Saturday, June 30, 2012

More Gratuitous Photo Sharing From Our Summer Roadtrip. Neon Signs And Big Ol' Waterfalls. Must Be In Niagara Falls NY! Status: Not What I Pictured.


So the "Falls" are the Falls...are the Falls.  Quite Impressive, especially since we arrived just at sunset!  We spent about an hour at the Niagara Falls park as soon as we arrived...and then went back to the highway where we got off to find a place for the night.  We had spotted a great neon sign from the offramp and wanted to check it out.


This great neon sign brought us all the way back to the highway (4 miles) in the hope that if a

Motel will spend the money to keep a vintage neon sign operable, maybe they will keep the rooms

up as well.  Score.  Our hunch hit pay dirt.  Our room at the Caravan Motel was like $50 and was

as clean as any Budget-el you're likely to find.  It was still a little quirky.  The door to the bathroom

needed to be shaved on the bottom as it was contacting the newly laid tile floor and wasn't able to

be closed completely.


The hot water in the shower kept changing temp (we were right next to the hotels laundry room). 

The toilet flush chain wasn't connected (I fixed it).  And the the universal remote wasn't programmed

(again, I fixed it).  If I'd have stayed another night I probably would have fixed the bathroom door

too!  I can't help it.  I fix stuff.  None of this stuff would ever put me off a place.  We were perfectly

happy to stay two nights here!


I talked with the owner before we left and he (along with another hotel owner down the street)

lamented the unreasonably high cost of maintaining a neon sign.  PLEASE...PLEASE, if you stay

at a motel with a great neon sign Tell The Owner How Much You Appreciate The Sign!  Let them

know that it swayed your decision to stay at their establishment.  They need to know that the sign

still Makes Them Money and isn't a black hole of destitution.


This place - The Moonlight Motel - was just down the street form The Caravan Motel.  It too

had an amazing great neon sign.  The Moon and Star blinked off and on in opposition to each

other!  Nice touch.  Again, this cannot be cheap.  We didn't stay or even have the time to really

check out the building / rooms, so you're on your own with this one.  These places all seem to be

owned by hard working families who take pride in their slice of the American Dream so give 'em

a chance.  If you're not sure about a place, just ask the clerk if you can check out your room first. 

We've never been turned down.  If you look at the pictures above of the Caravan you'll notice the

freshly sealed and lined parking lot and what looked to me like a brand new roof.  That's a lot of

money to sink into an old motel.  They are trying real hard to win your business.


Sometimes the best grand neon signs are in the sketchiest parts of town but these motels are on

Niagara Falls Blvd between highway I-190 and a regular ol' shopping area with newer strip mall

shopping and restaurants like Chili's and Olive Garden.  A little further up Niagara Falls Blvd.

is an airport.  Now...driving back toward the "Falls" from the Motels you'll go through some

sketchy neighborhoods, but this isn't the way most people head to the falls.  There is an

expressway along the lake that leads you there much more quickly.  But we like to see a little

bit of the places were we go.  We went both ways.


One word of advice if you go to Niagara Falls - Take Your Passport!  The party is on the

Canadian side!  It sucked looking across the river at all the good stuff that we were unable to

take advantage of.  All that there was here on the American side was a big casino.  The city

surrounding the area was dead.  It seemed like there was an effort to revitalize the downtown

area at some point but it didn't take.  Sad, that. I was really expecting more. A lot more. It's

all on the Canadian side!


The Bit-O-Paris sign is on the chopping block. I talked to the owner. He was (as was the owner

of the Caravan) quite upset at the high cost of repairing the neon sign. He wasn't happy that I

was photographing the sign in it's present condition and told me that he'd have it removed if it

wasn't for the prohibitive $5,000 cost of doing so! His plan is to cover it some how. Probably

with a fitted tarp type sign, if I understood him correctly. He had by this time gotten quite excited

and was speaking faster and with a heavier accent and I was having a hard time following along.

The gist was that he was giving up on the neon. I tried to explain that it was BECAUSE of the

neon that I had stayed at a motel just down the street and it was WHY I was now standing in

front of his sign and speaking with him and that it might still be to his advantage to keep it alive.

Nope, not going to happen. This one is going to disappear me thinks.  I didn't have time to

check out the Bel-Aire Motel but it looked OK.


After shooting all the great neon signage I could find along Niagara Falls Blvd. we headed back

to the "Falls" and did all the ridiculous tourist stuff.  First we walked ALL over Niagara Falls

park.  Then we went to the local aquarium.  We watched the (quite frankly, cheesy) Imax movie

and then headed for the observation deck you see above.  That leads down to the Maiden of the

Mist that took us right up to the Horseshoe Falls were we got soaked!  After that we went down

to the Cave of the Winds were you walk along a creaking wooden walkway that takes you about

as close to the falls as any sane person would want to get...and got soaked!   We ended our day

by getting a FABULOUS dinner at a local downtown Indian restaurant called Punjabi Hut!  We

sat outside in the lovely night air and even though it was late, were treated good and got great

chow.  Modtomic Approved!


  1. Next time hit the Canadian side, the view is even more breathtaking and there are amazing thrift shops a little further away from the touristy bit. Also a remarkable old 50s diner called "The Flying Saucer" (it looks like one!) or something like that -- breakfast for one could feed a whole family!

  2. When we hit the road we always stay at the funky Mom & Pop motels. Normally a good deal and almost always clean. And it helps the local economy. Same goes for eating out. Local always wins!

  3. In the old days a passport was not even required to cross to Canada.

  4. The good stuff is on the Canadian side because traditionally that was where you went to fully appreciate the grandeur of the falls, you could take in the whole view. In more innocent times, I remember my father's valid US drivers license allowing the entire family to enter Canada for sightseeing.

  5. Retro Roadhusband and I visited Niagara Falls last fall (-!) and were amazed at the contrast between the American and Canadian sides. I could not help but feel that since Niagara is one of the front door entrances to our country from another country that there should be some serious coin spent to make it look nice. What kind of first impression are we making? It was so sad to see what you could tell used to be a busy area, looking positively ghost-town-like. It's like inviting people over to your house and asking them to come in via the garage!

    My hat goes off to you for trying independent mom and pop motels, and I'm always pleased to hear when you have a good experience at one! I'll be sharing your story on RRMP to encourage other folks (maybe including myself?) to be more daring when it comes to motels. I'll be honest, when I saw the Jacuzzi Room / Weekly Rate combo I thought that spelled trouble, but I'm glad it didn't!

  6. Getting awful close to my neck of the woods, I'm only 20mins west of the Falls in Hamilton. If you ever get on the Canadian side of the falls you have to check out my my cousins dinner theatre, he's quite an amazing magician.

  7. I love the look of a good Neon Sculptures. Looks like you guys have done some nice work too!