Co-Authored By Jeff Game
Traveling today has become a search to find an authentic experience, something real and not the Disneyesque fabricated kind. The U.S. side of Niagara Falls has always been that place that people spent their honeymoon (Ask Christopher Reeve’s Superman) or thought it’d be cool to go over the falls in a barrel – way before Go Pro was ever invented. Historically Niagara Falls may not be a place that you would have traveled to, hung out, drank great wine, relaxed or had a fantastic meal, but that’s all changing now.
Even so, you cannot get much more authentic than being named the first state park in the United States, which Niagara Falls became way back in 1885. Similarly, there seems to be something in the water that makes the people of Niagara so real, down-to-earth and inviting, that it makes the all-around experience of traveling to this part of Upstate New York so exceptional.
After all, the falls are still and have always been the same. However one of the most authentic and natural wonders of this entire planet has evolved into one of the coolest places to travel. Located in Western New York, butted up right against the Canadian border. Take a look around and check out all that Niagara Falls has to offer these days.
Art Deco Escape
Built in 1929, with a remodel in 2010, the Hotel Giacomo is a towering art deco grand palace of a hotel that is literally blocks from the Falls. You may feel as if you stepped into a throwback movie, as the architecture and design will keep you in awe. Old-school touches like chocolates on your pillow, fresh baked cookies with evening turndown service and wine tasting on the 19th floor with a view of the Falls are all part of the package. The Hotel Giacomo is truly THE hip place to start and end a Niagara adventure.
Take Flight on the Wine Trail
There is also something in the water that creates a unique microclimate which produces award-winning wines along the massive Niagara Wine Trail. Along with the beautiful countryside, the Niagara Wine Trail stretches into three counties and offers any level of wine lover distinct wines to taste, sip and buy along the trail
Run by husband and wife team, Cindy West-Chamberlain and Michael Chamberlain; Black Willow Winery is a family affair that embraces you like a loving hug from a longtime friend. Located on the south shore of Lake Ontario, on 43 acres of vineyards, Black Willow Winery is an absolute must stop along the trail. Their wine and chocolate pairing tastings may leave a big dent in your wallet as you end up buying many bottles of wine and gourmet candies for the trip back to reality.
Schulze Winery has a rustic and elegant setting to spend the afternoon sipping on some of the finest wines along the trail while relaxing to some local music acts under the blue skies of Western New York.
Freedom Run Winery is all about getting your art and wine pallet going, with an artistic and relaxing setting to spend a lazy couple hours sipping some of their finest selections and blends.
Gotta Get Outside
Take to the great wide open and soak in all the outdoors you can on one of the many scenic hiking trails along the Niagara River Gorge. Take a leisurely stroll down the easier Niagara Gorge Rim Trail for 6.2 miles, with a few vista views, including the Whirlpool and Devil’s Hole Rapids. If you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge, take on the 1.3 miles of the Whirlpool Rapid Trail, which is rated difficult as you tackle a little bit of boulder climbing and narrow paths.
Mountain bike trails are a plenty in Niagara, and a great way to check out the gorge and even better views of our Canadian neighbors across the river. At only 1.5 miles long, the Devil’s Hole Trail is a wooded, unpaved trail that includes a killer overlook of the Devil’s Hole Rapids below.
Maybe a little bit of boating and crashing into towering class 5 rapids, as you ride through the mighty gorge is more your jam. Hop aboard the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours to learn about the history and geology of the river, all while getting seriously wet and having some fun along the way.
After a long day of outdoor fun and fun on the vine, it will definitely be time to get your grub on and Niagara Falls and the surrounding area is loaded with tons of culinary choices for any taste.
A great place to start would be one of the finest restaurants in the area or any area for that matter. The folks at Webster’s Bistro Bar serve succulent French/American bistro fare, giving you the feeling of you are having a cozy dinner at your favorite bistro in Paris. Your foodie senses will be on overload, trying to decide from classic steak & frites, or the moulard duck breast, or their take on beef bourguignon. Of course, all paired with their impressive selections of wines.
Eat uniquely as the locals eat, with their favorite dish, beef on weck. Essentially this little ditty is a French dip sandwich, however in these neck of the woods, they pile the rare, thinly sliced roast beef on top of a kummelweck. You can’t go wrong with this heaping sandwich and a couple of cold, cold beers, with 50 on tap at The Griffon Gastro Pub.
Some of the top chefs and great culinary minds are right in the heart of the city and steps away from the Hotel Giacomo at the Culinary Institute of Niagara Falls. Savor is one of three dining choices that is entirely created and run by students, as the next generation of chefs churns out extraordinary gastronomy on a daily basis. Students at the Culinary Institute even make their selections of top wines and fine craft beers. This student-run restaurant is a gem of a find, and truly an authentic culinary experience.
Niagara Falls has always been an amazing natural and majestic wonder. Now, the city and the salt of the earth people of Niagara are transforming this region into a bucket list destination with substance.
One of the best airlines in the business, JetBlue, has even taken notice with expanding flights from top U.S. cities to Buffalo/Niagara and now daily direct flights from Los Angeles becoming very popular. The new Niagara Falls 2.0 should be at the top of any traveler's list for 2017 and beyond.