A trip to Niagara Falls on both the Canadian and American sides
by Muchmor on June 7, 2011
Bird Kingdom is located under the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls. I have been here a few times and each time I go it has changed a little. On this visit they had a new area where they have several birds and reptiles in a room that you can get up close to. In fact you can actually stroke the lizards, iguanas and tortoise. There is also a Kookaburra in a large cage which makes incredible noise.Another large room has lots of free flying small birds such as finches, sparrows etc. They are quite tame and will come up close to you. Many were nesting whilst we were there, carrying round nesting materials and displaying to each other.There is a nocturnal area where you will see lots of bats and some other creatures such as frogs, lizards etc. Be warned there is a spider the size of a dessert plate here, apparently it is a bird eating spider. I did not get close enough check it out as I hate spiders.The main aviary is huge and has a walkway which spans several levels. There are many birds here, again free flying but this time they are big birds. There are lots of different colours and birds of many different species. None seemed bothered by people wandering round and some come quite close to you if you are still and patient. This is a definite must visit if you like birds and are in the area
The butterfly conservatory in Niagara Falls is located a few miles north of the Clifton Hill area. You can either drive to it where there is free parking or you can catch the trolley which runs regularly to and from Niagara Falls.As its name suggests it is a large greenhouse type dome conservatory which you enter via a small theatre. Here you can watch a film about, guess what, butterflies. But if you are like us we skipped this and went straight for the real thing.Once you enter the conservatory the first thing you notice is the heat. Because butterflies are tropical the temperature and humidity in the dome are both high. No jackets needed here. The second thing you notice are the beautiful butterflies flying around your head. They are all free flying, so if you don't like things flying round you or landing on you then this is not the place for you. The greenery is magnificent and a lot of the plants have name tags so you know what you are looking at. There are so many butterflies of so many different species that you cannot remember them all. I think it would be impossible to walk through here without at least one of the landing on you. I had quite a few land on me as did the three others in my party. Sometimes you are walking around with one on your head or shoulder and don't even know it until soon points it out or you notice people taking photos of you. At various places you will see feeding areas with lots of half oranges and many butterflies feeding off them. There is also an area where you will see lots of chrysalis turning into butterflies. There are butterflies of all colours and shapes. Some are very large and other quite tiny, but all beautifulThis is a very special place with a wonderful atmosphere. I defy anyone to walk through here and not feel good about life. There is something quite magical about butterflies.
Whilst we were in Niagara Falls we needed somewhere to eat and the votes went to Planet Hollywood. The place is big and located in the Clifton Hill area on Bender Street. It is huge round building with lots of palm tree pillars round the entrance and a large blue dome as a roof with the Planet Hollywood logo on top.As always with these places you enter via a shop, although on our visit it was closed. There is a large bar area where you can sit and have drinks and of course there is a large dining area. Our party of four was given a curved booth with a large round table. Our server gave us menus and we all chose our food.Our daughter and her partner both had the LA lasagne, I had a tuscan chicken sandwich and my husband had BBQ bacon burger. The lasagna was enjoyed by both, but I was not impressed with my sandwich. It was very bland and if there was anything tuscan about it I failed to find it. My husband was also unimpressed with his burger. None of us bothered with desserts and in total we paid $100 for four main courses and four soft drinks. I personally would not bother to go back as I know we can get better food in other places, often for a lot less money.
In Niagara Falls you will find Ripley's Moving Theatre. This is also part of the triple Ripley's ticket you can buy for about $30 which includes the waxworks museum and Believe it or Not.When you enter you go into a holding room which has lots of warning signs up saying if you suffer from motion sickness, have back or neck problems are pregnant etc you should not get on this ride. Ignoring all these our party of four continued into the ride. We were given 3D glasses as we entered a large theatre room with big seats. The seats start slightly tilted to one side and you sit in them and put on the seat belt. The seat is quite hard and it wraps around your upper body and has a handle either side near your knees to hold onto. Staff come round to check that everyone is strapped in correctly and to make sure no one wants to back out. The staff member explained that the movie would be quite jerky and to hold on tight. The first movie was based on a ride through the snow with lots of leaps and jumps. It was very good and you feel very much part of the action. The 3D is pretty good and the movements very real. When the first movie finished the lights brightened and the staff member asked if everyone was okay. He told us the next film would be more violent with its movements and if anyone wanted to leave now they could. One woman decided to go, but her husband stayed.The second film was a skateboard type film with you having to go round and through obstacles and it was more jerky etc than the first. I preferred the first, but only because of the topic matter.I really enjoyed the ride as did my companions.
by Muchmor on June 6, 2011
Louis Tussauds Waxworks in Niagara Falls is one of several wax museums in the Clifton Hill area. I have only been to this one so have no idea if it is the best or not, but if it is, don't go to the others!You have to take this attraction at face value and accept it as a fun place. I have been to Madame Tussauds in London, UK several times and the figures there are truly amazing and lifelike. The same cannot be said here. All the figures have name tags on them and believe me you will need them. Some are truly unrecognizable and others once you read the tag they make more sense. You need to enter here with a sense of fun and nothing more.You will find everyone from film stars to Royalty, horror movie monsters to pop stars. They are all here, you just need to have a good sense of humour to appreciate them.
Ripley's Believe it or Not is located in Clifton Hill and you can purchase a ticket for tis attraction only or buy their triple ticket which also includes the 4D movie theatre and the wax works for around $30.Ripley's is full of strange and bizarre exhibits what will amaze you and some will also shock you. You will see everything from the tallest man ever to live along with shrunken heads, rugs made of dryer lint and deformed animals such as those with two heads.Many of the exhibits are interactive with things to sit on, touch or play with. It is all good fun and many are fascinating. This particular venue also has a section dedicated to Niagara Falls with lots of info about who has jumped, fallen or been pushed over the falls. Many have lived to tell the tale and you will find lots of interesting facts to boggle your mind. Definitely worth a visit.
by Muchmor on June 3, 2011
When we stayed in Buffalo we went to Santora’s Pizza Pub & Grill. We only went here as it was within walking distance of the hotel and looked like it had a good variety of food. It turned out to be a very good choice. It is a sports bar type restaurant with tables and booths and TV’s dotted around. The ambiance is very good and the server staff were very nice and helpful.The four of us ordered various different appetizers, thank goodness we skipped the entrees as we would never have gotten though the main course. The portions were huge, really huge. They were also really really tasty. None of us could complain about the food other than there was far too much. We didn’t even have room for desserts we were that full.I had chicken parmigiana which was excellent, even when I had eaten all I could (about half) it still looked as if I hadn’t started it. My husband has lasagna which he too loved and couldn’t finish. Our daughter had cheese ravioli which she raved about and her partner had a pizza which of all the dishes was the most "normal" size dish we got. All are served with dough knots which are to die for. The prices are incredibly reasonable. We live in Ontario, Canada and usually expect to pay around $100 for four main courses and drinks, but here we paid just $46 - amazing value.We loved this so much we returned the following night an did it all again. This time two of us shared one dish and the restaurant had no problem with this bringing us individual portions. Even divided in two, the portions were huge and we still struggled to finish.My only regret is that we never got the chance to try the desserts!If you are in the Buffalo University area and want a good, reasonably priced meal you will not go wrong here. I wish there was one near where we lived, although that would perhaps be a bad thing as we would eat there every night and get very fat!
The aquarium in Niagara Falls is included in the Discovery Pass ticket ($33 per adult, $26 for kids), so if you have this you may as well take advantage and go. But if you are thinking of buying a separate ticket ($10 per adult, $6 for kids) just to go here, then you may be disappointed. You can walk to the aquarium or take the trolly (included in Discovery Pass) to get there. Of course you can also drive, but no doubt you will have already parked in one of the main Niagara car parks, so walking or trolly is the best option.When you enter the aquarium the first exhibit is the penguins and who doesn’t love penguins. The exhibit is glass fronted and you can see lots of penguins in the fake lake/cave structure. One good thing is that all the penguins are named and have their photo above the glass so you can identify each one by name. Each has very distinctive markings so you can easily spot them. Whilst we were there there was quite a bit of x-rated behavior going on which was very amusing. There was a group of young school kids there during our visit and the teachers told the kids that the penguins were cleaning each other! It turned out several of the female penguins got "cleaned" whilst we were watching which was only broken up by the keeper going into the enclosure and feeding them. Very amusing.The rest of the aquarium is taken up by smaller exhibits of various fish types and frogs and other amphibians. They also have lots of shark jaws on display which you can step into to see how easily one of these could swallow you. Before you know it you will be at the end of the tour and in the gift shop. It is a very very small aquarium. Outside is an area where they have a few sea lions who have been rescued. One looked as if it were blind and another had big gashes in his side that had healed. These too are fed at intervals so you can watch.This is definitely the smallest and least impressive aquarium we have ever visited, but as part of the Discovery Pass you may as well take a look.
The Cave of the Winds is an attraction on the New York side of Niagara Falls and is one of the best things to do as you really get to experience the falls up close and personal.When you enter the attraction you are given a yellow rain coat and sandals which you have to wear. You also get a plastic bag to put your own shoes in. You have to get into an elevator which takes you 175 ft into the gorge. Then you follow a boardwalk which takes you alongside the Bridal Falls. This area is a seagull nesting site and there are literally thousands of gulls on the cliffside. There is definitely a smell accompanying them, but after a few minutes you no longer notice it. At the time we were there (end May) there were hundreds of gulls sitting on nests, some with eggs and many with babies at various stages of growth. They were really cute and at one point a goose landed close to several nests and although it was not bothering the gulls, they went into meltdown and were screaming and pecking the goose to get it away from their nests. Once you get past the gull area you start to ascend the boardwalk and now you are literally under the falls. The noise is tremendous and depending on the wind the spray from the water will get you wet. You will also see rainbows.Keep going and you get closer to the falls and then reach the Hurricane Deck where you can stand directly under the water and this is where you will get drenched, really drenched. You can avoid the full force of the water by staying to the front of the platform, but you will still get pretty wet, so make sure you have your rain gear on tightly. If you go under the water hold your hood on as the water can force it off your head resulting in a very bad hair day!You can stay on the boardwalk as long as you like so you can really get your money’s worth. It is a great way to really experience the full force of the falls like no other attraction in the area either on the USA or Canada side. If you buy the Discovery pass is is included in the price of $33 for 5 attractions. If you do this attraction alone it costs $11 per adult. Totally worth it.
by Muchmor on June 1, 2011
We had been to Niagara Falls before (Canadian side) and had done the Maid of the Mist boat trip, but decided to do it again on this visit to the American side. We actually purchased the Discovery Pass which included the Maid of the Mist along with Cave of the Winds, Theatre Adventure and the Aquarium all for $33. It also included the Discovery Centre but it was closed during our visit. You enter the Maid of the Mist via a turnstile and get your ticket checked. On both the Canadian and American side you have to travel in an elevator to get to the boat. You can then join the line and are given rain coats in an attractive blue colour. Yes you look completely silly in them, but it adds to the fun of the trip and most importantly stops you getting completely soaked. The staff count you in groups in order to board the boat which actually holds lots of people so even if you feel you are in a very long line the wait isn’t too bad as so many people get on the boat in one go.So, after about ten minutes wait we we all herded onto the boat and we were actually the last on and so thought we would not be able to get a good spot, but this was wrong as we actually got a very good spot in the space where the doors close.Then the boat pulls out into the river and off you go. First you go past the American Falls and get up real close, then you pass Bridal Falls and watch all the people on land watching you. Lots of people waved at us as we passed which was fun. Then you start to enter the Canadian Falls, or Horseshoe Falls as it is known. The further in the boat travels the wetter it gets. At one point you are thinking, we cannot possibly get any closer without impending death, but just as you expect to be swallowed by the water the boat starts to turn and pull away. You then ride back to the dock for disembarking. If like me, you don’t like water or boat rides, please don’t dismiss this experience. Yes the water is choppy and yes you will get wet, make that very wet, but it is so worth it. You are so immersed in the whole experience that you forget you are on a boat on rough water, you just enjoy it.If you are in Niagara Falls during the period the Maid of the Mist is running (not winter) you owe it to yourself to take the trip. You can do so from both sides of the falls so there is no excuse and it is very reasonably priced. If you only do this it will cost $16.50 on the Canadian side or $13.50 on the American side. The difference is to do with the elevator charges on both sides, the Canadian being deeper and of course taxes.
My husband and I have travelled a lot, all over the world, but this hotel really gets our award as the worst stay ever. We were travelling with our daughter and friend and so have booked two king rooms for two nights. When I checked in I asked if they had any brochures or details on local attractions including Darien Lakes and the guy behind the desk said no they did not have anything, but checked with a woman who was also there and she agreed they had no info. I thought this strange as most hotels have local info and brochures available.When we got to our rooms on the third floor they were nothing special, but we didn't expect the Ritz at the prices we paid, so were not too bothered. The carpets were a little grubby and stained, but the bedding looked clean and fresh as did the bathroom which is the main thing.One thing that was strange and annoying was the fact we had a king size bed with very small pillows. In fact it took five pillows side by side to go across the width of the bed. This made sleeping very uncomfortable as my head kept falling off the pillow waking me up. If a hotel has king beds it should also have king pillows.When we went out for dinner we noticed a large brochure rack complete with hundreds of brochures about local attractions. Exactly what I had asked for at reception and told did not exist. You would think staff would be aware of these things - very poor!At 5:20 the first morning we were awoken by a bus outside in the car park sitting with its engine running for over 40 minutes. This was really annoying and we ended up getting up as we could not sleep through the vibration and noise.Then we went down for breakfast which is included in the room cost but couldn’t get anywhere near it as there were about 30 teenagers there already taking up all the seating and not leaving very much food. We decided to get a tea and coffee and go back to our room and try again later. However there was no hot water left for the tea and when I asked a member of staff if any more was available I was told to "find a member of catering staff and ask them." As a guest of the hotel I expect that regardless of which staff member I ask for help I will get it or they will get the right person for me.So after giving up on breakfast the first time we tried again later and this time managed to get the last table available (there are only about 6 tables). The breakfast was poor by the standards of other similar hotels such as Hampton Inn. There were some brightly coloured cereals, a waffle maker, a toaster with bread and bagel options and some fruit which looked as if it had seen better days. Nothing hot was offered. Overall not impressed at all.On the second evening I went to go into our bathroom, but could not open the door, neither could my husband. After several tries it was apparent it was stuck and so I had to phone down to reception to ask if someone could sort it out. After about five minutes a man came up and tried to open the door unsuccessfully. He said he would get some tools and come back. When he returned he had his tools - a long piece of thick wire! He then spent twenty minutes trying to get into the bathroom which he eventually did. From then on we never completely closed the bathroom door as we were concerned it would happen again.We went to bed at around 11:00, but were awoken again at 11:30 by the sound of lots of teens running up and down the corridors, shouting and screaming and banging doors. We thought they would settle down after a few minutes, but at midnight the commotion was horrendous. My husband went out onto the corridor and asked then to quieten down and to respect other guests. He was greeted with abuse and so I phoned down to reception to complain about the noise. After a few minutes we heard a member of staff asking the teens to be quiet and he mentioned there had been several complaints. After he left the noise continued and the room next to ours sounded like it had about 10 people in it. The TV was loud, they were laughing and shouting, doors were banging. It was a nightmare. We eventually dropped off to sleep at around 1am, but were then awoken at 5:30 by the bus outside idling its engines again.That morning we checked out early and was not asked by the staff member if we had had a good stay or not, so I told him that it was the worst hotel stay we had ever had. He asked why and I ran through all the issues and he said that he could give me a piece of paper to give a note to the manager. The paper he gave me was the size of a post it, so I said I would complain in my own way - by telling everyone else not to stay there!Although some of the problems were not directly caused by the hotel, nothing was done to make things better and the general disinterest of the staff over the other problems leads me to advise people never to stay here. There are lots of hotels in the area which I am sure are better, so stay in one of those.
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