Most tourist spots seem to have a fair balance between natural and man-made attractions. While planning a personal trip to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, I’ve discovered a slight imbalance.
Now, there really isn’t a whole lot to do while watching 1/5 of the world’s water crashing down in front of one, other than marvel at it. But after that hour or so passes, what’s next? It’s taken urban planners and the tourist authority several decades, but it looks like they’ve succeeding in making Niagara Falls into a man-made paradise. The natural wonder of falls has become a backdrop for what could be considered the cleverest kinds of family entertainment.
I have vague recollections of visiting there a couple of times as a young child, when the focus was on the colors used to light up the falls at night. There were no Clifton Hill “attractions”, no amusement rides or fun houses, and no wax or oddity museums…I guess those developments constitute progress in their own way, and no one can deny they’re fun. Plus, there are sporting, gaming and cultural venues as well, a little away from the Falls area.
The idea of riding the “Maid of the Mist” brings back good memories, as does the Journey Behind the Falls and a helicopter ride over the falls beckons me to the sky. But experiencing 4-D movies and haunted houses just down the street is somehow incongruent with the natural phenomenon of the falls. In trying to create a simple agenda for a 2 day visit, I found myself overwhelmed with a huge amount of glitzy options from which to choose. How can one visit the Falls without experiencing some of the hype, even if it’s just riding to the top of the Skylon Tower? How can one fail to rise to the challenge of escaping the “chicken list” at the Screamers’ Haunted House as one of the 60,000 unable to make it through without the help of staff?
A family traveling with children under the age of 10 will probably be deluged with pleas to spend money; however, one good thing is that part of the money spent at “Niagara Parks” natural beauty attractions (such as the Maid, Journey, Butterfly Walk, etc.) goes toward maintaining the resources.
American citizens should ignore the Internet information claiming that children merely require a copy of the birth certificate, and parents need photo ID such as a driver’s license. As of September 30, 2007, passports are required. So, if your family does not have theirs, you better start the paperwork now. Does it seem strange to you that we’ll need passports to visit the Canadian side of Niagara Falls? Intellectually and logistically, it makes sense-after all, it is technically another country. Yet, something about half of it being in New York reduces the “foreign country” status of it. After all, when one-day trips offered by bus tour companies get travelers back home by nightfall, it’s hard to feel like we’ve gone to another country!
To give credit where credit is due, the various visitor associations have managed to provide an overwhelming amount of activities (that could appeal to a range of age groups) within a fairly small area. As such, cars aren’t necessarily needed, and the freedom that comes with walking to sights and restaurants adds to the overall relaxation of a trip. As silly as some of the tourist spots may appear, the younger crowd will probably find them great fun, which is sometimes a challenge while on vacation. With fast food chains, families are assured of familiar and inexpensive meals-again, which cater to the tastes of the younger visitors-but there are still many high quality dining establishments for more discerning adult tastes.
The areas around Niagara Falls on both the American and Canadian sides offer countless levels of lodging, depending the desired proximity and budget. The multi-star resorts nearest the falls usually boast falls’ views, casinos, and free shuttle service to other tourist sites. There are also many recreational offerings once a family leaves the immediate urban center, and with the attractions found in nearby towns, there’s a good chance that a Niagara Falls vacation can include everyone’s favorite activity.