Why Isn't Niagara Falls Known As The Most Romantic Place In America Anymore?
I just got married, which entailed many big decisions: What to wear? What to serve? Whom to invite? Holy s--t, do I really want to get married?!
But perhaps there was no bigger decision than where to go for our honeymoon. My wife and I considered South American hotspots like Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, tropical locales like Antigua and Aruba, or even a long flight to Africa or Asia.
One place we did NOT consider whatsoever? Niagara Falls. Who would possibly honeymoon in a spot most famous for having a stupid waterfall and confusing people as to whether it’s in America or Canada?
But for people of a certain age, Niagara Falls was IT. The only possible place you'd consider going to celebrate after you got married. It’s highly likely your grandparents or great-grandparents went there (even my parents did), taking a train, car or ferry to Niagara Falls, New York, strolling on the then-legendary Falls Street, and staying in one of the countless honeymoon suites in town -- try not to imagine them sharing a cheesy heart-shaped in-room jacuzzi.
For over 200 years, ever since Vice President Aaron Burr’s daughter Theodosia (lovely name) and her new husband 'mooned there in 1802, Niagara Falls has called itself the “Honeymoon Capital of the World.” For most of the 19th and 20th centuries, it was a place that many American newlyweds could easily and cheaply access, especially after the invention of the automobile in the late 1800s and construction of the Erie Canal in the early 1900s.
The idea of standing near the Falls, holding hands, celebrating your love and then collecting your official “Honeymoon Certificate” (signed by the mayor since 1949) was a romantic and appealing one for millions and millions of young couples. Today, though, as millennials get married by the millions, it's safe to say that most aren't flocking there.
Of course, things change -- and lots of bad things have happened to Niagara Falls in the intervening years. In the mid-1950s, a power plant literally fell into the Niagara River. The once-booming downtown was, for the most part, knocked down in 1969. In 1978, the Falls' Love Canal area was declared a toxic waste site.
Likewise, with air travel becoming a more affordable option, there was no longer much of a reason to visit Niagara Falls for a honeymoon (even as the Canadian side of the Falls became a bit of a gambling mecca). Then came the internet and, jeez, have you Googled "Niagara Falls" recently? It ain't pretty.
Nevertheless, Niagara Falls still somehow manages to attract 8 million tourists a year -- but, of course, no one really considers it a honeymoon destination anymore. The idea of spending the first few weeks of your marriage in chilly upstate New York, strolling past countless chintzy souvenir stores, eating hot dogs and fried dough, and staring at falling water isn't all that appealing in the year 2014. Even worse, the once-famous Falls Street is now a shopping mall.
Nevertheless, the Falls are still falling and they are still as gorgeous as ever, truly one of the great natural wonders of this world (even though my wife and I opted for a romantic getaway to Spain and France instead). It really wouldn't be the worst place to visit sometime with your significant other. It's cheap, and at the least, it would probably make for some cool Instagram opportunities.