A weekend in Niagara was a great way to wrap up the summer. Bright lights, attractions abound, shows, casinos and the beautiful landscape of parks and the world famous Niagara Falls made it feel like an amusement park for adults and children alike, or like Canada’s Las Vegas.
A trip to Niagara affords an endless supply of things to do and see, from the thundering Niagara Falls where you can Journey Behind the Falls and ride the Maid of the Mist to attractions like haunted houses and wax museums as well as the Bird Kingdom and Butterfly Conservatory. If it’s not the hustle and fast pace life of the city you’re looking for Niagara has many parks, hiking trails, a Botanical Garden and the small town charm of historic and picturesque Niagara on the Lake. There are plenty of tourist information booths and coupon booklets around so be sure to look for savings.
The nature lover in me drew me to Niagara for the Bird Kingdom, filled with beautiful birds like turacos to a Victoria crowned pigeon and also the only Javan nobleman’s house in North America. I was also excited to visit the Butterfly Conservatory filled with colourful butterflies in a lush, tropical atmosphere.
For our first day we visited the Bird Kingdom and from there walked along the river towards the falls. The path along the river is 56 km in total, stretching from Fort Erie to Fort George. The Niagara Falls lie along the border of Canada and the USA and consists of three falls; the American Falls, the smallest – Bridal Veil Falls and the magnificent Horseshoe Falls. The Horseshoe Falls is the largest at 2,600 feet wide and dropping 173 feet. The combined falls form the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world. I felt like I could stay there for hours snapping photos of the pretty rainbows, listening to the thunder of the mighty falls and simply take in the awe-inspiring landscape.
From the falls we walked back through the city’s large Queen Victoria Park and strolled along Clifton Hill – the main strip – ventured past endless shops and attractions, their large Ferris wheel and dinosaur mini putt. For dinner your possibilities are endless, from fine dining to entertaining restaurants like the Rainforest Café. We chose the Rainforest Café that is bang on when they say ‘an adventure in casual dining.’ A great place for adults and children, with a magical tropical atmosphere where you’ll spot animatronic oversized snakes hanging from tree branches overhead, gorillas and even a herd of elephants. Between the gift shop and the dining room there’s even a large aquarium. And to top it off this is the only location where you’ll experience an indoor thunderstorm every half hour.
After dining and a stroll back up Clifton Hill, this time in all its bright lights and night time glory, we headed for the classic Canadian dessert, Beaver Tails, oh they’re delicious! Then it was time to have a little fun and check out an attraction. Right beside Beaver Tails was The Crystal Caves with a talking animatronic vulture who taunted passersby – ‘do you have what it takes?‘ Sure we do, we thought, how hard can it be? The Crystal Caves is a labyrinth of mirrors, where the among the seemingly endless paths that only lead you to dead end mirrors we were pleasantly surprised by the bountiful laughs we found. We were laughing hysterically as we tried to make our way through and were rewarded by finding the entrance three times – oh boy, we thought, will we ever get out of here? Finally with the help of a gentleman we ran into we found the exit. Too funny!
Our second day took us out to the Niagara Park’s Butterfly Conservatory, located 10 minutes from the falls on the grounds of the Botanical Gardens. Established in 1936, the Botanical Gardens covers almost 100 acres with wonderful gardens, pathways and the Butterfly Conservatory. After a stroll through there we visited one of Niagara’s many parks, Niagara Glen. Located right on the gorge, Niagara Glen offers fantastic views, hiking trails around the river and is great for bird watching. We saw many hawks and vultures soaring through the sky, it was beautiful and peaceful.
On our way home we decided to stop in Niagara on the Lake. As their site says, Niagara on the Lake is ‘often called the loveliest town in Ontario.’ Founded over 200 years ago it has a long and distinguished history with historic sites like Fort George, the Shaw Festival and the heritage business district for shopping along Queen street. The main street, Queen street, is full of small town charm, beautiful flowers and historic buildings. My favourite building is the Niagara Apothecary which is a museum restoration of a 1869 pharmacy. Walking in was like stepping back in time, the shelves were filled with bottles and jars, there was a blood-letting jar, an old microscope, old newspaper clippings and a perfume dispenser from 1892 that’s slogan was ”a scent for a cent“. There were even beautiful chandeliers adding to the grandeur. The most interesting items were the stunning show globes that came in different colours. Their origin was from about the time of the plague in London when they would be displayed in windows of apothecaries (pharmacies) to show the ill where to come for professional help.
So whether you’re looking for the thrill of bright lights and attractions, peaceful walks through nature parks with wonderful landscapes or a stroll through a historic town center, Niagara has something for you.