Niagara Falls, 31-Aug-12 to 03-Sep-12

Posted by tom and tree on Sep 15, 2012

I wanted to add a part to this blog, as Tom has not mentioned it at all, he's obviously being rather shy about the fact that, not only is he a great Husband and Life Partner in many ways, but that he actually arranged this trip as a surprise for me! A kinda late 1st Wedding Anniversary celebration for both of us, as we had to relocate for work and start our 21 hours drive to do so, on the actual date.

This is not the first surprise he has sprung on me, there have been quite a few over the years of us being together, and he revels in the build up to it, teasing me and dropping hints or red herrings to keep me guessing, along with producing documents or web pages and releasing new clues every so often. This is always meticulously worked out to cover the weeks before that particular surprise, its all quite exciting for me :) Ok, and frustrating at points, as i'm sure anyone can appreciate that knows Tom, how it becomes an hourly obsession the last couple of days as he gets more excited to tell me ;) Anyway this was just a little insight/background into the pre-trip weeks, to help you get in the groove of the trip before yo start to read about it, but it do want to say one last thing:

'Words are really not enough. All i can say is a huge 'Thank You!' This trip was amazing in every way. We had a fantastic time in each others company as always no matter where we go. But the choices Tom made of Hotel, tourist attraction, how long and in what order to see the Canadian and US side of the Falls was perfect. It really could not have worked out any better!"

So enjoy . . .

Tree baked GF Cookies and Flapjacks and finished packing all our stuff and loaded it into the truck whilst I was at work and then picked me up around 4pm. Tree was late as usual,(lol) but i found out it was because she had decided to bake me a GF Chocolate Fudge Cake as a surprise for the weekend away. We drove to Niagara Falls,ON (Canadian Side), splitting the driving as usual and made it in 5 hours 40 minutes including border control. Got to the hotel (Hilton Hotel and Suites Niagara Falls/Fallsview) and into our room just in time to show Tree around the room before the fireworks being shot over the falls, started. What an amazing start and welcome to the Hotel!

We had an stunning view from our hotel room, as we were on the 50th Floor with a premium falls view, so we could see both the US and Canadian Falls (the latter being the famous Horse Shoe Falls) from our room. Our room was actually a suite with a living room, bathroom with a double jacuzzi and the bedroom, which had the view. Not only did both of the main rooms have fireplaces in them but the view could also be seen from the bathroom where there was a window (with a blind built inside) the entire size of the wall along side the Jacuzzi. So you looked through the bedroom out over the Falls.


Woke up at 6:45am and headed straight to the window to see what the view looks like in daylight. Apart from pretty much blinding myself thanks to the sunlight. Once my vision was fully restored we were not disappointed at all, the view was immense. We got up showered and down for breakfast, after I had finished munching down my cereal (that we brought with us) our waitress informed us that they have Gluten Free Bread available - duely noted for tomorrow morning. Went back to the room, grabbed our stuff and headed to the Welcome Center to pick up our passes and book up our day.

We found out at the Welcome Centre that they run a bus service between all the Attractions, called the ''WE GO''. And soon found out how great and efficient this service was.

First up at 9:45 was the Maid Of The Mist boat trip which took us up Niagara Gauge and into the heart of the Falls. You could feel the spray from the US falls on the way, but got a bit more of a soaking from the Horse Shoe Falls, even at 9:45am this was a nice relief from the temperature. After the 20 minute trip we headed to the viewing platform above the Maid Of The Mist entrance to take a few hand held panoramas (always interesting) and then hopped on the "WE GO" bus to the white water walk, which is a walk along the river.


The White Water Walk gets its name from the rapids along this point of the river which rise to 6ft+ high - this is where I started to give Tree her first crash course in taking photos and she did a fantastic job :o) The walk is a quarter of a mile long (so half a mile round trip) and was extremely pleasant. From here we headed back to the Maid Of The Mist viewing area to take a few more photos and then across the road and through Queen Victoria Park to the Hard Rock Cafe. On the way through Tree took some more photos of a pond with a bridge over it, a lovely shot. We got to the Hard Rock Cafe and bought our usual merchandise before getting our lunch.

Back out and about around the Park and then down to Niagara's Fury. This is a 360 cinema straight out of Universal Studios. It teaches you about the history of the falls and how they were formed through the medium of a cartoon beaver, owl and Polar bear. You then have a simulation based on the history of the falls and you get a bit wet. It is all good fun.


We then carried on to the 4th of the 'Top Attractions' called 'Journey Behind the Falls', which for us was something of nothing. The whole time we tried to remain unbiased towards Iguazu Falls, Brasil, but it was impossible here. You basically get to go through some tunnels and look through about 3 small portals from behind the falls, you don't get wet or anything, and you cant see anything. Well you can see something and that is alot of white water like someones throwing buckets of water over the portals - so a bit disappointing here. There is a viewing area which is a little bit better but nothing like we were expecting. After that we sat at the top of table rock and saw the resident Canadian Mountie, we didn't get a photo with him today, but we plan to do so tomorrow.

Back to the hotel for a quick Jacuzzi, a nap and of course a few more panoramic photos from our hotel window - all on the iPhone. We then headed for dinner at one of the Hotels restaurants called, the Watermark Restaurant. The view from here is very similar to the one from our hotel room, i.e. a panoramic view of the falls. We both had the lobster tails, garlic mash and veg. As an added bonus they had Gluten Free Bread (as this was the hotel restaurant we thought we would ask), and it was nice and warm - yummo!! For desert I had my beloved Creme Brulee, while Tree has a White Chocolate Strawberry Mousse, which to be honest was more like a cheesecake than a mousse, but she assured me still very nice. After we were feeling a little bit better, from the over eating, we headed back down to the front to take some night time shots of the falls, which are lit up a variety of changing colours everynight during the summer months. Then it was back to the hotel and bed - knackard we were!

An impromptu early wake up @ 1:20am this morning thanks to the hotel Fire Alarm. We were given the all clear at 1:30am, via a tannoy system announcement through the Fire Alarm. We couldn't decide what the cause of the alarm was, but we have narrowed it down to either someone smoking in their room or heating up an illegal substance. Although looking at some of the people around here it was probably the two of them, we really had our eyes opened as to what a party place it becomes at night. Anyway back up at our originally proposed time of 7, and down for breakfast. This morning I tried out the Gluten Free Bread they had on offer, which was pretty dry, but would make good toast, they also had Muffins (huge bonus!) and Rice Crispies to offer me - all hotels should provide this as a minimum as far as I am concerned. Anyway, we then headed out to the Aerocar for our first stop of the day.

The Aerocar is a cable car that goes across the Niagara Whirlpool Rapids, it was built 1913 by Spanish engineer Leonardo Torres Quevedo, and has been in operation since 1916. The view from up here is pretty stunning, but you cannot see the falls!! Which was not a problem for us, considering where we were able to stay and eat. We then hopped on the "WE GO" back to Souvenier City, thinking this would be the place to get our general souvenirs, but unfortunately we were slightly disappointed, it was not really a 'Souvenir City' so much as an 'Expensive Gift Shop' which included some crazy priced blown glass. Needless to say we swiftly hopped back on the "WE GO" and headed up the line again to the Butterfly Conservatory (Can't think who may have wanted to visit this!). This was without any doubt the most active butterfly conservatory / house we have ever been to. It was pretty spectacular! Two types of butterfly were quite fond of Tree, and kept landing on her and one even landed on her butterfly ring and was giving it and her hand a good lick, that was quite amusing.


Surrounding the Butterfly Conservatory was the Botanical Gardens, we were thinking of walking around them but by this time it was past lunch and we didn't really have the energy to explore until we had eaten so we made a decision to go back into town and visit The Keg Bar & Grill. This restaurant was part of the Embassy Suites which again boasted fantastic views of the falls. They weren't wrong! It was slightly closer and further along than our hotel so we got to see them from another direction again, which was great. The food here was fantastic! I had grilled Chicken, Baked Potato and Veg, Tree had the Roast Prime Rib Sandwich. Obviously, i couldn't have the sandwich, but by Tree's rants about it whilst eating it and after, it will be on the list to try the meat if we ever go back. We were very fortunate here to get a waitress that was following a Gluten Free Diet, which made things more comforting, as apparently it helps her Son, who is Autistic.

We then headed back down to table rock on the Niagara Incline this time to take somemore photos and to see if we could find the Mountie to have our photo taken with him - we failed at this! We then headed back up to Queen Victoria Park to take a few more shots from there, then back to Table Rock, one last look for the Mountie and then back up the incline and to our room for another quick Jacuzzi. And as I write this we are currently waiting to see Jay Cochrane, the skywalker.

Tree found out about this but we didn't realise how close and easy it would be for us to watch him! He walks from the Skylon Tower (where we will be having our dinner later tonight) to the Hilton Hotel, and passes right by our window. The walk was pretty impressive, even though it did start a little late and we were wondering if we would get to see it, having missed it the previous night and not realising it was so close.


Before I start on too much of a rant about this, this has to be the only bad part of the entire trip, So not bad!

The Skylon tower experience was pretty diasppointing all round, infact it was a terrible experience. The gimic of being a revolving restaurant, like tower 66 in Fort Lauderdale, is the big attraction here. You have to book a slot because its so popular, so i guess we expected it to at least run efficiently. The service was crap, we had to wait about one and a half hours to be served our food (we only ordered a main course) and when we were served it, it was like being served school dinners all over again. Our meals came with those horrible metal covers (to keep the food warm) and even with that our food was still cold. Tree's steak was not cooked as per order, but we thought if we sent it back we would be waiting another hour and a half, and my pork chops were tasteless, bland and chewy! The waitress also had a face like a slapped arse and a terrible attitude. After we finished our "food" we headed up to the observation deck to watch the fireworks. They were nowhere as good as Friday, definitely nothing to write home about, infact I am not going to write about them anymore, apart from to say that during dinner we did see a few misfires. And over heard one very drunk tourist saying that they had been waiting over 2 hours on the observation deck and saw 2 mins (if that) of fireworks.

I may as well note here for people's reference, so you do not expect too much, or plan around them too much, that the Fireworks in general are not very long or hugely impressive if you compare them to many displays you see throughout your life in different places. But understandably so, due to the fact that they run the display EVERY night throughout the Summer Months.

We then went back down along the river front to take somemore night time shots of the falls and then back to bed, ready to get up nice and early tomorrow to head back across the boarder and to look around the US side of the falls as we needed to avoid the busy times across the bridge through border control. Although I did doubt whether we would be able to have enough time as Tree likes her bed in the mornings (especially when on holidays), but she was determined to she wanted to walk along the US side and her aim was to get soaked by the falls before we went back home. What strange motivation, but it worked a 3rd day in a row!


Up at 6:50 and on the road by 8:15, not to shabby at all. We headed over Rainbow bridge and back into the US. We parked up, and as it was still pretty early, we got a good spot, and no problem with crossing the border. We headed straight to the Cave of Winds, which is a Boardwalk around the foot of the US Falls. We got our ponchos on and were given some special non slip disposable sandals to wear, we headed into the spray of the falls - this was more like it. As we progressed around the walk the spray got heavier and heavier and a lot more intense, until you were pretty much underneath the falls. The ultimate soaking took place on the aptly named "Hurricane Deck." You get pounded by the water, and the power of the falls feels like Hurricane force winds blowing at you (seriously that strong it took your breath away at times) this was fantastic and just what we wanted, and with it being so early in the day we had the chance to dry out, well, mostly anyway.

We took the elevator back up the cliff and sat on a bench for a while to dry ourselves out. We then headed over to the US falls to take some photos from this side of the falls and then over to Terrapin Point to see the Horse Shoe Falls from the US Side. The view from here is obviously nowhere near as spectacular as a whole view of both falls from the Canadian side, but it is spectacular in its own way. You are closer to the water and can see more 'up close and personal' the rapids in the flat sections leading to the falls and the power of the water.


It was then off to the Hard Rock Cafe on this side of the Falls (New York) for lunch and to grab some more souveniers. We then went on a hunt for shot glass for the US Side of the falls to go with our Canada one, but this was hard going. The US Side is a lot more tacky and seemingly run down compared to the Canadian side. There is really nothing there as attractions apart from the falls, just run down buildings holding what seems to be 'Flea Markets'.

We then set off home and had another good run - no traffic, and we were back by 7:30. In fact the whole trip worked out really well timing wise, we realised this more and more as the days went on, they got busier and busier at each attraction. But because we had done everything fairly early and most of our attractions on the Saturday (the least busy day), we only had to wait in one line the entire weekend!


Another fantastic and memorable weekend was had :o)

Tom & Tree