Hiking Niagara Glen
Our family loves the Niagara Glen. One reason I personally like this trail so much is because there is a public bathroom in the park at the top. Face it...ladies like bathrooms. I think most of us would rather not squat in the woods.
One kilometer north of the Whirlpool Golf Course on the Niagara Parkway. (This is the same road that runs along the side of the river up to the Falls). Coming from the Falls, it is located approximately 500 meters before the Butterfly Conservatory on the Niagara River side of the road.
There is a metal stairway located in the back of the picnic area that leads down into the river gorge. From here, four kms of trails spread out along the forested river basin. There are scenic lookouts all along the rapids where you can watch jet boats navigating the river. At the south end of the Glen, (if you're looking at the river, that would be to your right), there is a calm, shallow area, which is a great area for a picnic. Keep in mind, however, that even though a metal staircase leads to the bottom, the trails are still rocky, with some steep inclines.
Cost: Parking and park entrance are FREE
Hiking Niagara Gorge
Another great hiking spot is the Niagara Gorge trail. It's a little bit confusing, because all of the hiking along the river goes up and down the Gorge, but this one trail in particular, specifically has it's name. It's quite a short trek, only takes about one hour total. That's including the hike both down and up and some sightseeing in between.
This is straight trail with over 300 stairs. At the bottom, you will find a rocky beach along the whirlpool. People fish here constantly, but there is absolutely no swimming. A great view of the Spanish Aero car can be had from here. (No bathrooms)
Location: Take the Niagara Parkway towards Niagara-on-the-Lake, approximately 500 meters past the floral clock, the Niagara Golf Course is on your left, and a small parking lot is on your right. Park in this parking lot. The trail down to the whirlpool is at the right-hand end of the parking lot as you're looking towards the river. The only marking is a set of wood-reinforced stairs carved into the ground.
Cost: Parking and trail entrance is FREE
Rainbow Bridge Walk
A lot of people don't realize that you can walk across the Rainbow Bridge, but you can. There is a footbridge as well as a roadway. This is probably where you will get the best view of the Falls. There is a small fee per person to get onto the bridge, so it's not exactly free, but the cost is minimal (50 cents per person). Also, there is a plaque midway across the bridge which shows you the division line between Canada and the United States. Kids love it when they can stand in two countries at one time!
If you're not up to hiking, but would love to wander around and view some pretty scenery, the Botanical Gardens and School of Horticulture is definitely worth a visit. The admission is free, although they sometimes charge a small amount for parking. Basically, it's just a huge garden with paved, dividing paths that is maintained by horticulture students. It's a great place for a quiet, leisurely stroll, and it is wheelchair accessible.
Open: Daily dawn to dusk year round
Location: Nine kilometres north of the Falls on the Niagara Parkway
Niagara Parks Greenhouse
The Niagara Parks Greenhouse is a fun place for all ages. There are free-flying tropical birds amongst all the plants. Kids enjoy trying to locate all of the birds that are shown on the poster.
Admission is Free: Located 500 metres south of the Horseshoe Falls
Fallsview Galleria(In Fallsview Casino)
If you're with children, it's unlikely you'll be able to do any gambling. Still, the Fallsview Galleria is a beautiful building that you should check out. There is a huge, very unusual fountain in the main foyer that kids love. The window overlooking the Falls offers probably the best view of the Horseshoe Falls, especially when it's cold out!
Happy Rolph's is a Bird Sanctuary and Municipal Park on the shores of Lake Ontario. It is about a 20 minute drive from Niagara Falls.
It features a petting zoo, playground and picnic areas. Smaller kids really enjoy this park. Best of all...it's FREE. Add this to your list of FREE activities in the Niagara Region! However, keep in mind that it is quite small. It is great for very small kids, but older kids would be through it in a matter of minutes.
Location: 2 Northrup Crescent, St Catharines, ON L2M 7M3
911 Memorial Walkway at Happy Rolph's:
Rudy Behring, a retiree from St. Catharines raised the majority of the funds required to build a memorial walkway in St. Catharines for Canadian victims killed in the World Trade Centre September 11, 2001. He basically went to businesses asking for sponsorship.
The City of St. Catharines donated $7,000 in labour. The end result is a beautiful memorial walkway located within Happy Rolph's Bird Sanctuary along the shores of Lake Ontario. It is wheelchair accessible.
Each victim is represented by a single deciduous tree and a little plaque to tell us about them.
We would have to say that our favourite place to visit in the Niagara Region is at Port Dalhousie, St. Catharines. The beach is spectacular. The park is very pretty, and there is even an antique carousel that you can ride on for just a nickel. This has something to do with it being donated to the park by a man who insisted that the donation would only go through on the condition that the park never raised the cost of the carousel ride. What a cool guy, eh?
Directions to Port Dalhousie:
Take the QEW to St. Catharines. Take Ontario St. North; Left on Lakeport Road to Old Port Dalhousie. Follow signs to Lakeside Park.
Unfortunately, in the past several years, it has become somewhat polluted. However, the Ministry takes daily samples of the Lake to ascertain whether or not it is safe for swimming. Before venturing out to this beach or any other beaches in the area, call this hotline to check the status of the water safety - Beach Hotline at 905-935-2722.
Port Dalhousie is so beautiful that even if the water is not safe for swimming, it is worth visiting. The quaint shops in the area, the interesting lighthouses and the carousel make the drive definitely worthwhile.
The Old Scow
The Old Scow has been marooned in the upper rapids, just above the Falls since 1918. There is a very interesting story about how this scow got there. (A scow is a flat-bottomed boat).
The remnants of this scow are a reminder of a near tragedy and an amazing rescue. The scow was being towed up river by a tug boat, but the tow line broke, and the scow was set adrift. The two men on board were very quick thinking, and they immediately opened the dumping hatches. This saved them from going over the Falls, but it trapped them in the middle of the raging river. They were so close to the brink that if they attempted to get out, they'd be quickly swept away, never to be seen again.
Everyone was perplexed about how to rescue these men from the predicament they were in. After many hours and several unsuccessful attempts of throwing a rope, a firing gun was set up to shoot the rope to the scow. The men were able to tie the rope to the windlass. A breeches buoy (which was a chair-like attachment) was sent along the rope, but unfortunately, it became tangled halfway across! Since the men had already been trapped more than a day, this was an even more desperate situation.
William Hill Sr. (Red), a known daredevil from the area, went out hand over hand along the rope as his body was constantly pulled and tugged by the current of the raging river. However, Red Hill Sr. reached the tangled breech buoy and worked for hours until he was able to untangle it in order to allow the rescue. Now, that's a hero!
It's fun to go and see this old scow, and since it is now rapidly deteriorating, your time to view it may be running out.
It takes very little money to visit the Welland Canal...just your gas money and that's it! The canal is just a few minutes drive away from Niagara Falls. Why not visit it when you're on your Niagara Falls' vacation?
When I first moved to this area and saw one of the ships, from a distance, I thought it was a building. My husband laughed and said, "No, thats a boat." I didn't believe him until I realized it was slowly moving down the canal. I was blown away by the size of this ship. It was longer than two football fields! And since I wasn't expecting to see it, I found the experience overwhelming.
How is it possible to lift these gigantic boats over the Niagara Escarpment? It's done on a daily basis, but how?
Engineers discovered years ago how to make gravity and water do the work.
Your family can spend some of your vacation time in the Niagara Region watching these monstrous ships travel through the locks from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario and vice versa. Believe me, it is very interesting.
For more information please call:
Lock 3 Viewing Complex and Museum: 1-905-688-5601 ext 1999 or Toll Free: 1-800-305-5134.
The Floral Clock is located along the Parkway, and is an excellent place to stop on your way to Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The Clock has a face that is planted with greenery and flowers and is maintained by Niagara Parks. Ontario Hydro keeps the clock working. The flowers are changed twice a year. It's not something that you would spend a long time looking at, but it's a nice little spot to visit. Don't forget to go around the back of the clock, and if the door is open, you can see the inner workings of the Clock. Kids usually find that interesting.
Location: 14004 Niagara Parkway, Queenston, Ontario, Canada, behind the Sir Adam Beck Power Plant and near the Lewiston-Queenston International Bridge.
They Wayside Chapel is located on the Niagara Parkway just a few minutes away from the Butterfly Conservatory. (You will find it along the bike route, or if you're driving the Parkway) This is a miniature chapel that people actually get married in. It's a fun place to drop in. Kids love it, and you will too. Don't forget to sign the guestbook!
Bike and Recreation Trail
The Niagara Recreation trail travels from Niagara-on-the-Lake all the way to Fort Erie. It is an extremely beautiful trail.
HELMETS - In Ontario, it is THE LAW for children under the age of 18 to wear a bicycle helmet , but come on...it's common sense for everyone to wear one. Yeah, it might mess up your hair, but better your hair than your head!
DRUMMOND HILL CEMETERY
Drummond Hill Cemetery is a nationally recognized heritage site. It is most famously known as the battle grounds of the "Battle of Lundy's Lane", as well as the burial site of Laura Secord. If you're a history buff, this is a MUST SEE.