Story and photos by Barbara Angelakis
aditional photos by Manos Angelakis
Niagara - Land of the Thundering Waters
Woo-ee! Captain Eric of Niagara Jet Adventures swirled the boat around in a whirl of frothing water and deep waves and than stopped short creating a huge volume of water that engulfed the boat and drenched the passengers riding in the rear “wet” seats. The jetboat was filled with laughing and squealing passengers as we went bopping along the Whirlpool and Devil’s Hole - a class 5 white-water-rapids (6 being the highest category) - in the Niagara Gorge. Whether you sit in the exposed expect to get soaked “wet” seats, or the interior “dry” seats, you can be sure of a truly exhilarating experience made even more so by the expertise of “cowboy” Captain Eric with his 360° spins.
Niagara Jet Adventures is just a 15 minute drive from Niagara Falls to Youngstown. Upon arrival you are shown a short introductory film, encouraged to ask questions, introduced to your Captain, fitted with a life jacket and ushered into the waiting jetboat. There is a comfortable seating area on the dock facing the water for anyone not interested in the ride but having experienced it, I heartedly recommend you throw caution to the wind and climb aboard. www.niagarajet.com
Thundering Waters, a.k.a. Niagara Falls, has captivated the imagination of man for 12,000 or more years and still today, the majesty of nature inspires open-mouthed awe in the eye of the beholder. To stand overlooking the falls, while it births rainbows out of its mists, is a never to be forgotten thrill. I first came to Niagara as a teenager and even though I’ve since traveled the world, I still found the same thrill in donning the complimentary rain slicker to ride the Maid of the Mist boat almost into the Falls; the same delight in getting soaked in the Cave of the Winds - a series of platforms walking you as close to the Falls as your tolerance for getting drenched allows - and riding the Trolley over to Goat Island to view the Horseshoe Falls. Tip: if you walk or ride to Goat Island before 10:00 AM you are sure to see the daily rainbow that straddles the Horseshoe Falls... providing the sun peaks out.
We flew into Buffalo and drove to Niagara Falls. After checking into The Giacomo Hotel, and admiring its eclectic melding of Art Deco, Mayan and Egyptian symbolism in its architecture and décor - along with sleek contemporary accommodations and state-of-the-art conveniences - we headed for the Niagara Falls State Park U.S.A. The Giacomo is perfectly located within a few short blocks of the Park and within walking distance of most of the activities associated with the Falls. There is parking available in the Park for a fee but congestion and traffic patterns make the complimentary valet parking offered to guests staying at The Giacomo a great convenience for worry free exploration of the area. The Giacomo also includes complimentary breakfast - don’t pass on the made-to-order waffles - coffee and tea all day long, and cookies for guests before retiring. There is a handsome bar with a comfy seating area and an extraordinary fireplace to admire; and on the 19th floor an enclosed observation deck from which you can admire the Canadian side of Niagara and the colored lights playing on the American Falls which are lit every night. On Friday and Sunday nights there is a fireworks display over the American Falls which you can view from the 19th floor observation deck, Prospect Point in the Park, or from the Canadian side... walk the Rainbow Bridge to Canada but don’t forget your Passport. www.thegiacomo.com
Turn left when exiting the Giacomo and left again at the corner, to walk directly to the Niagara Falls State Park U.S.A. Tip: Head first to the Information Center to purchase the “Discovery Pass”. One low fee covers the Maid of the Mist; the Cave of the Winds; the Discovery Center; the Aquarium; and the not-to-be-missed Niagara Legends of Adventure Theater on the lower level of the Information Center. The movie dramatically reenacts much of the history and myths associated with the Falls and is informative and entertaining. The Pass also includes unlimited rides for one day on the Niagara Scenic Trolley that stops at all the main attractions and a discount off purchases at any of the Falls Gift Shops. But least you think that’s all the U.S.A. side of the Falls offers, think again! www.NiagaraFallsStatePark.com
More extravaganzas awaited us in the form of a helicopter ride over the Falls with Rainbow Air Helicopter Rides. Mark was our pilot and gave us a thrilling ride even making sure we captured a rainbow as we flew over the swirling whirlpools, the Rainbow Bridge, and the mists the enormous amount of falling water produces creating the beautiful bows of color in the air. We had a chance to chat with Pat Proctor, Vice President of Rainbow Air after the ride. We had met Pat previously and it was a pleasure to see him again. True to his word the ride was great fun as he promised it would be when we first met him in New York City. Pat shared with us the history of the family company which was started by his Grandfather back in the day... hummmm wonder if I met him on my first visit to Niagara when as a teenager I experienced my first helicopter ride and got so awe-struck the pilot had to remind me to take pictures. www.rainbowairinc.com
Also on our agenda was a boat ride on the Erie Canal at Lockport, one of the charming historic towns along the Canal and only a few minutes drive from Niagara. Mike Murphy, Owner of Lockport Locks & Erie Canal Cruises, was Captain of our tour and piloted us through the only double set of working locks still operating on the Erie Canal. It was fascinating to watch as Captain Mike navigated the boat into the narrow waterway and watch the heavy door close behind us. The water poured in slowly raising the boat and when we ascended 49 feet to the top of the Niagara Escarpment, the door opened in front of us to reveal the water level that our boat now matched. We moved forward into the canal and the process repeated itself. The entire procedure reversed itself after we turned around, waited for another boat to be “locked through” and followed dropping the almost 50 feet required to end where we began. www.lockportlocks.com
Another recent addition to “things to do” in Niagara is the dinner sunset cruise with Niagara Sunset Cruises Niagara Belle. We arrived at dock-side in another one of the historic river towns of Lewiston and saw the Niagara Belle moored across the river in Queenston, Canada. Part of the fun was boarding a tender that took us across the river to embark on the Belle which has three decks painted white with red accents including an old fashioned paddle-wheel in the rear. Two decks are for dining and the open top deck is for the view. It was the night of the full moon and we envisioned wonderful views of the sunset and moon based on the fact that sunsets had been glorious every other night of our trip - unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans and the sky was so overcast all we saw was gray... no rainbows, no sunset, no full moon! However, all was not lost since the prime rib dinner was very good and it was wonderful to be out on the river after the heat of the day. www.niagarasunsetcruises.com
Niagara Falls was created when the massive body of water released by the melting glaciers at the end of the last ice age overflowed its banks and the escaping torrential waters hollowed out a deep basin below. Waters from Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie feed into the Niagara River and after dropping over the falls, empty north into Lake Ontario, the fifth of the Great Lakes. Imagine, some 1,500,000 gallons of water flow over the falls every second, eroding the underlying rocks causing the Falls to migrate south - in fact it has receded 7 miles since it was originally formed about 12,000 years ago. Eventually the Niagara River will join with Lake Erie so enjoy it while it is here because in another 25,000 years - give or take - the falls will be gone.
For more information visit: Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation: www.niagara-usa.com
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