The last time I had been to Niagara Falls was about 20 years ago. I always considered it to be a honeymoon destination so I didn’t really feel the need to go back. Then recently I was approached by Michelle Blackley of Niagara USA to check it out as a destination for a girls getaway. I’m never one to turn down a challenge and I figured as long as I was flying to upstate New York I should also give Buffalo a try.
My friend Lynn and I met at Buffalo airport and picked up our rental car. We made the short drive downtown to the Hotel Lafayette. This boutique property is quite modern and we were given a great two bedroom suite.
At the Pearl Street Brewery we met Peter Burakowski of Visit Buffalo and sampled the house brews (we both really liked the fruit ones, especially blueberry and raspberry). We also overdosed on comfort food. The potato pancakes and Reuben sandwich were definitely things I missed since moving from New York.
After lunch, Peter drove us around and showed us all the building going on to revitalize the waterfront. Even though it was spring, we had lucked out and gotten summer weather to enjoy the outdoors. He suggested heading down to the Elmwood neighborhood and checking out the shops. I loved the variety and unique items and resisted the urge to pick up a unique pair of shoes and boots at Bluefly.
We had dinner at the hotel at Butterwood Sweet & Savory. The food and cocktails were very unique and we enjoyed them, but the real treats here are the desserts. The Peanut Butter and chocolate cone was like nothing I had ever tasted.
The next morning we had went to Betty’s downtown for an incredible breakfast, with decadent dishes such as Peach French Toast filled with cream cheese.
From there we took some time to visit the Albright Museum in Buffalo for a walk through art history. We then take took a tour through the Darwin Martin House, created by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. I was especially impressed with the greenhouse, with its welcoming sculpture.
We took a ride to the Roycroft Inn, within the quaint city of East Aurora for lunch. We ordered a basket full of their homemade truffle chips (which are as good as they sound). Lynn then had a salad and I loved my sweet and savory turkey apple Panini.
Before we left East Aurora, we stopped at Vidler’s 5 & 10 . It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside I found the equivalent of five stores, selling everything from unique bath salts to penny candy.
Dinner was at Vera Pizzeria, which offers Italian specialties such as a creamy on the inside, crispy on the outside goat cheese arrancini and pizzas made fresh to order. Their drinks (with a menu that reads “Love Potions, Pain Killers, Truth Serums, Courage Builders) includes a lot of fresh fruits, but have a powerful kick thanks to spirits like scotch, rye and gin so we were obliged to check those out too.
On our third day we headed to Niagara Falls, just a 30 minute drive away. We checked into The Giacomo Hotel, another interesting property that was renovated from a historic building.
We walked with Michelle Blackley to the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute, This modern complex also has a restaurant (with student chefs), a retail store to buy (and taste) wine and a Barnes & Noble that only sells culinary themed books and products.
We had lunch, which included house made gnocchi, a dessert assortment and an apple caramel pie at their Savor restaurant.
After lunch we took a ride through Niagara Falls State Park and got to check out all the falls from the prospective of the U.S. side, just over the Canadian border from Ontario.
It was then off to Seneca Niagara Casino Hotel, a short walk from The Giacomo. Lynn played the slot machines while I enjoyed their spa, becoming thoroughly pampered with a Mango-Passion Fruit Yogurt Wrap.
Michelle picked us up a short time later for dinner at Wine on Third. We had some different tapas here, but the most memorable items were the Cheesecake Martini and the Saganaki, which is a slab of Kasseri cheese melted over a hot lava rock and then flambéed with a cognac.
We made it an early night as we had a busy day ahead. It started with a tour of Old Fort Niagara and continued through the areas wineries. We visited Freedom Run, Arrowhead Spring Vineyards and Eveningside, each offering a different selection of the areas varietals.
After lunch at Wine Trail Italian Bistro, I had a terrific facial at the quaint Barton Hill Hotel & Spa. I loved the waterfront location of this cute town and hope to check out more of it at some point.
We went back to Seneca Niagara Casino to check out their new buffet for dinner. Though Lynn and I vowed to have some salad, we couldn’t help trying a little bit of everything for our last night in Niagara. The area had certainly proven it was much more than a honeymoon destination.
After many years as one of the top tennis writers in the country, Marcia Frost now devoting most of her time to travel writing, with a focus on food, wine and spirits. She has her own blog at WineAndSpiritsTravel.com and does weekly columns for Inspirato on Sonoma and Paris (two locations she visits often). Marcia also freelances for many other outlets, including Yahoo!; AOL; Michigan Avenue; Rum Bum; Los Angeles Confidential; Travel, Food & Drink; and Air Tran’s Go! Magazine. She has been contributing to Girls’ Getaway since 2010. For more information on Marcia, visit her website MarciaFrost.com.