Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Niagara Falls - Wet, Wild and Wonderful

We had a great introduction to Niagara Falls, Ontario yesterday afternoon and evening but today was our first full day in Niagara Falls and we had a very busy day. We got to see and do almost everything on our list - so here is a look at our day.

First of all, we were tired when we finally went to sleep last night - yesterday was busy and long and a bit overwhelming (you know, seeing the Falls for the first time ever). So this morning we slept in. Around 9:00am we went down to the lobby of the hotel and talked with the concierge. They were very helpful and we decided to take a packaged guided tour of the area. The tour we took was . . .
VIP Tour Niagara Falls (Adult Only!) - Niagara's only adult-only, all-inclusive, VIP Niagara Falls summer tour chauffered by a professional tour guide in a luxurious limo bus.
I guess it was kind of expensive but worth it since we were driven around in a mini bus, we didn't have to wait in any lines and all admissions were included. Here were the selling points of us taking this tour . . .
1) VIP Treatment - Chauffered by a professional tour guide; 2) Hassle Free - Includes all admission and parking fees; 3) Fully Guided - We guide you through the heavy summer traffic; 4) Priority Parking - Fornt of the line access to the best attractions; and 5) Exclusive - Adults Only - 16 seats maximum.
The tour included the following . . .
Scheduled stops at Hornblower Niagara Cruises Boat Ride, Journey Behind the Falls, Niagara's Fury, and White Water Walk. Bonus stops at Horseshoe Falls, Souvenir City, and Whirlpool Rapids. Drive by with narration of Mt. Carmel Monastery, Harry Oakes Estate, Water Control Dam, Dufferin Island, Old Scow, Toronto Power Plant, Niagara Parks Greenhouse, Bridal Veil Falls, Goat Island, Luna Island, Queen Victoria Park, Inspiration Point, Harry Oakes Amphitheatre, Carillon Tower, Botanical Gardens, Great Gorge Adventure, Whirlpool Aero Car, Whirlpool, Niagara Helicopters, Niagara Glen, Robert Moses Power Plant, Sir Adam Beck Power Plant, Schoellkopf Disaster Site.
It was a very relaxing and informative tour and we enjoyed it and we were glad we signed up for it - we didn't have to worry about finding the different places, parking and waiting in lines. So here is how the day progressed.

We met our driver/tour guide in the lobby of the hotel. There were 14 people on our tour - a family of six from Malaysia, a young couple from Chicago (celebrating their first anniversary), an older couple from Kentucky, another couple from Indianapolis and us. Our driver/tour guide was named Greg and he was entertaining and informative. He escorted us to the mini bus and then we were off on our tour.
From our hotel we went south on Niagara Parkway and Greg talked about different things along the way. He pointed out the Floral Showhouse, Dufferin Island, International Control Dam, Old Scow, Mt. Caramel Monastery and Toronto Power Plant. We made our first stop at Table Rock Centre for Niagara's Fury and Journey Behind the Falls. We were taken to Niagara's Fury and give a poncho. We then entered a room where we watched a short animated film about the Falls. When the film was done we moved into another room where we 'experienced the Falls'. This is where the poncho came in handy. We experienced snow, rain wind, ground rumbling, thunder and lightning. It was kind of amusement parkish but enjoyable. When this ended we were then escorted to Journey Behind the Falls. We were given another poncho, then taken down in an elevator to some tunnels. One tunnel lead you out to a viewing platform where you stood next to the edge of Horseshoe Falls. Being out here was like standing in a rainstorm. The wind was blowing, the water was coming down from the top of the Falls creating splashes and mist. By the time we went back into the tunnels we were soaked (well the poncho help to keep most of our clothes dry but our heads and feet were drenched). Then you can take two other tunnels that take you behind Horseshoe Falls. There is a railing that keeps you back about 10 to 15 feet from the water but it is still impressive. When done here we could take the elevator back up and spend some time in the Visitor Center and go outside and stand near the top edge of Horseshoe Falls. Then at the appointed time to meet back at the bus we made our way there and continued on with the tour. [I forgot to mention that there was bottled water and fruit on the bus for us to snack on.]

From this point we drove up Niagara Parkway and made our next stop at the White Water Walk. Here you take an elevator down to a quarter mile boardwalk that parallels the Niagara River where you can see the rapids. Along this walkway the rapids get up as high as Class 6. So we strolled along the boardwalk mesmerized by the power of the river and stopped along the way at observation points. After about 40 minutes we had to return to the mini bus to continue on. Our next stop was at Souvenir City for lunch. They sold sandwiches and chips and we sat outside and ate. When everyone was done we boarded the bus and continued along Niagara Parkway. The next stop was Whirlpool Aero Car. We didn't ride the car we just viewed the Whirlpool that the Niagara River creates as it makes a 90° turn at this point. After a few minutes here we drove up to the Floral Clock. This is a giant clock that the face is made up of plants. Every year they do two plantings - one for Spring (which is the one we saw) and one for Summer. We stopped here long enough for everyone to take pictures and then we were off again to our last stop. I took a few minutes to change my shoes. I didn't want my shoes to be soaking wet after our next stop so I had brought my water shoes that I use for kayaking. Then Greg drove us to Hornblower Niagara Cruises. Here we were escorted by one of the employees there to the front of the line, then we were given ponchos and then escorted onto the boat. Thomas and I went up a level and stood on a platform up against a railing. This gave us a perfect view while we cruised up the river past the American Falls and pretty close to the base of Horseshoe Falls. It was exhilarating!!! Hearing the rush of the water, feeling the spray as it drenched us and experiencing the power of the Falls and River. The whole cruise only lasted about 20 minutes but the memory of the experience will last a lifetime. I enjoyed this part of our day the most! When we were back on land we took off our ponchos and I changed my shoes - thankful that we brought towels with us. I also had purchased a waterproof case for my camera before we left on this trip and I was glad I had it with me. I was able to get a few good pictures and my camera stayed completely dry. It was worth the money to buy the case! We then made our way back to the bus and Greg drove us back to the hotel.

Thomas and I made our way back to our room - tired, happy and thankful!. We took showers and changed. Then we sat and looked out our window at the fantastic view and relaxed for about an hour. Then we decided we were hungry and wanted pizza. So we found a place and set out walking. We ate at Antica Pizzeria & Ristorante on Victoria Avenue. We had some yummy pizza and relaxed and talked about how much we enjoyed our day. After eating we walked along Clifton Hill. We really went this way for one reason - a BeaverTail. You ask - "What is a BeaverTail?"! That would be a Canadian pastry made of whole-wheat dough, shaped like a much-respected national symbol: a beaver's tail. Cooked in canola oil, they are served hot with a variety of toppings like cinnamon and sugar, chocolate hazelnut, maple butter, and apple cinnamon. We had been hearing about them since we arrived in Canada so we had to try one and there happened to be a place just around the corner from the restaurant where we had dinner. We loved them - Thomas had one with cinnamon and sugar and I had one with hazelnut/chocolate spread and bananas. After we ate those we continued our stroll along Clifton Hill to Niagara Parkway. Then we walked along Niagara Parkway following the river back to our hotel. On the way back to the hotel we made one more stop to find a letterbox. You can read about that at Lucky Box in Niagara Falls.

Back at the room we sat in front of the window and watched the changing colors of the Illuminated Falls before finally calling it a night. A very full, busy, fun, exciting and wonderful day! So glad we decided to take this trip. We still have tomorrow here in Niagara Falls - we will see what we decided to do when morning comes.

. . . and here are a few more pictures from our day!

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