Our jaunt north to visit Ozzie for his birthday was extended to include a trip abroad. Since Ozzie’s birthday falls on President’s Day weekend we had Monday off school. This allowed for an impromptu trip over the border. With Molly leaving in a month, and everyone itching to get a little more use out of their passports, we made plans to head to Canada, following our visit with Ozzie. Ozzie didn’t have permission for an overnight excursion and Braden didn’t feel capable of managing the emotions of the weekend, so that meant we were down to four family members for our impromptu adventure into Canada.
We had 24 hours free to explore this neighboring nation and planned to make the most of this mini vacation.
After dropping Ozzie back off at his residential facility (following his 16th birthday celebration in Erie) we drove two hours north to Niagara Falls, New York. We found a motel for the night with plans to cross the Rainbow Bridge in the morning.
The next day we headed across the border, ready for some fun on the Canadian side of the falls. I must admit that the trip across the border was met with some anxiety… anxiety that was justified given my last Canadian adventure with Toby three years ago. For those who’d like to relive that excitement see the link below:
This wasn’t our first time visiting Niagara Falls, but it seems that no matter how often I visit, it takes my breath away. No picture or video does justice to the overwhelming sense of awe that you feel as you stand beside this magnificent wonder of the world.
The roar of falling water, the spray of the mist, and the view of millions of gallons of water rushing over the edge of the rock face is powerful and it soon becomes evident why this view…this experience…draws 12 million visitors each year.
We decided to start our day at the falls, enjoying it first from the front, and then from the back.
By signing up for “Journey Behind the Falls,” we were able to take an elevator down 125 feet to explore the 130 year old tunnels that run behind the falls.
The lower observation deck was closed due to ice,
But we were able to get a great view of “the backside of water” through the viewing portholes behind the falls.
It was a wet excursion, and we were grateful for the complimentary ponchos we received.
As we walked along the underground corridors we were able to learn more about the history of the falls thanks to the informative signs posted throughout the halls.
Here are some fun facts about the falls:
- Niagara Falls is comprised of three waterfalls, from largest to smallest, the Horseshoe Falls (also known as the Canadian Falls), American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.
- Niagara Falls’ vertical height is over 176 feet in some sections.
- The American and Bridal Veil Falls were turned off in 1969 by the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers to study the effects of erosion. There are plans to “turn off” the Falls again to rebuild two, 115-year-old bridges.
- Niagara Falls’ current erosion rate is approximately 1 foot per year and could possibly be reduced to 1 foot per 10 years due to flow control and diversion for hydro-power generation.
- The water that flows over Niagara Falls is at 25-50% capacity at any given time.
- The first person to go over the Niagara Falls in a barrel was 63-year-old school teacher Annie Edson Taylor. She is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls in an area called Stunters Rest, along with other Niagara Falls daredevils.
- Cave of the Winds, located at Niagara Falls State Park is torn down and re-built every year.
- The birth of Niagara Falls can be traced back more than 12,000 years to the end of the last glacial period.
- Despite myths to the contrary, Niagara Falls does not freeze in the winter. However, the flow of water was reduced to a mere trickle for a few hours on March 29, 1848 because of an ice jam upstream in the Niagara River.
- During periods of peak flow in the summer and fall, more than 700,000 gallons of water per second pour over Niagara Falls.
- Four of the five Great Lakes drain into the Niagara River, (Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie) before emptying into Lake Ontario. These five Great Lakes make up almost one-fifth of the world’s fresh water supply.
- Niagara Falls is not the tallest waterfall in the world; however, the beauty of the falls comes from the height and the incredible volume of water running over the falls at a given time.
- Fish travel over Niagara Falls and most survive because of their ability to flow with the water
When we emerged back at the surface, we headed outside to get some pictures by the falls. The blowing mist made photography a challenge and our efforts resulted in some cold fingers and noses!
But we were blessed to catch a glimpse of a spectacular rainbow that had formed as a result of the sun shinning down on that blowing mist.
From there we headed over to Clifton Hill to spend the remainder of our day, before our four hour drive home.
We started with a stop at the Hershey Store…
Which we found to be a bit anti-climatic after our visits to Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania, but we were able to nab a picture with Kiss in front of the falls.
Before we began exploring Clifton Hills, we stopped for lunch. In addition to Subway sandwiches, we order a bowl of poutine and a Mr.Big bar to share as part of our Canadian cultural experience.
Then it was on to Clifton Hill!
Clifton Hill is one of the major tourist promenades of Niagara Falls, Ontario. Reminiscent of Las Vegas, this street contains a number of gift shops, wax museums, haunted houses, video arcades, restaurants, and themed attractions. Unlike the Vegas Strip this touristy street is completely G-rated and popular with families.
Although this area of the falls is touristy and tacky, there was something fun about strolling among the neon lights and crazy buildings that made us feel like we were on vacation.
What drew us to Clifton Hill was a coupon we received for a discounted Fun Pass. This Fun Pass offered admission to six different Clifton Hill attractions for $25.00, an incredible discount when compared to the cost of paying individual admission prices.
One of the attractions that was included was the Movieland Wax Museum.
The laughs we enjoyed at the expense of some very sad looking wax figures made the cost of the passes worth every penny.
I don’t know when I have laughed so hard.
While there were a few realistic representations of famous stars,
Most of the wax figures were only recognizable because of the signage or the staging.
Our next stop was The Great Canadian Midway where two more of the attractions included in our pass were located. The first was the Wild West Coaster, which was a fun 4D ride.
We took our seats. This unique theater had seats that moved with the 3D cartoon, taking us on a rollercoaster ride with a cowboy and his horse on a cute and kitschy adventure through old abandoned mines.
Also located in the midway, on the opposite side of a room filled with hundreds of arcade games, was Ghost Blaster.
This was an actual ride. We climbed into our cart and entered a world of black lights and glow in the dark ghosts that we had to shoot with our laser guns. Our ride kept track of the points earned by each target we successfully hit with our laser beam.
Our next stop was the Niagara Skywheel.
The Niagara Skywheel, which opened in 2006, stands 175 feet tall and offers visitors magnificent views of both the Horseshoe Falls and American Falls.
We got in line for one of the 42 enclosed passenger cars. I am terrified of heights and there is no amusement park ride I hate more than Ferris Wheels. I will ride the most thrilling of coasters and love them, but that slow crawl of a Ferris Wheel passenger car up to the heights of this one, terrifies me…
But the promise of amazing views and great photo opportunities, propelled me to set aside my anxiety and climb aboard. Molly and Tyler were excited by the prospect of the thrilling views and exciting ride, but Rusty was firmly seated in my camp, wondering if the views were worth the anxiety…they were!
The views were even better than promised.
And because my heart health hadn’t been tested enough on the Skywheel, we decided to elevate my heart rate even more with the final experience included in our Clifton Hill Fun Pass…
This, like the Wild West 4D show, involved sitting in a moving seat that took visitors on a ride while immersed in a 3D movie. This experience differed a bit though, as we were also armed with laser guns that allowed us to interact with the 3D movie on another level as we battled zombies that were popping out of the screen at us.
I know it sounds horrid, but as a closet fan of zombie thrillers, I LOVED this attraction. It was like stepping into The Walking Dead.
I can’t handle most horror movies. Zombie shows are the only horror films I can handle, and only because I believe that zombies are one threat I could actually outrun. 😉
It was a blast… by far the highlight of the day for me.
We competed against the other visitors that filled the theater. Rusty represented magnificently, earning 1st place in the tally of zombies killed.
I spent more time screaming than shooting and came in second to last, earning a score only slightly better than an 4-year-old boy whose hands were pressed against his eyes the whole time. 😊
It was a magnificent day of fun in our neighboring nation’s backyard!