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July 14, 2016 / Jim Fenton

Great Lakes Day 5: Niagara Falls

June 23, 2016

Hornblower tour boat approaching Falls

Hornblower tour boat approaching Falls

With a more modest, carless day planned, we slept in a bit this morning. Rather than the hotel breakfast buffet, we opted for a sugar-laden pastry breakfast at the Tim Hortons, a Canadian icon.

We looked at some of the attraction admission packages, but decided to go a la carte this time. We walked to the Canadian (Horseshoe) falls and purchased tickets to the tunnels behind the falls, but the tickets were for about an hour and a half later, at 12:40 pm. So we walked downstream to the Hornblower tour boats (the ones that go close to the falls from below), expecting a similar situation. We asked for tickets for around 6 pm, but found that they were good anytime.

While in that vicinity, we explored the gardens. Niagara Falls, Ontario has an extensive array of immaculately tended gardens, and they were worth a visit in their own right. We were actually looking for the well-known floral clock, only to find that it was quite some distance further downstream. We will perhaps visit there with the car tomorrow.


The Falls close up

Walking back to our appointment at Journey Behind the Falls, we stopped for hot dogs to avoid the expected sugar crash from breakfast. For the Journey itself, we were issued rain ponchos to wear and took an elevator down. We visited two galleries behind the falls, from which we could look out and see…mostly the spray of the falls. There was also a terrace out to the side that got us very close. But nevertheless the prevailing winds kept us quite dry; the ponchos were largely superfluous. We got wetter from the spray just walking down the sidewalk than we did behind the Falls.

After the Journey, we stopped for a “real” lunch and did a little shopping. Unfortunately many of the stores seem to have about the same souvenirs. We did find a toy store in the Fallsview Resort, which was fun to browse in. We then walked a different route in the general direction of the Hornblower dock.

Arriving at the Hornblower boat, there wasn’t much of a wait. We managed to get a place right at the bow of the boat, and got a great view of, initially, the American Falls. It’s really striking to see it so close up, even though I have seen it from a distance many times. As we approached the Horseshoe (Canadian) Falls, the wind and spray picked up considerably. The water around us was churning wildly, but the boat was very stable. We got quite close, although it’s hard to estimate how close because there isn’t much to get a size reference from. We stayed close to the Falls for several minutes before turning back. We agreed that this was the highlight of the day.

We walked up through more gardens to the Crowne Plaza hotel, which is an extensively renovated hotel from the early-mid 20th century (formerly the General Brock Hotel) where my family and I had stayed when I was 10 years old. They have added a water park to the back of the hotel, which would have been fun to try if it hadn’t been such a long walk back and forth to our hotel to get our swimsuits.

Dinner was at the Hard Rock Cafe, no doubt influenced by our recent visit to Cleveland. We enjoyed many of the music videos before walking back to our hotel through yet more attractive parks and gardens.

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in the Great Lakes area. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

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