On Saturday my family went down to Queen Victoria Park for the opening ceremony of the CAA Winter Festival of Lights. The kids were excited to see Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and I was looking forward to seeing Greg Frewin. Well, it turns out that Greg Frewin wasn’t scheduled to be there, so that was a little disappointing, but it was still good.
Once you got past all of the speeches from the politicians and other dignitaries, the show had several performances. There was a local dance group, singers from Oh Canada Eh?, and more. The highlight of the night for the kids was seeing Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse as they came out to help turn on the lights. The highlight for me was the fireworks. They were great!
I took a few pictures and videos during the ceremony. As always, you can see some of the thumbnails below, or you can click through to the CAA Winter Festival of Lights 2012/2013 Opening Ceremony gallery to see all of the thumbnails and full-size images. Please note that the pictures of the fireworks were screen captures from the video, so they aren’t the greatest.
There are now 3,611 images in 273 categories in the Niagara Falls Image Gallery.
One little side note about the fireworks video… when the video was finished uploading, there was an error. Apparently the music playing during the fireworks set off an alarm about a copyright violation. I’ve faced this before and it’s always been wrong, but I thought, “Here we go again!” Anyway, there was a brief form to fill out to dispute the copyright claim, and within a very short period of time I received an email saying the dispute had been released (ended). Quick and easy.
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.
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.
Apparently there are a couple of great ways to see the walk. The first is to be there in person. You can pay for your regular admission up the Skylon Tower and you will see him walk. There are signs around the property indicating this, as well as the fact that you can see him in person just before the walk.
FirstPost.com is a web site based in India. It seems to be primarily a news site, but it also has information on places and things of interest to their readers. Niagara Falls is one of those things.
They recently posted a video called the QHR Report. It is a 9-minute video of a couple of teenagers walking around Clifton Hill. They talk to people and go into various attractions. I have no idea what the QHR Report really is, but I figured some of you might want to see the video.
I mentioned in my posting that there were lots of people with cameras. John Law, the write for the Niagara Falls review, was right in front of me. You can read his article on the Niagara Falls Review site:
Steve Santini realizes he only has to be wrong once, and it’s game over.
Life over, more likely. That’s the deal when your business card reads ‘Escape Artist.’
At 13 he escaped from a pair of handcuffs while being held at a police station. The next year he didn’t need bail to get out of a jail cell. For the next 25 years, escaping things became his day job – torture racks, vaults, dungeons, even a coffin 30 feet underwater.
The Toronto-born Santini has been a fixture on college and university campuses, and now has his own show on the Outdoor Life Network, Deals from the Dark Side. It follows Santini as he indulges in his favourite pastime – buying and authenticating dark and creepy relics.
But he was up to his old tricks in Niagara Falls Tuesday.
Niagara Falls Review reporter Tony Ricciuto was taken for a ride in a 500 HP Dodge Charger on Saturday in the upper parking lot of the Skylon Tower. The car was in town for an exhibition to mark the one year anniversary of Carey Hart opening a tattoo shop in Niagara Falls. Spectators were taken for a ride for free.
While on Clifton Hill today, the volcano at Dinosaur Adventure Golf was erupting. There isn’t any lava or anything, but there is a big fireball that comes out of the volcano. It certainly gets your attention!
Do you know who Spandy Andy is? I didn’t until a few days ago. he is a guy who wears a full body bright spandex suit and dances. He performs on the street, tried out for So You Think You Can Dance Canada, and apparently even has a gig at Marineland. I’m not really a fan of his, but I can certainly appreciate the fact he can dance, and he always seems to have a crowd around him.
When he’s dancing, he usually has someone with him filming, and he also has a camera built-in to his stereo. He then edits the videos and puts them online. To check him out, a good video to get a sense of who he is and what he does is one where he was dancing on Clifton Hill in front of the Niagara SkyWheel at night. You can view it on YouTube or below:
Note: I was going through some of my draft posts, and found that I had this post essentially all done, but never did post it. It is from some of the trips we took last year to Safari Niagara. I still wanted to post it as there are some nice pictures and a good HD video of the giraffes and hippos.
Prior to 2010, I had only been to Safari Niagara (formerly Zooz) twice. We had gone in the Summer of 2002. I didn’t realize it until now, but it had just opened in May of that year. We also went in December of 2004. The zoo itself wasn’t open, but they had a special Christmas hay ride where they had the Heat Miser, the Snow Miser, and Santa around the zoo.
Boy, how things have changed in the intervening six years. All I remember from that first trip was the bird area and how they had lots of space. This year, they still have lots of space, but it actually has a lot of animals now. There are birds, flamingos, deer, moose, tigers, lions, giraffe, hippopotamus, monkeys, and more. Other than the animals, there are lots of other things to do as well. There is a huge playground, a large splash pad, a “lake” to fish in, an area to play volleyball or badminton, giant chess and checkers, as well as paddle boats.