This is a continuation of my “Best of Access Niagara” series. This series looks back on popular posts, highly commented posts, my favourite places, etc.
I have to admit… I’m not much of a thrill seeker. I don’t mind a roller coaster every now and then, but I’m definitely not an adrenaline junkie. That’s why prior to my visit to Niagara Helicopters in the Fall of 2012, I was kind of afraid to go up. I wasn’t really worried about safety, but it was still kind of unnerving. My wife was even more afraid than I was, as she is afraid of heights.
Anyway, the 5 of us arranged to go up, and it was an amazing experience. My wife was still uncomfortable, and squeezed my thigh pretty tight as we were flying, but the rest of us loved it. It was a beautiful clear day, and so the view was tremendous. It seemed obvious to me at that point why people would spend the money on such a trip. It really was a memory that has stuck with me.
I won’t get into all of the details again, but you can read about our visit in the post I put up about our trip. It includes pictures as well as a video.
Anna Pierce began her career with Niagara Helicopters at its inception in 1985 as a ticket sales associate. In 1987 she graduated with Distinction from Brock University with a BA in Business Psychology. She immediately accepted a full time position with Niagara Helicopters as Marketing and Operations Assistant. In 1997, Ms Pierce was promoted to the position of Marketing Director. She joined the Board of Directors for Niagara Falls Tourism in 2002. After serving as Chair of the organization in 2005, she accepted the position of Executive Director in 2006.Under her leadership the organization rallied from an extensive debt to a significant surplus in two short years. Having accomplished what she set out to do for the organization, Ms. Pierce returned to her roots at Niagara Helicopters in 2009 accepting a position as Vice President.
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.