A barrel of fun for the whole family Niagara Falls, Canada By Larry McIntyre :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::photo courtesy of Larry McIntyre Ponchos did little to keep the mist off the writer and his family, clockwise from top left, Larry McIntyre, Alex Delgado, Monique, Colin and Rebecca McIntyre and Monica Delgado.
I know what you're thinking. You're worrying that if you take a family vacation to Niagara, one of your children will break free from your grasp and proceed over the falls in a barrel.
I'm happy to report that our children survived the trip-the car trip to Ontario, Canada, that is. Luckily, neither of them ventured over the falls. They were too busy being awed by the incredible and powerful vision that is Niagara Falls.
Our 550-mile trip took us east through Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York before we arriving at at Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. There's no problem getting into Canada, but if you want to return to the United States, you'll need an original birth certificate and a picture I.D. We crossed the border quickly and headed into town, making mental notes of all the attractions that we passed on the way.
Then we saw the falls for the first time. It was magnificent. Huge plumes of mist billowing into the sky. The sparkling crest of the rushing falls surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens running the length of the boulevard. It was stunning.
Maid for the falls If you do only one thing in Niagara Falls, take the Maid of the Mist boat tour ($13 adults, $8, ages 6-12). Everyone dons a raincoat and crowds onto a double-decker boat that putts its way right in the breadth of the Horseshoe Falls. The view is spectacular and you experience the roaring power of the falls firsthand.
If you want to see several great attractions for one low price, buy the Niagara Falls and Great Gorge Adventure Pass from the Niagara Parks Commission ($34.95 adults, $21.95 ages 6-12). The pass includes the Maid of the Mist, Journey Behind the Falls, White Water Walk, Butterfly Conservatory, all-day public transportation and coupons for other attractions. Passes are typically available mid-May through the end of October.
The Skylon Tower is a landmark in Niagara. Guests ride more than 500 feet up to the observation tower to secure a bird's eye view of the falls. While there, we saw a rainbow shooting out of the mist of the Horseshoe Falls. Another level higher is the revolving restaurant.
Make sure to visit Clifton Hill, a narrow, winding and extremely steep street in downtown Niagara. Clifton Hill is a unique mix of Las Vegas, Halloween and Saturday morning cartoons. Everyone is competing for your tourist dollars-wax museums, a dozen haunted houses, arcades, 3-D movies, dinosaur miniature golf and alien encounter exhibits all illuminated by a billion or so flashing lights. We particularly liked the Guinness Book of World Records Museum, which features hundreds of exhibits with odd facts about strange people doing weird things.
There's a lot of fun to be found on Clifton Hill, but go with a budget in mind. Because of the favorable exchange rate, American dollars go further-but the money still goes quickly.
Chills and thrills For a little history, watch "Niagara … Miracles, Mist and Magic" at the IMAX Theater next to the Skylon. The story mixes history and legend while featuring a story line of daredevils who have journeyed over the falls.
Marineland, a combination marine-life zoo and amusement park, is just a few miles from the falls. The water shows are great, the wildlife exhibits are wonderful, and the rides are fun, too. One of our most memorable vacation moments came when we were able to touch and feed a killer whale.
We were guests of the Sheraton Falls View. We had a room with a view to remember. Falls view rooms cost twice as much as city view rooms-$200-plus vs. about $100-but if it's in your budget, the price is worth it.
Just the facts Niagara Parks Commission (877) 642-7275 www.niagaraparks.com
Niagara Falls Tourism (800) 56-FALLS www.discoverniagara.com Sheraton Fallsview Hotel www.fallsview.com
Skylon Tower www.skylon.com