The Niagara Falls is a huge expanse of water which cascades in several waterfalls on the border between Canada and the United States. The Niagara Falls includes the American Falls (from Prospect Point to Luna Island) on the far left; Bridal Veil Falls (from Luna Island to Goat Island) mid-left and the Canadian Falls (from Goat Island to Table Rock) on the right.
During the Ice Age 18,000 years ago the area was covered in sheets of ice about 2-3 kilometers thick, as the ice melted incredible amounts of water poured down into the gouged out basins of the Great Lakes and the Falls were formed. The Niagara River is what is left of several spillways between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The ice continued to melt and the bedrock was worn down.
12,000 years ago the first humans, the Clovis People, lived on the shores of the Falls during the Palaeo-Indian Period. Evidence of their society has been found in arrowheads. Then in the Archaic period (about 9, 5000 ago) the hunter-gatherers made the Falls their home.
3,000 to 300 years ago the Woodland Period the Iroquois People establish small villages here, ceramics and other remains have been uncovered in the area. It was these people that the Europeans met when they first arrived in the 17th century. A conflict between the Five Nations of Iroquois together with the intrusion of the Europeans saw the demise of this indigenous society in the area.
It was in 1615 that Erie Huron and Superior became the first Europeans to see the Falls and later missionaries and Jesuits joined the pioneers but apart from the odd explorer, the indigenous people managed to keep European settlers away from the Falls until the American Revolution.
In 1812 when war broke out between Canada and the US the region was involved in the conflict and artifacts have been found from that war along the water's edge. There are also several monuments long the riverside commemorating the battles. Communities like Queenston and Chippawa grew and developed after the war and in the 1820's a staircase was installed descending the bank at Table Rock. The first ferry service also began operating at this time and a road was paved on the Canadian side from the ferry landing. This became the first of the hotel areas along the riverside when the Clifton (Clifton Hill) was erected.
With the thriving transportation industry across the Niagara River thirteen bridges were built over the course of the 19th and 20th century but only four of them remain. Other forms of transport here included the road between Niagara-on-the-Lake and Chippawa, a stage coach route and a horse drawn railroad (1841) between Chippawa and Queenston which converted to steam power in 1854. Three boats also made the journey from Toronto to Queenston regularly. The electric street cars began running and by 1902 travelers could cross the river by rail on the Queenston Suspension Bridge. This route expanded and became the Great Gorge Route which ran until the Great Depression. In the second half of the 20th century boats were no longer the most popular way of visiting the river and cars, buses and trains brought travelers who wanted to see the incredible sight of Niagara Falls. By the 1870's tourism was the predominant industry in the area and following World War I there was no going back the Falls had become a major travel destination.
Since becoming an iconic destination and natural wonder the Falls have drawn dare devils that come to challenge the force of the Falls and gain their 15 minutes of fame. The oldest tourist attraction is the Maid of the Mist boat which ferries tourists below the Falls.
Attractions, hotels and tourist services sprang up along the waterfront on both the United States and Canadian side. For many years attempts have been made to harness the power of the falls and hydroelectric stations along the Niagara River can now supply 4.4 gigawatts of power. Preservation of the natural beauty of the Falls and the surrounding area is also ongoing.
United States Niagara Falls Golf
On the United States side of the Falls you can find the Hyde Park Golf Course which charges $18USD has a 36 hole course, a 18 hole course, two 9 hole courses and a driving range. Seneca Hickory Stick is the newest addition to the Niagara golfing world. Rates range from $36USD to $69 depending on the day and time and the price includes a golf cart. Newfane Pro-Am Par 3 course is in the Lake region and in the canal region you can find the Deerwood Golf Course with a 27 hole course. Niagara County Golf Course has an 18 hole course, par 72 and driving range. Niagara Orleans Golf Club has a 18 hole course, par 71 and the charming club house dates back to 1821 when the course was part of a fruit farm. The Orleans has a special Fall deal of 18 holes and a cart for $20USD on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Oak Run Golf Club with a 18 hole course also has a special, they offer 18 holes and a cart for $26 during the summer months. It is located in Lockport not far from the Falls. Shawnee Country Club has a 9 hole course, 3280 yards and is par 36. The Willowbrook Golf Course and Restaurant has 27 hole course, a driving range and this one is semi-private. Rates range from $7USD to $$33 depending on the course and season.
Canadian Niagara Falls Golf
On the Canadian side of the Falls you have three major courses: Legends on the Niagara on 1,000 acres of natural landscape, it has two 18 hole courses, a 9 hole course and a 45 acre, 360 ̊ driving range. The green fee ranges from $16-$85 depending on the season and course. Many major tournaments are held on this expansive and beautiful course. Whirlpool Golf Course is run by the Parks Commission and has been open since 1951. Green fees here are between $25-$50 Canadian. The Niagara Parks Golf: Oak Hall Par 3 course on the grounds of the Oak House Estate is a good beginner's course with few obstacles and affordable fees.
Stay and Play
Some of the golf courses offer a Stay and Play deal for example stay two nights at the Cairn Croft Hotel and play a free round at the Legends on the Niagara course and Whirlpool course (starting at $220 Canadian). These deals are worth the money as they usually included extras like a golf cart or breakfast at the course. Stay and Play packages are also available on the New York side at Seneca Hickory Stick Golf Club where you can stay at the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel.
All of the Niagara golf courses are professionally run and provide not only the courses themselves but also pro-stores and restaurants. Many of the restaurants have a reputation of their own for excellent cuisine.
Niagara Falls dare devils are those people who decide to challenge the falls to a race and see if they can survive an encounter with the falls. The daring ways used have included swimming, diving, going over the edge of the falls in a container of some kind and walking a tightrope across the falls. Navigating a boat through the Whirlpool Rapids is another way dare devils have challenged the Falls.
Going over the Falls
In 1827 the first Niagara daredevils were actually animals which were placed on an old schooner and sent over the falls as a stunt to draw tourists to the hotels around the falls. The show worked and 10,000 people turned out to watch, luckily most of the animals survived escaping before the vessel fell over the edge.
In 1829 22 year old Sam Patch dived from a height of 85 feet and survived so he did it again from a height of 130 feet and once again survived. Niagara dare devils can choose the height of their jump according to the spot they decide to jump from.
The first human Niagara Falls dare devil in a vessel was Annie Taylor who in 1901 decided to get into a tightly closed wooden barrel and roll of the top of the falls tumbling to the bottom in the barrel. To make sure water didn't get into the barrel it was made airtight and the air pressure was compressed to 30 p.s.i. using the sophisticated equipment of a bicycle pump! She did the stunt in the hope of gaining fame and fortune, she even gave herself the title "Heroine of Horseshoe Falls". But she only came out of the experience with bruises and about 15 minutes of fame.
In 1911 Bobby Leach took the plunge in a steel barrel and survived with injuries. In 1928 Smiling Jean Lussier went over the edge in a rubber ball and survived. In 1930 when George L. Statakis was trapped in his barrel under the Falls for 14 hours he suffocated to death.
Tightrope Niagara Daredevils
Jean Francois Gravelot "The Great Blondin" was the first Niagara dare devil to cross over the Falls on a tightrope and others followed his example making the crossing from the USA to Canada. Blondon is the most famous not only because he was the first but because he made the crossing more than 8 times, once carrying his manager on his back, once carrying a stove and making an omelets half way across and once pushing a wheelbarrow.
In 1860 William Leonard Hunt "The Great Farini" crossed the Falls carrying a washing machine on his back. Another time he took a washing tub, stopped half way lowered a bucket to the water, retrieved some water and having pulled it back up he did some washing. On other crossings he hung upside down he also crossed the tightrope half way, lowered himself on a rope to the deck of the Maid of the Mist boat then returned to the tightrope to complete the crossing. He went back the other way blindfolded and with baskets on his feet. He performed two times a week.
Maria Spelterini was the only female to ever make the tightrope crossing in 1876. Over the years the crossing has been made at various points along the shore and dare devils have tried to come up with more and more zany ways of crossing. They have crossed on bicycles, on their backs, with their hands and feet tied and blind folded. The practice has been band for the last 100 years but dare devils continue to try the fall and pay the fine for their actions.
Modern Niagara Daredevils
Modern day daredevils include Steven Trotter who in 1985 took the leap in a barrel of inner tubes, in 1989 a duo went over the edge together. In 1995 Robert Overcracker unsuccessfully rode a jetski off the Falls. The first male and female to make the jump together was in 1995. In 2003 Kirk Jones swam over the edge only in his clothes without permission and while drunk, but he survived and was fined $2,300 and banned for life from entering Canada.
In February 2012 Nik Wallenda was given permission to make the crossing on a tightrope but only one dare devil will be allowed to perform the feat every 20 years just to honor the Fall's stunting history. Jumping or tight roping without permission will cost the dare devil a $10,000 fine.
Each Niagara dare devil had a reason for performing this life threatening feat most sought fame but none gained everlasting fame or a great fortune. The conscious choice to put their lives at risk, with calculated odds of survival makes these people dare devils. Most of the "vessels" used in the stunts had some kind of message attached be it political, social or plain advertizing.
The climate and terrain of the Niagara Falls area makes it perfect for vineyards and you can find plenty of vineyards and wineries in the surrounding areas on both sides of Niagara Falls, many of the wineries offer tours and wine tastings.
Canadian Niagara Falls Wineries
The numerous (over 100) wineries in the vicinity can be found in Beamsville, Grimsby, Niagara-on-the-Lake, St. Catherines, Jordan and the Vinelands. It is possible to get a wine route map from the tourist center in Niagara but here are the highlights of some of the wineries which can be visited from Niagara Falls.
Chateau des Charmes, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a family winery going back seven generations they produce red, white, ice, dessert and sparkling wines. The Winegrowing Discovery Tour costs $5, you see the whole facility including the geothermal cellars and bottling line as well as tasting 3 of their wines. Tours are daily at 11am and 3pm. Add a Little Ice Tour costs $15, it includes the above tour plus sampling icewine, dessert made from ice cream and fruit. Matchmaking 1.0 costs $15 pairs 3 of their wines with 3 artisan cheeses, tour is held daily at 4pm and none of these tours need to be booked in advance.
Flat Rock Wineries, Jordan Bench, lies on rolling slopes of the Niagara Escarpment, the winery building is an unusual design and the atmosphere here is friendly, personal and fun. The small vineyard practices progressive viticulture and has a low yield but high quality. There are no set tour times, but groups are taken around the winery in groups of about 10. Visiting the tasting bar is at a fee, part of which is donated to charity. Reserve Tours give you a more in depth look at the facility and a tasting for $10. Ed's Tour given by Ed, the President and founder of the winery is even more in depth and costs $25.
Peller Estates, this is a large winery geared towards the tourists who flock here not only for the wine but also for the food. There are a number of tour options: Chicks & Chocolate, daily at 3pm and twice on weekends, $15; Art of Wine and Food, weekends at 1pm and 3pm, pairing 3 wines and 3 foods,$20 and Winemaking Excellence Tour, conducted daily throughout the day, tour the facility and taste the wine, $10. There is also the Wine Country Touring Pass which gets you a VIP pass to Peller Estates, Trius Winery at Hillebrand, Thirsty Bench Wine makers and Wine Country Vintners for $10. The winery offers even more tour and seminar options which you can read about on their site.
Inniskillin Wines, offers a Wine Experience daily on the hour as well as a Market Grill experience where you can taste and match foods to wine for $5-$15 and $5 per glass of wine. There is a regular tour ($5) or an ice wine tour ($15) and there are fresh food products on sale from the region. The winery is intimate and unique.
Hillebrand Winery gives you the opportunity to taste the wines in the vineyard or to learn more in depth about the wines. On the Trius Winery Tour you see the wine making process from beginning to end, $10, daily throughout the day; the Bubbles & Brochetter weekend tour costs $16 and explores sparkling wines, there is also the Harvest Table dining Series ($65); Icewine Tour and Tasting ($15); Lets Talk Wine ($10); Sparkling Wine Tour and Tasting ($15); Tasting Wine and Cheese ($15) and other more in depth tours.
On the US side of Niagara you can follow the Niagara Wine Trail which includes the Arrowhead Spring Vineyards, Black Willow Winery ($2USD for 3 tasting wines), Chateau Niagara Winery, Eveningside Vineyards ($4USD for tasting 4 wines) and many more. You can purchase a Niagara Wine Trail Vino Visa Passport for $25USD and get free tastings and gifts at 6 wineries along the trail.
The Canadian side of the Niagara Falls (The Horseshoe) has a reputation for a wild nightlife with an incredible choice of bars, lounges and night clubs. The New York, USA side of the Falls is much quieter at night although there are nightclubs, bars and places of entertainment. The legal drinking age in Canada is 19 and in the USA it is 21 years old so many partiers come across the border to enjoy the nightlife.
The Niagara Falls club district, as it is called, attracts Canadians, Americans and tourists from around the world. The Canadian side of the Falls tends to be a younger crowd but if you're (really old) over 30 you can try the Club Rialto or the Croft Lounge at the Best Western Cairn Croft. Along Oliver Street you'll find over 100 bars as well as restaurants and other places of entertainment. Oliver Street once held the record for the most bars in one street in the Guinness Book of Records. 3rd Street is known as the Little Strip (as in Las Vegas) with a multitude of bars and clubs.
Some of the best known nightclubs are Club Se7en, Rumours Nightclub (the biggest in this area) and R5. Club Mardi Gras is a themed bar and club and Dragonfly is an Asian inspired nightclub that can accommodate 800 people. If you want something more mellow try the Stanley's Lounge in the Sheraton Fallsview or for rock music try the Hard Rock Club. For another aspect of Niagara nightlife try one of the casinos, there is the Casino Niagara and the more recently opened Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort. The legal gambling age in Canada is 19 and in the USA it's 21. The casinos also provide comedy shows and other performances. If you want to see a show go to the Yuk Yuks comedy stand-up club, the Oh Canada Er…comedy dinner show or the Greg Frewin Theatre for dinner theatre with illusions and magic. For a cool club/restaurant try the Milestones Grill Bar where on a Monday you can have the "Girls Night Out" deal.
Niagara Falls USA
On the American side the drinking age may be 21 but the beer is cheaper and there are places to enjoy a drink or dance the night away in one of the nightclubs.
For shows try the Rapids Theatre or the Niagara Adventure Theatre where films about the Falls are shown. The Thunder Theatre Show is a 4D adventure about the Falls.
This side of the Falls also has a Hard Rock Café, spot the 1959 Cadillac jutting out of the wall above the door. For nightclubs and dancing try the Vault Nightclub with its multi-levels and raised dance floor.
On the American side of the Fall you'll find the Seneca Niagara Casino where apart from gambling you can see Vegas style shows in the Seneca Events Center.
There are three major casinos in Niagara Falls two on the Canadian side and one on the American side, visitors should remember that in Canada the legal gambling age is 19 and in New York State USA it is 21. To cross the border from the US to Canada or visa versa you will need picture I.D. (passport or drivers license). If you want to see all of the casinos there are convenient casino bus tour and Casino Shuttles which will take you to the casino and even give you a gambling voucher and sometimes a fee lunch.
What all three of the Niagara casinos have in common is non-stop entertainment both gambling and shows they also all have restaurants and bars.
Niagara Casino (Canada)
This casino covers 95,000 square feet, has 1,700 slot machines and 70 gaming tables. There is free parking, four restaurants including a buffet restaurant and the very popular Yuk Yuk Comedy Club. You can hear live music for free on the weekends and watch sports on 26 giant T.V. (as well as placing bets on the sporting events). The casino has daily tournaments in Blackjack, Poker and even slot tournaments. This casino claims to have the largest poker room in Ontario. Although there is no hotel attached to the casino it is very close to the Clifton Hill Hotels among others. The casino was first opened in 1996 making this the oldest of the three main Niagara Casinos.
Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort (Canada)
As the name suggest the casino is part of a 374 room hotel resort which includes a spa, health center, gym, shopping center and restaurants. If you prefer to stay at the Hilton Niagara Falls Fallsview there is a glass walkway connecting the casino to the Hilton. This is the biggest, newest and grandest of the Niagara casinos, it opened in 2004. It has 3000 slot machines and 130 gaming tables. For entertainment there is the Avalon Theatre which seats 1500 and often hosts world class performers, for dancing there is the Dragonfly nightclub. The hotel part of the casino has business facilities and meeting rooms for conferences. The casino resort complex includes The Galleria a shopping and dining area designed to look like a street. Fallsview has an all-you-can-eat buffet and there are three bars and lounges the most popular being R5.
Seneca Casino and Hotel
For entertainment there is Club 101 in the middle of the casino it is an elevated circular lounge, here you can look out over the gaming floor, listen to live music and watch sports on big screen T.V.s. For entertainment there is the Bear's Den Showroom, an intimate performance venue as well as the Seneca Niagara Events Center where you can see live performances. There are 4,200 slot machines and over 100 gaming tables there is also the Turtle Island non-smoking casino. There are several restaurants including an all-you-can-eat buffet and a 24 restaurant. The casino complex includes a 486 room hotel which has a spa, gym, health center and pools and it is the largest hotel in Western New York built over 26 floors. There is also extensive meeting and conference space. The Sheraton Hotel partners with the casino and is right next door.