What you think about a trip to Niagara Falls probably depends on which one you’re talking about. And I don’t mean the American falls versus the Canadian ones.
To me, one of the great things about the Ontario, Canada side of the falls is the immense variety of experiences you can have, from nerve-jangling thrill rides to family fun to sophisticated wine-tasting. Here’s a look at ten options:
Up close and personal: The Hornblower Cruise folks offer new catamaran rides on the Niagara River that smoothly take you within what feels like a few feet of the bottom of the falls. It’s an incredible experience that really makes you feel the power and the wonder of one of nature’s grandest spectacles.
Thrill-a-minute: You can take a Niagara jet boat along the river, dashing to and fro and spinning and jumping the waves as you navigate the Whirlpool rapids. Slightly less adventurous are the Whirlpool Aero Car cable rides, where you ride in a small cable car high above the foaming fury below.
Wine and more wine: Niagara is perhaps Canada’s top wine region, with lovely, silky white wines and some surprisingly powerful reds. One of my favourite spots is Ravine Vineyard in the nearby village of St. Davids, where you’ll find a beautiful tasting room in an old home and a magnificent patio and restaurant. Inniskillin does informative tours and also has a lovely patio, but there are dozens of places to choose from.
Luxury lovers: There are several top-notch hotels in Niagara Falls, including the Marriott Fallsview and the Sheraton on the Falls. Many rooms over fabulous views of either the American or Canadian falls. Try getting a room with a hot tub, and be sure to pick up a bottle of Champagne to toast the falls from your suite.
Golf galore: The Whirlpool Course is a Canadian gem, designed by legendary golf course architect Stanley Thompson. Expect an eye-pleasing layout and tough greens that are trickier than they look. Not to mention gorgeous landscaping. Thundering Waters was designed by someone entirely different in style and attitude, that being PGA Tour golfer John Daly. It’s a fun and challenging course where some holes feel like a links layout in Scotland and others more of a traditional parkland course.
Family fun: Clifton Hill is a delightful throwback kind of place, with monster rides and haunted houses and giant statues of Frankenstein and the smell of hot dogs and popcorn in the air. The Niagara Skywheel is a giant Ferris Wheel that gives you astonishing views of the falls and the surrounding area. You’ll find a miniature golf course next door with giant dinosaurs, too. There’s also a Butterfly Conservatory along the river, north of the falls.
Unwind in nature: It’s surprisingly easy to get away from the busy parts of Niagara Falls. The Niagara Glen is a quiet and beautiful area with 4 kilometres of relatively easy walking trails that takes you down into the Niagara Gorge. You’ll pass enormous boulders left from the Ice Age and thick forests of maple, oak and other trees. A real eye-opener. The entire area is filled with lovingly landscaped parks and gardens, as well.
Know when to hold ‘em: Niagara Falls has a couple of large casinos, where you can play everything from blackjack to sleek, new slot machines. The casinos also attract top musical acts and other entertainers. Fallsview Casino offers up everyone from ZZ Top to Harry Connick Jr., while Casino Niagara has a Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club and also features live music.
Up close and personal, part two. Another great way to experience the thundering power of the falls is to try the Journey Behind the Falls, where you take an elevator down to tunnels burrowed deep into the ancient rock and get to stand just a few feet behind the water as it rushes and gushes with tremendous force. It’s an utterly amazing experience. Also fun is the Niagara’s Fury ride, which explains how the falls were formed and gives you a rollicking (and slightly wet) experience.
Food and foodies: As you might expect from a world-class destination, Niagara Falls offers up every kind of food you can imagine. You’ll find everything from great steaks at The Keg to wonderful Italian food at a number of local spots. Elements on the Falls overlooks the Canadian falls and features wonderful, fresh Ontario cuisine; much of it local. Try the Niagara Spy Apple Barge for dessert, with apples, cinnamon, raisins and other good stuff in a filo pastry basket. A real belt-loosener.