Niagara Falls, Buffalo and More

Niagara Falls Water View Tab Hauser photo
Water view of Niagara Falls, American Side, Tab Hauser photo.

Niagara Falls from the NY Side and Buffalo

By Tab Hauser
GoNOMAD Senior Writer

Niagara Falls Cave of Winds
Rushing water and thunderous sounds at the Cave of the Winds

Niagara Falls in western New York State has been an icon of tourism for nearly 200 years of modern history. The Mohawk tribe called it Onguiaahra for the centuries before the Europeans came to America.

Niagara Falls is a good destination to spend one or two days and Buffalo has been described by many as a city on the way up.

A Goat Island View

The best way to see Niagara Falls on the United States side is to drive to Goat Island. Once here, buy a hop-on-hop-off trolley ticket that takes you everywhere you need to see on the United States side.

Goat Island’s biggest paid attraction is the Cave of the Winds Tourwebsite

This awe-inspiring walk at the base of the falls is thunderous and will get you very very wet. Here you will see, hear, and feel the power falls up close and personal.

Visitors are given a rain poncho and souvenir water sandals to offer some water protection. Don’t even think about taking your camera unless it is in waterproof housing.

When on Goat Island,  stroll over the footbridge to tiny Luna Island.  Below the footbridge, you can look down and see millions of gallons of water rush over the side.  From Luna Island, you can see the American Falls on your right, and the smaller but impressive Bridal Veil Falls on your left.

Terrapin Point Niagara Falls
Terrapin Point on Goat Island looking towards Canadian side

Another must-see viewpoint on Goat Island is from Terrapin Point to view the curve of Horseshoe Falls. Terrapin Point has a nice restaurant for lunch.

See the view with our 30-second video at Further up the road is Three Sisters Islands where you can take a footbridge for an up-close look at the rapids.

All these places are stops on the trolley.

Two Country Kiss

While here consider taking a scenic walk to the Canadian side across Rainbow Bridge.  The view from the bridge sees everything.

If you are with that special someone, steal away a “two country kiss” in the middle of the bridge where the countries borders are marked.

Niagara Falls Two Country Kiss
A two-country kiss on Rainbow Bridge

To walk Rainbow bridge you will need your passport or identification that will let you in Canada and more importantly, back into the United States.

Passing through Customs is easy and fast. Clifton Hill near the bridge is family-friendly and full of kitschy things to see and do. It has its share of fast food, fudge, and ice cream shops. There is also a casino there. www.cliftonhill.com

Niagara’s Classic Boat Ride

Boarding the Maid of the Mistwww.maidofthemist.com has been a must-do boat ride since 1846. This one-hour cruise gives a river view of the American Falls before going directly in front of Horseshoe Falls.

Doing this allows you to hear and feel the thunder of the falls as it crashes down close by.  The top deck will give you a wet open sky view.  The lower deck keeps you fairly dry while offering excellent views.

Maid Mist Niagara Falls Base
The Maid of the Mist gets you up close and wet

Passengers are given blue ponchos that offer decent protection.  After disembarking the boat take the stairs to view the falls up close. Consider this is a mini version of the Cave of the Winds mentioned above.  Check out our drive short boat by video here. 

Fireworks and Food

Savor Restaurant Niagara Falls
Beautifully plated and tasty course at Savor

Plan your day so that you can be at the falls at night.  For the best dinner don’t miss Savor www.nfculinary.org/savor which is managed by the students and facility of Niagara Falls Culinary Institute.

Here in the open kitchen, students cook and serve the best food in the town. They feature many local ingredients, wines, and beers. (The crème Brule was the best I have had in years!)

After dinner walk across the street to the Hyatt Place and enjoy the nightly fireworks from the rooftop patio.  After the fireworks make your way to see the waterfall under the white lights.

For information on Niagara Falls go to www.niagarafallsstatepark.com

Buffalo by Bus, Boat, Feet, and Mouth

Just 45 minutes south of Niagara Falls, and often tourist neglected, is the city of Buffalo.  Our visit there had us learn that the “Electric City” is a whole lot more than snowstorms and wings. The Electric City nickname came about due to Buffalo being one of the first cities to get electricity from the Niagara Falls powering its lights. Its downtown architecture contains many art deco buildings.

Buffalo skyline
Buffalo skyline

Buffalo By Bus

Buffalo City Hall Top
The Art Deco top of Buffalo’s City Hall

A good way to start any Buffalo visit is with a narrated Buffalo Double-decker Bus Tour  buffalo double decker bus. Here you get a fact-filled tour and drove through vibrant neighborhoods, parks, the waterfront, the theatre district, and past the Anchor Bar.  We departed the bus pleasantly surprised by what we saw of Buffalo.

By Boat

Our next stop was at Canal Side for the Buffalo River History Tourwww.buffaloriverhistorytours.com

Grain elevator on the Buffalo River Tour.
One of many grain elevators on Buffalo River

This 90-minute boat ride should not be missed for its unique sites and history.

Tours start near the General Mills cereal plant where the locals can tell by the smell in the air if Cheerios or Fruit Loops are being produced that day.

We learned that by the mid-1800s, Buffalo was the largest grain port in the world.

We cruised past what are the largest collection of grain elevators in the world with the largest at 3.47 million bushels. Some are still in use.

During our boat ride, we saw some revitalization of the river banks taking place in the form of housing or entertainment.  Ironically, a silo of six painted like a six back contained a microbrewery.

Buffalo River Tiki Bar Ride
An alternative way to cruise the Buffalo River

After the cruise,  visit the Buffalo Naval Park next door. Here can you visit two warships and a submarine along with other military equipment. Buffalo Naval Park

 By Foot 

For fans of architecture and Frank Lloyd Wright, a visit to The Martin House is a must. www.martinhouse.org.  Completed in 1905 this unique residential complex is considered one of Mr. Wright’s finest achievements in the Prairie design and one of his best homes in the Eastern United States.

During our one hour tour, the guide explained the nuances of the home and how the rooms and corridors flowed into each other in classic Wright design.

It is said after a lull in his career, Mr. Wright’s “Star-chitecture” appeal came back after this mansion.

Grover Cleveland in Buffal
Two-time president Grover Cleveland was once the  Mayor of Buffalo

Our sightseeing ended with an Explore Buffalo walking tour.  Explore Buffalo offers several walking tours to appeal to anyone’s taste.

Buffalo by Bike

Explore the local trails in Buffalo with this guide from a local bike tour operator.

A City of Presidents

The day we were in the city the “Presidents in Buffalo” tour was given.  We learned how Buffalo, outside of Washington D.C. in one of the most connected cities to U.S. presidents.

While walking through downtown, our guide talked about Millard Fillmore, Abraham Lincoln, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt among others, and how Buffalo factored into their lives.

He also pointed out buildings and statues that went with the theme of the tour.   For their other tours click www.explorebuffalo.org

Buffalo By Mouth:

Buffalo Wings Archer Bar
Just call them “wings” when ordering in Buffalo

After years of eating Buffalo wings (called wings here), we thought it would be fun to go to the Anchor Bar where it originated.  www.anchorbar.com.

It was on March 4th, 1964 when a group of the bartender’s friends came in late and hungry, and the only thing in the kitchen available where wings used to make stock for soup.

The cook added hot sauce and butter and Buffalo wings were invented.

The Anchor Bar is a normal looking pub with the exception of old motorcycles looking down on patrons.  We ordered their classic wings and some cold drafts and were not disappointed.

Between the bar and tables is the store to buy sauce and souvenirs.

An alternate place for wings the locals talk about is called Duffs, a nod to the famous Brand in the Simpsons TV show.

For events, tours and more go towww.visitbuffaloniagara.com

Side Trip:  Almost halfway between Niagara Falls and Buffalo is the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum in North Tonawanda.  This national historic site is the place where over 3000 carrousels were produced starting in 1916.

Visitors can view artists and their wood carved animals, listen to a Wurlitzer over 100 years old playing rolled music and of course take a ride on a genuine antique carrousel.  For info go to www.carrouselmuseum.org If you would like to take a quick ride, click https://photos.app.goo.gl/8ePkmfuo5m3y2VYJ6

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