Friday, August 6, 2010

A Trip to Niagara

Like any holiday over a long weekend, this time too we planned to head out of town. It was Civic holiday on Aug 2nd in Canada and we planned to visit the most luring place we had in minds even before we moved here. Truly the magic of this place is not overstated. It is more so when you are viewing it from the Canadian side rather than the American side. Although the American part of Niagara looks subtle when you see both American side and Canadian sides at the same time, the mist as you get close to the American falls is fierce as well. Of course the depth and expanse and vastness of the Canadian Horseshoe falls is too great to explain in normal words.

We began on July 31st and took the quite comfortable Go Train to Niagara from Toronto. We booked at a comfortable hotel and immediately headed out for lunch. Starting to devour a great Italian Pasta Lunch, we headed straight on the Clifton hill road, slowly approaching the great gorge and falls. Such a place filled with Color and exuberance and a smile on every single face… People do enjoy summers to their full and it was a great feeling as we started.

Ready for a unique sightseeing opportunity with breathtaking views of the Falls and beyond, we headed on down to Clifton Hill and took a ride on Canada’s largest observation wheel, the Niagara Sky Wheel. Towering 175 feet (53 metres) over the Niagara Falls horizon, the Niagara SkyWheel is the most exciting way to see Niagara Falls. From this vantage point we were treated to memorable views of the Horseshoe and American Falls, the Niagara River Niagara Parks and other landmarks.

The Niagara SkyWheel is in deed a world-class ride featuring fully enclosed gondolas, each equipped with heating and air conditioning for year-round comfort and enjoyment... The ride duration was from 8 to 12 minutes with spectacular aerial views for miles in every direction. Evening rides offered dazzling views of the glittering lights of Clifton Hill and the surrounding Niagara skyline.

With a bird’s eye view of the Niagara River, Niagara Parks and Clifton Hill, there was no better way to snap incredible photos and quickly get the lay of the land.

From our end we saw the American Falls on the left and The Canadian Horseshoe Falls on the right. We could see the force erupting into mist at the Canadian end while the mist stays low at the American Falls end.

We headed next to Maid of the Mist – The exciting boat ride on the Niagara River to the footsteps of the Falls at both American and Canadian Fall drop zonesMaid of the Mist Boat tour going up close and personal to the American Falls

While the American falls may look like a flat cascading waterfall, it is in actual fact a little jagged. Who knows, maybe after another few centuries of erosion it will become something like the Horseshoe Falls (Canadian Part of Niagara Falls)!

The mesmerizing Horseshoe Falls was huge and magnificent. Staring at the gushing water almost made me feel like I was going to get washed away!

Dressed up in the recyclable rain coats to keep us from getting drenched, it was an exciting walk as we boarded the boat. Water rushed all around as we did "soak" in the excitement and explored the roar of the ‘Falls’. A historical ride aboard the world-famous Maid of the Mist is a half hour thrill of a lifetime! The Maid of the Mist did bring us pretty close to the Horseshoe Falls, but the towering mist made it difficult to see anything. Only by standing on the edge at the Canadian side did we fully experience the magnificence of this natural wonder called the Niagara….

Feeling the Thunder – A journey behind the falls

The sound is like thunder, the sight awe-inspiring! It’s a journey deep below and behind the heart of Niagara and stand in the mist where the mighty Horseshoe Falls tumbles from 13 storeys above!

At Journey Behind the Falls, we did experience the awesome spectacle of one-fifth of the world’s fresh water crashing down to the basin below. During summer daylight hours, they said over 2,800 cubic meters of water thunders over the brink every second, travelling 65 kilometers per hour! Enough to fill a million bath tubs per second.....

The entire Journey behind the Falls visit took us about 30 to 45 minutes. We received a free souvenir biodegradable rain poncho as protection from the mist of the Falls. Elevators descended 150 feet through bedrock to tunnels that lead and to the Cataract Portal and the Great Falls Portal which is one third of the way behind the massive sheet of water. Then you walk on to the Upper and Lower Observation Decks at the very foot of the Falls. The view from standing exactly behind the fall and see the water drop in front of us… Phew! What an excitement to live in.

Rainbow Galore

As we headed out, The Rainbows that sprang up, from the waters.. spectacular scenery that I had only imagined before.. and there they were in front of our eyes.. First over the American Falls and as we moved above to the Incline Railway, The massive rainbow over the Horseshoe falls, was just too good to be true.. but it was true, for Akshat jumped in joy and stamped my feet, and made me realize I was not imagining scenes :)

Whirlpool Aero Car

Next day we landed at the Whirlpool Aero Car… High above the racing Niagara River, we were transported through the air in an antique cable car.

Far below, the torrent of water abruptly changed direction and created one of the world’s most mesmerizing natural phenomenons – the Niagara Whirlpool. It was frightening and as expected - unforgettable! The cable car was suspended from sturdy cables and offered a wonderful view of the Niagara Whirlpool which was formed at the end of the rapids where the gorge turned abruptly counterclockwise and the river escapes through the narrowest channel in the gorge.

Our Next Stop – The simulated show showing the creation of Niagara Falls over 10000 Yrs - Niagara’s Fury!

Water bubbled and sprayed while snow fell all around. Standing in the mist on a massive platform we felt the full wrath of Mother Nature as the floor tilted and trembled beneath us. Incredible images produced with technology previously used only in satellites and medicine immersed in a “4D” Universal Studios-style attraction. The experience started with an 8 minute animated Pre-show, where charming woodland characters explained us how the Ice Age formed Niagara Falls. Then, in a specially designed, 360 degree theatre, we witnessed the Creation of the Falls in a 6-minute, multi-sensory extravaganza!


From there we went up the Incline Railway and walked past the CASINO… Now don’t ask us what we did there… It was off bounds for me for Akshat was not permitted in…. We went from there to Skylon Tower. We took an ultra fast 52 second ride in the glass-fronted “Yellow Bug” elevators to the very top of the Skylon Tower, which stood an astounding 775 feet above the base of the Falls! The circular design and provision of the three observation levels within the tower allowed us to enjoy one of the best unobstructed views of Niagara Falls! The outdoor and indoor observatories are located on the third floor of the dome and are the highest vantage points. On a clear day, it mentioned that visitors can see close to 80,000 square miles far, including the skylines of Toronto and Buffalo!

For an extra special evening, we thought of dining at the Skylon Tower Revolving Restaurant, but it was way too costly where we were sure Akshat would hardly eat anything... We then went past the Games Zone where he played to his fill and got a flexible pencil as a gift (We only managed 55 tickets in the games). Of course we didn’t miss the 3D movie experience atop the Skylon Tower! “The Legends of Niagara Falls,” which was playing. It was a clear adventurous show with simulators and excellent 3D Graphics that featured the history of the Falls and the old Indian Legend surrounding the Maid of the Mist.

Day 3 – Aug 2nd - Marine Land

The final day, a memorable destination in mind, we checked out of the hotel. Landing at Marine Land, it was a sight to see with the Sky Screamer being visible so far from the hotel itself.
This park’s slogan is “Everyone Loves Marineland”.. Well we did too… Though there are not a big number of rides like how we do have at MGM or Queensland.. But the ones that were there, were just Splendid... Enormous... Very thrilling in deed.

The best part of course was the stroller rental available, and good we took one for Akshat, for the extensive area of the park, it would have been an overkill on the child if he had to walk. They should do this at our Indian Parks too… It just is so comfortable for the parents. Whatever, it was definitely needed here as its not like our Indian parks where every available space is used to setup a ride, but the vast expanse of land, is flourishing with Trees, Heavy dense trees to promote animals and preserve trees. There are huge picnic spots, if we want to bring in home food, lay down a carpet and enjoy within our group with excellent room for fun and picnic areas and uninterrupted privacy:) There were Ocras, Whales, Dolphins, Bears, Walruses, and we even had a chance to feed the fish :)

And for the rides, all the Children’s rides, parents could go along… they call them family rides here. A Little boring for us but guess was exciting for the little ones. It was amazing to see the amount of care the parents take of children here and that too without screaming or shouting or scolding or beating. Just a word, that son, you continue to do this, we are going home and the child stops all tantrums… wonder how we could teach this to the Indian Kids.

And the thrilling rides….

Dragon Mountain Roller Coaster: an Arrow roller coaster which opened as the world's largest (not longest) non-stop roller coaster (covering 30 acres). It features tunnels that lead to the queue area, has two consecutive vertical loops and the only bowtie loop of its kind in the world
Breathtaking… What an experience…
Sky Hawk: a spinning ride which also moves vertically up and down. Features one- or two-person cages without restricting belts or harnesses.
Wave Swinger: a swing ride with a moving top that allows the swings to move up and down. The first adult ride the park ever had.
The only major adult ride thriller that Akshat had a chance to be in coz of height restrictions… now that is an incentive to me, for the past two days I am tricking him to eat without making a fuss, that only if he grows quite tall soon, we can take him along in all thrillers next time J
Lady Bug Coaster: children's roller coaster features a lady bug cart. …
Well I need to admit it was the most thrilling of all family rides
Tivoli Wheel: a "hanging" Ferris wheel.
Magic: a spinning ride located near the bear area; features statues of bears on the ride.
Kandu's Twister: a "teacup" style ride that features orcas on the sides of the cups.
Space Avenger: a spinning ride that features a control panel in the cages allowing the rider to move vertically up and down.
Dragon Boats: a simple carousel with a Viking boat theme.
Flying Dragon a ride that offers thrills for a lot of ages, goes up into the air then falls back down without inversion.
Sky Screamer: It is situated on a 150 foot tall hill, making the total height of the ride 450 feet, which affords the rider an impressive view of the city and the falls. It is a recognizable landmark with the Marineland logo at the top clearly visible at night.
Topple Tower: This ride has a circular gondola where the passengers sit, is elevated into the air and then starts spinning, and the tower rocks back and forth on a 60 degree angle, giving it a 30 degree angle with the ground, and its scenery features a walrus on top of the tower.
Viking Adventure: it is a small sized Viking boat ride that operates on a track to rock passengers back and forth and spin them around.
Orca Screamer: this is a miniature, child size one-tower version of the famous Sky Screamer.
Bumble Bee: this brightly coloured children's ride allows parents and children to sit in a car together a bee elevated and spun around.

The day ended with a Show of Walruses, bottle nose dolphins and California Sea lions showing tricks and splashes to an wonderstruck audience… and then we were on our way to catch the Go Train back to Toronto…

Finally to conclude, Niagara Falls is such an idyllic place, and the holiday setting that truly makes everyone happy, and live in a sight of smiley people ..

Btw.. You can browse through our other Toronto Weekend outing pics too in the gallery :)