In the winter, most people try to vacation as far south as they possibly can, to be walking through sand in their bare feet, watching the sunlight twinkle and dance through swaying, breezy palm branches.
I go snow chasing.
To me, snow, frost and ice is the epitome of the beauty of winter. A freshly fallen snow - each snowflake is a prism in the late afternoon sunlight. It's like a blanket of white, cold, iridescent glitter. Then icicles that double as a wintry decoration or a fun, quick snack - nature's popsicle. There's nothing like walking through a woods with the crunch of snow under your feet.....gently falling snow, the flakes brushing your face, collecting on your hair and all you hear is the quiet whisper of the snow cascading, swirly through pine and oak trees.
I've been fortunate enough to have already visited Niagara Falls a good bit throughout my life. I have family in Erie, PA and almost every time we'd visit them, we'd also spend a day at the falls. To me, Niagara falls is more beautiful, awe inspiring and powerful than say - the Grand Canyon (and I've been to both).
(This is me at the falls for the first time. I was 2 months old)
Experiencing Niagara Falls in winter is something I've always wanted to do. My mom got to witness the splendor of winter at the falls a few times as a kid since she grew up in Western New York. My maternal grandparents spent a frigid, winter day at the falls back in the early 40's when they were dating and took so many fun candid pictures. But you could see the snowy walkways and iced-over lumpy rocks in the background and it was just gorgeous.
(my grandparents when they (my grandma is on the far were dating) left, the woman in the middle is her cousin Julia -
the one I'm named after)
Last month, I got to see Niagara Falls in winter for the very first time! The weather was on a bit of a warming trend right before I arrived but it's Canada folks - all that frozen stuff is thick and covering everything so there was still quite a bit to see. The added bonus of going to the falls in winter is there are hardly ANY tourists! But it is SO COLD. You could tell who the Canadians were because they were all walking around without gloves, hats and their coats not even zipped up all the way and the temperatures were in the 20's (sometimes less especially with windchill).
It snowed here and there for the short while I was there and it was absolutely wonderful feeling fresh snow under my boots again.
The falls did not disappoint! Everything around them was thick with layers of ice and snow! Chunks of the frozen Niagara river would be hurled over the falls but disappeared beneath water before they even reached the edge of the abyss. It never ceases to amaze me the power and never ending amount of water that rushes over that famous drop. The rush and roar of the great Onguiaahra (it's original name given by the indigenous people of the area) combined with winter's glorious adornments of white surrounding the falls is a sight to see! Even when it's cloudy - which it was basically the entire trip.
My favorite part about approaching the falls (at any time of year) is seeing the top of that massive plume of mist that bellows up from the crashing water below. That's the first and only hint that you're near something impressive, otherwise it's just flat, a rushing river and highway. I often wonder what the person thought who discovered the falls for the first time - what even the europeans thought....
With my modern day knowledge I think I would have though it was a massive waterfall or some sort of huge geothermal something-or-other surging up from the depths of the earth.
Typically there are plenty of black squirrels and flying critters hanging around the falls but when it's that cold, everybody is hunkered in some hole somewhere. But not the seagulls. Those guys are loyal fishers of the Niagara River all year, hanging out on ice and rocks, in front of the old power plant, merely yards from the edge of the falls where the strength of the rushing water is the most powerful. Yet none of them were swept over the edge, even when diving into the water for fish. Which, how they could even see fish through all that fast moving water was astounding too.
As much as I love the unique, intense natural beauty of the falls, it's overrun with commercialism, casinos, hotels and super tacky touristy crap. While it's some peoples' thing, it's definitely not mine. I come to see the falls but for my sightseeing, shopping, history, dining, etc, I go to one of my favorite places: Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario.
Niagara-On-The-Lake is such an adorable, pretty little village on the edge of Lake Ontario at the mouth of the Niagara River. It's mix of French/British colonial and victorian with homes that look like life sized dollhouses. Generally it's quieter than the overly touristy city of Niagara Falls with it's grid layout of narrow neighborhood streets and classy, boutique shops on Queen St. It's not far that you have to drive to the scenic countryside where this area specializes in wineries - one of Canada's most popular wine countries. This is where one goes for a quieter, slower, more refined experience of the Niagara Falls area because it's chock full of sweet little bed and breakfasts and historic hotels with spas to relax away any tension from travel.
The Angel Inn is probably one of the oldest surviving buildings in NOTL since it was built in 1789 and is Ontario's oldest operating inn. Their restaurant serves up British style pub fare and they have THE BEST chicken and peach pot pie in the whole North American continent. I know, chicken pot pie with peaches sounds weird if not gross but I promise, it will surprise you and it is to DIE for. I had it when we visited NOTL back in the fall of 2014 and I've waiting for the day to where I could savor this dish again.
I've become quite the connoisseur of all things tea and I love a beautifully appointed afternoon high tea. The Prince of Wales Hotel does tea up splendidly and I had the opportunity to take tea in their drawing room. I'll save all the descriptions and pictures from that for it's own blog post on another day.
Speaking of tea, if you are a teacup collector, like myself, GO TO CANADA. I stopped in at an antique store on the outskirts of NOTL and I've never seen so many teacups in one spot in my life. One of my favorite teacups I picked up in NOTL nearly 5 years ago and every time I'm wandering around on Etsy, a good many of the prettiest teacups are in Canada.
Canada is hoarding ALL the teacups!
Yep. ALL of them. There must have been hundreds of them in just this one antique shop alone.
My last night at the falls was nothing short of something you'd see on a RomCom. I had dinner reservations at the Skylon Tower (a revolving restaurant and observation tower). The falls were lit up, going through a rainbow of colors, the city below with neon lights and the restaurant perfectly positioned its self right as the Friday night fireworks went off over the American falls.
While I'm glad to have returned to a warmer climate, I hope to visit the falls in winter again in the future.