Monday, July 11, 2011

my guide to the mighty niagara

"Unusual travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God." - Kurt Vonnegut

Niagara Falls is a place you must visit at least once in your life. My hometown is Lewiston, NY which is 5 minutes away from the falls. This weekend my boyfriend, puppy and I made the drive from NJ to visit friends and family back home and it gave me the opportunity to show my boyfriend around this special place.

I think it is easy to overlook Western New York as a vacation spot but there is so much to do and see- I have to share! 

Planning your visit to "The Honeymoon Capital of the World":

The best time to visit Niagara Falls is in the Summer and best view of Niagara Falls is from The Maid of the Mist. It's a boat that takes you as close to the bottom of the falls as you can get. I recommend standing at the front of the boat. You ARE going to get wet, but it's a blast! Bring a plastic zip lock bag so that you can take pictures until the mist starts to get heavy then zip your camera in the plastic bag and just enjoy the ride. (Fun fact for fans of The Office on NBC: Pam and Jim were married in Niagara Falls by the Captain of The Maid of the Mist!)

Bring your passport. You are going to go look at the Falls and one glance across the mighty Niagara River at Canada and all of their tall buildings and flashy lights are going to be beckoning for you to journey across the border. Without a passport, you will be turned away. 

Niagara Falls Canada does have the better view of the falls but do not get drawn in by their cheesy tourist traps. I suggest staying in your car for a drive up Clifton Hill, to take in the bright flashing lights but that's it. There nothing but freak shows, overpriced carnival attractions and mediocre food fast food chains on this flashy strip.

If you are looking for great food, Niagara Falls, NY is where it's at! My suggestion is to hit up Pine Avenue. This is "Little Italy" of Niagara Falls. There are several great options all located on this street,just within 3 blocks of each other and all are very affordable!

  1. The Como - dine in at their restaurant or head over to their deli and have them pack you a picnic and take it back to the falls and enjoy your lunch with a view!
  2. La Hacienda - thin crust pizza perfection
  3. Michael's - highly recommend their calzones (warning it's huge!)and their chef salad.
  4. DiCamillo's wonderful Italian bakery with great bread. Their biscotti is sold in upscale department stores like Saks and Neiman Marcus(you can get here it for a fraction of what those stores charge!)
Another must-try is Viola's Submarine House, on Military Road (Niagara Falls, NY). They are known for their Steak and Cheese sub, & you have to get it with the seasoning and oil. It should be noted that the original location is located just off Pine Ave, but I prefer the Military Road location. There is nothing fancy about this place, but the Steak & Cheese sub is sooo good! There is always a line but it moves fast and this is because they are all business and keep the line moving.

After you finish your sub, head around the corner to De Dee's Ice Cream Shop, where you will find the best ice cream in Niagara Falls. The ice cream selection here is huge and so are their portions. They have seating indoors or you can enjoy your cone outside at one of their picnic tables, shaded by a huge awning.

Ok so you came to see the Falls, but what else is there to do nearby? Plenty!

My first suggestion is to check out Historical Lewiston and Youngstown, NY (10 min drive from Niagara Falls). These two towns were the final stop for slaves on the Underground Railroad, before crossing to freedom in Canada. Both towns are quite charming, with quaint shops, old beautiful well kept houses and sweeping views of the Niagara River and Canada. (insider's tip check out Devil's Hole State Park on your way to the Lewiston/ Youngstown area).

Niagara Power Project Power Vista  in Lewiston is an interactive fun place that will show you how Niagara Falls produces hydroelectricity (very interesting and great for kids). 

Lewiston has Jet Boat Tours of the whirlpools, which are thrilling fun! click here for Lewiston Jet Boat info

Artpark is also located in Lewiston. Their free outdoor summer concerts are incredible! Every year they have an awesome lineup. This year they have O.A.R., Pat Benatar, Peter Frampton, Cheap Trick and The Trews to name a very few. click here for ArtPark's tuesday in the park schedule click here for ArtPark's Coors Light Wednesday's schedule

After boating and rocking out you are sure to be hungry and once again, you have many great options here.

  1. The Brickyard - fantastic BBQ and a nice draft beer selection! The pulled pork and mac & cheese are great and you have to love a place that offers you a shot of bourbon as an option for a side!
  2.  DiCamillo's - wonderful Italian bakery with great bread. Their biscotti is sold in upscale department stores like Saks and Neiman Marcus(you can get in Lewiston it for a fraction of what those stores charge!)
  3. The Silo - featured on Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel. Hotdogs, hamburgers, french fries,shakes all great and with a gorgeous view!
  4. Smith Bro's Pizza - mmmm their Pizza is so good! located on Center Street in Lewiston
  5. The Orange Cat - need a pick me up? This cute coffee spot is great to get your caffeine fix.
  6. Hibbard's Custard - a fave of Bobby Flay!!! You must try this custard. The chocolate is my favorite. There is no indoor seating but there are several picnic tables.

If you are looking to enjoy some music, dance and enjoy a few cocktails, Water Street Landing is your place to go. It's located on the river and has an amazing view. The food is not my favorite (it's not bad though) but if you stick to cocktails and dancing you will not be disappointed. The patio of this place really does rock though so be prepared for loud music!

Just down River Road from Lewiston is Youngstown, NY. I highly recommend a visit to Old Fort Niagara. Explore the Fort itself and check out the museum. On a clear day you can see Toronto Ontario from Fort Niagara Beach. This is a state park and it also has an outdoor public pool. click here for more info about Old Fort Niagara

Ok, so I can't let you leave Western NY without having Buffalo Wings. You have come this far, you might as well make the drive to Buffalo. There are 2 places that I recommend. Anchor Bar (where Buffalo Wings originated) and Duff's in Amherst, NY. If you don't want to make the trip into Buffalo then try Honey's on Military Road in Niagara Falls.

I feel bad,I kind of put Canada down a bit earlier but it's really just the Clifton Hill/Niagara Falls area that I am not a huge fan of. Niagara Falls Canada does have the better casino though. (I am sorry Niagara Falls, NY!) Their casino has more going on, it isn't as smokey and their buffet has a breathtaking view of the Falls.

Other places to check out nearby on the Canadian side are Niagara On the Lake (named the prettiest town in Canada in 1996. Super cute!)and Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens.

Fun Summer festivals to check out in Western NY:

Hope this helps someone, and I hope you enjoy your visit to my hometown that I love so much!
If you have any questions or are looking for suggestions of things to do in Buffalo, NY or Toronto, Canada feel free to ask me! xo Lizzie

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