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A tale of two Niagara's

The easiest way I find to describe Niagara Falls to people is to ask them to imagine Las Vegas with the hotels, casinos, attractions and bright lights and then add a stunningly beautiful waterfall into the middle of it!

niagara-falls-holidayUnfortunately Niagara Falls does not have quite the same wow factor as Las Vegas and so can appear rather tacky in places. The Falls themselves are amazing and you very quickly use up the relevant superlatives to describe them and how you feel when you see this natural wonder for the first time. There are numerous ways to admire the Falls;

From the water – The iconic Maid of the Mist will no longer be taking visitors from Canada to view the Falls after the end of this season. The contract has been won by a Canadian company called Hornblower Cruises and from 2014 they will offer trips on new state of the art catamaran boats as well as new tours and extended opening hours. Maid of the Mist will still operate from the American side

From behind - Journey behind the Falls takes you down 150 feet to walk behind the Falls and see them from a different angle.

From the sky –One of the best ways to see the Falls is in a 12 minute helicopter ride. Alternatively view from the Observation Deck of the Skylon Tower or a gondola on the SkyWheel.

From land – one of the best ways to appreciate the awesome power of the water is to spend some time at the top of the Falls just watching the water flow. It is mesmerising and you become almost hypnotised by it.

From your hotel window – Niagara is a top honeymoon destination and what could be more romantic than waking up to the sight of the magnificent Falls. I was lucky enough to stay in the Sheraton on the Falls this time and had a fabulous view of the American Falls.

At night – When it gets dark the Falls are lit in the colours of the rainbow. One of the best ways to see them is whilst enjoying dinner in one of the many restaurants overlooking the falls.

In the winter – Next time I visit I hope to come in the winter and see the falls surrounded by snow and ice.

niagara-falls-holiday001If getting wet on a boat trip into or from journeying behind the Falls is not enough for you there are not one but three waterparks in Niagara. Continuing on the watery theme visit Marineland where you can see animals that live in water. Safari Niagara has land based animals and Bird Kingdom is the world's largest indoor aviary. There are endless attractions for all ages some of which contribute to the very touristy feel of the resort. I was disappointed that I did not get time to visit the Botanical Gardens or Butterfly Conservatory as they were highly recommended by clients.

I did get the opportunity to see a couple of shows and can recommend the Oh Canada Eh? dinner show for entertainment. The food was nice but it is not fine dining. The show is a humorous celebration of Canadian culture and music with some subtle jokes. We also saw Greg Frewin –Canada's answer to Siegfried & Roy and his magic show complete with white tigers. It was impressive and worth seeing if you enjoy that sort of thing. You can even pay to have your picture taken with a tiger!

niagara-falls-holiday004In contrast to Niagara Falls, Niagara on-the-Lake is pretty, quaint and full of charm. It is one of Canada's best preserved 19th century villages. No casinos or high rise hotels here but plenty of B&B's and boutique properties. One hotel that I have sent many clients to but not had the opportunity to visit personally is the historic Prince of Wales. It is located right on the main street in walking distance of the lake and the many unique shops, cafes and restaurants. The website says it is an oasis of Victorian elegance filled with 21st century comforts and I would completely agree with that. There is plenty of wood panelling, a beautiful stained glass picture window in reception and afternoon tea is served in the Victorian drawing room. There is a fine dining restaurant as well as spa and even a small indoor pool which was a surprise.
The lead in rooms are not as spacious as in more modern hotels but they have fabulous beds and are elegantly furnished with antiques and Tiffany lamps. The suites are larger and the ambience has the feel of staying in a private country house.

Niagara on the lake is in the heart of wine country and there are numerous wineries that offer tours and tastings. Take a carriage ride through the old town or jetboat ride up the river, cycle or stroll by the lake or visit historic Fort George. Explore the gardens, art galleries and antique shops.
Niagara is famous for the Shaw Festival and performances of plays by Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries take place in three theatres around the town from April to October.

The Falls are easily accessible from Toronto on a day trip however I would personally recommend staying at least one night at whichever of the two Niagara's appeals to you most.

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