In our household, Niagara Falls had always been a family destination — for waterparks, mini-golf, a wax museum, ziplining and of course, a boat tour aboard Niagara City Cruises. But with our kids now in their late teens, my partner and I decided to visit Niagara Falls in a whole different capacity, as a romantic getaway and a culinary destination. Here’s what we discovered.
The Falls are a romantic backdrop and the main attraction from every vantage point. We had a great view of both the American Falls and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls from our room on the 27th-floor Hilton Niagara Falls / Fallsview Hotel & Suites. We gazed 775 feet down onto the Falls while dining at the Skylon Tower’s revolving restaurant. When we rode the SkyWheel, our gondola soared 175 feet over the Falls. And we would have flown over the Falls by helicopter ride if not for inclement weather.
We also went behind the Falls. Descending 125 feet by elevator, we travelled through tunnels and out onto two outdoor observation decks at the foot of the Falls, wearing bright yellow ponchos to protect us against the spray in our Journey Behind the Falls. This felt like immersion — being behind but inside the powerful falling water, and enveloped in mist.
We also participated in an interactive sight and sound show, Currents: Niagara’s Power Transformed, held in the evening inside the newly restored Niagara Parks Power Station. We walked through this 115-year-old decommissioned hydroelectric power plant with its arched windows, 20-metre high ceiling and bright blue generators as laser lights and images were projected onto the walls, the floor and several of the generators.
Throughout, sights and sounds depicted the story of the Niagara River before it froze pre-Ice Age, then to the warming of the earth, the harnessing of the river’s power to generate electricity, and depiction of how the power plant again comes to life. The experience is accompanied by music, the humming sound of the turbines, rocks crumbling and water rushing around us. The effect was so convincing that, at times, it felt like a river was rushing by me; at other times, I wanted to stomp my feet on the ground as if the projected puddles were actually there. Although I hadn’t known what to expect, I loved feeling like I was immersed in the experience, rather than passively staring at a screen, which is what most of us have been doing throughout this pandemic.
After the Currents show, we enjoyed the Niagara Falls Illumination, with the Falls lit up in a myriad of shifting colours. We also loved the Winter Festival of Lights (on until late February), which made me feel like the magic of the upcoming holidays, with its twinkly lights, celebrations, and the backdrop of our first snowfall of the season.
Follow the map here for the route that travels along the Niagara Parkway, Dufferin Islands and various touristed areas displaying three million lights – illuminating a path of trees, a massive gingerbread house, a 20-foot moose, candy canes, a gingerbread family and more.
A culinary adventure? I knew that Niagara Falls catered to tourists, but foodies? I was pleasantly surprised. Our favourite restaurant was the Flour Mill Scratch Kitchen in the Old Stone Inn, where dinner was in a large stone-walled room with plush leather velvet settees, dark wood and maroon décor next to a roaring wood-burning fire. Here much of the food is locally sourced and organic when possible. We started with their delicious jovial sour cocktail with foamed egg whites on top, then moved to a copious charcuterie board, with Pingue-cured meats and Niagara cheeses, followed by a beet salad. Then my partner had hearty venison with braised mushrooms, which he described as “the perfect expression of late Fall,” while I had the pan-seared trout. We finished the meal by sharing a rich chocolate mousse and light citrus-infused crème brulée.
Although we liked being nestled inside by the fire, you can also eat in one of their cabins or see-through “snow globes” out back with up to five other people. And on Saturday evenings, you can have an early dinner and join their very fun MIND TRIX show, in which Edward Stone combines magic and “psychological illusions,” pulling people from the audience to participate in the show with tricks that I am still trying to figure out days later.
Another culinary highlight was dinner at the Table Rock House Restaurant, where you can enjoy unobstructed views of the Falls, which are most magical to see at night and partake in a special date-night menu for $99 per couple, including a sparkling wine cocktail. We ended up ordering off the main menu to sample their Atlantic smoked salmon appetizer and a buttery oven-baked Georgian Bay pickerel combined with a crispy Manitoulin Island rainbow trout fritter. Their wine list included many interesting local choices, including Niagara wines from Two Sisters, Fielding Estate and Ravine Vineyards.
The Skylon Restaurant’s Revolving Dining Room menu also had some great options for lunch, including several salmon options and a delicious filet mignon. The restaurant reminded me of 360 The Restaurant at the CN Tower in Toronto: great food and a rotating dining experience —in this case, with 360-degree views of one of the world’s great natural wonders.
Planning a winter escape? Visit Niagarafallstourism.com to learn more.
The author was hosted by Niagara Falls Tourism who did not review this article before publication. All opinions are her own.
By Diana Ballon
Diana Ballon is a writer and editor based in Toronto. She also works in Communications & Public Affairs at CAMH. See more of her work at www.dianaballon.com