Lonely Planet Named Canada the Best Travel Destination for 2017
Lonely Planet named Canada the Best Travel Destination in the World for 2017
Niagara Falls is one of the top tourist destinations in the WORLD!!!
It is less than a two hour drive from Toronto to Niagara Falls, one of the top tourist destinations in the world.
30 million people visit Niagara Falls every year
Sometimes I need a reminder that one of the top tourist destinations is almost in my back yard.
Last week, we had one of those glorious autumn days when the air is warm, the sun is mellow and the leaves are perfect. It was time to remind myself that Canada and Niagara Falls deserve top billing as best tourist destinations.
I planned a full day of activities from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Niagara Falls along the Niagara Parkway, one of the prettiest drives in the world. I am so excited to share my trip with you. I chased butterflies, sampled Niagara wines, hiked right beside Class 6 rapids and enjoyed sweeping vistas of the 8th Wonder of the World: Niagara Falls.
Winston Churchill described the drive along the Niagara Parkway from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Niagara Falls as the prettiest in the world. I AGREE!
At the end of my excursion to Niagara Falls, here is my conclusion:
Canada has 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Niagara Falls is NOT one of them. IT SHOULD BE!
Niagara-on-the-Lake was almost a UNESCO World Heritage Site
It took me less than two hours to drive from Toronto to Niagara-on-the-Lake. It is a beautiful town situated where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario.
A few years ago (well, more than a few years ago), we did a 2-day bike tour with friends all along the Niagara Parkway that runs from Niagara-on-the-lake to Niagara Falls. This is a 53-km bike path that runs parallel to the Niagara Parkway, one of the most scenic drives in Canada.
Today, I was doing the trip in the car.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is a National Historic Site in Canada. It was nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site but did not make the cut.
Take a trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake and decide for yourself if it should have made the list.
In the summer, it is crawling with visitors. Mid week in October is a more relaxed time to visit. The flowers are still in bloom and there are tables in the restaurants.
Should Niagara-on-the-Lake be a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
There are 27 wineries in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region, nestled along the Niagara River Parkway
I would have loved to have visited all the wineries, but sadly, I was driving and had to wait until I parked the car to sample some of the region’s finest.
I popped into the Wayne Gretzky wine store on the main street in Niagara-on-the-Lake. For those non-Canadian, non-hockey fans, Wayne Gretzky is one of the best hockey players of all time. His number was 99. All his wines are number 99 vintage.
Score with #99 wines
This display explains the process for making ice wine, a Canadian specialty
Frozen Vines (and Fingers) Yield a Sweet Reward
IT is 14 degrees above zero as a group of wine lovers converges in a vineyard on the Niagara Peninsula.
Frosty bundles of Riesling grapes hang on rows of vines in the pale, gathering daylight. A storm the night before has left behind six inches of fresh snow.
Perfect conditions for picking the frozen grapes that will soon be transformed into Canada’s specialty, ice wine.
By law, Canadian ice-wine makers cannot call their product by that name unless it is made from grapes picked off the vine at or below -8 Celsius (17.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
It’s expensive to make: a ton of grapes yields only one-sixth the amount of ice wine as table wine — hence its nickname, liquid gold — and its prices start at $50 for a half-bottle.
Ice-wine makers here like to leave the grapes on the vine through a series of mild freezes and thaws instead of picking at the first opportunity. That process produces the right balance of sweetness, acidity and the nuanced flavors that separate great ice wine from something that is cloyingly sweet.
The ice-wine harvest usually doesn’t occur until well into December, and in some years it has stretched into February.
Every January, as part of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s ice-wine festival, Inniskillin, Canada’s largest maker of ice wines, puts up a giant tent and offers an ice-wine tasting at a bar created from — what else? — ice.
The New York Times (There are lots of great pictures of harvesting the grapes in this article)
The Shaw Festival started with a passion for George Bernard Shaw
The Shaw Festival is the second largest repertory theatre company in North American. It was started in Niagara-on-the-Lake to stimulate interest in the Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw. The mandate of the Festival has been widened to include contemporary plays that are set within Shaw’s lifetime, 1856 to 1950.
In 1962, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, lawyer and playwright Brian Doherty parlayed his love for the work of Irish playwright Bernard Shaw into a summer theatre festival.
In this singular act of passion for theatre and culture, the Shaw Festival was born. The Shaw Festival has grown to become a major Canadian cultural icon, a gem in this country’s rich cultural heritage.
The Shaw season runs from early April to late October.
The Law Society of Upper Canada was founded in Niagara-on-the-Lake
The self-governing body that regulates the legal profession in Ontario started in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Good reason for a field trip!
The Prince of Wales Hotel is a landmark hotel in the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake
I planned my excursion to start at Niagara-on-the-Lake and end at Niagara Falls because I wanted to see the Falls at night when they are illuminated.
Many plan the trip in reverse, terminating at Niagara-on-the-Lake because it is such a beautiful place to stay.
The Prince of Wales Hotel is an up-scale Victorian style hotel right in the centre of town. The rates are reasonable this time of year, but might blow the budget in high season.
This house could be yours for $2.995 Million
If you fall in love with Niagara-on-the-lake, there are some beautiful places for you to buy.
I noticed this house because it is on the main street. I parked in front of it. It has a Toronto price tag on it, just shy of $3 million.
Since I was not buying or staying in Niagara-on-the-Lake, it was time to get back in my car and head to the outskirts of town to see Fort George.
Tell Trump that The Wall idea is not new
Fort George was built in 1796 to keep the Americans out!
Fort George is a National Historic Site. It saw lots of action in the War of 1812.
Step straight from the genteel Victorian town of Niagara-on-the-Lake into the War of 1812 at Fort George, a military post that defended Upper Canada against American attacks. Experience that era by tasting food cooked 19th century-style over an open flame, then fire a musket yourself!
If you like fifing and drumming, plan on a visit. I stopped for a quick photo. Then I was back in the car, driving past many tempting wineries along the Niagara Parkway, on my way to the Butterfly Conservatory.
If you like butterflies, you will love the Butterfly Conservatory
The Butterfly Conservatory is home to over 2,000 tropical butterflies. I think I took a picture of every one. I liked this butterfly because he is camouflaged on the flower.
Float like a Butterfly
Some butterflies will float away if you get too close. Others are happy to come and visit.
I snapped this photo of a butterfly on another visitor’s hand.
This is a monarch butterfly on a milkweed plant
This is a picture of a monarch butterfly that I took at our cottage. I used to see lots of monarchs in the summer. Now they are rare.
There has been a 10-fold drop in their population over the past decade. It is listed as a Species of Special Concern in Ontario.
This monarch is feasting on a milkweed plant. This is a vigorous weed in my garden but I don’t remove them. Monarchs depend on milkweed for their survival. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed. Caterpillars will only eat milkweed.
Here is a heart-warming story about milkweed and entrepreneurs:
How a Quebec company used a weed to create a one-of-a-kind winter coat
Entrepreneurs transform milkweed into insulation to keep Canadians warm, help monarch butterflies
“Milkweed was considered to be a bad weed for a long time. We knew it had thermal benefits, but it was impossible to transform it for industrial use,” said Nathalie Morier, the general director of Fibres Monark. “We worked hard. It took a few years of research and development in order to be able to extract the fibre and the seed to transform it into insulation.” CBC News
Monarchs migrate to Mexico for the winter. Think I will join them if we have another winter like the last couple in Ontario.
However, it is not winter yet and I had much more to see along the Niagara Parkway on the drive to Niagara Falls.
Would you take a Jet Boat tour to stare into the eye of the Niagara whirlpool?
I was happy to take a picture of thrill seekers who wanted an up-close view of the whirlpool.
After I took this picture, the boat sped away. I think everyone got wet, wet, wet!
Take a ride over the Niagara River in an Aero Car
We took the Aero Car ride many years ago. Today, I was happy to enjoy the view and take the picture and skip the ride.
The Aero Car was designed by a Spanish engineer, Leonardo Torres Quevedo and has been in operation since 1916. The cable car is suspended from six sturdy cables and offers a wonderful view of the Niagara Whirlpool which is formed at the end of the rapids where the gorge turns abruptly counterclockwise, and the river escapes through the narrowest channel in the gorge.
You can take a leisurely stroll through groomed trails
I stopped at one of the many vista points on the Niagara Parkway. This one had a walking trail. It was empty but for this couple. I snapped a few pictures as they walked ahead.
A walk in the woods on an autumn day is something to savour in the winter
This image reminds me of an old Tom Jones classic:
Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh so mellow
The White Water Walk in Niagara Glen was breathtaking
The White Water Walk was spectacular. I am always trying to get a bit closer to get a picture. NOT ON THIS WALK!. The boardwalk ran along the rapids, with steps right to water’s edge. My shoes got wet. The Whirlpool Rapids Bridge in the background is the oldest bridge over the Niagara River.
The Niagara River is more effective than Trumps’s wall to control the borders
These are Class 6 rapids, the wildest in the world
Would you run these rapids? They are too dangerous and unrunnable. Some have done it anyway.
An information sign described the rapids:
The Whirlpool rapids consist of four kilometres of three to five metre standing waves, making this stretch of whitewater the largest and finest series of standing waves in North America
There are YouTube videos of some who have run the rapids. I couldn’t believe that I was close enough to almost touch the water. The green colour of the water is one of my favourite colours. The vibrant green comes from dissolved minerals.
The water is a vibrant green from the 60 tons of dissolved minerals that are swept over Niagara Falls every minute
This is the boardwalk along the Class 6 rapids
Only 25% of the water in the Niagara River flows over the Falls.
The rest is diverted for power
This photo shows the hydroelectric power dam in New York State
A treaty between the US and Canada in 1950 placed limits on how much water can be diverted from the Falls. Under these restrictions, 75% of the flow is diverted into huge tunnels far upstream from the Falls. The water rejoins the Niagara River downstream from the Falls.
During daylight hours in the tourist season, the amount of water that can be diverted is reduced to ensure an “unbroken curtain of water” flowing over the falls.
Niagara Falls are lit up at night
I finally arrived in Niagara Falls ….. it was nighttime! The days are short in October.
I had spent a full day just on my approach to Niagara Falls. As the sun started to set, my gas light came on. I always panic when I see that light, even though I objectively know that the tank has more than fumes in it. I needed to find a gas station!
The beautiful Niagara Parkway is not marred by gas stations. Time to head into Niagara Falls.
By the time I got a bit lost trying to find a gas station, it was dark. Now I needed to book a hotel. My day-trip had morphed into an overnight excursion. I got a walk-in special rate of $125 at the Embassy Suites, better than their book-ahead rate of $175. The price included a welcome drink (which I needed after my nearly empty gas tank incident), a $30 coupon to the Keg and breakfast.
I picked the Embassy Suites because it is situated right up the cliff from the Falls. There is funicular out the back door of the hotel that leads directly to the Falls. Otherwise, it is a long walk down the hill to the Falls.
I was thrilled to see the lights on Niagara Falls. It made the Falls look like giant vats of cotton candy. I took lots of photos. The shutter on my poor little camera had to stay open for 6 seconds to catch the light so most of the photos are too grainy. I like the satin look in this image.
The American Falls were lit in red, white and blue.
Niagara Falls forms the border between Canada and the United States. There are actually three separate waterfalls at Niagara Falls.
Horseshoe Falls, the largest and most spectacular, are Canadian.
The international border between Canada and the US is at the end of Horseshoe Falls. Because of erosion, the end point for the Horseshoe Falls shifts over time. This has created a a long-running dispute on the exact spot that forms the border between the countries. If Trump is elected and wants to build his wall, can you imagine the border disputes we would have?
A waterfall is better than a wall between Canada and the United States
Morning over Niagara Falls
It was a glorious morning to see the Falls. This lawn looks like a lovely spot for a picnic. It would have been easy to hop the fence. There are lots of signs warning of the dangers of hopping the fence. Seeing the abyss was enough warning for me. However, I saw lots of people sitting on the stone pillars that form the fence. They were posing for selfies.
Niagara Falls is not Disneyland. It is real. It is powerful. It is dangerous. No selfies for me!
Horseshoe Falls is the most powerful waterfall in North America
Lake Erie drains into Lake Ontario through Niagara Falls.
If you ever play Trivial Pursuit and need to recall the names of the five Great Lakes, just remember the acronym HOMES: Huron; Ontario; Michigan; Erie; and Superior. Together, this chain of naturally interconnected lakes forms the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth and contain 21% of the world’s surface fresh water.
Global Warming has not reached Canada in the winter
How cold was it a couple of winters ago? It was so cold that the American Falls froze! I really wanted to see this phenomenon so we planned a stop on our way back from a cross border shopping extravaganza. This was a supreme sacrifice to make because it meant that we had to cut our shopping time short. However, we were rewarded with a rainbow.
Now you can see why these falls are called the Rainbow Falls
The Rainbow Bridge straddles the Niagara River. This is one of our favourite crossing points into the US when we go on our shopping expeditions. If the lineup at the US border is long, traffic comes to a standstill on the bridge. You get a great view of the Falls from an idling car.