VIDEO: Niagara Falls – Tacky, Timeless, or a Little Bit of Both?

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August 15, 2009

It only makes sense that our “Long Long Honeymoon” should stop in the so-called “Honeymoon Capital of the World,” right?

People often describe the town of Niagara as “touristy,” and indeed the description applies. The commercial district assaults your eyes and ears with a cacophony of visual and aural noise. The downside of this “louder is better” approach is obvious. The Clifton Hill area of Niagara is tackier than a grade school bulletin board. You’re surrounded by King Kong, Frankenstein, and wax dummies of Johnny Depp. At times you’ll stroll down a street and your jaw will drop for all the wrong reasons.

It can also be expensive. Be prepared for some stupid prices. We actually walked out of the local Outback Steakhouse without ordering dinner because the menu prices were outrageous. While I can understand paying a little more in a tourist town, I’m not paying double. As I Tweeted shortly afterwards, we’re tourists — not fools! (Do you Twitter? Follow me here: http://twitter.com/WalkaboutSean)

To be fair, there’s one major upside to Niagara’s “touristy” development: there’s a LOT to do here. If you are so inclined, you can watch IMAX films, tour wax museums, haunted houses, ride a gigantic ferris wheel, and engage in any number of fun activities that have little or nothing to do with the waterfalls. There’s something here for every member of the family, young and old. In some respects it’s commendable. In others, it’s puzzling.

At times I wondered how this area might be different if it were a national park. The Falls themselves are some 12,000 years old, and we certainly have national parks dedicated to less impressive natural wonders. But I suspect the key economic developments began before we even had national parks in the United States.

So, what do YOU think? Ever been to Niagara Falls? Can you explain what King Kong and Frankenstein are doing there? Inquiring minds want to know…

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10 comments

  1. Pam Evans

    We were there 2 years ago. We really enjoyed the tours to all of the sites. Enjoyed Fort Niagara, the falls and bridal cave. We stay away from Wax Museums and rides, try for local dining or cook in the RV. Yes, prices were way out of line some places.

  2. Manuel Enos

    We just spent the day in Niagara with the Grandkids. The falls were great along with all the natural beauty connected with them. The price at the gate a little steep but the price of food in the restaurant was definitely outrageous!! $15.00 for a cheese burger, $9.50 for cheese mac and $11.00 for fish and chips!! Yep, I don’t think they realize there is a recession going on!! Of course, most of the people were foreigners that were visiting anyway that I could see..Worth the trip with exception of food and attraction prices..If you go, take a bag lunch or picnic…

  3. Thomas Becher

    Just back from there. I can’t say that it was that expensive but we don’t do all the kiddy stuff. Went on maiden of the mist $10 ate at applebees, same prices as home,couple other resturants had good prices. The onle place we got gouged was at the rotating resturant on the Canada side, but we knew going in. Some things you have to do,hang the cost and make it up somewhere else down the road. I don’t like the speed limits in Canada, when you’re on a multi lane highway, I think 60 mph(100kph) is just a little slow but we were warned not to speed because the really like out of state plates.

  4. @Pam, we loved the Maid of the Mist ride, but we missed the bridal cave and a few other attractions. Oh well… perhaps we will return someday.

    @Manuel, yes! The price of a filet at Outback was around $28! We told the waitress why we were leaving, and she replied, “I don’t blame you!” I don’t mind paying a little more in a tourist area, but they were over-the-top.

    @Thomas, we did visit a different chain restaurant (Tony Roma’s) and it was pretty good. The food was fine and it was fairly priced. Most of what’s available in town are, of course, chains. Next time we’ll either seek out some local fare or dine in our RV.

  5. Moose&Squirrel East

    Sean, an excellent video on Niagra! Keep up the great job.

    Note, how many toilets have to flush in Chicago to get that much water?

    A 10 time visitor from Ohio

  6. Thanks Moose & Squirrel! (love that screen name, ha ha) This was a fun video to make. Thank goodness I wrapped my video camera in a plastic baggie before boarding the Maid of the Mist!

    LOL on the toilet question…maybe that’s a query best left unanswered. 😉

    We had a blast at Niagara, and I suspect we’ll make a return visit someday. The Falls are really quite amazing!

  7. Dennis S.

    Take it from a life long resident of Western N.Y. If you want park like beauty and quiet, visit the American side. It is all park, some very good resturants all prices, a casino, Hard Rock Cafe, tours etc.

  8. Thanks Dennis, we were coming from Canada so naturally we started on that side.

    Prior to our visit, everyone told us to go to the Canadian side… But I think they were referring to the Canadian Falls, not necessarily the town.

    I don’t mean to be overly critical of the town (we met some nice residents) but the tourist kitsch can be a little jarring.

  9. Connie

    When I brought my grandchildren, we stayed on the Canadian side and walked across the bridge to spend the day on the American side. There was a restaurant at the far end of the park, right near the falls with a fantastic view. It felt like the falls were flowing under you as you looked out the window. Also, I had told my grandchildren that we would be walking from one country to another and they just loved the idea, even wanted their pictures taken with one foot in each country over the line on the bridge. That bridge looks daunting as you look at it from afar but it was not that bad. You just have to remember to take your passport with you.

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