Month: October 2012

Record On The Road: Canada

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From NorthJersery.com:

Our trip started with sightseeing on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, then we toured Toronto, had family fun-time on Horseshoe Lake in Minden and shopped in Kingston.

(I know this isn’t much of an article, but it’s always good to see Niagara Falls mentioned. It means some people came and they are telling others, so they might come too)

Enchanted Rainforest exhibit coming to the Butterfly Conservatory

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From the Niagara Parks blog:

Tiny creatures from a magical world have found a safe haven at the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory! The Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) is pleased to announce a new exhibit entitled The Enchanted Rainforest, which will run from November 3 to January 6.

This holiday exhibit is intended to captivate the imagination of everyone who enters, with a message of hope and the joy of giving. Upon entering the conservatory, over 300 butterflies appear to be flying from the main lobby, enticing visitors to explore the Enchanted Rainforest. There they will find a unique society of magical beings with butterfly wings, who now call the conservatory their home.

Travel website recognizes Falls Marriott

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Niagara This Week has another one of these articles about a Travelocity award given to a hotel. However, I don’t see any reference to this award on the Travelocity web site.

Part of a any hotel’s mission is to provide a top-notch experience to guests —their reputation depends on it.

That kind of focus has resulted in the Marriott Fallsview Hotel & Spa being named one of the best hotels in Niagara Falls by a travel website.

Travelocity has recognized the hotel with its Excellence Award, recognizing the outstanding services and performance of the hotel and its staff.

Climbing into the wheelbarrow

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The Citizen in Fayetteville, GA has an article about Felix Baumgartner (the guy who jumped from almost outer space). The beginning of the article is about Blondin (a daredevil tie-in).

In the 1800s, an acrobat named Blondin became famous for walking across Niagara Falls on a tightrope numerous times. One day, a crowd gathered to watch him push a wheelbarrow carrying a sack of cement across the tightrope. With that extra weight, the slightest miscalculation could tip the wheelbarrow and send him plummeting into the falls.

Thousands watched breathlessly as he carefully placed one foot in front of the other and slowly made his way across the rope. When he reached the other side, the crowd broke into cheers.

A reporter approached Blondin to congratulate him, and Blondin asked, “Do you believe I can do anything on a tightrope?”

My trip to Niagara Helicopters in Fall 2012

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I’ve lived in the Niagara Region for most of my life and have worked in Niagara Falls for 12+ years. After all that time, one thing I had never done was take a helicopter ride around Niagara Falls. Last week I had the opportunity to do just that, and it was awesome!

Our trip started on Victoria Avenue right across the street from the Great Wolf Lodge. This is where the “Heli-Hafen Terminal” is that is run by Niagara Helicopters. On the day we were there, helicopters were coming and going every few minutes, so we got a good look at them taking off and landing.

Once you go inside, there is a ticket counter, and then a nice little gift shop. My wife and kids went to the restrooms first, and said they were clean and bright. Once they were back down in the gift shop, we were ready to go.

There is a video playing on a couple of screens as you walk up towards the helicopter, but we weren’t given a chance to watch them. I’m not sure if they were just promotional videos, or if they were for safety. There is also someone there taking some pictures of you that you look at after you land.

The helicopters are Bell 407 models. Apparently they are the quietest model of that size of helicopter, but they were still pretty loud. It didn’t hurt at all, but they were just loud. Two of my children covered their ears. Once you get loaded into the helicopter, the attendants give you some headphones to put on. They do a great job in cutting down on the noise, and also play an audio tour as you fly.

The ride is open to people of all ages and each helicopter can seat up to six people. There are five seats in the back, and there is a seat next to the pilot. My wife and three children accompanied me. Four of us sat in the back and my middle child sat in the front with the pilot.

Taking off was significantly different than in a plane. There seems to be all sorts of preparation that happens in a plane. You are then going down the runway and finally take off. In the helicopter, one second you are on the ground, and the next second you are up in the air. It was quite quick!

The tour lasts about 15 minutes and takes you up the Niagara River and flies you over the Horseshoe Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and the American Falls. You also get a good look at the various tourist districts (including Clifton Hill), as well as the hydro generating facilities on both sides of the border.

The view is spectacular! We were lucky enough to go on a bright, clear day and you could see a long way off in the distance. The Falls looked great. There are other ways to see the Falls (Skylon Tower, Niagara SkyWheel, etc), but there is no better way to see the whole river like that. The Autumn/Fall colours were on full display in the gorge and they looked beautiful. My kids were a little disappointed that the helicopter didn’t fly lower into the gorge, but it is obvious that they don’t do that sort of stuff for safety reasons.

The ride itself is remarkably smooth, especially as you are moving. As the helicopter hovers in a spot so you can get a nice view, you can feel the helicopter vibrating/shaking a lot more. My wife was not keen on going up in the helicopter as she is kind of afraid of heights, but she enjoyed the ride and only grabbed my leg a couple of times.  The kids weren’t bothered by it at all.

After landing, you are directed into a small room where they show you the pictures they took of you. The pictures are $25 each and are cheaper if you buy a few pictures together.

If you watch the video that I’ve put together below, my 5-year-old daughter says it all. The last second of the video is us landing, and my daughter enthusiastically says, “That was fun!” My sons said the same thing. My 8-year-old son said, “It was wicked! I want to do that every day for the rest of my life!” That son sat in the front and thought he was a “mini co-pilot”.

The ride truly is a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip. It is definitely not cheap (the tickets are $82-$132), but there are always deals around. I’ve seen Groupon-type deals, deals with hotels, and more, so be sure to ask around before paying full price. Even then, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed with the experience.

You can read more about Niagara Helicopters on their website. They have pricing information, along with information about their history, their helicopters, and more.

I took lots of pictures. As always, you can see some of the thumbnails below. You can see all of the thumbnails and all of the larger size images in the Niagara Helicopters in Fall 2012 gallery.

Note: The Niagara Falls Image Gallery now has 3,590 images in 272 categories.

I also recorded some video clips and I’ve put them together into a 2 minute HD video. You can view it below or directly on YouTube. As I noted on the video description, I apologize for some of the unsteady camera work. There were some parts of the ride that were shakier than others, and the more zoomed in I was with the camera, the more noticeable the shaking was.

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