Want to plan a long weekend away with your significant other, but can't afford to jet off to the standard romantic destinations like Paris or Hawaii? Consider Niagara Falls instead.
Why? It's close to several major cities in both the U.S. and Canada, and it's easily explored over a long weekend. Add in huge waterfalls with rainbows frequently stretching across them, great meals, and romantic inns, and it doesn't get any more romantic.
Here's a sample plan for a romantic weekend getaway to Niagara Falls:
Day 1 The American Side
Especially if you're coming from somewhere within the U.S., it makes sense to start on the New York side of the Niagara Gorge.
Niagara Falls State Park - Start at Niagara Falls State Park, the oldest state park in America. You can get up close to the American Falls at Prospect Point, and then take a stroll over the pedestrian bridge to Goat Island, where Terrapin Point gets you close to Horseshoe Falls.
Maid of the Mist - You can't really go to Niagara Falls and not ride the famous Maid of the Mist. You can take boat tours from both sides of the falls, but the original Maid of the Mist boats ONLY operate from the American side now. (In 2013, Hornblower Cruises took over the Canadian side operation.) The cruise puts you right in the middle of the thundering action of Horseshoe Falls.
Helicopter ride - Helicopter tours operate from both sides of the falls, but my pick is Rainbow Air, the only helicopter operator on the American side of the border. This family-run business is one of the most affordable for helicopter tours here, and a helicopter tour over the falls is definitely something neither one of you will ever forget.
Fireworks - Every Friday and Sunday night during the summer, Niagara Falls puts on a fireworks show at 10 p.m. Head over to Prospect Point (go early to get a good spot), and end the night with a memorable show.
Day 2 The Canadian Side
While you could easily spend a long weekend just on the American side of the falls, a visit to the Canadian side is a must as long as you bring a passport with you.
Go behind the falls - Start off with a Journey Behind the Falls experience, where you go below ground and can pop out directly behind Horseshoe Falls, the most powerful waterfall in North America.
See waterfall rainbows - In the afternoon or early evening, once the sun gets a few hours away from setting, you can often see rainbows forming in the spray above Horseshoe Falls. These are especially visible on the Canadian side, so be sure to head down to see them.
See the falls illuminated - Every night around dusk, both the Horseshoe and American falls are illuminated by giant colored spotlights. This year-round feature was begun in 1925 and is definitely worth seeing. While you can't truly appreciate this effect from the American side, the view from Canada is stunning. (And, in my opinion, the illuminated American Falls is the best background for a romantic photo.)
Stay in a hotel with a view - Since Niagara Falls State Park covers most of the land near the waterfalls on the American side, you won't find any hotels there with waterfall views. On the Canadian side, though, there are many options. While a falls-view room won't be the most cost-effective, many come complete with panoramic windows and hot tubs overlooking one of the falls - pretty perfect for a romantic splurge.
Day 3 Niagara-on-the-Lake
On your last day, I suggest getting away from Niagara Falls and heading for Niagara-on-the-Lake. Situated on Lake Ontario, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a historic small town known for its beautiful architecture and immaculate streets and homes.
Wine tour - Niagara-on-the-Lake is also known for its wineries. There are several wine-themed tours to choose from in the area, or you can just visit individual wineries on your own.
Walk/shop in town - Niagara-on-the-Lake is beautiful and perfect for a relaxing afternoon. There are lots of boutiques and specialty shops lining the streets, and plenty of beautiful homes to admire. Architecturally speaking, my favorite building is the Prince of Wales Hotel, a Victorian-style landmark building dating back to 1864.
Have you been to Niagara Falls recently? What else would you add to this list?
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