Story by Ilona Kauremszky
Vacay.ca Senior Writer
NIAGARA FALLS, ONTARIO — So you look like a drowned rat, sopping wet but who cares. You survived the world famous boat ride in Niagara Falls and the rumbling thunder still echoes the eardrums. Now as a Hornblower Niagara Cruises survivor, you are ready for a little sustenance and come night time, the desire to sleep like a baby.
For those contemplating a visit to this iconic locale, I’m here to say you will definitely be able to sleep well. Here are 5 Niagara Crash Pads worth checking into:
The big deal: The 51-storey property has the best bar in the sky that affords fabulous views of both the Horseshoe and American Falls. The Myst Lounge and the adjoining Watermark Restaurant below are decked out in whitewater white décor and have a fun wave motif that looks like you want to hang-ten it.
The tiered resto and lounge also ensure patrons don’t infringe on each other’s panoramic vistas. After you’re done with the cocktail (there are some interesting choices like Niagara Ice infused with vodka and ice wine and Hypnotic Breeze with Hpnotic liqueur, rum and pineapple juice), you’ll be ready to descend the elevator to the Brazilian Steakhouse Brasa, featuring all-you-can-eat cuts of meat.
You will dine on beef rump steak, beef top sirloin and 10 other types of meat choices, not to mention the salad bar of 70 buffet items.
Once you’ve completed your feast, you’ll make your way to your hotel room. The accommodations are elegant and newly renovated.
The surprise: Want some more splash? There’s an indoor pool with a curvy slide, a huge family favourite.
Back in the olden days, this location was HQ for Bordens Dairy, serving the freshest bottles of milk to the locals. It was the last dairy in the area where the traditional milk man went to his patrons by horse and buggy. Fast forward a few decades and this former factory building is now a luxury boutique hotel, welcoming guests looking for a posh experience to stay overnight.
The big deal: The hotel’s vibe consistently whispers, “It’s all about the inside not the outside.” The amenities, service and fine dining hold true as the hotel is away from the maddening crowds of Clifton Hill and the Niagara Parks.
Guests are escorted to their suites in which no two rooms look alike. Expect spacious boites styled in dark woods and rich colour palettes. The building’s layout with its quirky dairy bottle exterior gave designers some challenges but the end result is a winner. Some of the rooms have a deep soaker tub and all the rooms have a huge rainshower head in elegantly appointed bathrooms.
To top it off, guests are offered breakfast in bed.
At the flagship restaurant, AG Inspired Cuisine has a fabulous gourmet menu without the pretense. The restaurant, whose name is a reference to the periodic table symbol for “silver,” consistently receives high ratings from diners and critics. Executive chef Cory Linkson is such a connoisseur that his farm-to-table philosophy has extended to the hotel owners, who recently secured a nice garden patch in nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake to provide ingredients for the menu.
The surprise: A quiet, mellow property perfect for unwinding after witnessing the white waters of Niagara.
As I twisted and turned, sheltering my eyes at points when the Horseshoe Falls was raining down hard, I thought geesh wouldn’t it be nice to feel like royalty after surviving this seafaring voyage?
So I booked a room and stayed at the Prince of Wales Hotel in historic Niagara-on-the-Lake. The landmark property has been a favourite tourist haunt since the late 1800s when Niagara’s earliest tourists slept at this location, then known as Long’s Hotel.
Now at the legendary Prince of Wales, guests can plunge into a wonderful experience with hints of “Downton Abbey.” The common areas are elegantly furnished in antiques with oversized vases teeming in roses with the finest intricate wood inlays, all hallmarks to a glorious Victorian past.
We easily dove into the luxurious surrounds and headed to the Drawing Room for the acclaimed High Tea Afternoon. Instead of white-whipped waters it was whipped clotted cream and scones. Instead of thundering falls unfurling around us, the soothing sounds of Pachelbel’s Canon and horsey trots outside accompanied our visit.
The surprise: The Prince of Wales Hotel has a fabulous indoor pool surrounded in huge wall-sized, glass-covered painting reproductions of Queen Victoria and family. The other surprise: the ladies loo. Beautifully appointed floral-designed ceramic toilets and matching sink gives a completely new take on the water theme.
Across the street from the Shaw Festival Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake is this boutique hotel that appears historic from the façade but as soon as you walk through the portico it’s modern, hip and contemporary.
There’s a wonderful guest lounge with computer stations, a flat-screen TV and plush lounge chairs located off the entrance. I loved the whole fresh, urban feel that the proprietor obviously wishes will attract city dwellers seeking a countryside retreat. The rooms have cool tones and a massive wall HDTV. Some terraced rooms feature French doors that open overlooking the theatre.
I couldn’t get over the green Fish Dish in the bathroom (which guests can purchase) and yes, the Shaw Club offers guests a complimentary fishbowl of their choice with a pet fish for the stay. If you like Nemo so much the fish in the fishbowl can be purchased.
The Shaw Spa, located adjacent to the hotel in a separate building, offers many relaxing treatment options. I opted for the Vinotherapy facial, a grape-infused treatment that uses organic products. The result: silky smooth, soft and full of antioxidants. I swear it makes me look younger.
The surprise: The loo again. This one at the Shaw has been lauded as Canada’s best restroom. You need to pay a latrine visit, rather than take my word for it though.
By Canada’s oldest golf course and overlooking the moody Lake Ontario, there’s a wall of green shrubs enveloping one of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s historic mainstays: the Oban Inn. This Grand Dame has been serving sightseeing patrons since 1824.
The big deal: The grounds are immaculately groomed as guests enter this boutique hotel where WiFi, parking and breakfast are included. The other fabulous inclusion: amid a few remaining traditional rooms fringed in Victoriana themes, you’ll find elegant, modern suites.
The surprise: A visit here makes an elegant bookend to soak in some luxurious surrounds. Experience a massage in a grotto-like spa then late in the afternoon head to the lounge for a cocktail. By dinner you make your way to the restaurant for classic dishes such as Grilled Steak Frites or Surf and Turf with the chef’s flare incorporating local ingredients like peaches and cheeses.
And come night fall, return to the cozy abode with the best rooms having lake views, shut off the lights and begin the well-deserved slumber.
After facing the thundering Niagara Falls these ultimate crash pads are sure to feel mighty sweet.