Our return trip from Michigan was supposed to be one day of driving but Rich suggested we spread it out over two, for the sake of the children. Buffalo is just about the halfway point if we drive solely through the U.S. so we obviously opted to stay near Niagara Falls. We didn't have our passports, or birth certificates for the kids and we had a kid who didn't belong to any of us so we were "stuck" experiencing the Falls strictly on the American side. Now, I'm going to go out there and say that it feels like the American side of the Falls has picked up a negative reputation. Mention Niagara Falls and inevitably you'll be told that you absolutely have to cross over to Canada for the best views. I can't deny that if you want a hotel room with a direct view of the Falls, you'll need to room in Canada. That is true. But you can still have wonderful views and a great experience on the American side. We did!
Our first order of business after we checked into our hotel rooms was to eat dinner. The restaurant I suggested was quickly replaced by the children with a Rainforest Cafe. After all the tummies were full, we headed over to the walkways near the American Falls.
The Maid of the Mist boat tours are located in this area. We vow to take this boat tour the next time we visit as we were a bit rushed for time this year. There's a massive observation deck at the Maid of Mist tower that provides wonderful views of the American and Horseshoe Falls. The admission sign stated a cost of $1.25 per person for the observation deck. As we were reading the sign, attendants began calling for anyone who had a ticket for or wanted to get on the last boat. A guy was trying to rush us until I told him that we simply wanted to go up on the deck. He opened the gate and let us in (without paying) and asked Rich how he ended up with so many pretty ladies. So I'm not sure if you are supposed to pay but it would definitely be worth the minimal price. The views were amazing.
The girls had seen a sign for a (short) movie about the history of the Falls (in the state park building) so on our way out, we popped into the theater. We missed the first few minutes but that didn't really matter. They all enjoyed the film and I was impressed that they had expressed an interest in it.
The next morning, after breakfast at the hotel and packing up the van, we drove back to the Falls, this time heading to Goat Island, which is next to Horseshoe Falls. Last year, from the Canadian side, I could see that the viewing area had been removed and replaced with dirt and bulldozers. Apparently, this area has undergone a massive revitalization, including a new viewing area incredibly close the Falls.
I had to zoom in on the above photo because that selfie shot is so freaking cute.
(The obligatory squinty-eyed even though it's five minutes from raining family photo.)
The American side of the Falls has state parks and doesn't feel as commercialized as the Canadian side. They both bring differences to the table and I wouldn't necessarily say that one is better than the other, unless you want a room with a view. Even if you can't cross over to Canada, you can still thoroughly enjoy the Falls.
Hotels, even those of the budget chain variety, located on the American side near the Falls can be pricey, even though the majority of them offer no views of the Falls. You are paying for location. I looked for an alternative and found a Four Points by Sheraton five miles (a ten minute drive) down the river. Because of its location, this hotel was priced below the ones closer to the Falls, saving us some money.
The hotel was newer, clean and located in a quiet residential area on the river. The rooms themselves, however, were not quiet as we could hear Grammy and some of the girls talking (in normal voices) in the room next to us through the wall. Another thing to keep in mind is parking at the Falls. If you need to drive there from your hotel, the parking lots have a flat rate of $10. Many of the hotels located near the Falls are within walking distance. This Sheraton included a restaurant, where we paid to eat breakfast for convenience. So there are definitely some costs to keep in mind when pricing out hotels in that area but I thought this hotel was a great alternative and wanted to share.
Views of the river from the back of the hotel.