Niagara Peninsula YOUTUBE VIDEO
Downtown, Clifton Hill
|Skylines and views of the USA|
|The Falls, Horseshoe falls
|Niagara Parkway, Oakes Garden Theatre, Casino, Entertainment district, Outskirts, Floral Clock, Museums||Views of Niagara Falls, NY, USA, Skylon Tower|
|Historical Old Town, Queen Street, Vineyards, Cenotaph|
Population: 83 000 (metro 309 000)
Niagara Falls is situated an about 1.5 hour drive (128km) southeast of Toronto, with Lake Ontario between. Just next is the border to the USA, some km from the city of Buffalo. Niagara River flows through the city. The city was named after the world famous Niagara Falls, a set of 3 large waterfalls along Niagara River. You can look into the USA on the other side of the river; more exaclty into the small city of Niagara Falls, NY (the American twin city with about 50 000 inh.), the American Falls (largest), the Horseshoe Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls (smallest). The falls are situated both on the Canadian side and on the American side, but they can best be viewed from the Canadian side. The American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are situated entirely on the American side and the Horseshoe Falls to 2/3 in Canada. About 90% of the Niagara River flows over the Horseshoe Falls. The falls attract millions of tourists every year. They are famous for their beauty, but they are also an important source for electrical power. Sometimes a rainbow can be seen, in front of the falls above the river.
The Rainbow Bridge is a beautiful 440m long bridge that goes between USA and Canada, high above the river. It was built in 1941 after the collapse of the Honeymoon Bridge. On both sides there are customs buildings. The tourism, that today is very important for the economy, started in the early 19th century. In 1962, the city amalgamated with the Stamford township, doubling the population. The falls are only 51m high, but very wide. More then 168,000 m³ of water flows in a high flow every minute. Sometimes the falls are illuminated with beautiful lights at dark, often in pink, violet or rainbow colours. Boats are frequently taking tourists on cruises on Niagara River, taking them close to the Horseshoe Falls, making the boat passengers soaking wet, and there is an Aero Car above the river. The two boats are called Maid of the Mist and Hornblower. At the entrance to the boats you find the Grand View Marketplace. Goat Island is a small island on the American side of the falls.
The Niagara Parkway and tourist promenade goes parallel with Niagara River. From here you have great views over the falls, at several viewpoint terraces. Along the parkway, that goes high above the river and the falls, you find no less then 3 observation towers, and skyscraper hotels. The North part of the parkway stretches even higher. Hilton, Sheraton, Embassy Suites, Marriott, The Oakes, Fallsview Casino Resort, Tower Hotel, Crowne Plaza, Doubletree are all highrise hotels, most of them situated in the South part or at Clifton Hill. Since 2000 many skyscrapers have been built, making the skyline impressive for such a small city. They were built tall to be able to offer great views of the falls. The skyline is visible from the falls, making a nice backdrop. The observation towers, all built in the 60s, are Skylon Tower (159m to the antenna, tallest, built 1965, has panorama elevators on the exterior), Minolta Tower (99m, built 1962) and Casino Tower (108m tall, built 1964). However, Hilton's 58-storey addition from 2009 is Niagara Falls tallest building, even taller then the observation towers (177m). The Prospect Point Observation Tower from 1961 is a significant structure that hangs over the falls on the American side.
Immediately West of the falls and the parkway you find Clifton Hill, that is some kind of entertainment street, filled with indoor attractions (mostly museums and rides for kids and teenagers), fastfood chains, video arcades, large neon signs, large billboards in a Vegas kind of style. Here you find Guiness World of Records, Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum (with the iconic Empire State Bldg clone), Castle Dracula Wax Museum, The House of Frankenstein, Niagara Skywheel (a tall ferris wheel), Fun Factory, Fudge Factory, Dinosaur Adventure Golf and Movieland Wax Museum. Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum is the famous building that is resembling an Empire State Building that lies down with King Kong on top, complete with a New York cab! All these places look very tacky but it is nice to walk up this hilly road once or twice. At the foot of Clifton Hill is the Niagara Falls Veterans Memorial, dedicated to the 463 residents of Niagara Falls who lost their life in the defense of the USA. In 2002, the Cham Shan Temple was built in the North part of Niagara Falls, facing the river. It is a beautiful buddhist temple in Asian pagoda style. It is a functioning buddhist temple, and open to public.
Between Clifton Hills and the falls are Sheraton on the Falls (a large glass high rise building hotel from 2000) Casino Niagara (a large casino with an observation tower), Oakes Garden Theatre, a small tranquil park with a theater, and the larger Queen Victoria Park, where you can escape the hustle and bustle. Hard Rock Café, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Hershey's Chocolate World, Waterpark and Planet Hollywood are also very close to Clifton Hill. So the city of Niagara Falls is not only a place where you can view the spectacular falls, it is also the closest you come to Las Vegas in Canada!
Niagara Falls is very green, or at least the part around the Niagara Parkway. Along the way you find historical places with connection to the War of 1812 (between Canada and the US). In the outskirts there is a big clock with flowers inside, called the Floral Clock. It is photographed almost as often as the falls. The floral theme is changed twice a year. The rest of the city is nothing special, it's just a normal Canadian city, even considered a bit dull by many Canadians. Along the parkway you also find the large, beautiful neoclassical Toronto Power Generating Station, a former power generating building from 1906. It used to serve Toronto with electricity, but is now empty.
What many people don't know is that the Niagara region is the vine district of Canada! The center of the wine district is actually Niagara-on-the-Lake, a small city with only 15 400 inhabitants, right next to Lake Ontario and Niagara River. It borders Niagara Falls to the South. This is where the nation of Canada was born (watch its own section). The War of 1812 took place here. It is home to the Shaw festival (dedicated to the poet Bernard Shaw) and is considered the most beautiful city in Canada by many, due to its historical character. Most historical structures, like the iconic Cenotaph, are concentrated around Queen Street, the main street. Since Niagara-on-the-Lake is the center of the wine district, many vineyards can be found in and around the city. There are also beaches at the lakefront.
In June 2016, we made a guided daytrip from Toronto to Niagara Falls, a dream come true. The trip included a boat tour on the river, where we came very close to the falls and had to wear pink raincoats to keep us dry! The boat was called Hornblower. This experience was amazing, nice and exciting at the same time! A short stop to the historic city of Niagara-on-the-Lake, including a taste of the for the region so famous ice vine, and some free time in the city of Niagara Falls was included. We passed by the place where the battle of Canada with the United States took place in 1812. Just before entering Niagara Falls, we made a stop at Souvenir City, a large souvenir shopping center, a building with native Indian symbols, and Floral Clock, at a huge clock with flowers inside, in the outskirts. It was extremely hot when we visited, and we were threatened by a huge approaching thunderstorm, that never occured luckily (but we experienced it in Chicago the next day!).
An elderly man was driving us very fast through the crowded highways of Toronto, passing by Hamilton,Mississauga, Brampton and St Catharines (each city with several 100 000 inhabitants) before reaching Niagara-on-the-Lake and then Niagara Falls. In the other directions six lanes of traffic stood still for about 30km, the biggest traffic jam I have seen in my entire life (including LA)!
The vehicle was a green Ford minibus/van of an old fashioned typical American model with no seatbelts and bad suspension, making the trip not that comfortable in that high speed. The driver/guide was very skilled however, and told us everything about the surroundings, a great guy that had a special sense of humour.
After taking the boat tour on the falls, we visited a simple hamburger restaurant with views of the falls. Then we walked along the entertainment street of Clifton Hill, up and down, before going back to the bus. The rotating fountain at the intersection Clifton Hill/Niagara Pkwy leaves by passing tourists soaking wet, seems like the city planners had a bit of fun! We had to wait for a while, because a young woman from Italy got lost and couldn't find the bus! The driver told us about an incident that happened some days earlier, when three tourists just walked along the Rainbow Bridge above the Niagara River, towards the United States. They ended up in a 3 hour long interrogation, while the rest of the group had to wait. Not very clever! If we had more time we would have went up the Skylon Tower instead of visiting the souvenir shop. But the vine tasting was nice.