Niagara Falls fetes Canada’s 150th.
Niagara Falls is a feast for the senses. The 167-high torrent of water that plunges with thundering impact into the Niagara River is a spectacular sonic and visual experience. The fall’s mist will coat your skin, a visceral reminder of the sheer force of the roaring cascade.
Although the spectacle has adorned countless postcards and starred in scores of nature documentaries, Niagara Falls must be experienced to be believed. Fortunately, the attraction, which straddles the border between Canada and the United States, is accessible in a number of compelling ways. Visit from the Ontario side to see the falls in their fullest. Beyond the falls, a number of historical and gastronomical attractions await visitors.
Niagara Falls also is a great place to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. Highlights include regularly scheduled fireworks over the falls along with light shows that transform that curtain of water into a canvas of color. Check out the many events that involve the falls.
The Ontario Side of the Falls
Starting with the War of 1812, Niagara Falls, Ontario, has been front and center in the evolving history of a region that showcases one of the greatest natural wonders in the world. When American forces clashed with British loyalists on land that would eventually become Canada, their struggle represented a critical juncture in the war. Today, the area is dotted with forts, museums and military re-enactments, all giving visitors a chance to step back in time.
Make sure to visit Old Fort Erie, which is south of Niagara Falls, and Fort George, to the north. Both forts are meticulously recreated down to the last detail. The authentic 1812 period costuming worn by guides at Fort Erie make for great photo opportunities. Fort George, which served as the British Army headquarters during the War of 1812, features performances by authentically attired fifers and drummers.
History buffs will enjoy Fort Erie’s military re-enactments held during the summer. This site on the Niagara River was also the entry point for fugitive slaves crossing into Canada from Buffalo. “The Crossing,” as it was known, was part of the Underground Railroad. There are plenty of other nearby historic landmarks from the era, including Brock’s Monument and Old Fort Niagara.
Niagara Falls, Ontario, has been drawing tourists to its doorstep since the early 1800s. All come to see the trio of waterfalls that comprise this natural wonder: American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls, the largest of the trio and adjacent to the Ontario side. Throughout the early days of the falls, daredevils from around the world found it hard to resist the adrenalin rush of the vertiginous drop and water rushing at 32-feet per second, with the force of 280 tons. Many lost their lives in the attempt.
Today, daredevil stunts are banned at the Falls with few exceptions; namely, the 2012 high-wire walk over the falls by tightrope artist Nick Wallenda. If you’d like to feel the thrill of the falls without the danger, visit Skylon Tower, which rises 520 feet in height with indoor and outdoor viewing areas. A pair of restaurants, one of which revolves, offers guests an unforgettable culinary experience. Even Skylon Tower’s elevators provide a fun mode of transportation to the observatory. At the base of Skylon Tower is Skylon Fun Center, Niagara’s largest indoor amusement area, which also has a food court, specialty shops and a 4D theater.
Another sure way to get your adrenaline going is to take a ride down the Niagara River on an open-air jet boat tour through the rambunctious waters of the Niagara Whirlpool. Guests receive a history lesson retracing the journey of soldiers who traveled these waters in the War of 1812.
Getting up close and personal to the falls is a job made easy by two attractions—Hornblower Niagara Cruises and Journey Behind the Falls. The first is a boat tour that transports its passengers close to the Falls. And because of the intensity of the falls, you’ll need a poncho to avoid getting drenched. Journey Behind the Falls takes its guests down 150 feet by elevator to a tunnel that opens onto two outdoor observation decks and two portals directly behind the falls. You can actually see the water from the falls cascading endlessly. A poncho is required.
Another major attraction for family fun is Marineland, where visitors can marvel at the amazing performances by sea lions, dolphins, walruses and beluga whales. Be sure to get an up-close view of the killer whale that’s on site.
Marineland’s aquatic residents don’t have exclusivity to fun in the water. The Fallsview Indoor Waterpark is home to 16 waterslides, a giant wave pool and Beach House Rain Fortress. The Americana Waterpark Resort and Spa offers the whole family its Waves Indoor Waterpark, with features that include water slides up to three stories high, a wave pool and a retractable glass roof.
For a slower pace and a view of the countryside, a tour of Niagara’s Wine Country can’t be beaten. It’s located around the Niagara Escarpment, a unique ridge carved by ancient glaciers. The geological formation is also the backbone of Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest and longest footpath. Several wineries call this area home, offering guests flavors and tastes that are uniquely diverse.
If your taste buds crave something more down-to-earth, sample some of the beers on tap at local craft breweries.
Farm to Table Dining
The Niagara Falls wine region adds to the dining options since the area supports a burgeoning culinary scene. Many restaurants are renowned for their farm-to-table menus. International cuisine is commonplace in Niagara Falls and options range from fresh seafood specialties to spicy Thai to Caribbean and everything in between. Family-style restaurants are also on hand, along with casual dining in local pubs and grills. For a view of Niagara Falls with your meal, try a dinner cruise on an old-fashioned riverboat by signing on with Grand Sunset Cruises.
On the north end of town, Butterfly Conservatory showcases more than 2,000 breeds of the tropical insect floating about in a lush rainforest setting. Ponds, waterfalls and walkways weave through the conservatory, and tours are self-guided. Educational exhibits enlighten visitors eager to learn about the creatures.
Check out the Tourism Partnership of Niagara for more information.