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Niagara Falls Getaway Guide

NIAGARA FALLSVIEW
CASINO & RESORT

Fallsview Casino is big. More than 180,000 square-feet big. Imagine about six football fields put together and you get the idea. You can get lost in it—which in some ways is the idea. If you don’t want to literally get lost, keep your eye on one of the in-house bars to help orient yourself. You can also look at the ceiling, which has four different motifs: intricate and vaguely renaissance-y hand-painted affairs dividing the room into quadrants.

Although smoking is permitted on the casino floor, unless it’s a jam-packed weekend night, you might not notice. Fresh air is pumped in but you won’t hear the fans or air conditioning system—there are too many bells and whistles going off, the sounds of people whooping it up and live bands playing.

The casino has all the usual games you know: 5,000 slot machines, Blackjack, roulette, poker—including the increasingly popular Texas Hold’em—and Craps, which, due to a Victorian-era law, was only made legal in the last couple of years by an act of parliament. (And people say politicians never do anything.) Dice games are also very popular. There are online gaming guides available on the Fallsview Casino’s Web site, www.fallsviewcasinoresort.com. Most card tables have a $15 minimum. Slots go from 25cents a spin and up.

If you feel like playing a game but don’t know the rules, or are nervous or intimidated, there’s a free “Learn to Play” program available Monday to Friday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on the hour. The instructor teaching not only explains the rules, but gives you tips on how to win.

Let Them Entertain You
Once you’ve made a giant pile of money, you’ve got a lot of options on how to spend it. The casino has a Galleria with fine shops and restaurants. Or you could take in a show in one of the entertainment venues or enjoy the full-service spa.

Avalon Ballroom & the 365 Club
The Avalon has great acoustics. Recently, WHERE caught up with a taping of the World Poker Tournament and, from the balcony, you could hear the sound of the cards being flipped over. With sound like that, you’ll be able to hear every nuance from Peter Frampton’s Talk Box. Do you feel like I do? Yes.

August to October’s Show Lineup:

Damon Wayans August 1
Huey Lewis and The News August 5 & 6
Chris Isaak August 12 & 13
Emerson Drive August 18
Macy Gray August 26
Gipsy Kings August 27 & 28
Paul Anka September 3, 4 & 5
Julio Iglesias September 16 & 17
Peter Frampton September 23 & 24
Anne Murray September 30, October 2

365 Club
Smaller than the Ballroom, the 365 has a 1940s jazz lounge feel to it, that is intimate and slick. Shows vary from Comedy (Wednesdays) to Rock and Roll jam sessions on Tuesdays. No cover charge for any of the shows.

Restaurant Round-up
As you walk through the Galleria and gaze at the fountain—an artful homage to Niagara’s long history of hydro power projects—don’t forget to grab a bite to eat. There are diners, burger joints and high-end cafés but several restaurants are of special note. 17 Noir, located at the Falls end of the Galleria, overlooks the cascade and offers fine dining in an intimate setting. Romantic but pricey, so make sure your credit card can handle it.

Crazy Sushi, without a doubt, offers the best sushi in the Niagara region. Crazy Sushi has a huge menu and has cleverly fused traditional items with modern dining. It’s a crazy fusion not to be missed. Try the Snow Corn Roll, which is without corn or snow but is amazing nonetheless. Open until 11 p.m. and midnight on the weekends.

Rounding out the fine dining possibilities at the Fallsview is the Asian Pearl serving the finest in traditional Chinese and Szechuan foods, as well as Vietnamese, Thai and Malaysian specialties. They have a reasonable prix fixe that includes Peking duck. Open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Mon.-Fri. and 11 a.m.-3 a.m. Sat. and Sun.

If you can’t drag yourself away from the casino action to fuel up on food, try the Grand Buffet adjacent to the casino floor; there are more thanr 100 items to choose from. After visiting the seafood or prime rib station, don’t forget to sample some of Niagara’s famous local fruit. All you can eat lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner daily as well as weekend brunch.Terrace Walk
Need a break? Feel like you’re going to have an epileptic fit with all the flashes and bells? Step out to the Terrace Walk, which runs along the Niagara Escarpment directly behind the casino. The Terrace has great view of the Falls.

Tightrope Walker
Almost every day, Jay Cochrane, world famous tightrope walker, takes a stroll high in the air from the top of the Fallsview to an adjacent hotel. Tightrope walking has a long tradition in Niagara Falls. In 1859, The Great Blondin, a Frenchman, did the first walk across The Falls on a cable. About 25,000 people witnessed the event. Blondin kept performing the stunt over subsequent years, each time making it more spectacular. One year he carried his manager across the gorge on his shoulder. The next, he cooked a meal on the wire and passed it down to passengers on the Maid of the Mist. Blondin had his competition: Balleni, an Italian stunter, would jump off the tightrope attached to the end of an Indian rubber rope—a feat which probably earns him a title as the inventor of bungee jumping.

ATTRACTIONS

Maid of the Mist
The Maid of the Mist takes you within about 100 meters of the Falls, which are equally if not more impressive from the bottom of the chute. You can get on the boat just slightly north of Table Rock. Shooting the rapids below the Falls has a long and sometimes deadly tradition. The Niagara River has incredible power even today when much of the water going over the Falls and through the rapids has been diverted for power generation. A trip on the Maid of the Mist is worth the price of admission.

The Aero Car And Whirlpool
The Aero Car is a nice way to see the whirlpool but packing a lunch and being hypnotized from the banks of the great swirling mass is better. You can access a path down the gorge from the Niagara Parkway opposite the Niagara Whirlpool Golf Course. Don’t even think about going in to the Whirlpool. Over Niagara’s 150-year history of stunts, many have tried to swim across but no one has ever survived. The Whirlpool was formed when the river cut a new channel changing the course of the flow to Lake Ontario. Also, and without warning, the water flow can change and a small surge will go through the river raising the level of the whirlpool a foot or two. So don’t picnic too close.

Journey Behind the Falls
What used to be known as going “behind the sheet,” Journey Behind the Falls invites visitors to put on a rain suit and experience the raw fury of millions of tons of water plummeting more than 13 storeys from an intimate vantage point. Admission can be purchased individually or is included in the Niagara Falls and Great Gorge Adventure Pass and other tours. It is located in the Table Rock complex directly beside the Horseshoe Falls.

Helicopter Rides
Aerial adventures abound in Niagara Falls and made-to-order helicopter voyages showcase the region’s natural and man-made wonders. After digesting some of the world’s most stunning scenery get dropped off at a local winery in style for hors d’oeuvres and a wine tasting, or touch down at the golf course of your choice for a memorable game.

Couples seeking a romantic getaway should look no further, proposal and anniversary packages are available, and for those who truly have a taste for adventure, why not have an in-flight wedding and say ‘I do’ in a chopper flying above the Falls?

How to go Up, Up and Away…

Niagara Helicopters Limited,
3731 Victoria Avenue,
905-357-5672

Niagara Heli-Golf Inc.,
4025 Dorchester Rd.,
Suite 128,
1-877-HELI-GOLF

Skyway Helicopters,
Niagara District Airport,
P.O. Box 464,
468 Niagara Stone Rd.,
1-800-491-3117

Butterfly Conservatory
Dozens of spectacular species of butterflies fill the air in this magical 11,000 square-foot conservatory replete with lush greenery and water features. Take a break from the outside world and stroll along the pathways in this zen-like tropical setting, watching as the butterflies emerge from their chrysalides and take flight in technicolour splendor. Check out Ontario’s native butterflies in the outdoor Butterfly Garden and 40 hectare Botanical Gardens. Audio tours are available in six languages.

Dufferin & Navy Islands
During the Rebellion of 1837, William Lyon Mackenzie planned to use Navy Island as the staging point for a Canadian revolution. British troops got wind of the plan, seized Mackenzie’s supply boat,The Caroline, set it ablaze and let it drift over the Falls. Partly for its beauty and partly for its cross-border, international flavour, Navy Island was once proposed as the site for the United Nations. Dufferin Island is a stunningly beautiful landscaped water park. It’s a popular spot for picnics, nature walks and swimming.A LITTLE HISTORY

Profile of the Falls
The Niagara River drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. The Falls themselves are about 170 feet, most of the rest of the drop is on the lower Niagara River. The local native bands called the Falls Ongiara —though the word was probably used for the river as well. They would portage around the Falls and rapids moving goods from one lake to the other. Seventeenth century French explorers were the first Europeans to see the Falls, though at that time Horseshoe Falls was located near where the American falls are today.

The Falls retreat due to erosion. The rate at which they retreat was the subject of great debate. Charles Lyell, the 19th-century geologist, who was one of the first to suggest the earth was millions of years old rather than thousands, used the retreat of the Falls as part of his proof. Lyell’s published geological findings were one of the pieces of the puzzle that led Charles Darwin to his theory of evolution.

Ownership of the land around the Falls has passed from Native Americans to the French and then to the British, to private citizens. In 1888, the Canadian government took control, entrusting the land to the Niagara Parks Commission to oversee the balance between power generation needs and interests in preserving the natural beauty of the Falls for tourism. Frederick Law Olmstead, probably the most celebrated landscape architect of the time, got involved in the process of returning the Falls area on both sides of the river to the public. Olmstead is probably best known as the man who designed Manhatten’s Central Park. Much of Olmstead’s designs remain next to the Falls and the various surrounding parks.

Best place to see the Falls
Table Rock, right at the brink of the Horseshoe Falls is the quintessential place to see the Falls. Beside the brink you can get a sense of vertigo and queer motion that you feel no where else. The rusting hulk that you see above the Falls is the remains of a barge stuck on the rocks since 1918. The two men piloting the boat lived to tell the tale. Table Rock used to be an outcropping with very little underneath. In 1850, the whole thing collapsed. The gorge and the Falls are subject to spectacular rock falls—in the 1960s, one of the river’s power generating stations was destroyed as a result of one such occurrence.

Stunts and Clifton Hill
In the mid 19th-century, activity at the Falls was in decline. With the building of the Welland Canal connecting Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, ship traffic bypassed the whole area. In response, the city began promoting the Falls as a tourist destination, actively promoting stunts, one of the first of which is difficult to imagine now—In 1829, a schooner was filled with wild animals and sent over the Falls as entertainment.

Soon men and women were actively risking life and limb tightrope walking across the gorge, shooting the rapids and, eventually, going over the Falls in barrels. The first person to survive the Falls plunge was Annie Edson Taylor, who accomplished the feat in 1901. Skip ahead 50 years and numerous fatal attempts later, purposely going over the Falls is now illegal. These days, if you survive, you’re immediately arrested.

Clifton Hill is the less brutal but perhaps tackier offspring of this nearly 200-year-old tradition. The area is full of haunted houses, freak shows and wax museums. It’s the place to buy Niagara-themed kitsch and celebrate the fact that these days, the thrills don’t come at the expense of others.

Great Moments at the Falls
In 1952 for her first big role, Marilyn Monroe spent several weeks at the Falls shooting Niagara. Her then husband-to-be, baseball star Joe DiMaggio, visited her on the set causing a great stir and generating rumours of a pending elopement.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited the Falls in 1944 after a secret conference with American President F. D. Roosevelt in Quebec City. Churchill described the drive along the Niagara Parkway—which in many ways remains the same as it was 60 years ago—as one of the best Sunday drives ever.GOLF
Niagara is a perfect setting for golf. The peninsula in general is one of the warmest parts of Canada—hence the thriving vineyards and fruit orchards. Playing a round or two in March is not unheard of, and many Canadian pros come to get some early golf in their own country before the pro season starts. The Niagara Whirlpool Golf Course is considered one of the best public courses in Canada. Being situated next to an agricultural college probably helps. It’s like a private course without the fees. The clubhouse is nice, too, and people come just to eat there.

In addition to The Niagara Whirlpool Course, three other courses are grouped together under Legends on the Niagara: the Chippawa, the Battlefield and Ussher’s Creek. Chippawa is located above the falls, the Whirlpool down river from the falls.

Battlefield, the most northern course, contains a 19-acre man-made lake that comes into play on no less than four holes. You can see Niagara Falls from the 13th hole.

The Ussher’s Creek course (14 holes) has been literally carved out of the woods and includes a creek that winds its way across the green, while the nine-hole Chippawa course is considered by some to be the best short course in Canada.

THE NIAGARA WHIRLPOOL GOLF COURSE
905-356-1140
3351 Niagara Parkway,
Box 150 Niagara Falls, ON
Information and reservations
www.niagaralegends.com

LEGENDS ON THE NIAGARA
1-866-GOLF-NIA (1-866-465-3642)
9923 Niagara Parkway
Niagara Falls, ON
Information and reservations
www.niagaralegends.comGETTING THERE AND AROUND

Toronto Tours Ltd.
The new Niagara Express bus service to and from Niagara Falls picks up at any downtown hotel and drops visitors off at the Sheraton on the Falls and Niagara Fallsview Casino. Tours depart from Toronto at 8 a.m., 11 a.m. & 7 p.m., departing from Niagara Falls at 10:30 a.m., 3 p.m. & 11 p.m. The costs for adults is $75, seniors are $70, and children aged 2 to 12 are $50.

The Day Tour runs from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and includes a trip on the Maid of the Mist, as well as the Journey Behind the Falls tour. Adults $139, Seniors $129, children aged 2 to 12 $109.

The Afternoon Tour, which runs from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m, is the same as the Day Tour but instead includes dinner at Niagara Falls and a tour of the Falls at night. Adults $149, seniors $139, children aged 2 to 12 $119.

For reservations and pick up times call 416-868-0400. For more info visit www.torontotours.com or e-mail niagaratours@torontotours.com.

VIA Rail
VIA Rail’s Niagara Falls Getaway packages are available through select tour companies and can also be booked through their Web site. Trains arrive at the Niagara Falls Station. Niagara Transit offers summer seasonal shuttle service from the station to the Falls area. For more information call 905-374-8111 or visit www.niagaraairbus.com.

Departing from Union Station in Toronto, trains leave at the same time each day, seven days a week, at 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m., and 5:45 p.m.

One-way fares (including taxes) range from $20.33 to $32.10 for adults, $20.33 to 28.89 for seniors (seniors travel two for one), and $9.63 to $11.77 for children aged 2 to 11. Before September 5th, children accompanied by a parent ride for free (limit 1 child per parent). Students, aged 12-17 or those with a valid International Student Card) pay $21.40.

For reservations and pick up times call 1-888-842-7245. For more info visit www.viarail.ca.

Chariots of Fire
Chariots of Fire departs from all major hotels in the greater Toronto Area to Niagara in a deluxe 25-seat Eldorado tour bus or a Cadillac Limo and return directly to your hotel.

Tours depart between 9-9:30 a.m. from your hotel and return between 6-6:30 pm. Tours are $85 for adults, $75 for seniors and students and $55 for children aged 3 to 12 years.

The Niagara Falls Vacation package includes the Skylon Tower, the Whirlpool Rapids and Hydro-electric dams, Queenston Heights and the Floral Clock and approximately two hours of free time at the Falls.

For reservations and pick up times call 1-866-833-0460 or 905-693-8761. For reservations for the Niagara Falls Tour Ride, e-mail chariotsoffire@sprint.ca.

Gray Line
Gray Line tours depart from all major hotels and from the Coach Terminal (at Bay and Dundas streets).

During the Niagara Falls Day Tour (9 1/2 hours), travel on a first-class, washroom-equipped motorcoach through the scenic Niagara Peninsula to Niagara Falls. The tour included a buffet lunch overlooking the Falls a trip on the Maid of the Mist to the base of the Horseshoe Falls. In colder months when the Maid of the Mist isn’t operating, a trip to the IMAX Theatre or a Journey Behind the Falls screening is substituted. The tour also includes time in the afternoon for souvenir shopping, a stop at the observation deck of the whirlpool rapids and a visit to the Floral Clock. The tour finishes with a visit to a local winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Ticket prices (taxes included) are $130 for adults, $120 for seniors and $85 for children aged 5 to 11.

Niagara Falls Freedom Tour (9 1/2 hours) includes all the same sites as the Day Tour, excludes lunch but includes more free time. Ticket prices (taxes included) are $105 for adults, $95 for seniors and $65 for children aged 5 to 11. Departures daily from 10 a.m., returning at 7:30 p.m.

For reservations and pick up times call 1-800-594-3310 or 416-594-3310. For more info visit www.grayline-niagarafalls.com.—Jonathan Link

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