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Niagara Falls

  

Niagara Falls is on the north west of New York State on the border with Canada, meaning that this world famous natural attraction is shared between two nations. This is a successful partnership, with a friendly rivalry between the two as to which side does 'the falls' best. And it has to be said, New York does it extremely well. I was slightly resistant to going there at first, as I tend to stay shy of over commercialised tourist attractions generally, but I was actually overwhelmed by the whole experience. Overjoyed even, and so relieved that I didn't miss it.

There are actually three waterfalls at Niagara - from biggest to smallest they are Horseshoe Falls, theAmerican Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. But the first thing that strikes you when you arrive at Niagara Falls is the Niagara River itself, which drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario and which you traverse using a pedestrian bridge, the fast and expansive waters gathering speed underneath as they race towards their final plunge just a stone's throw ahead. This bridge is the escape from the commercial boulevards that hit you when you first arrive in the town. It takes you into the heart of Niagara Falls, a protected and profoundly beautiful, moving (physically and metaphorically) landscape. This is, in fact, Niagara Falls State Park, the oldest State Park in the USA, created by a team of environmental visionaries who recognised, as early as the 1860's that the potential industrial growth of this region would destroy its future forever. Known as the Free Niagara Movement, who fought to have the land protected by the state and then given to the people for free access to enjoy it at all times. 

There are actually three waterfalls at Niagara - from biggest to smallest they are Horseshoe Falls, theAmerican Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. But the first thing that strikes you when you arrive at Niagara Falls is the Niagara River itself, which drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario and which you traverse using a pedestrian bridge, the fast and expansive waters gathering speed underneath as they race towards their final plunge just a stone's throw ahead. This bridge is the escape from the commercial boulevards that hit you when you first arrive in the town. It takes you into the heart of Niagara Falls, a protected and profoundly beautiful, moving (physically and metaphorically) landscape. This is, in fact, Niagara Falls State Park, the oldest State Park in the USA, created by a team of environmental visionaries who recognised, as early as the 1860's that the potential industrial growth of this region would destroy its future forever. Known as the Free Niagara Movement, who fought to have the land protected by the state and then given to the people for free access to enjoy it at all times. 

Bus from Buffalo. Buffalo is just under twenty miles from Niagara Falls, and only a $2 bus journey. You can put your bike on the local bus as they have bike racks on front of and then cycle into the Park. Buffalo is also a booming and buzzing city with lots of responsible and sustainable developments happening there, making it one of my top ten places to visit in New York

Niagara Wine Trail. Niagara is a prolific wine producer, and with over fifteen vineyards and wineries to visit on the trail, you will certainly get a taste of what is on offer from all these local growers and producers. Becker Farms, for example, combines other farm activities such as pick your own apples in season and a superb bakery with their wine producing, or Arrowhead Springs Vineyards which hand produces all their Merlots and Malbecs, Cabernets and Chardonnays, using sustainable methods and handmade barrels. There are many events along the Wine Trail throughout the year, so keep an eye on their calendar. You can also purchase aVino Visa Passport, which entitles you to free tastings and discounts on purchases. 

Niagara Falls Culinary Institute. A centre of epicurean excellence, its headquarters is hard to find between the Hard Rock Café and the hardcore souvenir shops of Niagara Falls main street, but it is worth the search. And it is only minutes' walk from the falls. Make your day complete, and replete, by heading here at the end of the Wine Trail, catch the falls at dusk and go sample the students' work in fine dining style. They also have the only Barnes and Nobles bookstore that is wholly dedicated to cuisine. 

Artpark. In Lewiston, this is the summer hub of the arts, with outdoor performance spaces for concerts and play as well as visual arts and family cultural events. All set in a natural riverside environment, Very happening. Very New York State. 

Castellani Art Museum. Niagara University, Greater Niagara. As well as its permanent collection of over 5700 works of art, including Picasso, Miro, Dali and Warhol, the Castellani has an impressive folk art collection celebrating many aspects of this region's local heritage. This museum was a a philanthropic gesture made by Mr. and Mrs. Armand J. Castellani, of Niagara. Mr Castellani was a grocer by trade, and went on to found Tops Markets, one of the largest supermarket chains in Western New York, bought by Morgan Stanley in 2007. The company has rebranded with a smaller, more local influence again as Tops Friendly Markets

 

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