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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada ~ Attraction Information and Photos

April 2016, Weekend visit, 2 days


I am sharing information from our April visit to Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada. Some of the sights we visited were Queen Victoria Park, The Stranded Scow, Hornblower Niagara Cruise,  Journey Behind the Falls, and Oakes Garden.

More information and photos can be found in the Niagara Falls Facebook album, and pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Holiday Inn and Quality Hotel 
located across Murray Street from casino 


We stayed in the Hilton Niagara Falls - Fallsview Hotel & Suites. Other than the steep hike back up Murray Street, it was an easy walk to the falls and excursions from this hotel. The walk up the hill was a lot steeper than it looks in the photo below. We walked up and down this street a few times, and we never saw many others going uphill.

View of American Falls from pedestrian bridge across
Murray St. - between Fallsview Casino and Skylon Tower 
Some of the other hotels in this area include: Four Points by SheratonFallsview Casino Resort (across Fallsview Blvd. from the Hilton with a covered walkway to the Hilton and Sheraton on level 5), Embassy Suites, Marriott Fallsview & Spa, Marriott on the FallsComfort Inn (not sure about the view), Holiday Inn (no view), and Quality Hotel (no view). 

Hornblower Niagara Cruises

We went on this excursion the day we arrived, which was a Friday afternoon. We figured it would get busier as the weekend progressed, and it did. We waited in line about 10 minutes to purchase our tickets. The cost was exactly as posted on their website; $19.95 Canadian, plus tax. The total for two adults with tax was $45.10 Canadian, so $22.55 each. 

Water level @ Hornblower Niagara Cruises

After we purchased our tickets, we walked down a couple levels to the elevators, which took us down the rest of the way. We did not have to wait for the elevator. I asked the staff member in this area how soon the next boat was leaving, and he said three minutes. We just missed that boat, although if we had known exactly which way to go after getting off the elevator, we probably could have gotten on, as the boat was not full, and it was still at the dock. There is a photo stop after getting off the elevator, and the entrance to the boat is through the concession area after the photo stop. I did not see a boarding sign, and we went the wrong way because we walked around the concession area toward the boat. It was easy to to figure out which way to go in Niagara Falls (to exit an attraction, board, etc.) once we realized it was always through the extra purchase areas. In this case, it was the concession stand. After the attractions, we always had to walk through a souvenir shop to exit.
On board Hornblower Niagara Cruises
There are restrooms located at the water/boarding level, and a sign said complimentary WiFi was available. I was not able to connect to the Internet before we lined up to board our boat about 20 minutes after we had arrived. I was not trying to connect to the Internet the entire 20 minutes, although I did try for a good five minutes, or so. 

Rain ponchos were provided and needed. We rode on the front of the boat on the lower level. We boarded near the end of the first half of passengers boarding, and we were the first ones to choose this spot. Everyone that boarded before us went up top or inside. I did not get as many photos as I would have liked, because we had forgotten our camera. We had only my camera phone, and I did not want to take any chances getting it wet or dropping it over the side. When we disembarked about 20 minutes later, we walked a short distance up a mild incline to the elevators. When our elevator was full, we were taken up to the gift shop to exit. We rode the same set of elevators up and down; we just entered and exited from opposite sides. There was a ramp to the elevators and boat, making this excursion handicap accessible.

I thought it was odd that there were organized roped queues at the elevators--when we arrived, and when we departed; however, there was nothing like this in the concession area where we boarded the boat. It was kind of chaotic when we boarded, as there was no announcement and no direction. When passengers realized we were boarding, they walked up and entered the line in all areas, rather than at the end of the line. After we had our tickets scanned and walked past the ticket taker, there was a zig-zag type line for guests to walk through to get to the boat. Maybe when it is busier, they scan tickets right away, and then passengers line up in this area; however, that is not how it worked on Friday afternoon in April.

Queen Victoria Park

Queen Victoria Park runs pretty much the entire walkway along the river from Rainbow Bridge to The Stranded Scow. This distance is about 2.5 kilometers or 1.5 miles. There are many places to stop and take photos. In the evening, the falls were illuminated with changing colors from about 8:30 p.m. to midnight.

Horseshoe Falls
American Falls

The Stranded Scow is visible from the south end of the park across the street from Floral Showhouse. There is an admission charge to enter the Floral Showhouse, which we did not visit.
The Stranded Scow in the center back

Journey Behind the Falls

Journey Behind the Falls is a self-guided tour located at Table Rock. We purchased our tickets at the counter in Table Rock Welcome Center, and the cost was less than what is posted on the website. We visited in the middle of April when prices increase. I assume we received an off-season price just before the rates went up. Two adult tickets with tax cost us $25.42 Canadian, so $12.71 each. The website says the cost is $16.26 each, plus tax. The website also says that a free souvenir rain poncho is provided during spring and summer months, and we did not receive ponchos.

Again, we walked to an elevator where a staff member directed and escorted us down to the viewing level. From there, we disembarked and walked through the tunnels on our own. We visited on a Saturday morning, and I suggest trying to visit during off-season or earlier in the day before it gets busy. We had to wait a few times so we could get photos that were free of strangers. I imagine this is very difficult during peak season. The falls were roaring in April, and I posted a video taken during this excursion on my Facebook page. There are more photos in the Niagara Falls Facebook album, as well.
Maid in the Mist - photo taken from Journey Behind the Falls

I am mildly claustrophobic, and after about 20 minutes, I started to feel uneasy in the tunnels. I was surprised that I could sometimes feel the ground vibrate/shake under my feet. It was very cold in the tunnels. I was glad I was not wearing sandals, like some visitors I observed. When we were ready to go, we went back to the elevator. When the elevator was full, a staff member escorted us up to the gift shop to exit. We did not wait long for the elevator either time.

Oakes Garden, Niagara Brewing Company, Non-falls Tourist Attractions 

We walked north after lunch because we wanted to visit the brewery, and Oakes Garden to get a different view of the falls and river. Oakes Garden is about 1.5 kilometers or 1 mile from the Hilton, depending which route you take.
View from Oakes Garden
When we had been on the boat cruise, I thought Sheraton on the Falls looked like it was in a fabulous location with a great view. After we got to this end of town, I changed my mind. It depends what your interests are, and some of you may love this location. I imagine the view from the Sheraton is great, as the guestrooms have balconies, and the view overlooks Oakes Park and both falls. The reason we did not like the location is because the atmosphere changed after we walked by the SkyWheel. There are many non-falls tourist attractions in this area: wax museums, haunted houses, Ripley's Believe it or Not, arcades, mini-golf, fudge factory, indoor waterparks, and chain restaurants. We were mainly interested in the nature aspect of the area. I imagine the view is great from the SkyWheel, although we did not go for a ride. We thought it was more peaceful and less crowded by the Hilton.

Looking toward tourist central

The brewery has two bars; one on the main level and one upstairs, along with seating in both areas, and outside. It was very full when we visited. We were lucky to find two seats at the bar where we enjoyed a beer sampler. I liked the brews - especially the cherry porter, although my husband was not fond of them. I am only a craft beer drinker, as I do not like the taste of basic beer. The flavors were not "beery" enough for my husband. If you happen to be staying at the Sheraton or Crowne Plaza in this area, I overheard bartenders talking about a free sampler coupon you can get from the hotel.

Anniversary purchase

There are several wineries in the area, although we found only one place in Niagara Falls where alcohol, beer, and wine could be purchased; LCBO on the corner of Ferry Street and Fallsview Blvd. Wine Rack is located in the shopping center inside Fallsview Casino. They offer free samples, and we tried a new combination - champagne and ice wine. We were told we had not really tried ice wine, if we had not tasted it from this area. The flavor combination was delicious, and the cost was reasonable - $18.85 US for a bottle of champagne and 50 ml of ice wine. We purchased a bottle for our anniversary this summer.

Please let me know if you have any questions, and feel free to share this post. If you have never visited Niagara Falls, it is an amazing place to visit. To avoid the crowds, I suggest visiting off-season or during the week, if possible.