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 dining 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. I recommend getting a Niagara Falls and Great Gorge Adventure Pass. They have admissions to a number of the places you will want to visit at a reduced price.
stayed at the Quality Inn Fallsview on Stanley Ave. which is only a few
blocks from the edge of the Horseshoe Falls at Table Rock (it's at the
upper right of the picture above). The hotel is higher up in elevation
then Table Rock, but they have cog railway cars that take you down to
Table Rock. Table Rock House (photo left) has gift shops, restaurants
and elevators that take you under and behind the falls. It's called Journey
Beneath the Falls. You buy the tickets (In 2001 they cost $7.00,
but now it's $10 or it's included
in the Pass) that give you a proscribed time to take the elevators. The
line is fairly long. The
elevators take you down into the cliff. You follow a passageway out
onto a platform near the
bottom of Horseshoe Falls that
you can walk out on.. We did
it twice, the first time the wind was in
face so we were drenched again. The second time the wind was blowing
so we could get a good view. Of
course, I picked a day when the wind was blowing away from us. It's as if you could reach out and touch
falls. After you leave the platform you can walk through the tunnel
There are two openings behind the falls where you can see the water
past you. they don't let you get too close to the opening for obvious
reasons. However, all you
really see is a white
wall of water. It's alright, but you don't get a sense of the
falls. It's interesting, but I would put it third behind the Maid
of the Mist and Cave of the Winds for things to do at Niagara Falls.
first day, we walked from Table Rock House through Queen Victoria Park.
The Park has millions of flowers and is litter free. They spend a lot
of time, energy and money to make this park fantastic. It's about ten
blocks long. As you walk, you get spectacular views of the American
Falls. We posed for this wonderful picture (right). From their we
walked to the Rainbow Bridge. This
is where we drove in from Buffalo that morning. Would you believe, they charge 50 cents just
to walk across the bridge. Luckily it was in Canadian money. You also
have to go through Customs
every time you walk across - either way. So make sure you have your
passport or some ID on you. In
the middle of the bridge (left), you are on the Canadian/United States
border. We posed for another picture here. People were very kind to
take our picture for us. Though, usually, I was also taking their
picture. You can see, on the exact border, they have the United Nations
We continued into the park on the American side. There is a bridge over the part of the Niagara River that flows over the American Falls (you can see the bridge in the photo of the American Falls below) so we could walk to Goat Island (this is the big island that separates the two main falls). There is a third and smaller falls called the Bridal Falls (which you can see to the right of the picture). We walked across the island to the rim of the Horseshoe Falls on the American side. So, 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. After relaxing a bit (along with a number of photos) we hiked back to Table Rock.
The American Falls
At the far right of the Canadian Falls, next to Table Rock, 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. She actually survived. 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
of Niagara Falls. The Falls are very dangerous. Many people have
killed accidentally or on purpose going over the falls. If you are
there is another web page entitled Niagara
- Life and Death on the River. The most amazing story occurred in
when a seven year old boy accidentally fell in the river above the
when the boat he was in capsized. He was swept over the falls wearing
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
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
next to Goat Island which is to the far left in the top photo.
You can see the Maid
of the Mist (in the center of the above photo) does get very close
to the falls. Their website is very good. They have been running these
tours since 1846. Using a side-wheel steamboat, it started out as a
ferry service until the bridge was built. To make money, they started
running tourists to see the falls. The tours continued to about the
time of the Civil War. In 1885, using boats made out of White Oak, they
started boating tourists too the falls again. In 1955, a fire destroyed
the old 19th century boats and new ones were built that were used up
until 1990. They were called Maid of the Mist I and II even though they
were the 5th and 6th boats to carry that name. These are the only boats
in the water. With the falls on one side and the Great Gorge on the
other, the basin of water beneath the falls is inaccessible to boats or ships of any
of the Maid of the Mist boats were built next to the water since there
is only one small service road and you can't sail any boats into the
basin. However in 1972, the 65-ton Maid of the Mist III was trucked
overland and lowered over the cliff by two large cranes to a truck on
the service road. More cranes below lowered her into the water. This
was the first time this had ever been done. They did it again in 1976
with the 300-passenger Maid of the Mist IV (this is the oldest one
still running). In 1997, Maid of the Mist VII was cut into 14 parts and
trucked down the service road where it was put back together again. The
Maid of the Mist VI and VII (in photos) are the biggest of them all and
can carry around 600 passengers. I can't imagine how powerful these
engines are considering the current they have to go against.
We did the trip twice,
the first time we got soaked but the second time, later in the week,
wind was in our favor (so we were mostly dry). You first cruise past
the American Falls (which has a lot a large boulders at it's base) then
on to the center of the Horseshoe Falls. They get fairly close and if
the wind shifts the so called 'mist' turns into a torrent. They
do give you these blue plastic coverings (made me feel like
dry-cleaning) to keep you some-what dry. Be careful taking pictures or
videos since the cameras can wet very easily. This was one of our
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
The cost was $8.50 when we were there (now it is $13.00 - but it is
also included in the Pass). This picture (above) was of us after the
when we didn't get very wet. You can also take the Maid from the
American side. This was Debbie's favorite activity and is a must on any
trip to the Falls.
of the Winds
If you look to the right of the photo of the American Falls above, 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. It isn't very expensive at $5.50 and it runs up to 7:30 at night. Even know the lines are longer, it's better to go in the afternoon because the sun will be on you and give you better pictures. 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 picture). You get very wet as the water goes over the walkways and your feet. They do provide you with yellow raincoats (as you can see). 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. The walkways lead you up to what they
call "The Hurricane Deck." This is a platform where the water of the
Bridal Falls splashes onto the platform and across your feet. In the
winter when everything freezes up, they remove all of the wooden
platforms and then re-assemble them in the spring. If you see the
terrain they have to work on you start to realize what a difficult job
that must be. It opens somewhere around the middle of May.
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. I love water fountains and waterfalls, so this was the ultimate spot for me (the nut with his arms up is me). 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 other 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.
We also went further down river (north
of the falls) to the Great
Gorge Adventure which is about a mile north of Niagara Falls. They
have a Falls Shuttle Bus that can take you there. The cost is $7.50 but it is also included
in the Pass.
You take an elevator
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 narrow gorge causing a wild stretch of
whitewater. The gorge is on the Canadian/American border. There
is a wooden walkway you can take that goes along the river for about a
quarter mile. There are step
cliffs on both sides of the gorge. No one goes in the water. I don't
think it's allowed nor do I think it would be very survivable. The only
time it was successfully done by a swimmer was in 1933 by an 18-year
old Chatham, New Jersey man who went swimming up near the Maid of the
Mist docks on the American side and was accidentally swept into
the rapids. He somehow managed to survive the rapids and the whirlpool
at the other end. Some people have done it successfully using barrels.
Back in 1861, when the old
owners of the Maid of the Mist were going broke, they sold their ship,
however, they had to sail it to Lake Ontario as part of the deal. With
a big crowd watching, three men sailed the boat into the rapids. It
tore of the smokestack and was swamped with the waves, but somehow
managed to make it through. There used to be a scenic electric trolley
in the early part of the 20th century on the American side, but it's
mostly gone now. You can still see parts of the railway on the other
side of the gorge.
The water from the rapids enter a giant whirlpool. The river makes a
right turn here and the water coming out of the rapids swirls into this
large whirlpool before it continues north to Lake Ontario. They have
what they call the Spanish Areo Car
that crosses over the gorge on a cable 450 feet above the whirlpool. It
was built in Spain and is brightly colored in red and yellow. They
began service in 1916 and can carry 40 people per trip. We watched it,
but never took the trip.
is the Floral Clock in Niagara Falls. It gets thousands of tourists a
Why? I haven't a clue. It's a big clock made with flowers - 16,000
flowers built back in 1950. The floral design is changed each year.
They love flowers in Canada. Niagara Falls is like a large
Gardens. The Niagara
Park Commission, which runs the Canadian side of the Falls, has
of landscapers and gardeners working full time.
There is a large
Gardens further down the road from here next to the Butterfly
Conservatory. The Butterfly Conservatory is a large building with a
tropical rainforest setting full of
thousands of butterflies. You get to walk through it as they flutter
you. Though you are told not to touch them. Apparently oils on our
fingers are harmful to them. This place was interesting and I would
drive north of Niagara Falls on the Canadian side is Niagara-on-the-Lake,
which is a must see. It's a beautiful little picturesque English town
bordering the Niagara River
and Lake Ontario. The name
of the city was originally "Newark". It was first settled by British Loyalists
leaving the United States after the American Revolution. It became the
first capital of Upper Canada (Ontario). During the War of 1812,
American troops captured the town and burned it. The British would
exact revenge for this and the burning of York (Toronto) when they
captured Washington D.C. the following year. After the war, the town
was rebuilt and little has changed since then. The town is filled with
tree-lined streets with large beautiful 19th century buildings. The
main street is Queen Street which is full of quaint little shops and a
large clock tower (left) on an island in the center of the road. We stopped
one of the shops for lunch. They also have a chocolate store where we
got some ice cream. There are flowers everywhere. We did
some shopping here and there. They have a number of bed and breakfast
places along with some old style inns. I would love to go back and stay
at the Prince of Wales Hotel
(right). This hotel, built back in 1864 is just oozing
elegance. Of course you better be oozing cash because the rooms run
between $200 to $300 a night (Canadian). The day we were there was very
bright and clear. We could see across Lake Ontario to Toronto. The CN
Tower was very visible in the distance.
On another day, we drove up here to go to dinner 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
damaged somewhat during the War of 1812. They even say they have their
own ghost haunting the place.
War of 1812
There are many places around the Niagara area that were involved during
the War of 1812. We of course, took some time to visit them. To
Americans, the War of 1812 was a minor event which we quickly breeze
through in history class. Canadians see it as a major part of their
history, like the American Revolution or the Civil War is to us. They
see it as the Canadians, with the help of the British, repulsing the
invasion of their neighbor to the south (that's us).
Just outside Niagara-on-the-Lake is Fort George
(left). After the American
Revolution, both the
United States and Great Britain built forts on the border to protect
their countries from attacks. In 1812, war did come to the Niagara
region during the War of 1812. We visited Fort
George along with Fort
Erie. The building in the
photo at left is of the barracks and officers house. Both British forts were built along the
Niagara River. Fort
George in the north and Fort Erie in the south across from Buffalo. The
Americans built forts on the other side of the Niagara River, like
Fort Niagara. Fort George was built by the British in the 1790's. It is very large and spread out unlike
Fort Erie which is much more compacted. During the War of 1812, the
Americans bombarded Fort George destroying many of her
buildings. The United States Army captured Fort George along with
nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake in May of 1813. However, this was as far as the army
would go as the British stopped them from advancing any further. By
December, the British forced the Americans to abandon
the fort and retreat back across the border (not before they put Niagara-on-the-Lake to the torch.)
The British continued across the Niagara River to capture Fort Niagara.
The British held off another invasion in 1814 and held the fort to the
war's end. In 1930, many of the buildings were re-constructed and today
they are open to the public as living museums. They have military
re-enactors demonstrating military maneuvers and tactics from the Wart
of 1812. The day we were there they had a demonstration of musket firing
(above right). The buildings
have demonstrations of what life was like for a British soldier during
the War of 1812. They havee a great gift shop here also. Boy, those
cannons look very heavy!
Driving back from
Niagara-on-the-Lake, we stopped in Queenstown. It is a small village
beneath Queenstown Heights. These heights are part of the Niagara
Escarpments where Niagara Falls were hundreds of years ago. Today, they
are a beautiful landscaped park. After the United States declared war
on Great Britain in June of 1812. In the center of the park is a large
monument to General Sir Isaac Brock (below right). I noticed around
this part of
Ontario there are a lot of places named after this guy. The reason is
that Brock is a Canadian military hero of the War of 1812.
was a British
officer who commanded Upper and Lower Canada (Ontario
and Québec.) After the
declared war on Great Britain on June 12, 1812, Brock captured the city
of Detroit in 1812. For this he was knighted and called "the hero of
Upper Canada." On October 13 of that year, an American force invaded
Canada and captured Queenstown. Rallying an outnumbered force of
British soldiers, Canadian militia and Native Americans, he
counter-attacked up the hill and after a 12 hour battle, won.
the battle, Brock was shot and killed by a sniper. He was 43.
There is a 185 foot tall column at the top of the hill
commemorating the general (left) which was erected in 1853 (replacing
an older one that had been damaged). His statue is at the
top of a giant column. Brock is buried in the vault below along with Lieutenant
Colonel John Macdonell (who was also killed in the battle). The column can be seen for miles
around. There are stairs you can climb inside the monument to get a
great view of the Niagara Valley, but since the view from the base at
the top of the ill was pretty impressive, we decided not to climb the
239 stairs to the top. There is also a
marker on the hill showing the spot where he was killed. Canada issued
a stamp to commemorate Brock in 1969.
The Battle of Lundy's Lane
When you think of Niagara Falls, you think of the scenic beauty and the immense amount of tourists. Somehow, a battle doesn't quickly come to mind. Despite this, one of the severest battles in the War of 1812 was fought here. On July 25, 1814, the Battle of Lundy's Lane was one of the bloodiest battle fought on Canadian soil. An American invasion of Canada was stopped by a combined British/Canadian force less then a mile from the falls. The battlefield was then and is still today a cemetery in the City of Niagara Falls. There is a memorial there to honor those killed. Outside of that, there is little to show that an important battle was fought there. Though a current movement by a local organization is trying to change that.
On July 3, American General Winfield Scott led a force at Buffalo across the Niagara River into Canada. They easily captured Fort Erie and moved up the Canadian side of the Niagara River.
After defeating a force of British soldiers at the Battle of Chippawa two days later, Scott and the U.S. Army advanced. 20 days later, when they reached Niagara Falls, the 3,700 British/Canadian soldiers, under the command of Lieutenant-General Gordon Drummond defended the high ground around a cemetery on Lundy Lane. In the afternoon, the 2,800 American soldiers attacked up the hill despite the murderous cannon fire from the British. By nightfall, after a number of assaults, the Americans captured the cannons, but were in turned attacked by the British.
Bloody hand to hand combat among the tombstones continued into the night. By midnight, the Americans were forced to pull back. Both sides had lost about 800 men in casualties. The American army retreated back to Fort Erie and and later to the United States ending the invasion of Canada. Today the cemetery has been re-named Drummond Cemetery.
We also went to Fort Erie,
is south of Niagara Falls, across the river from Buffalo (avoid that
place if you can - Buffalo
that is). The first Fort Erie was built shortly after the French and
Indian War, when the British took Canada from the French in 1764. Being
on the shores of Lake Erie, the fort took a beating from the weather. A
newer Fort Erie was
being constructed on the high ground behind the fort when the War of
1812 broke out. The United
States captured the fort in 1813 and held it
until the end of the year.
The British reoccupied it until July 3, 1814 when the United States
Army under General Winfield Scott easily captured it in his invasion of
Canada. After Scott was stopped at Lundy's Lane, he withdrew to Fort
Erie. On August 15, the British launched an all out assault on the fort
but were held off by the Americans with a loss of over 1,000 British
casualties. The British laid siege to the fort which the Americans
broke a month later. In December of 1814, the Americans abandoned the
fort and withdrew back across the border to Buffalo.
In time the town off Fort Erie grew around the ruins
of the fort. In 1937, it was reconstructed and is also a living
museum. They have re-enactors demonstrating different aspects of life
in a British fort. When we were there they were showing how to fire a
cannon. This fort let me try on this British uniform. The fit was a
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
Eating in Niagara Falls
All in all, we had a great time in Niagara Falls - we picked this newspaper up on our way out of town. It amazing what some crazy tourists will do to get in the papers.
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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