Along the Niagara Parkway
The Niagara Parkway, on the Canadian side of the falls, is a lovely, scenic drive. Unlike the American side, there is plenty of natural beauty, including vast tracks of parkland. You can drive along the 56km (35-mile) parkway all the way from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Niagara Falls, taking in attractions en route. Here are the major ones, listed in the order in which you'll encounter them:
- The White Water Walk (4330 River Rd.; tel. 905/374-1221): The boardwalk runs beside the raging white waters of the Great Gorge Rapids. Stroll along and wonder at your leisure how it must feel to challenge this mighty torrent, where the river rushes through the narrow channel at an average speed of 35kmph (22 mph). Admission is C$8.75 adults, C$5.15 children 6 to 12, free for children 5 and under. Open daily from 9am to 5pm (closes at 7 or 8pm from mid-May till Labour Day).
- The Whirlpool Aero Car (tel. 905/354-5711): This red-and-yellow cable-car contraption whisks you on a 1,097m (3,599-ft.) jaunt between two points on the Canadian side of the falls. High above the Niagara Whirlpool, you'll enjoy excellent views of the surrounding landscape. Admission is C$12 adults, C$6.80 children 6 to 12, free for kids 5 and under. Open daily May to the third Sunday in October. Hours are from 10am to 5pm (closes at 7 or 8pm from mid-May till Labour Day).
- The Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens and School of Horticulture (tel. 905/356-8119): Stop here for a free view of the vast gardens and a look at the 12m-diameter (39-ft.) Floral Clock, made up of 25,000 plants. The gorgeous Butterfly Conservatory is also in the gardens. In this lush tropical setting, more than 2,000 butterflies (50 international species) float and flutter among such nectar-producing flowers as lantanas and pentas. The large, bright-blue, luminescent Morpho butterflies from Central and South America are particularly gorgeous. Interpretive programs and other presentations take place in the auditorium and two smaller theaters. The native butterfly garden outside attracts the more common swallowtails, fritillaries, and painted ladies. Visitors are encouraged to wear brightly colored clothing to attract the butterflies. Admission is C$12 adults, C$6.80 children 6 to 12, free for children 5 and under. Open daily September to June 9am to 5pm, July and August 9am to 7pm.
- Queenston Heights Park: This is the site of a famous War of 1812 battle, and you can take a walking tour of the battlefield. Picnic or play tennis in the shaded arbor before moving to the Laura Secord Homestead (Partition St., Queenston; tel. 905/262-4851). This heroic woman threaded enemy lines to alert British authorities to a surprise attack by American soldiers during the War of 1812. Her home contains a fine collection of Upper Canada furniture from the period, plus artifacts recovered from an archaeological dig. Stop at the candy shop and ice-cream parlor. Tours run every half-hour. Admission is C$4.75 adults, C$3.65 children 6 to 12, free for children age 5 and under. It's open summer daily 11am to 5pm, fall to spring Wednesday to Sunday 11am to 5pm.
- Fruit Farms and Wineries: This is home to some of Canada's best stone fruit and other orchards, so you'll find peaches, apples, pears, nectarines, cherries, plums, and strawberries at Kurtz Orchards (tel. 905/468-2937) and elsewhere; you can tour the 32 hectares (79 acres) at Kurtz on a tractor-pulled tram. Inniskillin Winery (Line 3, Service Rd. 66; tel. 905/468-3554 or 905/468-2187), the pioneering winery behind Canada's famous ice wine, is open June to October daily from 10am to 6pm, November through May Monday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm. The self-guided free tour has 20 stops that explain the winemaking process. A free guided tour, offered daily in summer and Saturdays only in winter, begins at 2:30pm.
- Old Fort Erie (350 Lakeshore Rd., Fort Erie; tel. 905/871-0540): It's a reconstruction of the fort that was seized by the Americans in July 1814, besieged later by the British, and finally blown up as the Americans retreated across the river to Buffalo. Guards in period costume stand sentry duty, fire the cannons, and demonstrate drill and musket practice. Open from the first Saturday in May to mid-September daily from 10am to 5pm, and weekends only mid-September to Canadian Thanksgiving (U.S. Columbus Day). Admission is C$9.25 adults, C$5.15 children 6 to 12, free for children 5 and under.
A Family Adventure
Niagara Falls has plenty of family attractions. A popular choice is Marineland (7657 Portage Rd.; tel. 905/356-9565; www.marinelandcanada.com). Its multiple aquariums have a walrus mascot, dolphins, sea lions, and freshwater fish. Friendship Cove, a 17-million-L (4.5-million-gal.) breeding and observation tank, lets the little ones see killer whales up close.
Marineland also has rides, including a Tivoli wheel (a fancy Ferris wheel), Dragon Boat rides, and Dragon Mountain, a roller coaster that loops, double-loops, and spirals through 305m (1,001 ft.) of tunnels. Admission is C$40 adults and children 10 and over, C$33 children 5 to 9, free for children 4 and under. It's open daily mid-May to June and September to mid-October 10am to 5pm, July and August 9am to 6pm; it's closed mid-October through mid-May.
Another popular family attraction at the falls is Canada's first Great Wolf Lodge (3950 Victoria Ave.; tel. 905/354-4888 or 800/605-9653). Part of an American chain of family resorts known for the quality of services, rooms, and activities, Great Wolf is probably best known for its massive indoor water park. But wait, there's more, including a four-story interactive tree-house water fort.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.