Monday, 22 September 2014

Somewhere over the Rainbow: Niagara Falls (Ontario, Canada)

This travel post is written by Angie who blogs at PrincessDanaDiaries. She travelled to Niagara Falls, USA with her husband and her petite traveller, Dana (6 years) in June 2014.

This holiday is suitable for families who enjoy a relaxed free & easy vacation and wish to experience the beauty and magnificence one of the World’s 7 Natural Wonders!


Touring one of the 7 Wonders of the World - Niagara Falls. It turned out to be really family-friendly!

So, finally, we have arrived - after nearly 30 hours of flight traversing across half the world, we have arrived in Canada with our 6 year-old in tow for our first leg of our Eastern USA tour. Jet-lagged as we were, the moment we opened the door to our room at the Marriot Fallsview Hotel, we were instantly invigorated by the sheer wonder of the sight that greeted us – the legendary Niagara Falls right before our eyes.

We chose the Marriott Fallsview Hotel for its location and view...

This being our 15th Wedding Anniversary, we have planned and saved up for a two week free and easy vacation to Niagara Falls, Boston and New York. Battling jet-lag, we freshened up and off we went to explore Niagara on foot. One of the benefits about travelling in Summer is the long daylight hours that allow us to walk around till 8pm or so with the sun still shining bright! We took a 10 minute brisk walk across the pedestrian bridge connected to the hotel to get close to the Falls. Even though it was early Summer, the air was quite chilly (I was so glad I packed our light jackets along). We lingered around the Niagara Fall and the Welcome Centre, snapped many photos before we returned to our hotel room to enjoy the illuminated night views of the Falls.

Views from our hotel room window...


We soon discovered two amazing facts about Niagara Falls:

  • Despite its thunderous power and awesome magnitude, we can actually get so very close to it! In fact, certain parts of the Falls are just a railing away. There we can literally feel the mighty rush of the waters that flow from one of the great lakes. 
  • There are perpetual rainbows across the Falls and at certain times of the day, at the right angle, we can spot not one but TWO rainbows! The view is simply breathtaking. 

    Say Hello to Niagara

    The next day, we booked a Niagara Falls Day Tour with the hotel concierge. On hindsight, we could have done all these on our own and saved a tidy sum as we soon realised all the major attractions are within a stone’s throw of the Falls and easily accessible either through walking or by their public WEGO buses.

    Here are our pick of the Top 8 ‘Must-Dos’ in Niagara Falls (Ontario):

    1. Go Up the Skylon Tower

    The Skylon Tower, in Niagara Falls, Ontario, is an observation tower that overlooks both the American Falls (New York) and the larger Horseshoe Falls (Ontario) from the Canadian side of the Niagara River. Standing at 160 metres from street level, the Skylon Tower offers 360 degrees unobstructed view of the Falls from its outer observation deck. This is a more economical alternative to getting a bird’s eye view of the Falls than helicopter rides.

    Right at the top of the Skylon Tower...

    Skylon Tower

    Hours of Operation: Open year round
    Summer Hours 8:00 a.m. to Midnight
    Winter Hours 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

    Admission 

    Ride-To-The-Top & Observation Decks
    Adult (13+) $13.91
    Child (age 3-12, children under 3 free) $8.11

    2. Watch the Niagara’s Fury 4D Show

    Niagara’s Fury is a “4D” Universal Studios-styled show which allows visitors to discover the ancient story of Niagara Falls. It starts with an 8 minute animated pre-show, where charming woodland characters narrate the story of how the Ice Age formed the Niagara Falls. Then, in a specially designed, 360 degree theatre, the temperature will drop, water will bubble and spray while snow falls all around. The moving platform beneath will also shake to gives us a glimpse into the creative power of Nature. We like how the film surrounds us with stunning visuals along the mighty Niagara River. We enjoyed this multi-sensory experience very much, definitely highly recommended.

    No photography is allowed inside the 4D theatre...

    Niagara’s Fury 4D Show 

    Admission 

    Adult (13+ years) $13.50
    Child (6 to 12 years) $8.80
    Children 5 and under FREE at all Niagara Parks attractions.

    3. Take the Journey Behind the Falls

    Journey Behind the Falls is an iconic experience that gives visitors the rare chance to go ‘BEHIND’ and ‘INSIDE’ the Niagara Falls! This is a must-see and a must-experience: Imagine descending 13 storeys underground in a shaft elevator and going behind the Falls through the hundred year old passages. A short walk through a tunnel led us to two outdoor observation decks and two portals located directly behind the Falls. The thunderous sound of the waterfall and the sights are awe-inspiring! An unforgettable once in a lifetime experience indeed.

    On this Journey, we saw one-fifth of the world’s fresh water crash down to the basin below. There are posters on the sides of the tunnel walls providing visitors with information about the history and evolution of the hallways we walk through. The entire ‘Journey’ visit takes 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how many photo stops you make. Be sure to bring along a waterproof camera.  Daddy had to wrap his camera with the poncho to prevent it from getting misted.

    Why view the Falls only from the front when you can go to the BACK?

    Journey Behind The Falls

    Hours of Operation: Open year round
    Mondays to Thursdays, Sundays 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
    Fridays and Saturdays 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

    Admission

    Adult (13+ years) $15.95
    Child (6 to 12 years) $10.95
    Children 5 and under FREE

    4. Go on the Hornblower Cruise

    The Hornblower Niagara Cruises is the No. 1 most popular attraction in Niagara Falls – for a good reason. This cruise ride is unlike any others – it takes visitors as close as possible to the breathtaking flow of water, to experience the power and mist that makes up the magnificent Niagara Falls. The cruise takes us past the beautiful American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and into the very heart of the famous Horseshoe Falls. Though it looks rather treacherous, the rides ‘into’ the Falls are surprisingly stable and pleasant (albeit crowded at certain time of the year, especially Summer). This iconic 30-minute Canadian “Voyage To The Falls” cruise will delight children and adults alike. You’ve not been to Niagara Falls till you’ve been on the Hornblower cruise!

    A cruise like no other...brings you right into the mouth of the Falls. Thumbs up!

    Voyage to the Falls Cruise (Boats depart every 15 minutes daily).

    Tickets

    Adult (13+ years) $19.95
    Child (5 to 12 years) $12.25
    Children under 5 are FREE

    5. Ride the Falls Incline Railway

    The major hotels in The Niagrara Falls Tourist District are connected to the Falls by an iconic Falls Incline Railway. The Railway allows riders to easily reach the pedestrian crossing over the Niagara Parkway into Table Rock (The Niagara Falls Visitor Centre). Open year-round (from 9am to 10.30pm), the railway is fully accessible and climate-controlled. Tickets can be purchased easily at the self-serve kiosks at the top and bottom of the Incline. We had fun riding the Falls Incline Railway and wanted to ride it again on the last day of our trip but it was closed for maintenance.  We were disappointed but took it as a sign that we should return!

    An enjoyable but short ride down to the Falls...

    Falls Incline Railway

    Hours of Operation: Refer to website

    Admission 

    One Way (All ages) $2.50
    Round Trip $5.00
    Whole Day $6.00
    Children 5 and under are FREE.

    6. Watch Fireworks over the Falls

    One of the memorable highlights of our stay at Niagara Falls has got to be the spectacular Fireworks and night Illumination Displays. Fireworks take place on Fri. and Sun. nights at 10pm in Summer. We were lucky to chance upon the Edgewaters Restaurant which offers the best frontage views of the Fireworks as we dined! Do check the website for the fireworks' schedule. The current season runs from September 5 - November 30, 2014. At night, The Niagara Falls takes on a different grandeur, alluring visitors with its magical colours and magnificent fireworks above the waters. Simply stunning!

    We love fireworks and this was Stunning with a capital 'S'.

    2014 Firework Schedule: Refer to website

    Edgewater Restaurant Niagara Falls
    6345 Niagara Parkway
    Niagara Falls, Ontario
    Canada L2E 6X8
    Open Daily 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

    7. Ride the Whirlpool Aero Car

    The Whirlpool Aero Car offers a fantastic view of the lower Niagara River, the rapids and the gorge while traversing over the Whirlpool in a suspended antique cable car! Designed by Spanish Engineer Leonardo Torres Quevedo, the Aero Car has been in operation since 1916. The car is suspended from six cables and traverses the width of the gorge (at almost 1 kilometer in length) while far below the mesmerizing natural phenomena – the Niagara Whirlpool where torrents of water abruptly changes direction. A charming ride which will fascinate the young and old alike!

    Ride over the Niagara Whirlpool, how cool is that?

    Whirlpool Aero Car

    Hours of Operation: refer to website

    Admission

    Adult (13+ years) $13.50
    Child (5 to 12 years) $8.50
    Children 5 and under are FREE

    8. Breakfast at Perkins

    As our accommodation does not include breakfast, we walked around looking for food the second morning. The locals whom we approached all directed us to Perkins Wyndham Gardens, which required a 20minute walk by foot. We were not disappointed. Perkins Restaurant & Bakery offers a full menu of over 90 assorted breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and dessert items. Its signature menu items include omelets, secret recipe buttermilk pancakes, Mammoth Muffins, salads and Melt sandwiches. Breakfast items are available any time of day and it is very child friendly. There, we had the MOST delicious and fluffy walnut, banana pancakes ever (topped with the drool-worthy Canadian maple syrup!). For such a splendid meal, it was well-worth the 20 minutes' walk it took us to get there.

    One of the most wholesome breakfasts throughout our trip!

    Perkins Family Restaurant & Bakery
    6170 Stanley Avenue
    Niagara Falls, Ontario
    Canada L2G 3Y4
    Open Daily 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

    How to get to Niagara Falls:

    When planning the itinerary, we read reviews that the Niagara Falls is more spectacular from the Canadian side and set our mind on a visit. We flew Emirates Airline from Singapore to JKF International Airport (New York), transferred to a domestic flight on JetBlue Airways on the same day, arrived at Buffalo International Airport and flagged down a yellow cab which drove us directly across the U.S Borders into Canada where the Marriott Fallsview Hotel in Niagara Falls. The ride took approximately 45 minutes (including customs clearance). We booked the same driver to drive us back to Buffalo Airport at the end of our 3D2N stay in Niagara Falls.

    Snapshots of our memorable Niagara Falls leg...

    One of the joys of travel is to discover new places and experience new cultures with our loved ones. We believe in bringing our children on our travels - that sense of wonderment, the stories, the shared family memories and bonds we would forge, how memorable and priceless! Niagara Falls was one of those places in our family’s bucket list. Though it is commonly seen in brochures or advertisements promoting Canada, this is one of those experiences that no form of media can replicate. You have to see the entire falls and experience its raw magnificent power for yourself. Only then will you know it is far better and more valuable than any pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

    Gorgeous sunsets seen from the hotel room. All photos in this post are copyrighted to PrincessDanaDiaries


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