Canadian side of Niagara Falls has a 35 mile linear park, called Niagara
Park, with seemingly endless attractions stretched along the full length
of the Niagara River. I recently spent several days driving to each,
sampling fantastic wines and great food while enjoying the rugged beauty
of the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. It became one of the shortest
road trips ever and a friend and I had a blast doing it!
From tunnels under the falls, to zip lines into the
gorge, and from a soaking boat ride to the base of the falls, to a challenging
hike along the shore of the grade 6 rapids, Niagara Park's attractions
are amazing. There are tranquil gardens to stroll, a butterfly house
to get lost in, and historic sites to visit between the adrenalin rushes
these outdoor adventures kept causing. We had no idea that there was
so much to do in this elongated park.
Mackenzie Printery where they tricked us into printing
our 7 year Apprenticeship Agreement!
For all you hikers out there, Niagara Park has 9 miles
of walks and trails along the Niagara River which are accessed through
six different nature areas. Some are handicap accessible while others
are quite rugged. Some have stairs and elevators from the escarpment
down to the water's edge, while others are a hike, so no matter your
level of ability you can visually experience the class 6 rapids below
the falls. Good thing, because there's no way you're going in them.
They're far too dangerous!
If you want to be on the water, just upstream from the
rapids is the modern Hornblower Niagara Cruise. As many as 700 passengers
every 15 minutes depart from the festive restaurant and park landing
for the cruise to Horseshoe Falls. The Hornblower fleet alternates with
the American side's venerable Maid of the Mist, but only one boat at
a time is in the powerful, raging waters of Canada's Horseshoe Falls.
Dressed in iconic free ponchos, red for Hornblower and blue for Maid
of the Mist, passengers brace themselves as the decks are awash with
some of the 600,000 gallons of water that pommels over the falls each
second. Each Second!
From the deck of Hornblower approaching Horseshoe
A rare Blue Morpho butterfly poses
You can only get closer to the falls by taking the Journey
Behind the Falls, descending by elevator and stairs to the 126 year
old tunnels behind (and under) the falls. There, in damp and thunderous
tunnels, you can feel the vibrations of the crashing falls and the roar
of the cascading river feeding them, before walking out to the edge
for a full behind-the-falls soaking. There is also a tunnel to the side
where you can walk out and look down at the boats entering the falls
below. It is amazing to go from one attraction to another and see just
how close the boat gets to the falls from a different, dryer, vantage.
When you are ready for some more tranquil entertainment,
The Botanical Gardens offer a large diversity of plants and environments
with tree-studded lawns, bogs and ponds planted both naturally and formally,
all surrounded by dramatic plantings and landscapes of trees, shrubs
and flowers. I found myself walking down a long allée of tall
hemlock trees leading into a fabulous rose garden.
Amazing allée of hemlock trees
There is also a walled herb garden, wildflower butterfly
fields and a pyramidal glass conservatory filled with exotic butterflies.
Inside I walked through rocky paths around large waterfalls and under
towering jungle trees, and everywhere I looked were thousands of colorful
butterflies in all shapes, hues and sizes. That was an amazing experience!
Continuing the horticulture theme, the road back to
the falls passed the Floral Clock, an odd attraction of a large mechanical
clockface tilted upward and planted in a different elaborate design
for each season. It was a colorful mosaic of standard annuals that only
briefly caught my attention.
The elegant entrance to the Floral Showhouse
Then we went on past the falls for a truly unique horticultural
experience at the Floral Showhouse. At first I thought it would be a
redundant rehashing of the extensive plantings of the Botanical Garden,
only on a much smaller scale. And then they blew my socks off with their
most impressive collection of Amorphophallus Titanum, a.k.a. Titan Arum.
I'd read about a National Geographic expedition into
the jungles of Sumatra in search of these extremely rare plants. It
ended at the site of the rotting remains of its giant flower, still
a rare sighting of a floral oddity fast disappearing in its native setting.
Titan Arum in full stinky bloom growing next to
When we first walked into the Floral Showhouse's magnificent
greenhouse I thought the toilets had backed up. Then the stench got
worse and I thought someone had died. I was almost right. What the guide
proudly showed us was the huge flower of the Titan Arum, commonly known
as the corpse plant.
Since 1878, when the western world first discovered
this unusual plant, fewer than 200 documented bloomings have been recorded
outside its dwindling jungle habitat. Only 40 blooming-size plants are
known to exist outside of Sumatra. What I'd stumbled upon was the largest
collection of those plants in the world and one was in bloom! Now
you know what I meant by a "truly unique horticultural experience."
The flower only lasts 24 hours. In that time the 8 ft
tall flower opens, attracts the insects needed to fertilize itself and
then collapses into a stinking, rotting mass. Sometime after that a
large, tree-shaped leaf grows up into a 20 ft. canopy of green and lasts
for months, or longer, feeding the corm-like roots below. Then that
collapses and eventually the cycle begins again. It is an amazing sight
The Floral Showhouse has more than 60 plants now, some
just seedlings, but enough blooming ones that it experiences 2 or 3
similar shows a season. Plan your trip in advance and try to be there
when the Titum Arum blooms. It is an unforgettable event!
I know I casually mentioned that we passed the falls
to do this and were near the falls to do that, but I don't mean to diminish
the falls themselves. Six million cubic feet of water pour over the
falls every minute. They are captivating, mesmerizing, and steal your
eyes away from everything else in a demand for your undivided attention.
We took turns dragging each other away from the hypnotizing gigantic
deluge of water to take in all the other attractions Niagara Park offers.
Me blocking the amazing view of the Canadian side
of Niagara Falls
The brand new ziplines down to the old power generating
plant below the falls fly over the Hornblower's landing, while the 100
year old Whirlpool Aero Car crossed the giant whirlpool a mile below
the falls on cables strung over to the American side. Thrilling and
sedate, respectively, both offered another view of the raging river
There were wineries for tastings, early Canadian military
and literary sites for fascinating educational tours, and great restaurants
to frequent. We drove 35 miles in three days, had artisanal brews, local
cheeses and excellent farm-to-table fare, to complete the shortest road
The charcuterie plate at Queen Victoria Place Restaurant
The particularly honky-tonk downtown sported a great
brew pub with the perfect third story aerie for views of the seemingly
nightly firework displays. More elegant dining was had at Queen Victoria
Place Restaurant and Elements on the Falls, both with spectacular (and
dry) views of the falls, and there are fast food and casual dining chains
dotting the landscape.
Adventure Passes are available for discount admittance
to a variety of attractions. Ranging in price from $54.95 to $84.95,
each include a two-day "hop on and hop off" WEGO bus transfer
if you want to pass on the road trip aspects and avoid the parking hassles
everywhere. Visit http://www.niagaraparks.com
Let Richard know what you think about his traveling adventure.
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Hey Richard - another winning series of words, all put
together in your usual brilliant, and very creative format. And hey,
love those glorious photos - Wow, what scenery - looks like some sort
of paradise. What a super life you lead!!!
--- John Clayton, Palos Verdes CA
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I want to go there!!!!!!! Mmmmm! Yes! Love the photos
and your article, Richard! Have read the book, seen the play several
times and now dream of seeing these historic places. I've been wanting
to go to Spain for some time. Now at 12:30 a.m. I'm heading off to bed
with songs from Man of La Mancha ringing in my mind. Thanks!
--- Betsy Tuel, Rosendale, NY
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You are fortunate to have Richard on your staff. Richard
is a fantastic writer and a wonderful person. Congratulations to Richard
and to you.