Niagara Falls is a tourist mecca, no doubt about it. Given that it is home to the 8th Wonder of the World – the American and Canadian falls – it’s no wonder the area is one of the world’s most visited. Over the years, the city has been reshaped and reinvented to keep up with the times and the changing wants and needs of tourists – from early day motels, cafes and observation towers to modern day casinos and nightlife, and a skyline of skyscraper hotels and chain restaurants. Meanwhile, wax museums and a variety of souvenir and candy shops have remained constant.
But Niagara Falls is so much more than just the falls and the tourist trap of the Clifton Hill District. Its beauty runs deep and the attractions associated with Niagara Parks will leave visitors feeling far more fulfilled than any visit to a wax museum ever could. Take, for example, the Whirlpool Aero Car, which celebrated its centennial anniversary a few years ago. Built in 1916 and suspended from six substantial cables (3 on each side of the car) all of which are anchored in the rocky cliffside, the aero car traverses the Canadian side of the Niagara Gorge, allowing passengers a spectacular view of the swirling whirlpool below as well as the stunning scenery.
A round trip in the aero car encompasses approximately one kilometer and is standing room only for passengers inside the basket-like car. This particular attraction operates only during the summer months and early fall, for obvious reasons, and provides for magnificent views.
Adult tickets for ages 13 and up are $14.95, children aged 6 -12 are $9.25 and under 5 is free. Or, you can opt for an Adventure Pass on the Niagara Parks website where attraction tickets are bundled to save visitors time as well as money.
If hovering above the whirlpool in a cable car seems like it might challenge your ability to hold down lunch, then try the White Water Walk where you can casually stroll alongside the rapids and get an up-close-and-personal feel for the sheer power of water.
An elevator transports visitors down to a tunnel that leads to a picturesque boardwalk inside the gorge. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking and is perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle of Clifton Hill, or for shutterbugs looking to take exquisite photos. Four kilometers of rushing, white-capped water amidst the multi-layers of 400-year-old rock provides a peaceful walk that you can take at your own pace.
Adult tickets for ages 13 and up are $12.25, children aged 6 -12 are $8.00 and under 5 is free. Or, once again you can opt for an Adventure Pass
Perhaps you’re more of a landlubber and would appreciate a tour through the Botanical Gardens, in which conveniently lies the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture.
Spread across 40 acres, the gardens are home to a wide variety of trees, shrubs, herbs, vegetables and flowers, including 2400 roses, all of which are beautifully maintained by the horticulture students. There’s even a maze hedge, a bog garden, and a selection of interesting grasses, one of which is poisonous so the students can learn how to deal with it.
Several locations within the gardens present a picture perfect backdrop for weddings, and the entire grounds offer up stunning photo opportunities. You can walk the gardens for free with paid parking close by. Or, you can opt for a horse and carriage ride as we did, for a relaxing 40-minute tour complete with an interesting and sometimes humorous narration thanks to the coachman.
Carriage rides are $20 per person and tickets can be purchased inside the Butterfly Conservatory, which sits on the property of the Botanical Gardens. It’s money well spent. Not only will you see areas of the gardens that you probably would not see on your own, you’ll leave with a new appreciation for the gardens, the school, the students, and how they all fit together.
And this is to name only a few of the attractions that are available. Niagara Parks also oversees two gorgeous golf courses – Whirpool and Legends, as well as two restaurants — Elements on the Falls and QueenVictoria Place Restaurant.
Also included is the popular Journey Behind the Falls, where visitors can view the thunderous water from tunnels behind the falls, the highly photographed Floral Clock, and the The Laura Secord Homestead.
So the next time you decide to venture to Niagara Falls, think twice about visiting the casino or the wax museums and souvenir shops. Instead, opt for some experiences within the Niagara Parks system and revel in the beauty and sheer wonderment the natural attractions have to offer. You’ll be glad you did.