travel). We debated taking the incline back down for this but decided that the view from our hotel room would far surpass a ground level view. We were right!
Seeing both the Horseshoe and American Falls illuminated by changing colorful spotlights, along with the fireworks display from our room was magical. This year-round feature began in 1925 and is definitely worth seeing!
In the morning, we headed to Tim Horton’s for breakfast and then enjoyed a boat ride with Hornblower Niagara Cruises. Be prepared. You will get wet!
By mid afternoon, we were back in our car for a six hour ride to visit family in southeast New York. I think we spent 5 of the 6 hours talking about the falls!
Our Return Trip to Niagara on the Lake
After a few weeks on the East Coast, it was time to head back to Illinois. We again decided to drive through Niagara rather than our typical Ohio route. This time, we decided to stay at Niagara on the Lake. Prince of Wales Hotel was the best choice for us due to its elegance and location. Niagara on the Lake is known as “The Prettiest Town in Canada” and this is certainly not an exaggeration.
Situated on beautiful Lake Ontario, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a historic small town known for its beautiful architecture, pristine streets and stately homes. We spent several hours touring the main street, popping into cute boutiques and shops, sitting by the lake and admiring the beautiful homes. We had a lovely dinner at The Shaw Cafe and Wine Bar, the prettiest restaurant I’ve ever seen. If you enjoy wine, like my mom does, you will be in pure heaven. Niagara on the Lake is known for its wineries. Ask my mom all about this. She could talk about it for hours!
The following morning we went for a run along the lakefront, returned to the hotel for breakfast and headed back into our car for our journey back home. We will definitely repeat this exact route when we return to the East Coast next summer. There are still so many things to do at Niagara Falls that we just didn’t have time for during this trip–helicopter tours, the aquarium, kayaking, shows, restaurants and even more wonderful memories to create–Canada style!