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Niagara Falls, Ontario
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Cherry Valley, Ontario
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Niagara Falls, Ontario
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Sauble Beach, Ontario

Niagara Falls

Come for the cascades, stay for the surrounding wonders

Niagara Falls is bucket list material, no doubt about it. One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the force of the crashing waters enshrouded with spectral mist is as exhilarating as it is hypnotic. Over the last few years, Niagara has upped its game with a flashy new Whirlpool Adventure Center and several upscale restaurants and chic bars. Admired as a classic vacation destination, Niagara is a place that leaves a lasting impression.

Horseshoe Falls

Forming a natural rift between Ontario and New York State, Niagara Falls may not be the tallest waterfall — Venezuela’s Angel Falls steals all that glory — but it’s one of the world’s most powerful, with 84,760 cubic feet of water thundering 167 feet over the cataract every minute. On the Canadian side, Horseshoe Falls plunge into the Maid of the Mist Pool. On the United States side, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls form their own curtains of water. In total, the falls form a 3,409-foot-wide spectacle that has to be seen to be believed.

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Seeking the Falls

Fortunately, visitors have lots of options when it comes to taking in views of the falls. The grand and sturdy vessel, Maid of the Mist, takes visitors on a wet and wild ride into the basin, coming close to the Rock of Ages to the foot of the Horseshoe Falls.

A prime spot to watch the surging waters dramatically collide is Table Rock, sitting just feet from the water; there are viewing portals for optimum enjoyment. Equally spectacular is the White Water Walk, a quarter-mile-long boardwalk which flanks the rapids leading up to the falls. A set of stairs lead to observation areas at the edge of the Great Gorge Rapids, where the river thunders through the narrow channel at speeds of 22 mph.

For some visitors, the best time to visit Niagara is during the winter, when ice formations lend an ethereal beauty to the falls, and an elemental aura prevails without the crowds.

Whirlpool Adventure Course

Unveiled in 2016, the Whirlpool Adventure Course shakes up Niagara’s old-school image with a pulse-racing series of log ladders, rope swings, tightrope obstacles and zip lines suspended high above the Niagara gorge. On the Canadian side, and not for the faint of heart, the Mistrider is a 2,200 foot, white-knuckle zip line that jettisons four people at a time for some 670 meters towards the Horseshoe Falls at speeds approaching 65 miles per hour. There’s a viewing platform with exhilarating views of Horseshoe Falls at the bottom, which you can only access via the zip line.

Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens and School of Horticulture

To explore the family-friendly side of the area, Niagara Parks’ 99-acre Botanical Gardens is well worth a visit. North of town, on the scenic Niagara Parkway, the gardens were established in 1936. During the summer, horse and carriage rides are offered through the kaleidoscopic gardens, which brim with perennials, rhododendrons, azaleas, a formal parterre garden, herb and vegetable gardens, and a rose garden with over 2,400 roses.

The garden’s signature attraction is a 12-meter diameter Floral Clock comprising more than 25,000 plants. But what draws most visitors is the acclaimed Butterfly Conservatory, where 2,000 fluttering insects (with more than 50 international species), including swallowtails, fritillaries and luminous blue Morphos, flit and hover among lantanas.

At Bird Kingdom, located just a short walk from Horseshoe Falls, visitors enjoy encounters with wild animals. Guests can learn about the world of exotic plants, animals, birds and reptiles. A gift shop offers a variety of colorful plush toys. The experience culminates with an entry into the world’s largest aviary, home to a 40-foot waterfall, living jungle and free-flying exotic birds.

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Queenston Heights Park

North of the falls, on the top of the Niagara Escarpment (a UNESCO world biosphere), Queenston Heights Park is the site of the 1812 Battle of Queenston Heights. A series of formal gardens sprawl in the shadow of a 185-foot column that commemorates Major General Sir Isaac Brock, “Savior of Upper Canada.” One of Canada’s great heroes of the War of 1812, Borck was killed here by a gun shot; his remains are interred at the monument’s base along with his Lieutenant-Colonel, John Macdonell.

Tours of the battlefield outline the history behind the combat and include a jaunt to the top of the hillside for superb panoramic views. With picnic pavilions, tennis courts, a children’s playground and splash pool, and the highly praised Queenston Heights Restaurant, the park makes for a great half-day excursion.

A short walk away, in Queenston Heights town, the restored Laura Secord Homestead honors Canada’s beloved heroine, who braved wolves, snakes and hostile Natives in order to thread enemy lines and warn the British of an imminent attack by American soldiers in the War of 1812.

Wine and Farm to Table Dining

The Niagara Falls wine region adds to the dining options available in the area’s burgeoning culinary scene. Glasses of delicious, locally sourced vintages accompany meals at restaurants that 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 and Caribbean. 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. The Niagara Belle sails the Lower Niagara river from the opening of the Niagara Gorge to Lake Ontario.

Fun on the Water

Another major attraction for family fun is Marineland, where visitors can marvel at the amazing performances by sea lions, dolphins and walruses.

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 More Information

Tourism Partnership of Niagara

800-563-2557

www.visitniagaracanada.com

Ontario Travel

800-668-2746

www.ontariotravel.net