Saturday, August 1, 2009

When Did Niagra Falls Get So Tacky?

So, our first stop on our family vacation extravaganza this year was Niagara Falls. I have been there 2 or 3 times in the past, but not for at least a decade. And I don't think I've been on the Canada side of the falls for at least 30 years.

I was surprised both by how expensive everything was on the Canadian side of the falls, as well as how tacky. Now don't get me wrong. The falls themselves are beautiful (breathtaking, really), and the view from the Canadian side is better than from the US side. But I'm still left wondering whether if it was worth it to go, as the place left somewhat of a bad taste in our mouths.

This is what we expected (and got!):

The falls are a natural wonder, and the "Maid of the Mist" boat ride is worth it, as they get you right up close to the falls.

But the town is tacky to the nth degree

with Ripley's right next to Frankenstein, next to a horror show, next to a Rock and Roll Wax museum, tacky souvenir shop, etc. People smoking everywhere (not just the tourists, but a much greater percentage of the locals then I would have expected-I thought Canadians were supposed to be much more progressive. I guess they're just more "European" in this respect).

The hotel we stayed at was expensive, and looked like it had been built in the 1970's, with furniture updated once in the 1980's. The cleanliness was barely passable, the wi-fi didn't work in the room (only in the lobby, though they expressed surprise that it didn't work in the room-a night clerk said it never worked in our room). One of the mattresses creaked and was lumpier than our 25 year old sleeper sofa at home.

Food cost about 80% more, even after adjusting for the exchange rate (ham, mushroom, and cheese omelette at a Perkins restaurant- $8.49 in the states, $14.98 in Canada. Other stuff even more outrageous). You would think that the town would look really good, with the prices being charged. But other than some nice buildings right near the river, the rest of the town is rather shabby looking.

It took us almost 3 hours to clear Canadian customs, and we weren't even singled out for special inspection. The lines were just that long. Buddy Boy was waxing poetic in the back seat about what the customs agents might be looking for while we were waiting (bombs, explosives, and terrorists). Luckily, we persuaded him to clam up while we passed thru the line.

Even though the streets were packed, we were told that tourism is off this year due to the economy. The Canadian people were nicer than most tourist dependent townsfolk. I think I would be surly if I lived in a town where people tramped thru my front yard every day and asked stupid questions. One store clerk thanked me for being polite (and I wasn't even trying to be-I can't imagine what she has to put up with on a daily basis).

After a couple days of seeing the falls and the surrounding area, we were off to mid-southern Pennsylvania, where we spent the next few days. Fortunately, we got thru customs going back in about a half hour.

All in all, I still would go back to Niagara Falls and the Canadian side. It's just a shame that such a naturally beautiful place has been degraded by such a tacky town.


farmwifetwo said...

Yes, we horrible Canadians (just ask McCain who claims the 9/11 terrorists that trained in Florida on US visas.. came from Canada) are nice to people who's media constantly spreads lies about us. Yes, that was a "shot" but I'm SOOOOO tired of hearing the song "Blame Canada" in my head lately.

Niagara Fall's went "tacky" in the last 10 to 15yrs. When I lived just "up the highway" and spent many a teenage night there, it was run down and old but... fun. Now it's damp, wet (b/c the Mist can't escape) and just tacky...

We're going in a couple of weeks... but not to stay... just a quick visit for the day.

Club 166 said...

Sorry if this came off as "anti-
Canadian". I didn't mean it to.

In fact, I have always had a quite positive image of Canada and Canadians, and I think it was because of this that I was so surprised that the city was so tacky.

The city was overpriced and tacky. The people were fine. That's all I meant.

I'm sure it's tough to constantly be interacting with people who know nothing of Canadian history, refer to the currency as "funny money", and bristle at having to buy beer at provincial stores. I wouldn't be near as hospitable as most of the people I met.


Mrs. C said...

Wow. I'm glad I never went, then. I can keep my money and look at your pics for free.

Club 166 said...

Like the Grand Canyon, it's something that is really best seen up close and personal, and I still would encourage people to go.

I would just warn them ahead of time about the surrounding area, and suggest that they come, see the falls, then drive another 50 miles into Canada to stay somewhere else.


Judi said...

Yes, it's tacky and has been for a long time! I am 39 and remember it being tacky when I was in my early teens. Just a tip though...never go to an American restaurant in's a definite hit to the pocketboook and quite frankly, tastes terrible. Niagara Falls is a tourist trap.

Glad you got to see the falls from the Canadian side and enjoyed them despite the tacky...definitely much more spectacular from over here ;-)

VAB said...

They should put a warning label on the travel brochures, but that is what the Canadian NF is supposed to be like. It is our Vegas - the cheesiest place in the north. People go there for a laugh or to gamble, or both, but not for beauty.

If you are driving, I'd suggest Quebec. It's cheap and pretty. If you are flying, you definitely want to go to BC.

Club 166 said...

It actually struck me more like Atlantic City than Las Vegas.

The States definitely have their share of cheesy places, rundown places, and overpriced places. But I can't think of one offhand that's associated with a place of such natural beauty.

Quebec is beautiful, but I haven't been to BC yet. I envision it as a more international flavored Seattle, eh?


Captain Carlight said...

I was privelged to be an Officer on one of the first ships to pass through the St Lawrence Seaway in the year of 1958-ish. So when my wife some 35 years later said that she would like to see the Niagra Falls I was a little cynical. "All it is is a big hole in the ground and a lot of water leaking into it"
How wrong I was. It was amazing, the energy in the air, the buzz and all the different experiences of veiwing the Falls. I enjoyed it so much because I wanted to.

Yes, the town was tacky and the hotels a bit worn but I could name many cities world wide including the daddy of them all Paris wghich can be similar. It is like the 'Curates Egg' it has good and bad parts. But this is the charm of the place, sometimes. What is worse than staying in a brand new hotel which is the same as the last few hotels you have stayed in. Sterile environment without any interesting pimples. I have been travelling for fifty five years and stayed in hotels from Cannes to Calcutta to Guinea. It is the 'people' that make or break your holiday and I was treated well by the Canadians.

Worst experience at Niagra - the Immigration Officer on the US border who was so rude to everyone that my next trip to America is after I have forgotten that experience

Club 166 said...

Hey, Captain, thanks for sharing your experiences.

Like you, I enjoyed visiting the falls. I just objected to paying 80% more for the same thing I could get across the bridge on the US side, as well as making such a place of natural beauty so tacky.

The people were great, I had no problem in that respect. And yes, interacting with people is more important.

I love local color, and don't enjoy staying in a hotel that is cut from the same cookie cutter as the last one I stayed in. But I also believe in value and cleanliness, both of which seemed to be lacking in the place we stayed.

Thanks again for stopping by.


Rubys Inn Bryce can said...

The Niagara Falls is great and amazing.

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