How to have the best 3 Days in Niagara Falls, Ontario

How to have the best 3 Days in Niagara Falls, Ontario

Niagara Falls is a majestic wonder! You can have the best 3 days in Niagara Falls by either having a full-on itinerary with guided tours or a flexible one where you can explore to fulfil your wanderlust. In either case, you would want to have the maximum experience possible.

We opted for a flexible itinerary where we could explore as we wanted to. One advantage to prior planning our visit to Niagara Falls was that we realised all the attractions were within close proximity. We could walk to the Falls itself and the town centre or we could drive to the nearby attractions.

If you do not have a car when visiting Niagara Falls, you could use the City’s public transportation – the bus system is renowned for its service to connect tourist  accommodations to attractions throughout the City.

Click the official Niagara Falls Tourism link to find out more on Ontario public transportation

Niagara Falls, Ontario

The majestic Niagara Falls was a magical experience and I am sure it is on everyone’s bucket list! If it is not, get it in – because you will be blown with total wonder and amazement at the six million cubic feet of water which goes over the crest of the falls every minute, at a vertical drop of 50m (165 ft)! You simply have to see it at least once!

Niagara Falls is situated on the New York/Canadian border along the Niagara River which flows between two of the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. Niagara Falls really refers to three waterfalls – the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The Horseshoe Falls sits on the border of the US and Canada, the American Falls sits entirely on the US side, separated by Goat Island. Also, on the American side is the smaller Bridal Veil falls, separated from the American Falls by Luna Island. The Horseshoe Falls is the most powerful waterfall in North America.

Journey to the Falls, Ontario

We began our journey to Niagara Falls from Cincinnati. It was a good and pleasant 7.5 hours’ drive, stopped twice for breaks. Our journey was via I-71N and I-90E, passing Cleveland into Buffalo (see the below map) making our way to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. You will need your passports! 😊

The immigration checks took about half-an-hour or so which gave us the opportunity to stretch our feet. There were no issues. We vacated our car, left all our belongings in. The immigration officials ran through a quick check of our identities and checked the car.

Cincinnati to Niagara Falls_driving route_1
Cincinnati to Niagara Falls: Driving route

Three Days at Niagara Falls

3 days at Niagara Falls could be considered a short one, yet we felt we did everything we wanted to do on this occasion. We saved a few activities for our next visit. Although, we had an itinerary of sights we wanted to visit, this was a very loose one. We explored the surroundings as we had our car which made it convenient to do so.

The Horseshoe Falls_view from our hotel room.
The Horseshoe Falls_view from our hotel room.

From our hotel room, we also had a clear view of the Rainbow Bridge, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls.

The view from the hotel: Rainbow Bridge, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.
The view from the hotel: Rainbow Bridge, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.

So, here is an itinerary for a two-night, three-day visit to Niagara Falls. Hope you will enjoy this journey with us and do let us know what you think in comments below.

3-Day Itinerary

1 | Day 1 at Niagara Falls

We arrived late afternoon. After a quick check-in, bags dropped, refreshed and we were ready to explore.

1.1 | Table Rock Welcome Centre

Table Rock Welcome Centre was our first visit. It was right next to the Falls, the heart of Niagara Parks. This is the place that connects you to the Falls and other major attractions such as the Journey behind the Falls and the Hornblower Cruises. The Centre can be accessed in two ways.

Driving:

If you are driving, you can access it via Niagara Parkway. You can drive along Niagara Parkway as there are a number of designated parking available.

If you are not driving:

If you are staying at one of the hotels in the vicinity, you access it via the Falls Incline Railways from the Fallsview Boulevard/tourists area. The Falls Incline Railway is a convenient link to use and gives you a good view of the Horseshoe Falls as it rises and descends along the track.

The Falls Incline Railway is wheelchair accessible.

Falls Incline Railway

Once you exit the Falls Incline Railways, walk through the Welcome Centre

Niagara Falls: Table Rock Welcome Centre
Niagara Falls: Table Rock Welcome Centre

There are food-courts, gift shops and information centre here. Also access to Niagara’s Fury and Journey Behind the Falls. There is a candy shop called Pop & Lolly. Elements of the Falls offer a great dining experience with spectacular views of the Falls.

Table Rock Welcome Centre: Pop & Lolly's Candy Shop - famous for its handmade candy.
Table Rock Welcome Centre: Pop & Lolly’s Candy Shop – famous for its handmade candy.

At the end of the Welcome Centre, and out of the doors – you will see the Falls.

1.2 | Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls

What you will see as you walk out of the Welcome Centre is the most beautiful, powerful and amazingly extraordinary waterfall on this beautiful planet!

There it was, right before us. I was so close to it that I felt I could almost touch it. Watching so much water gushing over the brink of the fall was an awe moment. We felt the mist on us and it was both refreshing and sticky.

Niagara Falls: The Horseshoe Falls
The Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls, Canada.
The American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls from the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.
The American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls – Views from the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

While taking-in the majestic views of the Falls, we took a stroll along the wall and captured some breathtaking moments of the sunset and views of the American Falls, the Rainbow Bridge and the Bridal Veil. No two photos were the same.

I can assure you, you will be totally amazed. When you are here, capture the rainbow! I have so many photos with the rainbow and it is totally amazing to see the little shade of colours.

Further down the Falls along the wall, there is the view of the Skylon Tower, we got the feel of the town and stopped over for coffee and some souvenirs at Queen Victoria Place.

Catch the view of the Skylon Tower and its rotating restaurant at Niagara Falls.
Catch the view of the Skylon Tower and its rotating restaurant at Niagara Falls.
Niagara Falls: Experience the sunset over the Rainbow Bridge and the American Falls
Niagara Falls: Experience the sunset over the Rainbow Bridge and the American Falls
Capture the evening sensation with the mist along the Falls
Capture the evening sensation with the mist along the Falls
Niagara Falls: Take a break here at Queen Victoria's Place for some coffee and shop for souvenirs.
Niagara Falls: Take a break here at Queen Victoria’s Place for some coffee and shop for souvenirs.

When you visit Niagara Falls, be sure to capture the view when the water is illuminated by bright lights on the backdrop of the night sky.

Most of the evening of our arrival, we spent it at the Horseshoe Falls and just strolling around, taking in its beauty and the atmosphere, reluctantly withdrawing from here because of dinner!

The next day was our first full day and we opted to do 3 activities, dinner at Remingtons and explore a little of the nightlife.

2 | Day 2 at Niagara Falls

On the morning of Day 2 at Niagara Falls, we made our way to the Falls Incline Railway. We walked through the Table Rock Welcome Centre, the double-doors and came face-to-face with the majestic view of the Horseshoe Falls.

There was something about the morning mist and the morning sun reflecting off the thundering water rushing over the brink of the fall that just captures your admiration no matter how many times you look at it. To get up-close and personal to this majestic wonder of the world, we strolled along the stone-wall, making our way to our activities.

The following were on our itinerary for Day 2:

  • Hornblower Niagara Cruise
  • Journey behind the Falls at Niagara Falls
  • The Whirlpool Aero Car
  • Whirlpool State Park
  • Dinner at Remingtons

Off e went to our first activity on our itinerary – the Hornblower Niagara Cruises.

2.1 | Hornblower Niagara Cruises

The Hornblower Cruise takes you on an intimate 20-minute wet and wild boat ride to the foot of the Horseshoe Falls. Yes, you do get wet!

You will be given a red poncho before you board. I would highly recommend that you slip it on. Once you board, get a good spot up-front near the railings for the best experience. You do get close to the American Falls and the Bridal Veil falls, which is a great photo opportunity.

Hornblower Cruise activity at Niagara Falls will take you close to the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls.
Hornblower Cruise activity at Niagara Falls will take you close to the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls.

However, the “real” experience is when the boat reaches the very heart of the Horseshoe Falls, at the foot – and its pouring rain – the breath-taking power of the water and the mist makes this experience a magnificent one. The boat stayed in that position for a couple of minutes before making its way back.

The Hornblower Cruise takes you right to the heart of the Horseshoe Falls. An incredible experience not to be missed at Niagara Falls
The Hornblower Cruise takes you right to the heart of the Horseshoe Falls. An incredible experience not to be missed at Niagara Falls
The Hornblower Cruise up-close and personal to the Horseshoe Falls.
The Hornblower Cruise up-close and personal to the Horseshoe Falls.

We highly recommend this experience.

Travel tips and practical information on Hornblower Cruise in Niagara Falls:
  • Boat ride is 20 minutes
  • Departs every 15 minutes
  • Best time to visit: April 1st to November 30th
  • Take a waterproof camera

Mist Gear – is a retail shop located in the Lower Landing prior to boarding. Sells souvenirs and other items which you may need for your trip.

Standard Admission Prices:

Adult (13+) – $25.95

Child (6-12) – $15.95

2.2 | Journey behind the Falls at Niagara Falls

Journey Behind the Falls

Journey Behind the Falls is a once in a lifetime experience which should not be missed! We had a unique view of the Horseshoe Falls from below and behind, offering an unforgettable experience of seeing one-fifth of the world’s fresh water crashing down to the foot of the Fall.

To experience this amazing spectacle, you will descend 45.5m (150ft) by elevators, cutting through bedrock to a short tunnel of about 45.5m (150ft), giving you access to two outdoor observation decks and two portals. The observation decks, Upper and Lower decks takes you to the very foot of the Falls.

The Journey behind the Falls.This is how close you get when you are on the viewing deck
The Journey behind the Falls.This is how close you get when you are on the viewing deck

At the Lower Deck, you will witness up to 2,800 cubic metres of water gushing over the brink of the Fall every second, at 65km per hour. This is where you need to put on your yellow poncho which is given to you when you exit the elevator.

The Journey behind the Falls also involves experiencing the two portals, Cataract Portal and the Great Falls Portal. Both of these portals are located directly behind the Falls, at one-third of the way behind the massive sheet of water. These viewing portals are cut straight through the rock, giving you a view of the gushing water down to the basin below.

One of the Portals on Journey behind the Falls
One of the Portals on Journey behind the Falls

You will feel the thunderous vibration of the Horseshoe Falls as you walk through the 130- year old tunnels cut through the bedrock. There are posters with lots of information regarding the history and evolution of the tunnels as you walk through them.

Travel tips and Practical information on Journey behind the Falls
  • Journey Behind the Falls will take about 30-45 minutes.
  • Year-round attraction
  • The Lower Deck is not wheelchair accessible
  • Free poncho

Standard Admission Prices:

  • Adult (13+) – $19.95
  • Child (6-12) – $13.00

2.3 | The Whirlpool Aero Car

The Whirlpool Aero Car is another natural wonder which should not be missed on your visit to the Niagara Falls. This experience offer a spectacular view of Niagara Whirlpool, just 4.5 km (3 miles) north of the Falls. We drove to this destination.

The best way to see it is aboard an antique cable car called The Whirlpool Aero Car. This antique cable car was designed by a Spanish engineer, Leonardo Torres Quevedo and has been in operation since 1916. The Whirlpool Aero Car is suspended from six sturdy cables, and you will be transported through air, safely between two different points of the Canadian shore of the Niagara River, a little over 1 km.

Whirlpool Aero Car Experience at Niagara Falls: The cable car is suspended with six sturdy cables and transports between two-points of the Canadian shore.
Whirlpool Aero Car Experience at Niagara Falls: The cable car is suspended with six sturdy cables and transports between two-points of the Canadian shore.

You will get a spectacular view of the Rapids, the Whirlpool and the Gorge. The Whirlpool is formed at the end of the rapids, where the gorge turns abruptly counter-clockwise, to the northeast and the river escapes through the narrowest channel in the gorge.

The Whirlpool forms at the end of the rapids, where the gorge turns abruptly counter-clockwise to the northeast.
The Whirlpool forms at the end of the rapids, where the gorge turns abruptly counter-clockwise to the northeast.
Niagara Whirlpool where Niagara River escapes through the narrowest channel in the gorge.
Niagara Whirlpool where Niagara River escapes through the narrowest channel in the gorge.

As you are transported from one end to the other, you will witness, far below, the torrent of water abruptly changing direction and creating a natural phenomenon – the Niagara Whirlpool. It is danger free excitement and a mesmerising experience.

Niagara Whirlpool - A natural phenomenon.
Niagara Whirlpool – A natural phenomenon.
Travel tips and Practical information on Whirlpool Aero Car Experience at Niagara Falls
  • Round trip is about 10 minutes
  • Opens April to November
  • Not wheelchair accessible
  • Capacity is 35 standing passengers

Standard Admission Prices:

Adult (13+) – $15.00

Child (6-12) – $ 9.75

2.4 | Whirlpool State Park

From the Whirlpool Aero car experience, we drove a little further to the State Park to explore the hiking and nature trail. The Whirlpool State Park is a 109 acre state park located in Niagara County, north of Niagara Falls. The park overlooks the Niagara Whirlpool on the Niagara River and the lower Niagara Gorge.

There are ample parking available here.

Find out more on Whirlpool State Park 

2.5 | Dinner at Remingtons

Remingtons is a steak and seafood restaurant and we opted for steak on this occasion. We were pleasantly surprised at the western style décor, upscale yet a casual atmosphere, with singing waitresses/waiter. The food was really good – the steak was made just as we like it and the portioning was just right.

Remingtons

5657 Victoria Ave, Niagara Falls, ON L2G 3L5, Canada

There are a few casinos and clubs you could go to here after dinner and the nightlife continues till early hours of the morning.

3 | Day 3 at Niagara Falls

Day 3 at Niagara Falls meant that it was the day we were returning home. We made a late start, took in the last few moments of the breathtaking views of the Falls before heading on our journey. We planned our return journey through Ontario, via Detroit to Cincinnati. 8 hours! This route took us through the Wine Route in Niagara.

For more information on the Wine Route of Niagara Lake click  wineriesonniagaralake

Niagara Falls: Visit to the Wineries region of Niagara on the Lake
Niagara Falls: Visit to the Wineries region of Niagara on the Lake

3.1 | Winery Hopping

Niagara Ontario Canada especially along the shores of Lake Ontario is gaining international popularity as a wine region. The region is home to over 50 wineries. About 25 vineyards are dotted within a landscape of 15 to 20 minutes outside of Niagara Falls. So, following the Wine Route of Ontario through the countryside became a ‘must see’ destination on the morning of our journey home.

Wineries of Niagara on the Lake - just a small part of it on our return journey from Niagara Falls.
Wineries of Niagara on the Lake – just a small part of it on our return journey from Niagara Falls.

Driving through the beautiful, quiet and charming countryside was uplifting. There were way-finding signs placed in strategic locations providing easy navigation to vineyards. These vineyards were quite close together which made our journey easy.

Beautiful landscaped properties during our visit to the Winery Region
Beautiful landscaped properties during our visit to the Winery Region
Beautiful landscaped properties during our visit to the Winery Region on our return journey from Niagara Falls. The grounds of Peninsula Ridge was one of the best we have seen.
Beautiful landscaped properties during our visit to the Winery Region on our return journey from Niagara Falls. The grounds of Peninsula Ridge was one of the best we have seen.
Beautifully landscaped and well tended grounds all throughout these properties on the Winery Route.
Beautifully landscaped and well tended grounds all throughout these properties on the Winery Route.

One of the two wineries we visited was Peninsula Ridge. It offered a great selection of both red and white wines with a good wine tasting options – selection of 5 for $10! I thought that was a bargain!

We were particularly impressed with the variations to Mead, Honey Wine. We tried the varieties and I found the “Apple Pie” was super sweet. I preferred the good old traditional Mead made of honey!

IMG_9676 (2)

History of Mead

Honey Wine, or “Mead”, was the first fermented beverage, and is considered the ancestor of all alcoholic drinks. Its origins date back to 7,000 BC when first discovered in clay pots in Northern China. Mead was noted throughout history as an important ceremonial drink, often drank by Saxon Warriors in traditional “Mead-Halls”. Mead was also reserved for the Royals or Nobility of society.

Mead had an important role in the ceremony in Celtic traditions, where a newly married couple would be given enough Mead for their first month of marriage. The Mead was said to bring success, happiness and fertility. Today, we know this ancient tradition as the “Honeymoon”. Even today, traditional Irish weddings bestow Mead upon newlyweds. In the tradition, honey is also gifted for a “sweet” marriage.

IMG_9723-2.jpg

However, the highlight for me was walking through rows and rows of grapes in the vineyards and encountering the different fragrances in an absolutely stunning scenery.

Sharing some photos here, so they speak for themselves.

Conclusion

The 3 days in Niagara Falls was one of the best short getaways we have had. We enjoyed our trip to the Falls, the Whirlpool and the Wineries. We explored a little of the nightlife here but saved on the casinos for our next visit. Though our trip was a brief one, we had a great time. We would highly recommend this destination and look forward to returning.


Is this post valuable to you in planning your visits to Niagara Falls, Ontario? If so, please let me know in comments below or via Contact Form, I would love to hear from you.

Have a splendid time in Niagara Falls!

Georgina

February 2020, Update

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – 10 Reasons to Visit this Ancient Wonder

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – 10 Reasons to Visit this Ancient Wonder

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of those places where you don’t really need a reason to visit – you just do! It is one of the ancient wonders of the world which will transport you to a whole new world of experiences. For a city girl like me, a visit here has not only been a memorable one but it is one of those places that has earned a spot on the “Return” list.

Come along with me and share my experiences.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a place where there are no real words can be found to describe it accurately. It was established in 1934 and has been referred to as a living mountain range. It is continuously shaped by the forces of nature – wind, water and erosion. The natural beauty of the mountains, the tranquillity of the woods and the wildlife here makes this, one of the most visited natural parks in America, drawing over 200,000 visitors per year – a Park that continues to ‘live’ in a time capsule of the 1800s.

Where is Great Smoky Mountains located

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park sits on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee.

map of the smokies on USA map
The Smokies on USA map – sits on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee

There are major entrances to the Smokies from either of the States. More information is listed below on Useful information.

For now, join me on our journey.

The Foothills Parkway – Gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Foothills Parkway gives you easy access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from a road corridor that is outside the Park, providing you with magnificent views of the mountains and wildflowers.

Foothills Parkway
Foothills Parkway – the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains Natural Park

Our visit here was before the New Leg of the Parkway was open, in early autumn. (The New Leg takes you from Townsend, TN, to Wears Valley, with a short ride into Pigeon Forge, TN, and Gatlinburg, TN – from US 129 to US 321 in Walland).

Have a look at the following scenic guide offered by google.my.maps

Crisscrossing of the Ancient Mountains is a sight to behold…

The beauty of the mountains comes through as you drive up…when you see, as far as you can, ridge upon ridge of endless forest. It was one of the prettiest sights, that I had ever witnessed – the crisscrossing of the mountains in the distance as it blends into the blues of the skies, which makes it particularly picturesque.

The Smokies.
The Smokies: The beauty of the mountains comes through as you drive up…when you see, as far as you can, ridge upon ridge of endless forest. It was one of the prettiest sights, that I had ever witnessed – the crisscrossing of the mountains in the distance as it blends into the blues of the skies, which makes it particularly picturesque

No two views are the same…

There are many ‘pull-over’ areas throughout the drive that gives you breath-taking views of the mountains. Stop as many times as you can – we, stopped at every pull-over site, because no two sites were the same and it afforded great photo opportunities.

Capture the sights of the Wildflowers – The Great Smoky Mountains Natural Park is home to approximately 1600 species of flowering plants.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to 1600 species of plants.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to 1600 species of plants.

The Great Smoky Mountains are not just mountains…there is an air of tranquillity here which you must simply experience yourself.

This mountain range is also covered with the ever-present morning fog which gives it the name, “Smokies”.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park: This mountain range is covered with the ever-present morning fog which gives it the name, “Smokies”
Great Smoky Mountain National Park: This mountain range is covered with the ever-present morning fog which gives it the name, “Smokies”

The importance of the Great Smoky Mountains was aptly described by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was quoted as saying:

“There are trees here that stood before our forefathers ever came to this continent; there are brooks that still run as clear as on the day the first pioneer cupped his hand and drank from them.”

Activities to do at Great Smoky Mountains

This ancient mountains with its ancient wonders provide a myriad of activities for both young and old. There are many reasons why one would visit this ancient wonder and I have listed my top 10 reasons below.

10 Reasons Why you should Visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park aka The Smokies

1 | History of Mountain Culture at the Great Smoky Mountains

The Smokies has a long history of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, specifically a community of native Americans called, Cherokee. It is a small community that is preserving its 18th century way of life. 

We visited Oconaluftee Indian Village, in Cherokee, a town on the reservation in western North Carolina. We had a taste of their 18th century lifestyle. A guided tour of Cherokee dwellings, a look at how their ancient jewellery and beads were crafted, their primitive tools – all with live demonstrations. The highlight was the cultural dance that tells the tribal story. 

If you are visiting this part of the world, pay the Cherokee Village a visit, it takes you to a different dimension.

Oconaluftee Indian Village | Cherokee Historical Experience

Below is a picture of a Native American, one of the elders of the Cherokee tribe, from the Oconaluftee Indian Village.

Great Smoky Mountains: A visit to the nearby town of Cherokee where the 18th century lifestyle is preserved.
Great Smoky Mountains: A visit to the nearby town of Cherokee where the 18th century lifestyle is preserved.

2 | A natural habitat of Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains is a natural habitat to a huge diversity of wildflowers, plants and animal life which are not found elsewhere. It was a wonderful experience to see the varieties in various colours, all in one place.

3 | Wildlife of Great Smoky Mountains

3.1 | The Great Smoky Mountains is home to approximately 1500 black bears

We did not see a bear on our visit, however, it is said that the chances of seeing a bear is highly likely in Cades Cove, (on the western side of the park) and Cataloochee Valley, (on the park’s east side).

3.2 | Best time to see black bears

Spring and Summer are the best months to see the bears, especially in the early             morning and at dusk.

3.3 | Federal Law Requirements

The bears live throughout the Park and federal law requires all visitors to properly      store their food in the trunk of their vehicles and place all garbage and food scraps            in bear-proof trash cans.

3.4 | Elks

An animal associated with the American West. Sightings of these are rare. We were fortunate to see them on our way to Cherokee, North Carolina. 

Great Smoky Mountains: Rare sightings of Elks in Cherokee
Great Smoky Mountains: Rare sightings of Elks in Cherokee

4 | Wildflowers of Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains is home to approximately 1600 species of flowering                plants.

During the spring months (mid-April to mid-May) and early summer (late May to          mid-July), are the best times to see wildflowers here such as rhododendron and                flame azalea.

The Mountains are also covered with healthy shrub flowers on higher elevation              which we were able to capture on our visit.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to 1600 species of plants.
The Smokies is home to 1600 species of plants.
Great Smoky Mountains Wildflowers
Wildflower shrubs at the Smokies.

Wet and humid climates, as well as a broad elevation range, are two of the most               important reasons for the park’s renowned diversity.

5 | Fishing in Great Smoky Mountains

For the fishing enthusiasts, there is about 700 plus miles of fishable streams in the Park which offers a selection of brook, brown, or rainbow trout.

6 | Waterfalls of Great Smoky Mountains

There are many waterfalls throughout the Park with larger falls such as Grotto, Laurel and Rainbow which are well worth a visit.

7 | Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains

For the hiking enthusiasts, there are several hiking trails to explore – part of the Appalachian Trail is here. 

The Great Smoky Mountains is home to many hiking trails such as the Appalachian Trail
The Smokies is home to many hiking trails such as the Appalachian Trail

8 | Highest point of elevation of the Appalachian Trail

The Smoky Mountains has the highest point of elevation of the entire Appalachian Trail at 2019 metres (6625 feet) – near Clingman’s Dome.

Official Great Smoky Mountains National Park map – courtesy of mysmokymountainpark.com

9 | Camping in Great Smoky Mountains

There are many camping sites available, from backcountry to horse campgrounds. Backcountry camping requires a permit and reservations in advance. Backcountry campers are also advised to check weather conditions against their itinerary before arrival.

Bear activity, in addition to weather, can cause sites, roads, trails and shelters to close. The park can accommodate large groups of campers (minimum party size of 7) at several sites. Group campers must use tents only and they must reserve a spot in advance. 

10 | Historic Buildings in Great Smoky Mountains

There are about 90 historic buildings in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A collection of log buildings, houses, barns, churches, schools and grist mills have been preserved. Best places to experience these are at Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Oconaluftee and along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

My conclusion of the Great Smoky Mountains

Being in the midst of nature, the Smokies was truly an experience for a city girl like me. I enjoyed waking up to the sounds of the birds, the freshness of the morning dew, a walk in the trails looking for the footprints of black bears, and the sighting of elks were experiences that I would never forget. These are also experiences that encourages me to revisit this ancient wonder and is on my “return” list.

Travel tips and Useful Information on Great Smoky Mountains

Getting to Great Smoky Mountains

The Park sits on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park,

107 Park Headquarters Road

Gatlinburg, TN

As the Park sits on the borders of two states, it offers various possibilities of access. The most popular entrance to the Park is via Sugarlands, the north side of the Park. I accessed the following from the official website of the mysmokymountain:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance map
The entrance via Sugarlands, through Gatlinburg, TN

Access via Foothills Parkway

The Foothills Parkway gives you easy access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from a road corridor that is outside the Park. The New Leg of the Parkway takes you from Townsend, TN, to Wears Valley, with a short ride into Pigeon Forge, TN, and Gatlinburg, TN – from US 129 to US 321 in Walland.

Visitor Centres

There are four Visitor Centres:

Cades Cove, Clingmans Dome, Oconaluftee, and Sugarlands

You can check the official website of the visitor centres by clicking: https://www.mysmokymountainpark.com/park/visitor-centers

What you need to know about the Weather in Great Smoky Mountains

  1. Weather at The Great Smoky Mountains:
  • It has four distinct seasons.
  • March through May – Spring;
  • June through August – Summer;
  • September through November – Fall;
  • Mid-November through February – Winter.

**The weather here includes severe storms—tornadoes, strong winds, and hail—that can occur especially during the spring and summer months with March having the widest temperature swings. You can expect snowfall at any time during this month.

**Great Smoky Mountains National Park weather is also dependent on elevation. The base of a mountain can be 10 – 20 degrees warmer than temperatures at higher elevations, so prepare accordingly.

Safety tips to think about when at Great Smoky Mountains

If you are hiking, riding or camping, it is a good idea for you to have the following considerations in mind:

i) Map of the Great Smoky Mountains

Bring a Great Smoky Mountains National Park Map.  Even better if you can get one that has the hiking trails, and camping sites dotted. You can purchase one from the Visitor Centre.

ii) Park Rangers of the Great Smoky Mountains

Ask Great Smoky Mountains Park Rangers for additional safety tips when hiking or camping.

iii) Compass and network

Ensure you have a compass with you and you have a hand-phone that is fully charged. Take a charging device as a precaution.

More ways to experience Smoky Mountains

In and around the Smokies are attractions and activities which one could explore for experiences that will last a lifetime!

Gatlinburg is one of the busiest towns that has a great selection from accommodation to restaurants and souvenir shops plus loads of attractions to choose from. Visit the Titanic Museum, Anakeesta Theme Park or Dollywood. If you are seeking adventurous activities, you could always do a helicopter tour, a 3-hour jeep tour from Foothills Parkway or a mountain zip lining activity. There are more choices available here for you to peruse and purchase an Adventure Pass giving you money saving options to 30 attractions and more.

If you prefer a quiet getaway, exploring on your own terms, like us, you could do that too. Whichever way you would like your adventure to be, there is always something for everyone seeking a memorable vacation at The Smokies.

Notes:

This is not a sponsored post and all opinions expressed are my own. All photos are my own and are all rights reserved. Please do not reproduce them. All prints are available upon requests.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this article and my adventure here will inspire you to travel to this ancient wonder.

Is this post valuable to you in planning your visits to The Smoky Mountains National Park? If so, let me know in comments below or via Contact Form, I would love to hear from you.

Have a splendid adventure!

January 2021, Update.

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Best 10 in Chicago not to miss

Best 10 in the beautiful City of Chicago not to miss

The best 10 in Chicago not to miss is only a short list of experiences compared to the variety of activities that one can do here. Chicago, popularly known as the Windy City although not exactly named for the weather, is a beautiful city with skyscrapers, amazing architecture, world class museums, beautiful parks and food from around the world for you to immerse in when you visit.

chicago top 10

Chicago, Illinois

This city is the third most populous city in the United States and is situated on a huge lakefront, on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is so huge that it feels like an ocean rather than a lake because you cannot see the other side.

In addition, as I am sure most of you are familiar with Route 66, known as “America’s Highway”.  Route 66 begins (or ends, depends where you begin your journey) at Grant Park. However, for now, come along with me and discover what my top 10 are.

Best 10 on Chicago are:

1 | The Lakefront

The Lakefront is one of my favourite areas of Chicago. It is perfect for a morning jog or cycling, play beach volleyball and you can even go rollerblading.

When the sun sets, its perfect to walk along the shores and get your feet into the cool water. It is absolutely beautiful when you see the sun just setting behind the skyscrapers and glimpses of sunlight coming through in between the buildings.

In the summer months, the shores come alive with activities and music and food.

2 | The Riverwalk

The Chicago Riverwalk is a beautiful pedestrian walkway along the Chicago River, spanning from Lake Shore Drive to Franklin Street. You will enjoy the many showcase of art, restaurants and bars where you can stop and enjoy a pint or two and resume sightseeing.

3 | Shop till you drop!

Michigan Avenue or as it’s often referred to as the Magnificent Mile is a mile-long street of shops and is the most popular shopping street in Chicago, just like 5th Avenue in New York! At the north end of Michigan Avenue is Oak Street, where you will find designer and luxury goods and high-end brand names such as Gucci and Prada. From the south of the River, there is State Street where you will find affordable shopping at Macy’s, and more shops such as Forever21.

Christmas in Chicago
Chicago by Night

In winter, these shop windows sparkle with pretty Christmas decorations and in the spring/summer months, the parkways are filled with colourful blooms.

4 | The Loop in Chicago

The Loop is the heart of the business district and it is here that you will find the great architecture that Chicago is famous for, such as the Willis (Sears) Tower, the Cultural Centre and many more. The Loop is a vibrant area for eateries and theatres.

Alongside these, in a prime waterside location, there is Marina City towers in Chicago. The bottom 20 storeys of the twin towers of this iconic building consist of continuous spirals of parking and the top floors dedicated to apartments.

5 | Millennium Park

Millennium Park is in downtown Chicago and it is here where you will find the popular Chicago Bean sculpture, also known as “Cloud Gate”  by Sir Anish Kapoor It is a huge park where you can run, picnic or just hangout.

6 | The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is home to more than 5000 years of human expression depicted in sculptures, photography and textiles representing cultures from around the world. This is definitely a “Must See” for any art or history enthusiast.

7 | The Navy Pier | Best 10 in Chicago

The Navy Pier is a popular attraction. It has ferries wheel, carousel and lots of restaurants and beer gardens. Suitable for anyone – family with children, couples, singles, young and old.

8 | Chicago’s Deep Dish Pizza

One of my favourite pizza and I am sure many of you pizza lovers out there, is the Chicago-style “deep-dish” pizza. So, when in Chicago, head over to Pizzeria Uno where this pizza was invented in 1943.

Although the pizza is known as “deep-dish”, the crust itself is thin, but deep! Of course, mine was pepperoni.

To know more of Pizzeria Uno or to make a reservation, click on the link below:

https://www.pizzeriaunodue.com

9 | Dining in Chicago | Best 10 in Chicago

Chicago is renowned for its world class cuisines, from steakhouses, Cantonese stir-fry and chicken pot pie. There are many diners and eateries around the City, from high-end dining to casual open-air experiences.

10 | Fly into O’Hare Airport

Although it is one of the busiest airports in the world, I would highly recommend that you fly into O’Hare at least once in your lifetime. Besides the crowd, and the long queues at security, you will be rewarded with one of the most colourful sight.

The colours of the neon lights in the 744-foot tunnel that connects United Airline’s Concourse B and C is an amazingly beautiful experience and for some, it may transport you back to your late teen disco days. It is full of colour and is the longest neon sculpture in the world.

This piece of art is called “The Sky’s the Limit”, by Michael Hayden. If you are interested in knowing more about this artwork, click here.

Conclusion on best 10 in Chicago

Chicago has plenty more attractions than what I have listed here. It is a City to visit and experience because of its skyscrapers, world-class food and a fun nightlife. It has something for everyone.


Travel tips on Chicago

Airports – There are two airports here – O’Hare International and Midway. Both are easily accessible and connected to the city by the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority).

Local transport – the transport system here is good. Take the CTA line around the Loop and change where necessary to get to your destination or further out of Chicago. It’s good to familiarise yourself with the colours, for example it is the Blue Line from O’Hare International which will extend through the Loop.

Best time to visit: May – September/October.


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Best 10 in Chicago not to miss first published at timelesstravelsteps.com and is regularly updated. Last update September 25, 2021

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A simple list of the best 10 experiences for first timers in Chicago. A useful guide for a wholesome, all-round experience of this beautiful city. via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/A simple list of the best 10 experiences for first timers in Chicago. A useful guide for a wholesome, all-round experience of this beautiful city. via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/