Niagara Falls fun

Niagara Falls
A room with a view

Niagara Falls – wild white water

The mighty Niagara Falls spills out from the glacier green Niagara river. Still number 5 in the world’s most visited attractions list, the Falls straddle the border between the USA and Canada. They spill about six million cubic feet of water every single minute.

Staying on the 17th floor of the South Tower of the Hilton Hotel, we were thrilled to have a view of the American Falls from our window. We didn’t draw the curtains so it was the first thing we saw when we woke up!

Niagara Falls
Water gallops over the Horseshoe Falls

With over 22 million visitors a year Niagara remains incredibly popular. A whole tourist town has grown up around it.
Niagara’s heyday  was in the 50’s. Back then, the Tower hotel was the tallest structure. It looks just like something out of Thunderbird’s set. Niagara was a top honeymoon destination back then and Marilyn Monroe got her big break in the film shot here of the same name.

Niagara Falls
Thunderbirds are go!

Today there is a lot of the more family attraction theme park about it, especially in the Clifton Hill area with Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Dracula’s castle and a million t shirt and candy shops lining the sidewalk (American for pavement) The giant Sky wheel looks fun though and I won’t have a word said against the Dinosaur crazy golf course which boasts a life size T Rex and a substantial plastic volcano which belched lava and real flames into the humid Canadian summer afternoon.

 

Niagara Falls
Dinosaur golf – not ancient history

Niagara Falls – the power of electricity

Crowds throng to the walkway overlooking the Falls. There must be thousands of pictures taken of them, and people in front of them every day. There are lots of water based  activities too.

The Maid of the Mist takes you right up close. Journey behind the Falls takes you beneath the rushing torrent and Hornblower cruises are cool too.

Niagara Falls
Happy Snappers

The power of the Falls has been used to generate electricity for over a hundred years. There are still a number of power stations along their route. Some of are now decommissioned and the municipal council are currently deciding how best to make use of the empty  buildings.

Niagra falls – history and heritage

But there’s more to Niagara than you might think. Niagara is a place with great historical significance. Just a twenty minute walk away from the hustle and bustle of Clifton Hill, or a couple of stops on the WEGO bus, you will find the Niagara Falls History Museum.

 

Niagara
The Maid of the Mist

Housing a vast collection of this area’s history, the museum is a fascinating place to spend a couple of hours. There was a cool exhibition dedicated to the bloody battle of 1812. Britain fought here against the US, although the native Americans were on our side. As a colony of Great Britain, Canada got caught up in things and suffered a few invasions.

Niagara
Cool cultural collection

There was also an exhibition dedicated to the history of the motel – a real icon of Americana. A motel – shortened from motor hotel – referred to a single story building where the doors face the parking lot for the convenience of the motorist.

As the provincial highways began to develop in the 1920’s long distance road journeys became more common. The need for inexpensive, easily accessible accommodation next to main routes grew. Often privately owned – as was the most famous motel – the Bates Motel – they reached their peak in popularity in the 60’s.

They were then were overtaken by the rise of the chain hotels. North Americans do love their cars. The museum has reconstructed a motel room with framed quotes from real Niagara honeymooners. They recall motel tales, such as how they struggled to get to sleep on a wobbly water bed.

Niagara
Vintage Vacation

Niagara Falls – Marilyn Monroe slept here

We really wanted to see the hotel room that Marilyn stayed in when she was filming Niagara here in 1952. It is surprising that more isn’t made of this connection as she is such a global movie icon. It’s all pretty low key.
The actual hotel she stayed in is still there although it was called the General Brock back then, and is now the Crowne Plaza. Her room was originally a suite with a cracking view of the Falls but it is now divided into two ordinary rooms 801 and 802. Construction in front of the hotel has marred the view.
Marilyn stayed here for 13 days. In the film there are scenes directly in front and behind the Falls. They all had to have the dialogue dubbed in later because of the noise of the raging water. It’s still a piece of movie history though, and we had a lovely champagne lunch in the Rainbow restaurant of the Crowne Plaza with a party of 180 Japanese tourists.
The view from here is still fabulous and takes in both the American and Canadian Falls. We watched Niagara the movie in its restored state in glorious Technicolour. The acting is a little on the ham side, but there is some amazing footage of the Falls.  You can really see how much larger the Falls were then, and how the town has changed.
Niagara Falls
Siren of the Falls – Marilyn in Niagara

Niagara Falls now

Personally, I think Niagara’s hey day is now. Everyone is still having a great time and it remains a true natural wonder formed from glaciers Millennia ago.
I just wish there was more made of the incredible history of the town before it all disappears under Casinos and Malls.
Niagara still has the easy feel of a small town, but it has a big place in the hearts of tourists from all over the globe. I have a feeling there’s still more to discover about this most spectacular border between two of the richest countries in the Western world.

 

Niagara Falls
Waterfall drama in panorama