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Niagara Falls, Ontario
28 - 30 July, 2001

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Horseshoe Falls from the Skylon Tower
Canadian Horseshoe Falls taken from The Skylon Tower

Dave and I drove across from Ann Arbor, MI, for the weekend to visit Niagara Falls, Ontario. Across the Detroit River via the Ambassador Bridge, along a mainly straight motorway, through countryside that was nearly all flat farmland, which with a couple of stops and traffic hold-ups, took us 5 1/2 hours. But it was worth it. We had booked a room at The Sheraton Fallsview, directly above the Horseshoe Falls, and set off to explore as soon as we had checked in.

Info Niagara logoInfoNiagara and The Niagara Parks Commission contain all the information one could possibly need for a visit to Niagara Falls, so I won't go into too much detail other than what we did ourselves. The whole area was extremely busy and unless one joined the queues early in the morning a long wait ensues.

Maid of the Mist logo

A trip on Maid of the Mist is a must, so this was the first attraction we made our way to. Once you've queued to pay, you then have to queue round and round a concrete structure that you can't initially see <bit like the hidden queue rides at Disney World! > descending down the cliff gradually, but you eventually get in a lift.

At river level you're handed a blue thin plastic cape with hood and a 'Maid of the Mist' logo on the front, which you keep as a souvenir. The trip took half an hour and was superb. Past the American Falls and right up into the Horseshoe Falls basin and mist generated, the water churning around you, you can't see anything but the mist, and can't hear anything but the roar of water. Blasted with the wind and water when the boat turned around to make the trip back. An experience. Of course you are obliged to walk through the gift shop on your exit. View my Photo Gallery of the trip.

After the evening meal it was up to the Observation Deck of the Skylon Tower, 775ft above the Falls, in a yellow bug lift; there are 3 on the outside of the tower and glass enclosed. It commands some lovely views, you can see up to 80 miles on a clear day, and well worth the CAN$6. There is a restaurant on the deck below and another which revolves once per hour below that, but one has to book a table in advance, or eat early at either 4.30pm or 5.30pm. Popular. It was getting dark by the time I left, and just missed the last showing of the Imax, never did make that. View my Photo Gallery of the views from the top.

Skylon Tower
Skylon Tower

Next morning we had a leisurely breakfast in the restaurant alongside the Falls at the Table Rock Complex. Glorious views, and had fun watching a Japanese man setting up his tripod and camera, measuring the light etc, then getting his family in the right position for the best photo. Then whoosh, the wind changed direction and they all got soaked, he ran off with his paraphernalia as quickly as he could. Back they came again and the whole process was repeated, along with the change of wind direction. I don't know if he ever did get the photo. He'll have to be a bit quicker about it!

The Observation deck, Journey behind the falls
The Observation Deck

As the long queues hadn't yet begun, we did the 'Journey Behind the Falls', which is a lift ride down 145ft in secs, and then a walk through a tunnel behind the Horseshoe Falls <2200ft wide and 170ft high with the water 180ft deep>, to a couple of portals where you can look out through the water, not seeing much and then onto a viewing platform 25ft above the river level, where you get soaked and can certainly feel the power of the water! You get handed a yellow plastic cape here, with the logo on the back. So we now have 4 plastic capes! View my Photo Gallery of the views from behind the Falls.

Spent some time afterwards just watching the water and walking around the main vantage points alongside the Falls. There is an incline lift [CAN$1] which takes one up from the Table Rock Complex to near where our hotel was, so we made good use of that, as otherwise it's a fairly steep climb. We then bought a People Mover day ticket, which enables you to hop on and off the People Mover buses which do a loop passing through all the attractions along the river, as many times as you like during the day. [There are different types of passes, some which include entrance to certain attractions.] We did the whole loop, but as you can see most of the sites from the bus, and out time was limited, we only got off at a couple of stops.

The Great Gorge Adventure just past the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge. Again one goes down in a lift, but this time to a lookout over the rapids at the river's edge where the gorge narrows downstream from the Falls, just before the whirlpool. There is a boardwalk about ¼ mile long along the edge of the gorge, with a couple of vantage points to watch the waters. Well worth it. There is a display providing information about all the disasters in the gorge, who made it over the Falls and who didn't etc, and by what means. I didn't realise so many had done the barrel trip, and a couple died when their barrels got stuck in the whirlpool going around and around, when they suffocated. You will have to see my photos for more details of names and dates.

Niagara River Gorge
The Gorge

Dave refused to even contemplate the Spanish Aero Car over the Niagara Whirlpool, as it looked rather 'rickety'. We saw the famous Floral Clock [40ft in diameter with 20,000 plants and working], Brock Monument and the hydroelectric power station as we went past. There are many parks, greenhouses, butterfly conservatory and other attractions to visit on the People Mover route. On return to the centre we alighted at the Rainbow Bridge and visited the Hershey Shop. The area around here and behind is known as Clifton Hill - Niagara Falls, Canada. Here you can visit such delights as Casino Niagara, Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Café, Rainforest Café, Ripley's, Movieland, Guinness World of Records Museum, Dazzleland, Louis Tussaud's, Circus World, fun houses, play miniature golf, go go-karting, visit houses of horrors and Dracula or Frankenstein, and anything else you may want to do in an area which is more at home in Orlando! We gave it a miss.

Marineland Theme Park, with its Friendship Cove, the world's largest whale habitat, and Dragon Mountain®, the world's largest steel coaster, is one of the most popular family attractions.

Fireworks over Niagara Falls
Fireworks in front of The Rainbow Bridge

The Falls are illuminated throughout the year with 21 coloured lights from Victoria Park, and some at the base of the American Falls, hours depending on the light conditions. Between May and August it's usually between 9pm and 12pm. The changing colours make the Falls look lovely. There is also a firework display from Victoria Park every Friday evening at 10pm, some Sunday's during the summer and also on major US & Canadian holidays. View my Photo Gallery of the fireworks and lights.

Breakfast in the Sheraton's Fallview dining room the next morning with a lovely view and not overly pricey. We took the non-motorway route back to Detroit. Slow going and not much different scenery wise. We had to stop at one of the bridges on the Welland Canal for around 20-30 minutes to allow an oil tanker to pass through. We got as far as Dutton where we stopped for a stretch of legs at John E Pearce Provincial Park on the shores of Lake Erie. Very picturesque. From there we made our way back on the motorway. Long queues to get over the bridge to the US for lorries, it stretched back miles, but cars had a separate lane and it didn't take long.

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