It’s been called the Honeymoon Capital of the World—and no, I’m not talking French Polynesia or The Maldives. I’ve got my eye on a storied getaway right in our own backyard.
Niagara Falls, which straddles the border between Niagara County in New York and the Canadian province of Ontario, has a long, romance-drenched history that’s fun to soak in before trekking there yourself. For starters, in 1801, future US Vice President Aaron Burr’s daughter Theodosia and her new husband, the future governor of South Carolina, traveled to Niagara Falls from Albany via packhorse, with several servants.
Today getting to the falls is a quick-in-comparison, five-hour journey by car from the state capital—and most visitors travel without household staff. But you can still feel the love, thanks to the high-profile visits of the past that carved out a long tradition of honeymoons there, including in my own family’s. (My maternal grandmother and grandfather traveled from Illinois to see the famed falls as their post-nuptials getaway.)
Today, visitors find a modernized iteration of the iconic destination that previous generations fell for. In business since 1846, the Maid of the Mist is without question the most famous way to visit the falls themselves. The half-hour trip starts from Prospect Point, glides past both American falls, and then comes eye to eye with the roaring Canadian falls. But with eyes on the future, The Maid of the Mist is now fully electric, boasting two new zero-emission vessels.
The first part of the boat ride is scenic and calm, allowing mistees to take in the beauty of the American falls and Bridal Veil Falls from a respectable distance. It doesn’t, however, give the Canadian Horseshoe Falls the same respect for personal space. As the boat pulls deeper into the dense mist that the vessel was named for, the leisurely sightseeing cruise becomes a balance-knocking, hair-soaking, shriek-inducing adrenaline ride—as immortalized in the Jim and Pam wedding episode on The Office.
Back on dry land, the Canadian side of Niagara (you can cross the border on foot if you packed your passport) is full of cheesy family fun—bowling, haunted houses and fair games vie for attention alongside hotels luring guests with heart-shaped hot tubs.
On the US side of the border, somewhat counterintuitively, the vibe is distinctively more low-key. You’ll have to come back in the spring to hike in Niagara Falls State Park, but the famed Artpark, like the falls, is open year round. Explore the sprawling outdoor gallery and event space that features an impressive collection of large-scale pieces and installations. One temporary exhibit that made (sound) waves this year was Sonic Trails, a series of guided audio experiences that gave visitors a unique new geological and historic perspective on the area as they explored it by foot.
The park is also home to permanent exhibitions such as the re-installation of color field painting Niagara 1979 by Gene Davis. In the summer of ’79, Davis created this work that was made up of 60 two-foot-wide-by-364-foot-long lines rolled in nine different colors. The 43,000-square-foot work was, at the time, the world’s largest painting, drawing in thousands of art lovers each year. A community Kickstarter campaign in 2017 funded the restoration of the work back to its former glory.
It’s easy to see where Davis might have gotten his inspiration. Those with a splurge budget should consider Rainbow Air’s 10-minute, $135 flight over the falls. The name is more than just a moniker—I learned about the aerial offering from a friend who showed me her own photos from the air, with a colorful arch accentuating the dramatic outline of the falls.
Hungry yet? Top of the Falls is the only restaurant overlooking Niagara Falls, offering a truly memorable meal. For those able to pull their attention off the view and towards their plate, the restaurant partners with Taste NY to support locally made food and beverages, highlighting our state’s rich agricultural traditions.
While you’re at it, don’t miss the dozen wineries in Niagara County that make up the first stretch of the Niagara Wine Trail, several of which line the coast of Lake Ontario. There’s no better way to toast a trip to Niagara—or your very own Jim and Pam-worthy “I do’s.”
For more adventures, visit alexinwanderland.com.