Year-End Special: Niagara Falls and Winter Festival of Lights

As we were planning to relocate to Canada in May this year, my only wish was to see Niagara Falls from the Canadian side, from where the Horseshoe Bend and the American falls are clearly visible in all their glory! And we did take a trip on the very first weekend.

I had read about how the falls can look like frozen during the winter time (they don’t freeze completely, just that the flow-rate gets reduced), so I had that on my mind as well. Also, with the year-end Festival of Lights (FOL) going on these days, there couldn’t have been a better time than to visit now. So, last Saturday, we made an excitement-filled trip to the attraction known to spellbound anybody. After reaching around 2.30pm, we parked at the paid parking (charge is flat at $20 for a day) right across the street opposite to the Horseshoe falls. Having seen the falls at the peak of Summer, I couldn’t help admire the contrast now. Though it is not yet the peak of winter here, snow has fallen a few times already. And the effect was clearly visible around – apart from the falls, pretty much everything else was frozen.frozen niagara fallswinter in canadahorseshoe falls usaamerican falls canadaIt was so cold even with the layers of clothes we were wearing that Saru had to head indoors (just adjacent to the falls – there are a few shops to grab souvenirs and eat as well). However, if you are adventurous and more inclined towards spending your time outside (like me), you can take a walk along the falls from Horseshoe to American and even further till the Rainbow Bridge (connecting Canada and United States). The route map is here.niagara in winterOnce it was dark (around 5pm), we picked up our car and started driving towards the Dufferin islands, home to Festival’s Canadian Wildlife Displays, including some three-dimensional ones also. Considering that a lot of people are visiting just to see the lights, be ready to encounter traffic, but it is also an opportunity to admire the displays along the road. Since there are 2 lanes each way most of the time, you can stop at non-crowded places (be sure to switch on the parking lights) and click a few shots. Once in dufferin islands, there are designated parking slots for you to get down and go close to the illuminations. wildlife in canadacanada wildlife photographyfestival of lightsdufferin islandsWe spent a couple of hours in the islands before heading back towards the falls. I stopped at a few places on the other side of the road now to take some shots (my favorite is that of the flag – it alternated between Canadian and American one).niagara falls folcanadian american flagNotes:

  1.  The illuminations are on a stretch of 8 kilometers as in map above – it is up to you to make the most of them. One can easily spend a few hours just marveling at the beauty of the falls themselves!
  2. If you are looking to park your car for just a couple of hours to view the falls, check short-term parking slots around – there are many along the main road (they would be cheap). We should have gone with them this time!
  3. This year the FOL is from Nov 18 to Jan 31. There is no fees to view the lights. However, donations are welcome at the exit of the Dufferin Islands.
  4. We didn’t see the fireworks over falls this time, but here is the schedule if you are interested.
  5. Do check the weather conditions if you want to head over. Canada is known for its extreme weather! Consequently, it would be wise to carry all of your winter essentials, even an extra pair of clothes, and an umbrella (the mist off the falls creates showers sometimes).

The thunderous experience of Niagara Falls

We went to Niagara Falls on the US side about 5 years. Though the views are spectacular (and I posted a few pics on my Instagram account earlier), but the beauty on the Canadian side is overwhelming. So, after moving to Canada, the first trip we took was spending a Sunday afternoon there…it is just about an hour-and-a-half drive from our place!

Niagara Falls is a common name of 3 falls – Horseshoe Falls (the largest), Ameircan Falls, and Bridalveil Falls (the smallest).

We arrived there around 3.30pm and parked our car at the Falls Parking Lot (there are many other options around too, you can check on the internet beforehand). At $22 for the day, it is a great option as it is just opposite the Horseshoe Falls.best view of niagara fallshorseshoe falls canadaniagara canada.jpgthe mesmerizing waterfallsThe beauty of the place is eye-catching as there are many hotels close by and the landscapes provide for an added charm. There is enough to spend even a day there as one can just stroll around along the falls for a couple of kilometers!hotels near niagara falls.jpgstrolling along the niagaraJust a few steps aways from the Horseshoe are the American Falls (the long ones on the left below) and Bridalveil Falls (the small one on the right) – both lie entirely on the US side.american and bridalveil fallsThe boats you see in the shots run from both the US and Canadian side – they are referred to as Maid of the Mist experience. We took the one from the US side when we visited earlier – it is an amazing experince as you would hear the craching waves by being as close to them as possibe, and soak up drops of powerful spray (be ready to get wet though you would be given a protective sheet for the body). We hope to take it again from this side someday. I also have to shot the night views of the falls since they illumite in different colors through high-intensity beams!

Being a major attraction in both countries, there are other ways to indule too…take the carriage ride for instance!carriage ride at niagaraIf you feel tired or hungry, there is no dearth of outlets to enjoy the meal you prefer, or just shop for some souvenirs.

Btw, Canada is celerating its 150th year and all national parks across the nation have free entry this year…something we hope to leverage soon!canada 150th day celebrationWe started back around 10 in the night, after witnessing the amazing fireworks over the falls. For more details for your trip, I suggest checking their site.

Following the multi-cultural dream!

We have moved to Canada!

I would have hit H1B limit in the US end of this month and I declined Green Card request from my company 2 years back…and I have no regrets whatsoever!

More often than not, my decision to move on was met with shock to extreme disbelief with whoever I’ve shared the news. I was asked why on earth I don’t want to settle down in the US. Even otherwise, I could have applied for and taken the Green Card (GC) and then left. Well, I was never intent on doing so…and I don’t do anything unless I am comfortable with it!

I can imagine why people behaved the way they did. Let’s take the Indians in the US as an example – most of them dislike India after they’ve spent some time in the US, so much so that some even start ‘hating’ the place they come from! An India-born lady I recently met in the US said, ‘I am happy Trump is adding restrictions on immigrants. Indians are trash and should be sent back!’ As much as I was sorry to hear that and had to bow down my head in shame, I couldn’t believe she can hardly speak a sentence in proper English, in spite of being in the US for over 15 years. If you ask me, she should be the first one to be sent packing!

For me, my love for my motherland never changed. It is natural to ask then, why did I spend 6 years in the US? A simple answer – to fulfill my financial obligations.

As much as I would like to head back to India, I still want to make myself financially stable and gain multi-cultural experiences. I tried very hard to find my next assignment in Europe for multiple reasons. And, for many months last year, Belfast in Ireland was looking like a good possibility. But things didn’t work out eventually and my current client never wanted me to leave either. All in all, Mississauga (close to Toronto) in Canada is where the discussions finally settled down on – not exactly the outcome I had hoped for, but such is life! So, here I am, publishing this post from Canada. The dream of going back to India someday is still there, though.

Btw, I had promised myself to visit Niagara Falls on the Canadian side the first weekend I am here – and I fulfilled that ambition. Here’a video of the world-famous HorseShoe Falls visible only from this side of the border.

More on my Niagara outing would come up across platforms in due course, but there is a lot to look forward to as we start exploring Canada now 🙂

Before I end, a request to my readers  – We all understand the craze to move to the West to pursue our ambitions is something hard to pass over. There is nothing wrong in settling down here too. But, don’t badmouth your own country. If for some reason you are ‘kicked-out’ of the US, it will only be your home country that will still be willing to welcome you with open arms!