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Niagara Falls

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

I'm driving my daughter up to Ontario for a hockey camp and was thinking of stopping off on the way to see Niagara Falls. I don't think we will stay over but should be able to manage a full afternoon this coming Saturday. My plan was to drive up to NF, take the Maid of the Mist boat trip from the NY side, then cross the border at the Rainbow Bridge, drive up to the White Water Walk on the Canadian side, and then continue on to Guelph. I know there are lots of other activities to do, particularly on the Canadian side, but I figure I will save the rest for when we go with the whole family and take a whole weekend, or a few weekdays.


Anyone have any thoughts or recommendations?

post #2 of 19

Ah, my old stomping grounds.....the Falls and Guelph!



Depends what sort of thing you're into.  Tacky tourist traps?  Casino?  Family fun off the beaten path?  The Canadian side is far cleaner, and more to do (sorry to our American friends but it's true).  Clifton Hill in the Falls is the epitome of touristy stuff.  Nuts.  Tons to do all along the hill up and down, things to see, buy, experience, you name it.  It's about a 100 yards from the entrance to the Maid of the Mist (Canadian side) and the Caves down to the bottom of the Falls.  Things at Clifton Hill for all ages.  Tacky, but ya gotta do it once in your life if you're in the Falls.  Be sure to walk along the gorge at the Falls and get lots of pics, it's quite a grand view.  Table Rock (topside along the parkway, go left when you come off the Rainbow Bridge or you'll end up in No Man's Land) lets you get about 20' or less to the edge of the Falls where the water is gushing over.  Feels like you could stick your hand out and almost touch it.  Don't worry about looking out of place, everyone does.  It's expected.  Good luck with parking though.  Find a spot and keep it there, walk the rest, it's not far really.  There is no parking right by the attractions, you'll be looking at a 10 minute walk realistically.  Not too bad.  Park down along the gorge (left when you come off the Rainbow Bridge), or venture to the top of the Hill and park along a side street where most people don't realize to look, you'll find spots in one of those 2 areas.



Once you're in Guelph, if your daughter is on the ice downtown where the Storm play, then there's plenty of boutique shops downtown.  Little nooks and crannies of things to check out, shopping.  The Speed River is a 10 minute walk, nice nature trails along there, ice cream shop, historic covered bridge, etc.  If she's playing at the University, then if you're into nature there's an arboretum that's several hundred acres in size to hike through.  Or check out some of the cool buildings.  World renowned veterinary school if you're into animals a 10 minute walk on campus from the rink.  A 20 minute drive north of Guelph is Elora.  Fantastic little historic tourist town.  Bring a bathing suit and go tubing down the gorge and rapids.  Or skip the tubing and go for a hike through the gorge.  100' vertical stoneface cliffs.  Lovely.


If she's playing at any other rink besides the one downtown or at the University.....umm.....they're crap.  Sorry.  Played hockey at many of them myself.  MEH.  Do yourself a favour and head downtown or the University to see some sights.



Any questions about the Falls or Guelph, I got ya covered wink.gif

post #3 of 19

I've got you covered on the Niagara side of the house as well.  I've been coming on these boards looking for advice for a long time, and now I can finally pay it forward!


A lot of people like to dump on the Falls because of the "Tacky" touristy side... especially Clifton Hill.  But really, they don't get it.  Niagara Falls has ALWAYS been "Tacky-Touristy" ever since they were discovered way back when.  There is so much history of the Falls and it's always been a place for grifters and sideshow artists.  Love it for what it is, because it is no question an authentic experience... not contrived or phony, its the Falls.  


All that said, there is so much more to Niagara than Clifton Hill.  As well, I see the Falls usually at least once a week, and I never tire of seeing them... never.  They're just awesome (at least I think so).  Gunnerbob has a lot of the usual stuff covered pretty good.  There is so much off the beaten path stuff as well.  


If you've got time, drive the Niagara Parkway to Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Churchill called it, "the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world.", and no doubt I agree.  The Niagara Parks Commission works hard to keep it that way (your $20 parking fees at work!)

Once in NOTL do the Jet Boat.  Its my favourite way of experiencing the Niagara, even though the price tag is steep (but worth it).  The best seat is four rows back on the right... trust me!  Niagara-on-the-Lake usually wins the title of Canada's prettiest town.  They work hard at it.  I find it funny how people rip the Falls, and praise NOTL.  However, the former is the truer experience, and NOTL is the contrived one, as it was for years a blue-collar ship-building and farm town...  In any case, you have to go, if only to grab and ice cream on the strip, and to check out all the luxury homes.  I'm not really one for mansions and all, but the residents of NOTL are really respectful of classic architecture... definitely not your suburban McMansions.  Of course there's the whole winery thing too, but that's best without kids.  If like dessert type wines, grab a bottle of ice wine somewhere (anywhere).  Otherwise, the whites here are world class... the reds are hit and miss mainly based on vintage.  


If the price tag on the Jet Boat is too steep, another lesser known way to experience the mighty Niagara up close is to hike the Niagara Glen trails across from the Whirlpool Golf Course... best of all it's free.  My friend hikes there everyday.  


If your grabbing dinner, we like Napoli restaurant on the corner of Stanley and Ferry in the Falls.  Its mostly locals in there, and they really treat you well.  The complementary focaccia is the best I've had anywhere, as is their oil to dip it in.  They've always brought us 2nd and 3rds which we graciously accept!  My wife loves the tiramisu.  I usually order the "pizza of the day".  Last time I had a roasted pear / brie / prosciutto / caramelized onion white pizza.  Awesome!


Anyhow, if there's anything else, I'm happy to help.  I owe it to these boards.  Like I said, there's so much here in the Niagara area.  If it had mountains, I probably would never leave!



post #4 of 19

as a western new yorker, if your short on time, I would skip the US side and just head over to canada.  The views are so much better over there.  You can do maid of the mist on the canadian side as well as the cave of the winds. 


Sorry NF on the US side but really not much to offer.  Of course the Indians on the US side built a snowboard/ski run near the US Casino

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxK4B5ZvAw0&feature=related   .  Drove by but never tried it myself.

post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the advice... Her camp is at the University and they may have a session or at least a field trip over to the Storm facility. We'll have the morning on Sunday in Guelph. She's almost 17, so I imagine her primary desire will be sleep. I'm doing a lot of driving up and back to deliver and retrieve her, so we will actually be going back through the Falls area on Saturday 8/5 together as well. I had heard that the Maid of the Mist boats were smaller from the NY side, but that Jet Boat sounds very cool! Will look into a little more and check back. Was going to stay at the Fallsview Hilton but for the several hundred $ I can save with the camp rate in Guelph I'd rather use it for fun stuff and not worry about getting her up on Sunday morning!

post #6 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thinking I might try to get to the Rainbow Bridge at or a little before noon, cross, find a place to park and take the Maid of the Mist. If we have time do the Journey behind the Falls, and then drive up to Niagara on the Lake for a Jet Boat tour in the late afternoon, have dinner in NOTL, then drive up to Guelph. Obviously the variables are the traffic on the way up and the wait at the border, but it seems like we could at least get the Maid of the Mist done and get up to NOTL by 5 for a 5:45 boat trip...

post #7 of 19

Jet Boat is a good one, nice call JoeSchmoe.  Yes, there are tons of hidden gems all around that area, just depends if you like that and have the time.  Queenston Heights, Niagara on the Lake, Dufferin Islands, butterfly conservatory, Niagara Parks Trail, School of Horticulture arboretum.  And I do agree, don't bother with the US side, there's little there to be honest.  Maid of the Mist, Journey behind the Falls, Jet Boat would be a fun day.  You may not have time for other stuff, time passes really fast there.  A drive along the parkway (go right off the Rainbow Bridge and just keep driving.  Literally) to Niagara on the Lake is absolutely gorgeous, I agree.  Traffic is leisurely, everyone is friendly, stop off for views and photos along the way.  Really a treasure.


As for Clifton Hill, yes it's tacky as hell, but there's a certain ambience about it that is certainly fun.  I gotta admit, cruising the Hill on a summer night is a blast. People watching, the lights, etc, it's just a bustle of activity.


Traffic at the border depends on the time of day.  If it's a weekday then you'll be fine.  Weekend is iffy, but usually there's more Canadians going to New York because of our strong dollar and shopping.  Americans coming into Canada is fewer so you should be ok.  Rainbow Bridge usually moves pretty well.  Queenston bridge is killer because it's so big and major shipping route, so don't bother.  Peace Bridge is not worth the detour unless you wanna stop by the Anchor Bar in Buffalo for some of the best chicken wings on the planet LOL.


Once you cross the border, it'll be smooth sailing from there in terms of traffic.  Best way to Guelph is up the QEW, then west at the big QEW/403 interchange, then north on Highway 6 and you'll end up literally at the front door of the University. There's a good bar overlooking one of the rinks on campus if you wanna relax/eat and watch her at the same time.

post #8 of 19
Thread Starter 

Gracias, again!! My plan is starting to come together. Maid of the Mist and the drive up to NOTL will be the priorities, and I think the Jet Boat sounds too good to pass up. I'm driving up this Saturday from Philly, then driving home Sunday after dropping her off. then driving up next Friday night (yikes!), watching the end of camp scrimmage Saturday morning, and then heading home on Saturday afternoon. This after a little 1200 mile VT, NH and western MA preliminary college trip this past weekend. The GD station on Sirius is getting a workout... Easy for the kid-- my new Sienna has footrests in the middle row seats. Like being in first class on a plane. At least it's black so I don't look like a total soccer mom! My middle daughter says it looks like a CIA minivan, so I got that going for me.


I'm really looking forward to seeing the Falls. I've never been. If the drive isn't too bad then I think we'll all go up sometime in the early fall or on summer weekdays next year and check out all the stuff. Anyplace I can go without flying these days is a major bonus, since there are five of us. I have found that "tacky" often means fun for the kids!

post #9 of 19

you might want to check into the jetboat.  I know the one on the US side which departs from lewiston is not enclosed while the only ones I have seen from the canadian side are fully enclosed when they go thru the rapids (but I could be wrong).  I know that it is run by a canadian company as the employees on the US side are boated over daily.


Did it twice, just make sure to sit up front if you want to get soaked!


post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 

They have both. I think soaked is the way to go!


post #11 of 19
Make sure you bring a change of clothes because you'll be soaked on the boat. Remember the best action is 4th row on the far right. If you can't get that seat, anywhere in the first 3 rows works.
post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone... So we didn't exactly get an early start (my daughter is almost 17...) but we did get to the Falls. Sailed right through the Rainbow Bridge, got a parking space right on River Rd, and took the Maid of the Mist. Astounding experience to be next to those Falls. Grabbed a quick dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe at the bottom of Clifton Hill, drove up to the Whirlpool, took a look, then on to Guelph. Piece of cake. I'll get the other stuff in next time...

post #13 of 19
Thread Starter 






post #14 of 19

Looks great!  Hope you enjoyed the visit!


I was passing through the Falls this weekend (was a holiday long weekend in Canada) and the weather was beautiful, no lineups at the border at all.  Zipped right through. 


If you get a chance to go back when you have more time, there's some great activities you can do.

post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 

We must have crossed paths then. I went US to Canada Saturday around 5 and back across Sunday about the same time. Got to be the coolest bridge ever. I'll be back over late Friday night and crossing to go home Saturday afternoon. Hadn't seen the Falls before and now 4 times in 6 days. Totally worth it and I would love to get back for a couple of day outing. I may try and sneak in the White Water Walk on the way home, although after a week of two a days and off-ice everyday my daughter may just want to chill in the back of the minivan. We'll see. She was white water rafting in Maine and seems to have developed a healthy fascination with river flow physics so she might be up for it.


BTW GB, where do you ski up there? I didn't know what to expect and was surprised at how flat the drive to Guelph was. Also at how many vineyards! I know the Finger Lakes in NY have some serious Rieslings going on but didn't realize how much was going on in the Niagara region too.

post #16 of 19

Yes, the Niagara Region is renowned for its vineyards!  That area has topography, coming down the side of the Niagara Escarpment, but the surrounding area beyond is very flat.  Goes back to the glaciers that basically scoured that area of the province and left it mostly flat.  There's rolling terrain but not skiing terrain.  It isn't until you get near the Great Lakes (and beyond) that things start to change.  North of Lake Ontario are some ski resorts, then further northwest off Georgian Bay is Blue Mountain, it's the biggest in Ontario, run by IntraWest if I'm not mistaken.  Mostly smaller hills (200-500' vert) around Ontario until you get to Blue Mountain.  A lot of puddle jumpers for beginners.

post #17 of 19
Originally Posted by keniski View Post

BTW GB, where do you ski up there? I didn't know what to expect and was surprised at how flat the drive to Guelph was. Also at how many vineyards! I know the Finger Lakes in NY have some serious Rieslings going on but didn't realize how much was going on in the Niagara region too.

It seems most people on the north side of Lake Ontario ski Blue Mountain (about 2 hours north of Toronto).  It has a 720ft vertical drop on the Niagara Escarpment with good Georgian Bay lake effect snow coverage.  On weekdays it's quite fun as there is rarely a lift line and all terrain can be reached from high speed six-packs.  Weekends it's a NIGHTMARE as it seems all 6 million or so residents of the Greater Toronto Area flock here causing 15 minute+ liftlines for such short runs.  As GB said there are 3 or 4 smaller areas in the Georgian Bay snowbelt that see quite a bit of skiers too. 


Most people from Hamilton east to Niagara ski Holiday Valley in Ellicottville NY.  From the Peace Bridge in Buffalo its about an hour drive.  It also gets good snow from Lake Erie lake effect, and is in the foothills of the Allegheny's.


Wine wise, Niagara benefits from having similar in terroir and soils to the Finger Lakes Region, but actually has at least a couple of more frost free weeks per year.  This is because of the microclimate effects of the escarpment working with the large heat sink of Lake Ontario.  In the last 3 years, I've had my last harvests of tomatoes and peppers in November!  



post #18 of 19

Ellicottville.....good call.  I might go there this season.  Hills around here may be considered "small" but we have fun, eh?  I hit the puddle jumpers at Glen Eden a couple times a week.....it's my time away from kids, my personal Zen time LOL.  Small hill?  Sure.  But I still love skiing and getting out is better than sitting at home in front of the TV :)

post #19 of 19
Originally Posted by Gunnerbob View Post

Ellicottville.....good call.  I might go there this season.  Hills around here may be considered "small" but we have fun, eh?  I hit the puddle jumpers at Glen Eden a couple times a week.....it's my time away from kids, my personal Zen time LOL.  Small hill?  Sure.  But I still love skiing and getting out is better than sitting at home in front of the TV :)

An even better choice, though about 40 minutes further driving wise is Bristol Mountain in the Finger Lakes.  At 1200ft its got the highest vertical between the Adirondacks and the Rockies.  The snow is largely manmade though, but the quality is still really good.  

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