Push into the crowds on the riverfront walkway in Canada and see the whole geological spectacle at once. The imposing cascade on the left, 850 feet wide, is the American Falls. The supercharged one on the right, nearly half a mile wide, is the Horseshoe, often called the Canadian Falls although it touches both countries. Stop at the Horseshoe brink and wait your turn to be doused at the rail by spray from thousands of tons of water plunging down every second. Impressed? This thundering mass is only half of the river’s natural flow. The other 50 percent (75 percent in the off-season) is channeled underground to hydroelectric plants.
Slowly I turn
From the terrace at Edgewaters Tap & Grill (6342 Niagara Parkway; 905-356-2217; niagaraparks.com/dining), the tourist hordes below seem far away. Relax and sample one of the Niagara Region wines, like the Inniskillin Riesling (35 Canadian dollars a bottle, about the same in U.S. dollars). For a casual dinner, try the hearty Great Canadian Sandwich “EH” (14.49 dollars), made with the meaty and flavorful Canadian bacon hard to find south of the border. Afterward, explore the surrounding shady Queen Victoria Park, where gracious landscaping reflects the English style.
Leave the falls behind and drive north in Canada on the lovely Niagara Parkway. Beyond placid Queenston, where an American attack was turned back in the War of 1812, the Niagara River turns relatively tame, and wineries, peach orchards, manorlike houses and an inviting bicycle path line the road. The tasting rooms pour chardonnays, pinot noirs and the regional specialty, ice wine. At Inniskillin ( 1499 Line 3, Niagara Parkway; 905-468-2187; inniskillin.com) tours and signboards explain grape-friendly local conditions; Reif Estate (15608 Niagara Parkway; 905-468-9463; reifwinery.com) has a gimmicky but pleasant Wine Sensory Garden. Peller Estates (290 John Street East; peller.com) pairs its vintages with an elegant restaurant. At Kurtz Orchards Gourmet Marketplace (16006 Niagara Parkway; 905-468-2937; kurtzorchards.com), you can munch enough free samples of breads, tapenades, jams, cheeses and nut butters to take you all the way to dinner.
IF YOU GO
Sterling Inn & Spa (5195 Magdalen Street, Niagara Falls, Ontario; 877-783-7772; sterlingniagara.com), a former dairy building transformed into a boutique hotel, is an oasis of quiet and style at the edge of the tourist maelstrom. Its 41 spacious rooms start at around 200 Canadian dollars, about the same in U.S. dollars.
Doubletree Fallsview Resort & Spa (6039 Fallsview Boulevard, Niagara Falls, Ontario; 905-358-3817; niagarafallsdoubletree.com), an attractive six-year-old hotel on a hill overlooking the falls, has 224 rooms starting at 199 dollars.
The Giacomo (222 First Street, Niagara Falls, N.Y.; 716-299-0200; thegiacomo.com), in a renovated Art Deco office building near the Niagara Falls State Park, has butler service and 38 rooms starting at $199.