Writer and photographer George Bailey, a Niagara local, has the answer.
Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.
You can bet on it. If you haven’t been to Niagara Falls, Canada (population-83,000) in the last 16 years you’ll discover it’s a new vibrant and exciting city. Some say it’s all because of the Ontario government sanctioned gambling. It may not be for everybody, but it is the thing that’s changed Niagara forever.
Serge Felicetti, Director of Business Development for the City of Niagara Falls says, “Casino Niagara, first introduced in the city in 1996 was the catalyst for growth resulting in a renaissance of 2 billion dollars worth of investment in new accommodations, attractions, golf courses, and restaurants.” He’s right. Smaller hotels and restaurants have become a thing of the past and replaced by recognizable luxury hotels and inns like Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, Embassy Suites and Sheraton. A second one billion dollar Niagara Fallsview Casino Complex operating since 2004 has spurred growth even more. The face of Niagara has literally transformed. Today, visiting Niagara, you’ll be looking up more than ever. The once prominent SkylonTower is now nestled amongst a series of high rise hotels.
Niagara is not only for Gamblers
This city has a new life. Growth is everywhere. Felicetti says, “The city is no longer just for honeymooners. Niagara’s future looks extremely bright. The new $200 million dollar Great Wolfe Lodge family resort across from Niagara Helicopters near Niagara’s older downtown is generating more growth.”
Queen Street, the city’s historic downtown, 10 minutes away from the falls, is back to life. Art galleries, exotic shops, and scrumptious eateries are drawing crowds. This downtown section of the city has new energy.
If you like water, visit one of the three water parks that feature indoor water slides, pools, whirlpools, wave pools, and tipping buckets. It’s always summer here.
Golfers have to look no further. There are now over 25 top-notch courses that will test your skills.
Niagara‘s self-proclaimed, “Street of Fun” and tourism’s main drag, Clifton Hill, has flashier neon and newer attractions. Be sure to take a ride on the Niagara Skywheel (it’s a giant 53 metre, 175 foot Ferris Wheel) for a spectacular view of the falls.
Worth experiencing is the Niagara Falls Aviary. You’ll feel like you’re in a rain-forest when you encounter free-flying birds such as the wax bill, wattled jacana and red whiskered bulbil. The setting includes 40-foot waterfalls, vertical gardens and a hand-carved house from the island of Java. For more of the tropics visit the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory north of the falls. Thousands of free-flying butterflies remain year-round crowd pleasers.
Summer in Niagara
Traditionalists will be pleased to learn great things never change. The shimmering natural waterfall maintains a link to the past.
The 1720 hectare (4,250-acre) parkland between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario administered by the self-financed provincially owned, Niagara Parks Commission remains the “Jewel of Niagara”. A blaze of multi-coloured flowers in Queen Victoria Park near the falls are a sight to behold. Walking the pathways near the falls, under a canopy of mature shade trees with splashes of flowers across the landscape verifies Niagara is a place of extraordinary beauty. Take the same walk at night and see the falls brilliantly illuminated in the colours of the rainbows. Your dreams will be in Technicolor.
Niagara’s own love boats, the Maid’s of the Mist make daily trips to the base of the cataracts. You’re provided with a blue rain jacket but you’ll still get wet. Hey, don’t worry about it, its part of the fun.
The drive along the Niagara Parkway, adjacent to the Niagara River, is as Sir Winston Churchill described it in the 1940’s “the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world” .The historic fascinating village of Niagara-on-the-Lake at the north end of the parkway offers soft adventure of the mellowest kind. Wine aficionados will discover vineyards that produce some of Canada’s best wines. In a take-it-easy mode, then follow the Wine Route signs along winding roads and savour this deliciously peaceful experience as you pass vineyards and dozens of fruit orchards.
For More Information
Niagara Falls at www.NiagaraFallsTourism.com or 1-800-563-2557.
The Niagara Parks Commission at www.niagaraparks.com or 1-877-642-7275.
The Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce at www.niagaraonthelake.com or 905-468-1950