A June 2005 trip
to Niagara Falls by Jill-O-E
Quote: We stopped in Niagara Falls driving way back to Massachusetts from visiting my in-laws in the Midwest.
I could not possibly have been more pleased our stay at the Brock Plaza, which cost C$120 a night. The hotel is perfect for anyone looking for charming historical accommodations rather than just another overpriced modern high-rise hotel. The hotel is central to all major attractions, particularly Clifton Hill. In a way, the hotel feels like a museum. The corridor leading from the lobby to the parking garage is lined with old pictures of Niagara Falls. Upon checking in, we received a booklet outlining the history of the hotel and Niagara Falls in general. The book highlights celebrities who have stayed there (including Marilyn Monroe and Queen Elizabeth II).
An elegant stairway lit by two chandeliers greets guests as they enter the hotel, accompanied by the sounds of live piano music drifting down from the second floor. Rather than lugging our suitcases up said staircase, we opted to use the elevator to get to the reception desk on the second floor. The woman there checked us in promptly and courteously.
We had reserved a room with a partial view of the Falls and ended up on the fourth floor of the hotel. As long as we were within about 4 feet of the window, we had a great view of the American Falls and could at least see the mist from the Canadian Falls. (See the view in the picture below.) It was great to be able to be away from the crowds while we watched the Falls changing color at night, as well as the summertime Sunday night fireworks.
Our room contained two double beds and was very well decorated with a yellow and deep-red color scheme. The throw pillows, silky bedspreads, and floor-to-ceiling curtains gave the room a luxurious old-world atmosphere. The washroom (as they call it in Canada) was bright and clean, with old fixtures combined with sleek modern-day shelving to hold all our bathroom paraphernalia. Because the plumbing is somewhat old, we had to be sure to hold down the handle every time we flushed.
The hotel has a variety of amenities, including a large indoor pool with a hot tub, room service, and a rather pricey restaurant called the Rainbow Room. We did not, however, take advantage of any of these services.
Parking is available in the Niagara Casino parking garage, which has an entrance next to the main entrance of the hotel. However, this entrance is somewhat hidden. Going to the entrance behind the hotel (near the entrance to the casino) may be a better bet. Even though signs in the garage say that parking needs to be validated in the casino, the front desk of the hotel validated our parking ticket. It cost us C$9.20 for 1 day and allowed us to enter and exit as many times as we wished during our stay. (Nearly all hotels charge for parking, as it is somewhat scarce in the area.)
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on February 12, 2006
Brock Plaza Hotel
5685 Falls Avenue
Niagara Falls, Ontario L2E6W7
Niagara Falls is chock-full of the trendy restaurants you can find in nearly any major city in the United States or Canada. There's a Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood, and Ruby Tuesdays. We opted for another one of these restaurants: Rainforest Cafe. We were particularly interested in seeing the sharks that made a cameo in all of their advertisements, so when we arrived, we requested a table near the sharks. This apparently created some kind of problem with the way things are supposed to work in the restaurant, and we had to obtain special permission to eat at the shark tables. I think the reason may be because they are the farthest tables from the kitchen. There are only three such tables, each meant for seating two people. Even though they were all empty when we arrived at about 5:30pm, they were full by the end of our meal. It was really nice to watch their gracefulness as we ate, along with the other smaller critters in the tank, and I would therefore recommend that anyone eating there also request those tables. Occasionally we had some small children come up behind our table to admire the sharks.
Besides the sharks, the restaurant also had its signature decor to make diners feel as if they were in the middle of the rain forest, complete with vines, snakes, and the occasional “lightning storm.” The centerpiece of the dining room was a fountain containing a golden statue lifting a neon sign reading “Rescue the Rainforest.”
The decor is really the best part of the restaurant. The service took about 45 minutes between ordering and arrival at our table. The menu was slightly different from other Rainforest Cafe locations, both in terms of selection and price. (The selection seemed more limited, while the cost was a bit more expensive than usual.) Entrees ranged in price from about C$12 to C$18. However, the offerings were generally the same as at other Rainforest Cafes: exotic blends with Asian and Caribbean influence. There was also an extensive cocktail menu, which we did not take advantage of. I ate fajitas, which were just about what I expected. There were warm chicken pieces and vegetables covered in a mildly spicy sauce and grilled in a tortilla. It fell apart while I was eating it, so I had to use my fork. No complaints, but nothing to write home about, either. My husband had a burger that had a few different types of cheese. He thought it was tasty, but it was not as large as he would have liked.
All in all, the Rainforest Cafe is a fun location for families and couples. And, of course, should you really need to commemorate the experience, there is always the gift store, through which you conveniently have to exit. You can purchase Cha Cha the Frog dolls, T-shirts, mugs, and other such paraphernalia.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 11, 2006
5685 Falls Avenue
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Attraction | "Minolta Tower"
The best part of a trip to Niagara Falls is, of course, the view of the Falls. In addition to all the hotel rooms and restaurants that offer a bird's-eye view perspective of the wonders, there are also a few towers designed specifically for the purpose of "Falls gazing."
One of these towers is the Minolta Tower, adjoining the Ramada Hotel. The toll for our passage to the overlook at the top was an extremely reasonable C$6.95 per person. Just before dusk, we rode the elevator to the overlook at the top. Above the mist from the Canadian Falls (which were directly in front of us), we had the perfect view for the sunset and, shortly thereafter, multicolored light show that illuminates the falls every evening.
The tower became more and more crowded with families and romantic types as the evening progressed. Eventually, we grew tired of holding our post at the edge of the tower and let some other people have a chance at experiencing our great vantage point. However, not all was lost. We ventured over to the other much more vacant side of the overlook to gaze upon the city lights and the various bridges connecting Canada and the United States.
After spending about 2 hours total on the overlook, we waited in the busy lines to descend in the crowded elevators that would bring us back to ground level. We spent a few brief moments checking out the souvenir store, filled with the typical T-shirts, coffee mugs, and other such items, before heading back to the hotel. It was a bit of a walk back to the Brock Plaza, as the Minolta is located behind the Canadian Falls and the Brock Plaza is on the other side of the American Falls. If you are tired, driving might be a better alternative.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 12, 2006
Konica Minolta Tower
6732 Fallsview Blvd.
Niagara Falls, Ontario
A view of Niagara Falls that you don't want to miss is the raging rapids just before the big drop. The place to see this perspective is Goat Island, the New York state park separating the Horseshoe Falls from the American Falls. We visited the park on our way out of Niagara Falls for a picnic lunch. Parking for Cave of the Winds (a tour that takes you right behind the falls) is located on the island for a fee of $8 a day. However, anyone who would like to just check out the island's views of the Falls and skyline can park in one of the free 20-minute parking places beyond the main parking lot. We parked near the Three Sisters Islands, a series of three small rocky islands connected by foot bridges. We took our lunch to the outermost island, where we ate on a shaded boulder. The wind gently blew the trees, while millions of gallons of water rushed past us on its way to the Falls. The water seemed to form its own white-and-blue landscape, rolling over 2- to 3-foot drops. It was an idyllic retreat from the busy commercialized side of Niagara Falls. And best of all, it was free! (Granted, we stayed a bit longer than the 20 minutes we were supposed to. However, the $8 a day parking would still be a great deal for someone wishing to spend more time walking through the park's various trails.)
Road signs guide travelers to the island from the Rainbow Bridge. This trek would be a long one to walk from the Canadian side of the falls, so I recommend driving unless you're up for some serious exercise.
Niagara Falls State park
Niagara Falls, New York