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ENCHANTED BY NIAGARA - A WORLD OF ATTRACTIONS AND LEGENDS
 
(2012 - Spring/Summer Issue)

Writer: BARBARA RAMSAY ORR



A couple at the next table can’t seem to drag their eyes away from the view out the window.

Who can blame them? Before them is Niagara Falls, thunderous and steamy in the morning sunlight.

The Falls are what they have travelled so far to see. “We are from France,” Aimée explains. “We are touring the United States, but we had to take this quick trip to Canada to see the Falls. We are enchanté.”

They are not the only ones enchanté with Niagara. Last year, more than eight million people visited the Falls. The site is perhaps the single most identifiable geographical feature connected with Canada.

Since Louis Hennepin first published his impressions of the Falls in 1678, visitors have included Niagara on their list of places they must see. Today, a visitor can do much more than just look at the Falls. Unlike Hennepin, the modern tourist has many ways to get up close and personal to this natural wonder thanks to multiple attractions, historic sites, outdoor adventures and irresistible gardens.

Impressive Experiences

The best way to view the Falls is from about the same place where Hennepin saw them—on the walkway that winds past the precipice. For a quiet appreciation of the Falls, come in the early morning when the light is often best and before the crowds arrive. Late afternoon is also a good time, although the light is different. Softer and more golden, this is when you can catch the perfect rainbow in the mist.

Table Rock Welcome Centre, operated by the Niagara Parks Commission, provides a layered understanding of the Falls and their glacial origins in an animated, multi-sensory show called Niagara’s Fury, during which you experience the forces of nature that formed the Falls.

For a physically close encounter with the mighty torrent, the Journey Behind the Falls adventure takes you through tunnels bored into the rock behind the Falls. Expect to get wet, despite the yellow raincoat that is provided however, you’ll feel the power of the water at its strongest. The Maid of the Mist provides a view of the Falls from the bottom up while Niagara Helicopters gives an aerial perspective of the river, the Falls and the gorge. Down river from the Falls, the White Water Walk comes within a few feet of some of the fastest whitewater currents in the world.

For a truly impressive photo of the Falls, wander up to Clifton Hill and take a spin on the SkyWheel to get an exceptional view.

Historical Venues

The Falls have been witness to momentous events, and many museums, forts and battlegrounds in the area testify to Niagara’s complicated destiny. In preparation for this year’s 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, several historic sites managed by Niagara Parks have been renovated and improved. Old Fort Erie has undergone extensive improvements and recently starred in a documentary of the War of 1812. Visitors to the fort can dress as soldiers—you choose on which side you want to fight.

The 1812 homestead of legendary heroine Laura Secord has been expanded as well, with a new visitors centre, a relocated historic chapel and gift shop. The lovely Georgian-era McFarland House now serves tea in the new conservatory, and at Mackenzie Printery, guests can learn the old skills of typesetting and the history of Canadian newspapers.

Queenston Heights is always impressive. Surrounded by gardens, flowers and history, General Brock’s imperious columned statue gazes out over Lake Ontario and the Niagara River.


Naturally Niagara

Niagara’s famous Botanical Gardens offer acres of roses, perennials and flowering shrubs to bewitch the visiting gardener. And since you are there to smell the roses, stay to enjoy the many species of butterflies at the Butterfly Conservatory. It is a calming, tranquil place in the middle of the busyness of the Falls, as are the Floral Clock, gardens at Queen Victoria Park and the Floral Showhouse. Everywhere, green lawns, picnic spaces and flowerbeds verge along the beautiful Niagara Parkway.

Bike, Hike and Play

A well-maintained pathway that runs from Niagara Falls all the way to Niagara-on-the-Lake is a curving route that winds along the sculptured banks of the Niagara River. Here you’ll find shady places to picnic, fruit stands selling the fresh local produce, and welcoming wineries. The Bike Train, which operates between Toronto and St. Catharines, encourages cyclists to bypass highway driving and bike the best of Niagara.

The Bruce Trail begins at Queenston Heights and heads out along the escarpment providing some excellent hiking opportunties. For an education in the unique flora and fauna found in the Niagara biosphere, explore the Niagara Glen Nature Centre’s trails.

Golfers love Niagara, with courses such as the Legends on the Niagara and the Whirlpool Golf Course.

Dining with a View

The Niagara Parks Commission also operates a number of dining establishments with amazing views.

Elements on the Falls in the Table Rock Centre serves contemporary cuisine with a side of wow. It’s the place to dine closest to the Falls. Edgewaters Restaurant on the upper level of Queen Victoria Place is casual, while the clubhouse at Legends on the Niagara overlooks the fairways. Queenston Heights Restaurant celebrates local ingredients and serves elegant meals in a dining room with stunning views of the Niagara River.

There are so many ways to discover—or rediscover—Niagara this summer that will definitely leave you enchanté

Travel Planner

The best bargain in Niagara Falls is the Adventure Pass ($44.95), which allows entrance to any four attractions as well as all-day travel on board the People Mover, which takes visitors to each of the Niagara Parks’ sites.

A great way to explore Niagara’s past is with the Heritage Trail Pass ($20.12), which provides admission to four historic sites and a detailed map of the Niagara Parkway between Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake, indicating more than 100 historic plaques and monuments along the 53-kilometre route.

For more information, visit:

Niagara Parks Commission: niagaraparks.com

Niagara Falls Tourism: niagarafallstourism.com

Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce: niagaraonthelake.com

Fort Erie Economic Development & Tourism Corporation: forteriecanada.com

 
 
 
 
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