Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Niagara Falls Canada Travel Guide & Must-See Attractions

I enjoy visiting exotic destinations like Dubai, Croatia, Thailand and Belize but here in Ontario one of my favorite places to spend an afternoon is Niagara Falls.

Each year millions of tourists are astonished as 681,740 gallons of water cascade over Niagara's rocky precipice every second. This breathtaking natural wonder should definitely be on everyone's bucket list.

I’ve been going to Niagara almost every summer since I was a kid and it never ceases to amaze me. If you only have a few days in the area and need help deciding what to do, I’ve put together a guide on some the best attractions, restaurants and tours. (All prices are in Canadian dollars and do not include taxes. Ticket prices may vary).

~ Tourist Passes ~
Whether you're planing a romantic getaway, family retreat or girl's night, Niagara Parks offers several great deals to help save you money on popular attractions. 

Adventure Pass
(Adult: $65 Child: $43)
The classic Adventure Pass includes: Journey Behind the Falls, Hornblower Cruise, White Water Walk, Niagara’s Fury 4D Experience, WEGO Bus for 2 days and a coupon book for additional savings. You can also upgrade your package to include more attractions.

Clifton Hill Fun Pass
(Adult: $29.95 Child: $19.95)
Includes 6 popular attractions: Niagara Skywheel, Zombie Attack, Wild West Coaster, Movieland Wax Museum, Ghost Busters Dark Ride and Dinosaur Adventure Golf.

Go-Transit & WEGO Pass
($16 - $30)
This seasonal package includes round-trip to Niagara by GO Train, a 2 day WEGO hop-on hop-off bus pass for all the main attractions and a new extension that goes to Niagara-on-the Lake. (For more information click HERE)

~ The Best Ways to See Niagara Falls ~
Niagara Falls is breathtaking no matter what your vantage point. Many visitors simply walk along the sidewalk but there are other options worth exploring.

1. Hornblower Cruises (included with Adventure Pass)
(Adult: $25.95 Child: $15.95)
Hornblower (formerly known as Maid of the Mist) is the most thrilling way to see the falls up close. Slip on your poncho, hop aboard and get ready to be amazed as you sail directly towards the plunging water. The boat takes you as close as possible so prepare to get wet if you stand on the observation deck. (For more info click HERE – fireworks and night cruises also available)

2. Journey Behind The Falls (included with Adventure Pass)
(Adult: $19.95 Child: $13)
This underground expedition takes you on a wonderful journey through 130 year old bedrock tunnels leading to unique viewing portals. In the winter it looks like an icy wonderland.

3. Clifton Hill Skywheel (included with Clifton Hill Fun Pass)
(Adult: $11.99 Child: $6.99)
For an amazing bird’s eye view of the falls and park, head to Clifton Hill and ride the Skywheel. The climate control, fully-enclosed gondolas operate all year and rise 175 feet (53 meters). The wheel is also a great way to see the fireworks display that takes place from Friday to Sunday at 10 pm during the summer and select holidays.

4. Niagara Helicopters
(Adult: $145 Couples: $280 Child: $89)
If you’re not afraid of heights, embark on a scenic helicopter tour above the falls, whirlpool and gorge. For photographers this is a wonderful opportunity to capture stunning photos of Niagara.

~ Attractions & Adventures ~

Clifton Hill
No visit to Niagara is complete without exploring Clifton Hill and at night the street comes alive with colorful lights, music and the scent of delicious treats.

Some highlights including: laser tag, bowling, Midway games and arcades, mini golf, Guinness World Record Museum, Mystery Maze, Ripley’s 4D Theater, The Beer Garden Karaoke Bar, patios, restaurants, several haunted houses and many souvenir/specialty shops. Indulge in whatever peaks your interest - there is something for everyone!

The Fudge Factory
The Fudge Factory is a Clifton Hill classic and one of my favorite places to get candy apples and chocolate dipped everything! To satisfy your sweet-tooth I also recommend Sweet Jesus Ice Cream Shop (at the bottom of the hill) or head to The Hershey Store for delicious chocolate covered strawberries.

Fudge Factory

Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
(Adult: $14.00 Child: $8.00)

Go-Carts Niagara Speedway
(Driver: $12 per 5 mins Rider: $4.00)

Dinosaur Adventure Golf with erupting volcano
(Adult: $10.00 Child: $6.00)

Ripley’s Believe it or Not
(Adult: $18.99 Child: $11.99)

Milestones Restaurant at the Marriott Hotel
At 6755 Fallsview Blvd you will find one of my favorite spots to enjoy a romantic dinner. This particular Milestones Restaurant serves delicious food and has a phenomenal view of Niagara Falls.

Pizza is my favorite food so if you’re looking for a great pie try Zappi’s Pizzeria on Stanley Avenue. The crispy dough is loaded with fresh toppings and mouth-watering spices. 

Zappi's also makes the best sweet potato fries!

Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours
(Adult: $67 Child: $45.00)
For the adventure of a lifetime, a Jet Boat Tour is the most thrilling experience in Niagara. I took my friends last weekend for a girl’s trip and everyone had a blast!

This journey is not for the faint of heart. The boat plunges through turbulent rapids – dipping and diving between crashing waves.

The open boat provides the most exciting ride but if you prefer to stay dry, opt for the fully-covered Jet Dome instead. To give you an idea of just how choppy the water is, the rapids are classified: 1 is the easiest and 6 is the most treacherous. The jet boat ventures into class 5 rapids for the most intense adrenaline rush!

On my first trip I sat at the very front and last weekend I sat in the second last row so I can give you a pretty good idea of what to expect. If you sit in the front get ready to swallow a lot of water and be hit in the face with wave after powerful wave. There are no words to describe the unrelenting force and incredible volume of water that will engulf you. I was absolutely shocked after the first exhilarating run and sometimes the water fills the boat at waist level!

This experience is extreme and scary... in a good way – the kind of rush you get from a spine-tingling roller coaster ride. Plant your feet, hold on tight and brace yourself because it feels like being completely submerged under the cold river.

Enclosed Dome Boat

If you have trouble holding your breath, sit towards the middle or back. You will still get wet but you won't inhale so much water. Before the real fun begins, the guide will reveal some interesting facts about the Niagara Gorge. Relax and take a moment to appreciate the beautiful landscape.

The boat hits the rapids quite hard as the river gets choppy so the tour is not recommended for people with medical issues or back conditions. The best moments are the mind-blowing 360˚ turns that launch you into the air! 

All the gear you need is provided including a fleece sweater, full-length zip-up jumper, plastic poncho and life vest. I brought my own water shoes but you can borrow a pair at the dock. No special clothing is required but if you have a wet suit I suggest wearing it. Lockers and change rooms are also available on-site so bring extra shoes, clothes and a towel.

After making reservations the company will email you all the necessary information including: location and early arrival time to check-in, sign the participation agreement and attend a mandatory safety briefing. There is a shuttle bus pick-up and kiosk at the Flower Clock which is also a stop for the WEGO Bus. For more information or to book your trip, visit the website at whirlpooljet.com.

Niagara Belle Lunch or Sunset Dinner Cruise
A short drive away from Niagara Falls you will find a secluded little hideaway where the Niagara Belle River Boat docks (same location as the Jet Boat Tours). This classic cruise serves a hearty meal while serenading you with live music as you sail past Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort George. Enjoy the sunset and warm breeze while sipping delicious cocktails and lounging on the open deck.

*Fallsview Casino Resort, Shops & Dragonfly Nightclub
Try your luck at the slots or dance the night away at Dragonfly.

Casino Atrium

Niagara-on-the-Lake Wine Tasting Tours
Niagara-on-the-Lake is a picturesque little town with exquisite architecture, horse and carriage rides, scenic roads, bed & breakfasts, boutiques, parks, restaurants and fresh produce markets. The region is also known for award-winning wine.

I highly recommend Diamond Estates Wines & Spirits (look for the Lakeview Wine sign on Niagara Stone Road). This company is the third largest producer of VQA wines in Ontario and makes a wide variety of tasty blends with many brands to choose from.

The beautiful vineyard is perfect for date night or a unique outing with friends and the cozy boutique is a wonderful place to discover some new favorites. The wine tour is insightful and informative. Ann answered all my questions and I learned about the lengthy task of making delicious ice wine.

The facility is very accommodating if you are interested in booking a private tour or celebrating a special occasion. They even host fun events including paint night, wine tasting paired with cheese or desserts, cocktail mixology classes and live music in the vineyard every Friday in July. Wine enthusiasts can also join their club to receive monthly deliveries.

My favorite part of the tour (aside from drinking) was visiting the large cellar with over 800 barrels. They also have massive 2-story tanks that hold enough wine to fill 112,000 bottles! I enjoyed learning about the process of wine making from vine to bottle and the proper way to swirl, smell, and sip. Ann even whipped up refreshing wine slushies to help beat the summer heat.

Ice wine is quite expensive because it is difficult to produce but Diamond Estates offers great deals. I purchased two of my favorites as a set for just $60.00. Lakeview Cellars Ice Wine is sweet (but not too sugary) with a rich, smooth texture.

Twenty Bees strawberry flavored ice wine is perfect for cocktails and deck parties.

For more information or to book a tour, visit the website at lakeviewwineco.com.

The Niagara Grape & Wine Festival is always fun. It takes place from September 14-29th and the Ice Wine Festival  begins January 10th - 26th (weekends only).

To get the most value and save money, book the Discovery Pass which usually includes wine and food pairings at several vineyards. I also recommend planning which wineries you'd like to visit, purchasing some Groupon deals and looking for a few discount codes online. 

Peller Estates is a must because they have a lovely cellar and a unique ice room kept at -10 degrees Celsius. 

For more information on the Grape and Wine Festival visit the website HERE.

If you're in the winery area, I recommend stopping at The Garrison House for juicy burgers, Cast Iron Cheesy Fire Chicken and Sticky Toffee Pudding. This restaurant was featured on the Food Network's So You Gotta Eat Here!

*New WildPlay MistRider Zipline to the Falls
(Adult: $59.00 – single ride)
If you’re feeling adventurous, the new zipline takes you on a breathtaking ride through the gorge and down 2,200 ft towards the Horseshoe Falls Observation Deck.

Photo: Niagara Wild Play

*Flower Clock
The Flower Clock is a pretty background for photos but there isn’t much to do in the area so visit if you have time.

Bird Kingdom
(Adult: $17.95 Child: $13.95)
The largest free-flying indoor aviary in the world featuring a variety of exotic species.

Butterfly Conservatory
(Adult: $15 Child: $9.75)
Home to thousands of vibrantly colored butterflies.
Photo by: Niagara Parks

Botanical Gardens
(FREE, parking is $5)

Greg Freewin Theater
(See Website for ticket info)
Vegas-style magic show with jaw-dropping illusions, tigers and exotic birds (also available with dinner).

Whirlpool Aero Car
(Adult: $15 Child: $9,75)
Antique cable car ride over the Niagara Gorge, rapids and whirlpool. If you aren't comfortable dangling from wires I still recommend visiting because this area has beautiful lookout points.

Skylon Tower Observation Deck
(Prices vary depending on the combo pack you choose)
The Skylon Tower is an iconic part of Niagara’s skyline and the observation deck rises 775 ft above the falls. Plan a romantic evening at the revolving dining room - it is a lovely setting to celebrate special occasions.

Fallsview Indoor Waterpark
(Day Passes: $46.99 - $51.99)
3 acres of indoor family fun, 16 water slides, hot springs, sun deck and massive indoor waiting pool.

*Other notable attractions and amenities include: Oakes Garden Theater, Whirlpool Golf Course, White Water Walk, recreational nature trails and bike paths.

For more information or to plan your trip, visit niagarafallstourism.com

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