In early December of 2007 I decided to embark on a three day winter getaway to Niagara Falls, Ontario. In order to explore the city in the best possible way I contacted the experts at Niagara Falls tourism to help me work out a comprehensive itinerary to explore the many facets of Niagara Fall. Their travel specialists helped me put together a packed schedule that exposed me to many interesting sights and activities in this unique city.
My three-day adventure included a thrilling helicopter sightseeing tour, an encounter with nature at the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory and at Bird Kingdom, the world’s largest aviary. I sampled culture and entertainment in a magic show at the Greg Frewin Theatre and a musical production at the Oh Canada Eh? Dinner Theatre.
I also got up close to the majestic Niagara Falls, viewed them from the Skylon Tower and saw an Imax movie called “Niagara: Miracles, Myths and Magic” which presented an interesting dramatization of Niagara Falls’ colourful history. I also checked out some of the actual vessels used by real-life daredevils who went over the Falls and explored the tunnels that take you behind the big cascade of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls in the Journey Behind The Falls experience.
Naturally I sampled some of Niagara Falls hospitality offerings: from my convienent accommodation at the Best Western Cairn Croft to the cozy luxury of the Kilpatrick Manor Bed and Breakfast to a variety of culinary experiences, I got a good idea of Niagara Falls’ broad tourist offering. And of course I explored Clifton Hill – Niagara Fall’s most popular tourist promenade with its gift shops, wax museums, haunted houses, restaurants, hotels and themed attractions.
I even partook of the gambling experience at the Fallsview Casino Resort, a giant top-modern mind-boggling gaming, shopping and entertainment complex. There were so many more things on the list that I could have done, but three days were simply not enough to sample it all.
To help you with your own plans for a visit to Niagara Falls, Ontario, here is an interview with Anna Pierce, the Executive Director of Niagara Falls Tourism who has graciously agreed to provide a general overview of Niagara Falls and everything it has to offer:
1. Please provide us with some general information about Niagara Falls, Ontario. Where is it located and how can I get there? How big is the population of Niagara Falls, Ontario? How do I get around the city?
Niagara Falls is located between Lakes Erie and Ontario sharing a border with New York State. To get to Niagara Falls from the United States, visitors can travel by car over one of three bridges: The Rainbow, Peace or Queenston-Lewiston Bridges. Three international airports service the area: Buffalo in the US, Hamilton and Toronto. Buffalo and Hamilton airports are approximately 40 minutes drive and Toronto is just over one hour away. Via Rail/Amtrak also provide service directly into Niagara Falls.
2. Niagara Falls has a very interesting history. Please give us a brief historical overview of this unique city.
Niagara Falls was first brought to the attention of the European explorers when Father Hennepin was shown the wonder by Native Americans. It was named the Honeymoon Capital of the World after Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother spent his honeymoon here.
Annie Edson Taylor was the first person to go over the Falls in a barrel. She was hoping this feat would make her rich and famous. She died penniless. Since then, several attempts have been made to conquer the Falls. Unfortunately, more have failed than succeeded they never lived to tell the tale. Attempting any such daredevil exhibitions now is illegal and comes with an extremely hefty fine.
Several battles of the War of 1812 (the only war the American Army ever lost) were fought here. Laura Secord, a settler’s wife, played a prominent role in that war before the chocolate company made her famous. She overheard US troops planning an ambush against the British and walked over 20 miles in enemy territory to inform British Troops of the impending attacks. Although she received little recognition for her heroism during her lifetime, today Laura Secord is considered to be a Canadian folk hero.
3. Please tell us about one of the most significant attractions in Niagara Falls – the majestic waterfalls themselves. What makes them special and how can I experience them?
Our Falls are special in so many ways, but the most important is the sheer volume of water that flows over the brink. 600,000 gallons per second, in fact. The Falls is NOT the tallest in the world. It only measures 170 feet deep and 2200 feet wide. The best way to experience the Falls is to make sure you view it from ABOVE, BELOW AND BESIDE. Aerial views via tower or helicopter show how it all works. The Maid of the Mist provides the absolute best vantage point below the brink and the Journey Behind the Falls or Table Rock Point give you the best possible view from beside the Wonder. You have to experience all three to truly understand just how spectacular the Falls are.
4. What type of sightseeing opportunities do I have in Niagara Falls?
Niagara Falls offers a wide variety of Sightseeing Opportunities that centre around the Falls as well as many other wonders. We offer Winery Tours featuring Niagara’s World renown ice Wines, biking and hiking along the Niagara Escarpment, wildlife viewing at Marineland, ZOOZ, the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory, the Bird Kingdom, gaming at one of two Vegas-style Casinos. You name it, we have it.
5. Niagara Falls also has a number of attractions that appeal to nature lovers, featuring birds, butterflies and elaborately designed parks and gardens. Please provide us with further information about these attractions.
I would suggest checking out the following websites for more information on these great attractions:
Most of the gardens in the Niagara Parks system can be accessed free of charge. For example, their School of Horticulture, the Greenhouse Collection, Queen Victoria Park, and many others.
6. What kind of museums and locations of historic interest does Niagara Falls, Ontario, have to offer?
We have several museums in and around Niagara Falls. The Clifton Hill area is filled with many novelty museums including Louis Tussaud’s, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Guinness World Records Museum and a few haunted houses sprinkled in. The Lundy’s Lane Historical Museum houses memorabilia from the War of 1812. One of the battlefields of that war is also located on Lundy’s Lane and is said to be one of the most haunted cemeteries in Canada. The Laura Secord Homestead is also open to the public as are two forts one in Niagara-on-the-Lake and one in Fort Erie. Both were strategic outposts for British troops fighting the attempted invasion from the US.
7. Niagara Falls, Ontario, offers many opportunities to travellers who like the casino and gaming experience. Please tell us more.
Niagara Falls is home to two Casinos: Casino Niagara and Fallsview Casino Resort. The Fallsview Casino is a showpiece in and of itself. It houses over 3000 slot machines and 150 game tables, world-class big-name entertainment in the Avalon Ballroom, and great shopping in the Galleria Mall.
8. What other entertainment options and attractions does Niagara Falls, Ontario, have to offer? What are some of the main entertainment areas? What about theme parks?
Clifton Hill offers great family entertainment: museums, arcades, rides including the newest arrival: the SkyWheel (a ferris wheel which is a smaller version of the EYE in London with air conditioned and heated pods providing great views of the Falls).
Many of our hoteliers are opting to add or build indoor waterparks to add to their existing offerings. We have the Great Wolf Lodge Resort, Waves at the Americana Resort and the Sheraton on the Falls Fallsview Waterpark. All three provide visitors with indoor thrills for year-round fun. They each have several waterslides, a wave pool and the mandatory Giant Bucket”. The Fallsview and Waves are both open to the public.
9. What options are there for nightlife in Niagara Falls, Ontario? What about theatre offerings, shows and special performances?
Nightlife is fantastic here in Niagara. In addition to the great outdoor and indoor pubs, clubs and karaoke bars, we have several great shows available. The Oh Canada, Eh? Dinner Theatre features great Canadian music paired with a fantastic dinner. Greg Frewin is a master magician whose show is sure to please the entire family. We also have several comedy shows and blockbuster performances at the Fallsview Casino.
10. Niagara Falls is embedded in one of Canada’s most popular wine regions and the entire area is often referred to as the “Breadbasket of Ontario”. Please tell us more about the areas surrounding Niagara Falls.
The Niagara Escarpment is located in the Niagara Fruitbelt. This area is some of the most fertile land in the country. We have a microclimate in the Niagara Region which is ideal for growing fruit. The temperatures in the Fruitbelt are generally 10 degrees less than the surrounding area. Frost is always a consideration. This is why you will see windmills in the middle of fields throughout the region. The windmills are used to break up the frost which is so dangerous to the fruit especially grapes.
11. What types of festivals and special events highlight the yearly calendar in Niagara Falls, Ontario?
In September we celebrate the grape harvest with the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival. In winter, our Niagara Parks are illuminated with over 2 million twinkling lights. The Winter Festival of Lights is filled with animated lighting displays featuring Disney Characters. The celebration culminates with a free New Year’s Eve Party in Queen Victoria Park.
12. What type of accommodation options are available in Niagara Falls?
Niagara Falls offers accommodation from 2 to 4 star hotels to bed and breakfasts from cottage rentals to campgrounds from budget to luxury.
13. Please describe the culinary options available in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
Our signature culinary experience is, of course, Fallsview Dining. The Skylon Tower offers the best view from their Revolving Dining Room, but the Keg Steakhouse, a Cut Above and the Watermark Restaurant all boast excellent food with a view. Dining at the brink of the Falls is also available at the Table Rock House. In Niagara-on-the-Lake the vineyard cafes and restaurants are some of the best in Southern Ontario. The chefs in these restaurants pride themselves in offering recipes featuring meats and produce grown in the Niagara Region.
14. Please tell us about the shopping opportunities in Niagara Falls.
Canada One Factory Outlet, the Fallsview Galleria, the Penn Centre and Niagara Square Malls are all within 15 minutes of the Falls. Niagara-on-the-Lake has many quaint one-of-a-kind shops to choose from as well.
15. What outdoor, recreational and sports opportunities are available in and around Niagara Falls? How about golfing?
Niagara Falls has many hiking, biking and roller-blading trails. Water-based sports such as boating, sailing and fishing are also huge draws for us. Niagara Region is also gaining renown as Canada’s Golf Capital. We have over 48 Golf Courses both public and private. Several are PGA quality and have been designed by leading course architects. John Daly and Greg Norman have both designed courses in the region.
16. What are some of the big news stories that will be coming up for Niagara Falls in 2008 and beyond?
The biggest news for Niagara Falls is the announcement of a new Convention Centre for Niagara Falls. The details are being finalized as we speak, but they should be breaking ground fairly soon. We are expecting the opening to happen some time in 2010. In short, it’s an exciting time to be part of Niagara Falls’ Tourism Industry.
Thank you, Anna, for your taking the time to provide us with this comprehensive information about Niagara Falls. You have given me some great ideas for a summer getaway and I look forward to visiting Niagara Falls again.