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Imagine the look in a seven year olds eye when he sees Niagara Falls for the very first time. It was the same amazement that I had when I was his age, and now standing there with my son it's just as amazing for me at 42.
But we had so much more to discover during our three day visit to Niagara Falls Ontario. There was much to see and experience. We'd go behind the falls, under the falls, up close to the falls right down on the water and soar way above the falls, and that was just the beginning!
Come and share in our discovery of the Niagara Falls Ontario Canada region. Taste it, feel it, experience the thrill and magic of it.
The Embassy Suites Fallsview
Let me first say, book early if you can. I booked three months early and saved a bundle. Our cost was only $128.25 Canadian per night compared to the going rate of $242 per night at the time we checked in. Luckily our low rate was locked in, saving us $341 plus taxes on our three-night stay.
We arrived at our hotel, The Embassy Suites, around 11:30AM expecting to leave our bags and check in later, only to find that our rooms were ready. Checking in was very fast and we were in our rooms in about 10 minutes. We parked our vans at the nearby Fallsview Casino, got our free Players Club cards and came back to help unpack.
We had two suites on the 33rd floor -- one for my family (my wife, me and our 7-year-old-son), and another next-door for our friends (a husband and wife and their 7-year-old-son). Our room was a wonderful HUGE corner suite with a city view. The only complaint from our son was the lack of TV channels for children, as he likes to watch cartoons when getting ready in the morning and right before bed. My wife was disappointed in the selection as well (lots of news and sports).
It's a wonderful hotel but keep these things in mind. There are several built-in money traps that, if you're not careful, will cost you dearly:
(1) Hotel parking costs $20 per day. (We parked at the nearby Fallsview Casino for FREE. Both families had the Players Advantage Club cards, although no one was ever at the casino collecting parking fees as we exited anyhow.)
(2) The first thing your kids will see when entering your room is an enticing wicker basket brimming with overpriced goodies and toiletries for both children and adults. HIDE IT!
(3) Four vending machine tokens wait on the table for your convenience. But read the fine print on the card - if you use all four of them you will be charged $12.00!
(4) Also on the table is a magazine about the area. It looks like the kind of promotional material you can take with you when you leave but if you do, they'll charge you $10. There is a tiny refrigerator, half was empty and the other half was the locked mini-bar. We were provided a key, but never opened it. The other family we were traveling with opened the mini bar and removed the contents so they had more room in the fridge. They put everything back when they left. Thankfully we successfully avoided the traps by bringing our own soda pop, water and snacks for the room.
The indoor hotel pool and whirlpools were wonderful and the boys (including the two dads) really enjoyed our time there. It was never crowded as I was led to believe, even though the hotel was pretty full at the time. Maybe we just picked good times to go.
The FREE Breakfast at the attached TGI Fridays restaurant was awesome!
Everything you could want. The daily managers reception was just okay with some veggies, chips and pretzels (the same food everyday). At least you got a free alcoholic drink per adult and all non-alcoholic drinks were no charge. Watch out for the Starbucks, though. My wife paid $7 for a medium frappacino at the Starbucks attached to the hotel lobby. Definitely a rip-off.
One really nice feature that the hotel offered was a laundry area attached to the fitness room. They had five stacked washer/dryers to use for a nominal fee. We were glad to wash some clothes since we packed light.
After checking in we headed downstairs to the lobby and out the falls side of the hotel. It has a pedestrian bridge over to the Incline Railway. This is an incline that takes you down to an observation area for the falls and a place called Table Rock. They have shops, food and it also houses the entrance to The Journey Behind the Falls.
They were having problems with their computers so they allowed us to ride the Incline for free and we purchased our Great Gorge Passes for $108 at Table Rock at the bottom of the hill. The Great Gorge Pass is a real bargain and includes: The Incline Railway, The People Mover, The Journey Behind the Falls, The Maid of The Mist, The White Water Walk and The Butterfly Conservatory.
Since we were right there, we went on the Journey Behind the Falls. Once we were dressed in our complimentary ponchos and audio headsets we were taken down an elevator to just above the bottom of the Gorge. The observation deck (located just to the left of the falls) brings you so close that you can feel the power of the water as it collides with the rocks below. It was exhilarating. I used a waterproof camera to get some cool shots of everyone with the falls in the background. You can also walk down a tunnel to the portals behind the falls. Along with the audio headsets you could read all about the history of the Journey Behind The Falls.
We then made our way back up the elevator to board the People Mover (an air conditioned bus that travels up and down the Niagara Parkway to taking people to all of he attractions.) Next stop - Maid of The Mist.
The Maid of the Mist is one of the oldest attractions in Niagara Falls, next to the Falls themselves! You once again take a elevator to the base of the gorge and are given a complimentary poncho. Then you board a double-decked steamboat that brings you right to the base of the American and Canadian Horseshoe falls. The mist is overwhelming and the roar of the water is intense. Many times you can see rainbows in the mist and itÃ¢s a great time for pictures but I suggest a waterproof camera. My son loved it! He didn't even use the hood on his rain slicker.
After the Maid of the Mist we headed back toward the hotel. Our friends went to their room and we went to lunch at Zappi's Pizza and Subs on Stanley Ave. I had a coupon from the Enjoy Coupon Book that was part of a bunch of coupons I purchased on Ebay. It was for Buy One/Get One lunch entre. The place was casual, cozy and comfortable. Our service was super and the food was awesome and really affordable even if we wouldn't have had the coupon. Our waitress actually brought out a full-size ball of pizza dough and taught my son how to toss a pizza (all of us had a go). They also had a PacMan game that we could play for free while we waited for our lunch. What a wonderful place. Our bill here was $31. After lunch we headed back to the hotel for some relaxing and swimming at the pool.
Later that evening all six of us headed to Clifton Hill for some fun. Clifton Hill is a sight to see with enough neon signs to rival Las Vegas. Haunted Houses, Wax Museums and everything in between is offered here. There is bound to be something for everyone. We had no problems finding street parking. Again during a busier time Iâm sure we would have parked at the Niagara Casino (for free with the Players Card).
Cosmic Coaster takes you on a wild ride in a Grand Canyon like environment in an Outer Space Galaxy. The thrill ride is a motion simulator where the seats move in conjunction with the movie. With surround sound and a large screen you will feel part of the movie.
I had heard that this was a great ride and it delivered! It was fairly long, realistic, thrilling and absolutely awesome! I highly suggest this ride; adults and kids alike loved it. We used $1-off coupon for this attraction since we werenÃÂ¢t going to do all of the things on the combo pass. If you plan on doing a bunch of attractions the combo pass is the way to go. In fact they have a new combo pass that includes the new Niagara SkyWheel when it opens. Check out the link above to see this exciting new attraction.
Super Combo: Dinosaur Park, Movieland Wax Museum, Falls Tower, FX Thrill Ride Theatre, and Ghostblasters Dark Ride
Adults: $19.99 CDN
Children-10 & under: $14.99 CDN
The boys then enjoyed playing in the arcade and respectively getting their $10-$20 worth of junk trinkets for their tickets earned by playing games. We stopped at Wendy's right outside the arcade for our friends since they had a light lunch in their room. We were still stuffed from lunch at Zappi's so we passed.
After that we headed to The Italian Ice Cream Company on Victoria Ave. I had another Buy One/Get One coupon from the Enjoy Book so I saved a few more dollars. Their Ice Cream is great. I had the Mango flavor and it tasted just like fresh mangos. After dessert we headed back to the hotel.
This morning after enjoying the complimentary breakfast in TGI Fridays on the lobby level of the hotel, we drove about 30 minutes to the town of Niagara On The Lake for the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours. The Whirpool Jet Boats are a powerful boat that rides on top of the water. We chose the 10 AM spot because they offered $10 off each ticket for the first trip of the day. This was one of the highlights of the trip for my family. (They offer an enclosed boat, but we wanted to get wet!) What a ride. They make several passes in the class 5 rapids and try to get as much water on their passengers as possible. They succeeded! One passage was called "The Nasal Flush" and it did just that. I loved it. It was my son's favorite part of the trip. I can't wait to get my pictures developed from the waterproof camera I took on board.
After drying off, changing into some dry clothes and buying a souvenir picture and some t-shirts we headed to town to do some shopping.
Niagara On The Lake is a lovely and quaint village busy with tourists. We stopped at several shops all along Queen Street. Greaves jellies and jams were a favorite of my wife and we all loved the fudge at the Maple Leaf Fudge Company. We'll definitely plan more time here on our next trip to the falls. I truly believe you could easily spend an entire day in that area including the wineries etc.
Lunch was at the Fine Kettle of Fish on Portage Road and we had a wonderful meal. They offer $2 off of their prices for lunch. My family feasted to the gills for $30. Plus the service was excellent. The waitress even hand fed one of their large fish (an Oscar named Oscar) and the boys got to watch. Then it was a short drive back to the hotel to swim and relax for a while.
Our evening started with a walk over to the IMAX Theater and The Falls Movie "Niagara: Miracles, Myths and Magic" The film takes you back in time for a glimpse of Niagara Falls 12,000 year history and lets you experience the wonders of thundering falls, fascinating history, treacherous rapids, and death defying stunts. It's a well-made film and very informative. We also visited the attached Daredevil Museum which has all of the different vessels that were used to challenge the falls. The boys were really interested to know if the person lived or died going over the falls in each vessel on display. I had purchased the SkyMax Combo pass online @ $43.50 which included the IMAX Theater, Daredevil Museum and The Skylon Tower and it also included a coupon for 15% off anything at the National Geographic store inside the IMAX theater. We decided to look around, and they had some of the best prices anywhere. A necklace with my son's name on it was $6.99 (before the discount) so we bought it. We later saw the same necklace at Souvenir City for $9.99 and at the Rainforest Cafe souvenir shop for $12.99. So be careful where you buy things.
We then took the pedestrian bridge over to the Skylon Tower, which was also included in the pass. What an amazing view. We took all kinds of pictures and video from this incredible perch. Be prepared to stand though, since there are no seats anywhere. It also gets cold up there.
After all of the swimming and then walking to the theater and Skylon Tower we worked up an appetite. We had plans to go to Betty's Restaurant but didn't feel like getting the van and driving. I remembered that I had brought my coupons with me and had two - Buy One/Get One Enjoy Book coupons for Coco's Restaurant on Murray Street (attached to the Holiday Inn.) We happened to be right behind it, so we walked 30 feet to their door! What a wonderful surprise. The place is very cool with a modern Scandinavian, South Beach kind of style. They featured hearth-baked pizzas, steaks and live music. They gladly accepted both coupons. I had the Queen Cut Sirloin Steak, my wife had Lamb Chops and our son split a large pepperoni pizza with his friend. The total bill for this great meal was $45. It was back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.
Another glorious day greeted us as we finished up our complimentary breakfast and we headed back down the Niagara Parkway to the Butterfly Conservatory, a tropical rainforest setting, with pathways that wind among lush, exotic flowers and plants. Everywhere you go you see exquisite butterflies float in the warm, moist air or spread their iridescent wings on leaves and flowers. We arrived early (10AM) and we were glad we did. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as we took picture after picture of these amazing creatures. The boys loved when a butterfly would land on them. One beautiful large iridescent blue one perched itself on my wife's backside, and I have a picture to prove it. We ended our stay just in time as several busses arrived. It was humid in the conservatory when we were in there, I couldn't even imagine being in there with that many people. I highly recommend doing this but do it early in the day.
We made our way back towards the falls, making a stop at Souvenir City specifically to see Angelo Rossi create his glass artwork at the Artistic Glassblowing studio. He didn't disappoint and, in fact, we purchased a really neat piece of his work and my son had his picture taken with Angelo and the glass piece of candy!
My family went to Ripley's Believe it Or Not Museum and our friends did a haunted house and the Lego City. Ripley's was fun (a lot of reading) and my son especially loved the moving tunnel. It made me a little nauseous the fourth time through it! After about and hour and 15 minutes we met up with our friends and headed to the Greg Frewin Theater on Ellen Street for dinner and the magic show.
The dinner was delicious and the service was great. My wife and I had prime rib and our son had Pizza with fries. Our server, Alana took care of us from the get go getting us seats right up front. Then came the magic show. All I can say is WOW! Greg Frewin (a Canadian born magician) is simply amazing. One trick had us watch his assistants lock him in a box on stage and then, seconds later, he appeared behind us in the audience. It was mind blowing. He turned girls into tigers and torn up newspapers into huge parrots. If you get the chance to go to this show you will not be disappointed.
We slept in, enjoyed our last FREE breakfast at the hotel and packed our bags. My son and I then went to get the van from the casino parking lot (still no one there) loaded up our van and headed to the Rainbow Bridge. I stopped and got our taxes back at the Duty Free Shop before leaving, regaining $30 Canadian. (The Embassy Suites charges you $10 to give you your taxes back.) Hmmm, something wrong with that! We crossed the boarder and it started to rain like crazy. It made me think we should of headed back to Canada. We decided to skip our plan of seeing the US side and headed home.
I hope you find this itinerary helpful and I hope it entices you to go and see one of the most incredible sights in the world. While you're there take it all in and enjoy the entire Niagara Falls Ontario region.