A smartphone app called “The Official Niagara Falls State Park Tour” is now available, according to Delaware North, which operates concessions in the park.
The app, available in the Apple App and Google Play stores, can be used as a tour guide while walking in the park, or a way to check out the attractions anywhere. It includes photos and stories about 17 sites in the state park, as well as an interactive map, videos and links to the gift shop.
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.
Have you ever seen those little attractions, usually as part of another attraction where kids can “pan” for gold, gems, whatever? My kids did one of those at the T-Rex Cafe at Downtown Disney in Orlando a couple of years ago. Well, one of those same sorts of attractions has come to Clifton Hill, courtesy of Niagara Clifton Group. They have a gift shop called Blue Moose Trading Company. Earlier this spring they built the Blue Moose Mining Company.
You can choose to pan for a variety of things including gems and fossils. You pick out what appears to be a bag of dirt, but that has some things hidden in it. You empty the dirt into a panning tray and then you gently shake it/rinse it in the water. As the dirt washes away, you are left with whatever it is you are panning for.
I don’t know how business is going for them, but it seems like a good quality attraction for the kids. As I said, they did something just like this in Orlando, and they kids loved it (they still have their gems 2 years later).
I first saw Niagara Falls when I was 16 years old, as part of a wonderful cross-country trip I took with my family. Six weeks in a car, driving across the country, without portable DVD players, iPods, cell phones, or even walkmans! We had books, and our family of five camped in three pup tents. The entire trip, we stayed with friends and family or camped. I think we stayed in a motel 2 nights because of severe weather (although we also camped in severe weather, including record 1-1/2-inch rainfall in New York in July!). At any rate, we camped in Ontario to view Niagara Falls. All I remember is seeing the Canadian falls (but how could we not have seen the American falls??). I don’t remember anything touristy about them at all. When I’ve asked my mom what she can remember, she recalls seeing a very touristy gift shop. I laughed at that and said “you have no idea.”