During the summer of 2001, Debbie flew up to Niagara Falls for a week vacation. We actually flew into Buffalo (so we could get a dead president) and than drove to Niagara Falls. We left on July 29 and returned on August 5. We stayed on the Canadian side not too far from the Horseshoe Falls. This is the Horseshoe Falls with Canada in the foreground above. This picture, along with the one of the American Falls, was taken from the top of the Skylon Tower, where we had lunch one afternoon. It was probably the most expensive lunch we ever had, but what a view. The dinning room revolves around the tower making a full revolution in an hour. The tower was built back in 1964 and is 520 feet tall. However, it is 775 feet above the base of the fall where the Maid of the Mist cruises. There are three yellow elevators that carry you up the outside of the tower at a speed of 500 feet per minute. They say on a clear day (which we were lucky enough to be there for) you can see for 80 miles. In addition to the dinning room, they also have an observation deck.
We stayed at the quality Inn fallsview on Stanley Ave. which is only a few blocks from the edge of the Horseshoe Falls. We had to walk two blocks to the On our first day, we walked from the Canadian edge of the Horseshoe Falls all the way around to the other side of the Horseshoe Falls on the American side. It was quite a hike, but it was easier then trying to swim it. Would you believe, they charge 50 cents to walk across the Rainbow Bridge. Luckily it was in Canadian money. You also have to go through Customs every time you walk across - either way.
The upper right part of the picture or the extreme right side of the Falls is where everyone likes to go over in a barrel. I choose not to. A women, Annie Taylor, was the first person to conquer the falls in a barrel on October 24, 1901. If you want to read about these nuts and see the contraptions they use to go over the falls, there is a webpage dedicated to those people called Daredevils of Niagara Falls. The Falls are very dangerous. Many people have been killed accidentally or on purpose going over the falls. If you are interested, there is another web page entitled Niagara - Life and Death on the River. The most amazing story occurred in 1960 when a seven year old boy accidentally fell in the river above the falls when the boat he was in capsized. He was swept over the falls wearing nothing more than a bathing suit and a pair of sneakers. Somehow, he survived. He was pulled from the water below the falls by the crew of a Maid of the Mist boat with nothing more than bruises and scratches. His 17 year old sister was rescued before she went over. The 40 year old man who owned the boat did not survive going over the falls. The boy and man went over next to Goat Island (this is the big island that separates the two main falls) which is to the left in the photo above.
You can see the Maid of the Mist in the center; it does get very close. We did it twice, the first time we got soaked but the second time, later in the week, the wind was in our favor (so we were mostly dry). This was one of our favorite activities we did here, so much so that we did it twice. It takes about a half-hour, but get there early as the lines get very long after 11 o'clock. The cost is around $8.50. This picture was of us after the second time when we didn't get very wet.
The American Falls
If you look to the right of the photo, you see people in yellow raincoats walking next to the base of the American Falls. This is called The "Cave of the Winds". It is a must if you go to Niagara Falls. It is on the American side. You go down by elevator to the base of the cliff on Goat Island. Than you walk on wooden walkways and platforms beneath the Bridal Falls (that's the little falls on the right in the above picture). You get very wet as the water goes over the walkways and your feet. Your shoes don't get wet because you're not wearing them. They give you these slippers to put on. Needless to say, Debbie was very grossed out by this (she won't even go bowling because she doesn't want to wear rented shoes). However she did it and survived. Of course, I told her that certain Asian foot funguses take weeks to develop.
As you can see, you do get close to the Falls and you do get wet. Another nice thing about this is that they don't rush you. I was having a good time down under the falls and I wasn't in a hurry to get back up. Someone asked me to take their picture which I did. Next thing you know, everyone was asking me. I really didn't mind. What I found to be very comical is that there is a "No Smoking" sign. As if you could actually light anything with the water and spray everywhere. So if you go, definitely do this. Go to the Visitor Center, too. They have a great video on Niagara Falls done by the History Channel.
We really enjoyed walking around the city of Niagara Falls. It is very clean and full of flowers. We wandered into the Brock Plaza, one of the oldest and more exclusive hotels in Niagara Falls. Well Debbie and I were impressed. I was even more impressed to find that it is not very expensive. They have many restaurants here, like Planet Hollywood, Rainforest Cafe and the Hard Rock Cafe. We had lunch at Planet Hollywood, which was the first time either of us had been in one. They have a casino here, but since neither of us are gamblers, we didn't go in. As you walk around the streets you see many interesting things. We came upon this wooden Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman outside the RCMP Store. I guess they put it there to attract tourists who are dumb enough to have there picture taken with it.
They also had many stores you could go shopping. We went to the Hershey Store. As you can see, some people can't be left alone with chocolate. It was very tough getting her out of there. Another thing we did was go to the Journey Behind the Falls. This is on the Canadian side. You take an elevator down below the rim of the falls. You can walk out along side the falls about half way down. We did it twice, the first time the wind was in our face so we were drenched again. The second time the wind was blowing away so we could get a good view. It's as if you could reach out and touch the falls. After you leave the platform you can the tunnel behind the falls. There are two openings behind the falls where you can see the water rushing past you. they don't let you get too close to the opening for obvious reasons. The cost is $7.00 (Canadian).
We also went further down river (north of the falls) to the Great Gorge Adventure which is about a mile north. You take an elevator down to the base of the gorge. This is a narrow gorge that has been cut out by the rushing water. Because it's so narrow, all of the water from the falls rushes through the gorge causing a wild stretch of whitewater. There is a wooden walkway you can take that goes along the river for about a quarter mile.
This is the Floral Clock in Niagara Falls. It gets thousands of tourists a week. Why? I haven't a clue. It's a big clock made with flowers - thousands of flowers. They love flowers in Canada. Niagara Falls is like a large Botanical Gardens. The Niagara Park Commission, which runs the Canadian side of the Falls, has hundreds of landscapers and gardeners working full time. There is a large Botanical Gardens further down the road from here next to the Butterfly Conservatory. It's a large building with a tropical jungle full of thousands of butterflies. You get to walk through it as they flutter around you. This I would also recommend.
During the War of 1812, there were a number of battles in the area between the British and the Americans. The most famous was on July 25, 1814 at the Battle of Lundy's Lane. It was the bloodiest battle fought on Canadian soil. An American advance into Canada was stopped by a combined British/Canadian force. The battlefield was then and is still a cemetery in the City of Niagara Falls. There is a memorial there to honor those killed. We visited two War of 1812 forts, both on the Canadian side. The first was Fort George, which is north of the Falls in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. They had a demonstration of musket firing. We also went to Fort Erie, which is across the river from Buffalo (avoid that place if you can - Buffalo that is). This fort let me try on this British uniform. The fit was a bit tight. It was totally made of wool so it is very warm. Plus, buttoning all those buttons. How did they do it? On the other hand - I do look good. Niagara-on-the-Lake is a must see. It's a beautiful little town bordering the Niagara River and Lake Ontario. The name of the city was originally "Newark". We did some shopping here and went to dinner one night at "The Olde Angel Inn." It's the oldest inn in the town. The atmosphere is great and so is the prime rib. We also had a good local wine. The Inn was damaged somewhat during the War of 1812. They even say they have their own ghost haunting the place.
We also made a day trip to Toronto on August 1. We drove from Niagara, which took about an hour. We parked below the SkyDome, so when we got out of the baseball game, we could leave quickly. Since Debbie and I love to take boat trips where ever we go, we did so here too. We took a hour cruise out on Lake Ontario. It didn't go out into the lake as much as it cruised to some islands in the lake. We took a bus tour through the city also. Toronto is great to visit. We found an English Pub for lunch. I had some Fish & Chips served in a London Times newspaper - how authentic.
As you can see, we made it to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Here we are with Lord Stanley's Cup. It's really a replica, the actual silver Stanley Cup, that is the very original, is kept in the vault in the Hall permanently, it is not strong enough to be held up by winning teams anymore so it has been permanently retired. We spent about four hours walking around the exhibits and of course I took a lot of pictures. They have a big exhibit on Bobby Orr. Of course, without a doubt, they have more space dedicated to Wayne Gretzky than any one else.
We went to a Toronto Blue Jays game that night. I bought tickets over the Internet few weeks earlier. I got some good seats behind home plate. As you can see from the empty seats around me and the crowd in the distance, many people there don't buy the expensive seats. Of course, this let me really stretch out. I was never so comfortable at a baseball game. The Blue Jays beat the Twins by a score of 3-1 in the shortest game in the American League that year: 2 hours and 1 minute. Debbie was very happy; she finally got to see a homerun, two of them in all. Carlos Delgado hit a blast to deep center.
So, all in all, we had a great time. Niagara Falls is a great place to visit. Stay on the Canadian side, it's cleaner and the exchange rate is great. I saved some of my Canadian money because we are going to Nova Scotia later in the summer.
If you ever want to visit Niagara
Falls and I highly recommend it,
first look at The City of Niagara Falls Visitor Information
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