Niagara Falls is a wonderful place to revisit on a fifth wedding anniversary

Falls view on top floor of Doubletree at Hilton in Niagara Falls, Ontario

My dear wife Karen enjoys the view from the 19th floor of Doubletree in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

The idea was perfect.

Our present to each other for our fifth wedding anniversary should be a return trip to the ground where we’d made it official, my dear wife Karen declared many months ago. I nodded with plenty of enthusiasm. She made reservations at the same hotel where we stayed on our wedding night. We’d mirror the trip, the quick and eventful journey west down the New York State Thruway, the two days in our lives when we’d eloped to Niagara Falls.

Saturday dawned gray and crisp, much like that big day in our life together. The stars did not align exactly, though. In 2008, we pulled out of Syracuse on a Monday morning, destination City Hall in Niagara Falls, N.Y. It made more sense for us to make this trip a Saturday-Sunday event. We’d wake up in Niagara Falls, Ontario, on the morning of our fifth anniversary.

We dropped Ellie B, aka Dogamous Pyle, at the local vet, which boards for short stays. We avoided mentioning details of the trip to her, just like we had decided to keep the trip five years ago to ourselves. No fuss from others.

We again departed around 9:30 a.m. We still have the same Garmin. For some reason, I recalled, Bossy — our name for the GPA’s electronic voice — told us to get off the highway way too soon five years ago, leaving us to navigate a winding, traffic-heavy side road the last 30 minutes or so of the trip. It came back to me when I saw the sign this time. Bossy did not tell me to exit on Niagara Falls Boulevard this time around. We continued to John Daly Boulevard, to the downtown’s Main Street.

Karen shows the ring for five years outside City Hall in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Karen shows the ring for five years outside City Hall in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Nobody was around as we pulled into the City Hall parking lot, but that was what we expected for a Saturday. As we climbed the big steps up front, I remembered how beautiful Karen was in her wedding dress five years ago, and how I felt perfectly calm in my wedding suit. We took pictures. Karen held up both hands. Five years. And show your wedding band, she instructed me when it was my turn.

The next destination was the Orchard, the intriguing Main Street pub where we’d eaten lunch before our civil ceremony. The three or four blocks between were deserted. Not good. And the Orchard was closed. For good. A realtor sign hung in front. A couple doors down, a Kentucky Fried Chicken was boarded up tight. That was the place where Karen had chosen to enter the restroom to change from her driving clothes into her wedding dress five years ago. I had purchased an ice tea and watched lunch crowd eyes go wide when she stepped out of the ladies room in her lovely dress. Mine, too. Per tradition, that was the first time I saw Karen in that dress.

Karen brought apples and cheese sticks. Emergency snacks became lunch, in the car, before we crossed the border. Good thing. The customs guy asked us if we had any food in the car.

A couple blocks into Canada stood the Doubletree by Hilton, tall and impressive. Our room was on the 19th floor, the top story, on the Falls side. Five years ago, we had been on the Falls side but not quite that high up. This time, we were both immediately drawn to the window. Even on this drizzly afternoon, the view was amazing. Crowded tourist blocks to the left, including the big Ferris wheel-type attraction that seemed to always be spinning. Huge Skylon tower to the right, with its observation deck and revolving restaurant. Cascading water dead center, the wonder they call the “small falls.” That’s all relative, of course. Huge to me. The bigger horseshoe lied just out of sight, but you could see the mist rising beyond the Skylon.

Amazing. Totally amazing.

Jimmy Buffett appears at his club. On the big screen, that is.

Jimmy Buffett appears at his club. On the big screen, that is.

Come dinner time, our plan was to eat at the same place as our wedding night. We spotted The Love Boat restaurant on the ride side of Victoria Boulevard as we’d pulled in. It looked closed. It would open for dinner, though, we hoped. Its menu was still online. No answer on the three different phone numbers we found, though.

We pulled into the parking lot. No signs of life. The Love Boat was closed. Dark for the season, I hope. I had quite liked the homey atmosphere. But Karen fears it may be worse than that.

We decided to drive past the Doubletree to investigate eateries. It was raining hard. We pulled into a lot outside the IMAX, all-day parking for two bucks. I noted we’d need a Canadian looney to plunk into the machine to get out.

The lights of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville drew us in. We’d shared drinks at the Key West version, and bought shirts at the singer’s Waikiki Beach location.

The Niagara Falls, Ontario, location is huge and hopping. Servers wore Halloween costumes. Later, there would be a DJ in the bar for the annual dress-up party, out waitress told us. She was adorned in colorful leaves. I called her Autumn.

One wall in the restaurant was filled with two huge video screens. The top featured a loop of the fall’s water spilling downward toward the bottom, which showed song videos of the namesake and his musical friends.

We both went for Cheeseburgers in Paradise. Tasty. We ordered drinks in souvenir glasses to take home. I got a domestic draft. Molson Canadian. Karen went for the Margarita.

We bought some T-shirts in the store. We both put on the free “Party Like a Pirate” lime green rubber bracelets the cashier gave us. She was dressed in paint-sample cards. Fifty Shades of Gray, she explained.

Our new friend Tracy captured Karen and I in the quiet lounge at the Doubletree.

Our new friend Tracy captured Karen and I in the quiet lounge at the Doubletree.

We returned to the Doubletree, and sat quietly at the Starbucks that doubles as a lounge. We met a woman from Akron, Ohio. Tracy told us she was there to run in a marathon the next day. Runners would start on the U.S. side and cross into Canada via the Peace Bridge. Good night and good luck, Tracy.

I awoke on the morning of our fifth anniversary in time to watch the light creep up in the east and the sun make its glorious entrance over the small falls.

No rain for our anniversary day. Perfect. Our plans called for a walking tour of the town and the falls, like we had done the afternoon of our wedding day.

It was beautiful, and it was crowded. We slowly and happily worked our way over city blocks, through a city garden and along the walkway that travels from the small falls to the horseshoe falls. People from around the world stop, stare, and snap many, many pictures.

This Wonder of the World was the perfect place to spend our wedding day, and our fifth anniversary.

Ten, dear Karen?

Niagara Falls. Long may you run.

Niagara Falls. Long may you run.

6 thoughts on “Niagara Falls is a wonderful place to revisit on a fifth wedding anniversary

  1. Pingback: I will call 2013 life-changing | markbialczak

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