Theodosia Burr—whose name you may recognize from proud dad Aaron’s sweet lullaby in the Hamilton musical—embarked on the first Niagara Falls honeymoon 220 years ago with her new husband, Joseph Alston. The historic event required numerous servants and nine pack horses. They may not have been travel influencers in the 21st-century sense, but Niagara Falls’ allure surged. It’s been two or so generations since Western New York’s waterfall city reached its pinnacle as the Honeymoon Capital of the World, but for budget-minded couples craving an easy escape, the Niagara Falls region still offers a fun and romantic mix of trendy enticements and throwback mystique.
1. Thrills to share
Niagara Wine Trail
Plot a course to three or four of the more than 20 stops along the Niagara Wine Trail, and you can fill a day not only with a spree of tastes, from honey meads to earthy pinot noirs, but also with the joyful aimlessness of exploring rural towns. In this microclimate region between warm-air-releasing Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment, which walls in the warmth for an extended growing season, the number of wineries has more than quadrupled in the past 15 years. A $25 Winter Wine Pass, available through March, includes tastings and discounts at 15 participating wineries. This quiet season is an ideal time to chat with winemakers, refine your palate, and restock your home cellar. If you drink, make sure to have a designated driver.
Niagara Falls Culinary Institute
28 Old Falls Street. (716) 210-2525; nfculinary.org.
Time your trip to coincide with one of the hands-on public classes at the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute, and you can level-up your home cooking skills and repertoire, too. Some sessions will even transport you to places you’ve dreamed of visiting through the aromas and flavors of international cuisines. Sharing your Niagara Falls adventure with other couples? Book a private competition class and see whose mystery-ingredient mojo will impress the judges in a live cooking battle that’s far more exhilarating than binge watching the Food Network.
Niagara Falls State Park
332 Prospect Street. (716) 278-1794; niagarafallsstatepark.com.
The pulse-quickening wonder of the 3,160 tons of water that pour over Niagara Falls every second is the destination’s ultimate enchantment. Many couples are content to simply clasp hands and appreciate nature’s power from observation areas above the falls. Niagara Falls State Park is open 24/7, and on long winter nights, when hundreds of preprogrammed LEDs illuminate the three cascades that converge here from the New York and Canadian sides of the Niagara Gorge, the visual effects are pure magic. Couples who crave more adventure can journey below the falls and feel the water's shuddering thunder with Cave of the Winds’ abbreviated winter touring option.
If you and your love enjoy bonding over adrenaline rushes, braving the Lower Niagara River’s rapids aboard Niagara Jet Adventures’ enclosed jetboats is a year-round thrill. (855) 652-8687; niagarajet.com. The season for Maid of the Mist boat tours doesn’t begin until spring. (716) 284-8897; maidofthemist.com.
2. Tables for two
Red Coach Inn
2 Buffalo Avenue. (716) 282-1459; redcoach.com.
The dark-wood–beamed restaurant at the Tudor-style Red Coach Inn, where a stagecoach scene hangs above a snap-popping log fire, is just the sort of place where you can picture a century’s worth of newlyweds making goo-goo eyes at each other over coffee. A fixture across from the state park entrance since 1923, the inn serves three meals a day. Breakfast offers the most decadent temptations with dishes like fragrant crème brûlée French toast or a crab omelet topped with a waterfall of Hollandaise.
Center Street, Lewiston, New York
The lovely 19th-century village of Lewiston is about a 15-minute drive away, and it’s easy to pretend you’re the stars of a Hallmark Channel movie as you drift in and out of shops along Center Street, which ends at the strollable Niagara River waterfront. The foodie scene here is so on point you’ll be flooding your Instagram feed with photos of shareable dishes at romantic restaurants like Italian standout Casa Antica for homemade gnocchi (490 Center Street; 716-754-2581; casaanticarestaurant.com) and intimate, farm ingredient–driven Carmelo’s Coat of Arms (425 Center Street; 716-754-2311; carmeloslewiston.com). In the mood for a more casual meal? Brickyard Pub & BBQ and Brickyard Brewing Company (the brewery is rebuilding after a fire and hopes for a spring reopening) sit side-by-side, duking it out with meat-heavy menus and bourbon vs. craft beer (432-436 Center Street; 716-754-7227; brickyardpub.com, brickyardbrewingcompany.com).
3. Rest and rekindle
Niagara Crossing Hotel and Spa
100 Center Street, Lewiston. (716) 754-9070; niagaracrossinghotelandspa.com.
At Niagara Crossing Hotel and Spa, Lewiston’s charms, including frothy coffee drinks at Orange Cat, are right outside your door. The best rooms—three Romantic Sunset Suites—overlook the Niagara River, and it’s meditative just to observe the kaleidoscope of ice floes swirling by. Any room can be your romantic retreat with add-ons like rose petals, champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries, or hot stone massages for two at the spa.
222 First Street, Niagara Falls. (716) 299-0200; thegiacomo.com.
Steps from the action of both the falls and the Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino, The Three Diamond-designated Giacomo is a boutique property in a 1929 tower that transports guests to another period with its blend of Mayan and Art Deco architecture and decor. You’ll love the warmth of both the fireplace in the lounge and the staff who genuinely delight in fulfilling couples’ whimsical requests. Take your drinks up to the 19th-floor Skyview Lounge for 360-degree views of the river, sky, the twinkling lights of two nations’ skylines, and the mist of Niagara Falls: ethereal, yet as enduring as love itself.
Kim Knox Beckius is the New England and New York State travel expert for tripsavvy.com, a contributing editor at Yankee Magazine, and the author of seven books on travel in the Northeast.
AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. Local tourism boards are a good resource for updated information.