We (Erin, my mother-in-law, her husband and I) spent the day in Niagara Falls. We parked our car at Casino Niagara (big mistake. You can find yourself free parking downstream, and the people mover costs just as much to use as downtown parking throughout the day) and we walked down to Horseshoe Falls. Wow. The city was humming to the tune of American tourists out for the Memorial Day weekend. The weather was absolutely perfect. The sun was out and it was warm. Best of all, whenever it got too warm, all we had to do was look out over the falls for a burst of natural air conditioning.
I'm pleased to say that the picture on my left (one of the Maid of the Mist boats approaching Horseshoe Falls) was taken by myself. I am by no means a professional photographer, but sometimes I do get lucky.
Niagara Falls is a strange city. It has two downtowns: one for its residents, and one for the tourists (which isn't a downtown so much as it is a midway). The residents' downtown is somewhat depressed because the tourists don't go there. The tourist downtown has an unreal feel about it; as temporary as a circus tent. Fake.
The falls themselves undoubtedly deserve their reputation as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and everybody has a right to make a buck from the resulting foot traffic, but Niagara Falls has the same problems that afflict towns whose primary (almost sole) industry is tourism. Niagara Falls doesn't have the $1 Billion of industry that makes Stratford such a fine balanced town. Niagara Falls is a great place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there, would you?
While walking back to the car, we passed through an area of Niagara Falls which I suspect is part of the real city. The houses were slightly run-down; there was plenty of scrub fields, and hints of abandoned industry. However, we stumbled upon what may have been a mom-and-pop souvenir and refreshments store, and bought some excellent Italian icecream from the proprietor who noted Michael's accent and asked him about his lineage, resulting in the two getting talking about relatives they know in Sydney, Australia. In conversation with this man, we talked about how busy the city was, the best time of year to visit, and the cheapest time of year to visit. For cheap accommodations, the proprietor recommended January. The falls are beautiful at any time of year, but seeing the mist freeze is unreal. Best of all, the hotels would be tripping over themselves for your business because at that time of year the city is, quite frankly, dead.
And I try to imagine the midway of Niagara Falls in January, funhouses closed for the season, stores boarded up, their flashy signs kept ready for the summer. And I have to think that the eerie effects would be worth a trip to the city in its own right.
So, photographers, here's your assignment: visit Niagara Falls in January, come to their tourist downtown, and snap pictures. I'm sure the effects you will get will be worth a few spaces in your albums.
The falls are so spectacular, it's hard to convey their scale in pictures. Despite this, the best part of our trip came after, as we hopped into the car and headed north along the river parkway. As we leave the tourist-oriented segment of the city behind, we hit areas which were more well-to-do, which had bed-and-breakfasts rather than run-down motels, and where the gorge was deeper and the scenery, to my mind, more spectacular.
The best spot along the Niagara River is the whirlpool, and not the part where you board the Spanish aerocar to go across the gorge, but where the aerocar almost reaches the other side. The view here is far better, and there's plenty of space to picnic.
And while Niagara-on-the-Lake has the feel of a historical theme park, its just too beautiful to ignore.
Some photographs from the day...