With limited vacation time, an abundance of natural beauty, as well as some of the world’s most unique cities, right on our doorstep, it’s no surprise that, according to Expedia, 77% of Canadian vacationers decided to holiday in the homeland. With no borders to cross, and only travel insurance to worry about, travelling to a new province could be the easy, breezy vacation you’ve been looking for.
If you’re hoping for a short stay jam-packed with things to do then look no further. We’ve put together a ten-part series guiding you on how to make the most of your weekend break in some of Canada’s coolest metropolises.
This week we look at the home of Canada’s most famous waterfall: Niagara Falls.
Niagara Falls is a city in Southern Ontario sat around the world-famous waterfall of the same name and connected to the United States by the Rainbow Bridge. From the beauty of nature to the bright lights of Niagara’s quirky strip, the city isn’t short of things with which to fill up your weekend. The city attracts an estimated 12 million visitors a year from all corners of the globe and has something for all members of the family.
Sure, you can visit Niagara for just a day, but for the full experience, you want to stay at one of its many hotels and infamous motels to experience the city by night, as well. If you want something a little fancy, spend a night at the Niagara Falls Marriott or the Embassy Suites by Hilton, where you can bag yourself a room that looks right out over the actual falls.
However, if you really want the full experience, stay at one of the famed motels that line the strip. Between 1945 and 1955, 80 motels sprung up as tourism in the city started to boom. By 1965 there were 115. Less than a quarter of these original motels remain, but one of them that is still going strong is The Cadillac Motel, which still remains almost exactly as it was back in its heyday. It describes itself as a “retro chic boutique motel” located in the heart of the tourist district. From Photoshoots to music videos, the motel has had its fair share of time in the spotlight and offers a cool twist on the original 60s roadside inns. It also pays homage to its namesake, the Cadillac, with a car mural on every bedroom wall.
More often than not, if you’re going to Niagara Falls, then the falls will be the main event. Did you know that, contrary to what some people think, Niagara Falls is actually three different waterfalls? They are made up of the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Canadian (or Horseshoe) falls.
Head out on the Hornblower Niagara Cruise in the summer months and get up close and personal with the two million litres of water that fall 50km every second, but remember to wear your raincoat because things can get a little wet. Or, try out The Journey Behind the Falls-a year-round tour which lets you view the falls from a totally new angle. If you are feeling a little more daring, take to the skies on one of the helicopter rides offered which deliver majestic views of the falls from above. Although, you will have to book this kind of trip in advance.
Or, take the scenic whitewater walking route, where a trail takes you breathtakingly close to the rushing waters, dotted with viewing platforms right on the water’s edge.
By night, watch the falls transform into a multi-coloured masterpiece thanks to special lights housed deep in the gorges and surrounding areas. At special times of the year, the falls are lit in custom colours for short durations to mark significant dates or to support charitable causes. The best place to see this is from any of the viewing platforms that overlook the three waterfalls and the Rainbow Bridge.
While there is plenty of action to fill your days with, by night Niagara is famed for its casinos. Choose from Casino Niagara or The Fallsview Casino. Casino Niagara, opened in 1996, is Niagara Falls’ oldest casino and still attracts millions of visitors every year. It features 2 floors of gaming with 1,500 slot machines, 45 gaming tables, a comedy club, weekly live Niagara Entertainment, and four different dining experiences. Or head to Niagara’s newest casino, The Fallsview, which opened its doors in 2004. Fun for gamers and non-gamers alike, the casino offers far more than just its 3,000 slot machines and 130 gaming tables. In fact, the casino also features a luxury hotel and spa, shopping, live performances, and dozens of restaurants.
While Niagara is undoubtedly famous as a honeymoon destination or a gambling hot spot, it also has a great offering of fun stuff with which to fill a family vacation. When you’re done with the Falls, put away your poncho and head to Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum, where the kids will be amazed by over 900 unique exhibits, oddities, curiosities and illusions. Or why not head to the Botanical Gardens, which has been one of the prettiest places in Niagara since 1936. Not only can you check out some of Ontario's most beautiful flora and fauna, you can also get up close and personal with butterflies in one of its butterfly houses.
If you want a little action, Niagara Falls is home to North America’s largest indoor waterpark- the Fallsview Waterpark. With 16 waterslides that span six stories, a giant indoor wave pool and an outdoor sunbathing area, the waterpark is jam-packed with excitement. Complete with a tiny tots splash park and two oversized adults-only jacuzzis, it has something for every age.
If you’re visiting in the warmer months, why not take a bike tour of the area. There are several spots across town that you can hire bicycles from, including tandems and mountain bikes. Then it’s up to you whether you join one of the bike tours or take the reigns and go exploring solo.
For something a little bit different, why not head to Queen Victoria Park and check out the Tesla Monument. One thing that people often don’t realise is that Niagara Falls is the birthplace of hydroelectric power!
Finally, you can’t go to Niagara and not take in the spectacular views from the Skywheel. Hop on board at night for a really special experience.
If you have a car and fancy something a little different, drive just thirty minutes and you can find yourself in the quaint town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Nicknamed “the loveliest town in Canada”, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a historical haven filled with sweet boutiques, stunning views of the lake, lots of parks, fruit orchards and, of course, wine. In fact, Niagara is known and celebrated for its wineries, and while there are 88 in the entire region, Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to 28 of them.
After all of the excitement of Niagara you will need to refuel but fear not, because Niagara is filled with every kind of food option you can imagine, ready to satisfy even the pickiest eater. Clifton Hill is filled with all of your usual tourist trap chains: Kelsey's, The Rainforest Cafe, The Hardrock Cafe and Ruby Tuesday to name but a few.
If you want something a little on the high-end style, try out the Watermark Restaurant, which boasts panoramic views of the falls. Located on the 33rd floor of the Hilton Hotel and Suites Niagara, the restaurant offers a carefully crafted menu which highlights some of the regions finest local ingredients. But their best offering comes at brunch when they serve up a full buffet with something even the youngest members of the family will enjoy.
For kitsch and quirky look no further than the Flying Saucer restaurant. Although it is absolutely over the top, and a real tourist hot spot, the food is surprisingly good and it even offers its own unique dishes such as “The E.T Special”.
Finally, if you fancy wetting your whistle, head to the Niagara Brewing Company. Catch them either between 3.00pm and 4.00pm, or 7.00pm and 8.00pm, for their “Hoppy Hour” drink specials. They also host their own “Thirst Thursdays” event once a week where you can indulge in a range of food and drink specials, complete with live entertainment and, of course, delicious craft beer. If something really takes your fancy, you can even buy a box to take home.
With so much excitement to pack into your trip, Niagara Falls is definitely a kitschy adventure. But you want to make sure you stay safe on your trip too. Consider searching for a travel insurance policy that will cover you and the rest of the family, thereby ensuring you have a trip to remember for the right reasons.