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5 Stunning Golf Courses Around Niagara Falls

September 22nd, 2014

Man teeing off It’s no wonder that Niagara Falls has become a golfer’s paradise. The landscapes around Niagara Falls are beautiful and lush, allowing for amazing views on world-class courses. After reviewing the more than 15 courses in the Niagara region, we’ve come up with this short list of our absolute favorites. If you’re traveling with a golfer, or you and your loved ones are golf enthusiasts, try your swing at one of these world-renowned courses.

Grand Niagara Resort

This course is unarguably one of the most beautiful in the entire country, if not the world. The course is relatively quiet, set well into the rural surroundings of Niagara Falls, allowing for a serene and stress-relieving game of golf. This course is relatively challenging, especially for amateur golfers, so bring plenty of balls and be prepared to go into the rough if you haven’t perfected your swing. The designer and builder of the course is confident that this course will soon host a major championship — so book your tee time while you still can.

Thundering Waters

Playing golf on this course is the closest you can get to playing around the falls themselves. Only 1500 yards from the power and majesty of the falls, Thundering Waters really earns its name. This is definitely one of the hardest courses in the Niagara region; the course is littered with sand traps and woods, and the green doesn’t grab, so your balls will roll. However, the thick woods and rolling hills make for a stunning view no matter where you’re swinging, so be sure to take a break from wedging your ball back onto the fairway to take in the beauty.

Whirlpool Golf Club

This course is maintained by the Niagara Parks, and thus it is one of the most cost-effective courses available to golfers on vacation in Niagara Falls. From the course, you can get amazing views of the Niagara Gorge and Niagara River Whirlpool rapids. More than 60 years old, this course has withstood the test of time; its hills are as challenging as ever and make for plenty of blind shots to keep golfers of all abilities on their toes.

Legends on the Niagara

Men on golf courseComprised of three separate courses (named Battlefield, Ushers Creek, and Chippawa) Legends on the Niagara has been rated among the top 100 courses in Canada for several years now. Each individual course is intended to challenge golfers of different abilities, so it’s the goldilocks of golfing in the Niagara region. Plus, the courses meld almost seamlessly with the surrounding landscape, meaning golfers get unmatched views. Many golfers say that these courses are some of the best-kept in the area, which means you can count on having the best course available no matter what time of day or year.

Royal Niagara

Another course relatively close to the falls, Royal Niagara is nestled comfortably between the Niagara Escarpment, the popular Bruce Trail, and the Welland Canal, which all offer gorgeous and important scenery. This course takes advantage of the natural environment, using native land contours and woods to shape each hole. Paying homage to its environment, the course has an abundance of water features, so make sure you aim carefully if you don’t want to take too many penalties.

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Windows is participating in LCBO “Taste Local Love Local” Campaign

September 19th, 2014

Windows by Jamie Kennedy RestaurantWindows by Jamie Kennedy is participating in the LCBO’s “Taste Local Love Local” campaign.   The initiative showcases restaurants that pair local VQA Ontario wines-by-the-glass and Ontario craft beers with local fare. More than 150 restaurants across the province are participating in this year’s campaign, which is largest ever promotion of domestically produced wines. “Taste Local Love Local” runs to Oct.11, 2014.

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5 Movies Filmed in Niagara Falls

September 15th, 2014

American Falls brinkNiagara Falls is a beautiful and mystical place — which makes it the perfect setting for films of all types. Movies with genres as disparate as romantic comedy and film-noir, action/adventure and satire have placed their heroes and villains in Niagara Falls, and plenty of them required filming scenes in Niagara itself. If you or someone you’re traveling with is a big movie buff, you can’t miss Niagara Falls for its deep roots in movie history.

“Niagara” (1952)

This film-noir thriller is long been lauded as the film that brought Marilyn Monroe into the spotlight and launched her movie career. The plot of “Niagara” follows two married couples on their honeymoons in Niagara, but what should be a happy time turns sour as the younger couple, played by Monroe and Joseph Cotten, starts to show their marital problems.

This film is credited with some of the best footage ever taken of the falls. To get the same views on your trip, head to Skylon Tower on the Canadian side and New York State Park Observation Tower on the American side.

“Luv” (1967)

Based on an absurd play of the same name, “Luv” is a slapstick romantic comedy starring Jack Lemmon. The plot follows depressed and suicidal Harry Berlin, played by Lemmon, as he is saved from death by his old friend Milt, who drags Harry into his love triangle in an attempt to leave his wife, Ellen, happy after the divorce. In the midst of the hilarity and confusion of the plot, Harry and Ellen visit Niagara Falls for their honeymoon. You can test your love like this famous couple — or just see some amazing scenery — at Prospect Point.

“Last Embrace” (1979)

If you love action and espionage — and movies with big twists — you’ll love watching this before your trip to Niagara Falls. This thriller follows Roy Scheider as a U.S. government agent afraid for his life. The heart-pounding climax of the film takes place in Niagara, as the protagonist and antagonist run around the falls, including through the powerful hydroelectric power plant, right before the terrifying and memorable ending at the top of Horseshoe Falls.

“Bruce Almighty” (2003)

Horseshoe Falls Aerial Who could forget the fantastic comedy and heartwarming message of Jim Carrey’s recent role in “Bruce Almighty”? After suffering too long as an out-of-luck news journalist, Carrey as Bruce is blessed with the omnipotence of God — but also cursed with the responsibilities. At the beginning, the film shows Carrey at the falls interviewing a captain of the Maid of the Mist, the popular boat tour that brings visitors right underneath the plummeting falls, so be sure to book a ticket if you want to see the falls like Bruce.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” (2006)

Even the most researched film buffs may not know that one of the most impressive scenes in this movie was filmed partially at Niagara Falls. As Captain Barbossa sails his precious Black Pearl to the edge of the Earth to rescue Captain Jack Sparrow (played by Johnny Depp), he most navigate several obstacles, including a gut-wrenching drop over a colossal waterfall. To get the shot, producers collaborated with Niagara Falls staff to hang a crane over Horseshoe Falls to get the perfect view of the rushing water.

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The Origin Story of Niagara Falls

August 30th, 2014

sotfblog52.jpegNiagara Falls certainly earns its place as one of the Natural Wonders of the World. The sheer size of Horseshoe Falls — 2,200 feet in length and 177 feet in height — and the amount of water —6 million cubic feet per minute over the falls — alone can inspire great awe in any observer. While many are keen on experiencing some mysticism along with the beauty of the falls, others are too curious to let the history of the falls slide on by. If you are a scientist at heart and yearn to know more about the story behind Niagara Falls, read on for a brief exploration of the creation of the falls.

In the Beginning

At the end of the most recent Ice Age, the world was a very different place. Glaciers covered most of North America, rendering it almost completely unrecognizable from the topography we are familiar with today. As the Earth warmed and the mountains of ice receded, huge amounts of cold water from the glaciers were left behind and collected into unfathomably large, land-locked lakes. However, the glaciers of the area did not simply retreat and leave the land barren; instead, several centuries of advancing and withdrawing carved the landscape to encourage certain paths for the melted water to take.

In eastern North America, some of the water channeled itself into the 36-mile-long Niagara River which emptied out over the edge of a cliff, what we now call the Niagara Escarpment. More than 12,000 years ago, when the water first rushed over that cliff, the falls were much farther south in what is now Lewiston, New York.

As Years Passed

While the falls are still in relatively the same area of the globe, they look dramatically different from when the water first started falling. First, the falls are no longer located in Lewiston, New York, as you may astutely notice. Due to the process of erosion, or the gradual wearing away of sediment due to constant friction like that of wind or water, the falls of the Niagara River have worn the Niagara Escarpment all the way back north to where you can find it today.

In the Present

sotfblog53.jpegNiagara Falls is still very effective by the same processes that shaped it thousands of years ago. Erosion of the landscape by the river and the falls continues every minute, and the falls continue to recede into the surrounding landscape. Additionally, the freezing and thawing of the Niagara River moves and shifts the sediment even during the seeming calm of winter.

Modern technology is helping people slow the erosion of Niagara Falls to preserve its current status as one of the Natural Wonders of the World. Some of the water from the Niagara River has been diverted through dams and hydroelectric power stations to help fuel the energy consumption of the surrounding area.

If you’re still fascinated by the processes that continue to shape the falls, the rivers and the surrounding land, you can learn more during your trip to Niagara Falls, Ontario. The Niagara Falls History Museum presents information for all ages on the science and history of the falls, and it includes predictions of what will happen to the falls if the current rate of erosion continues unimpeded.

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Onguiraaha Is A Short Walk from Sheraton on the Falls

August 26th, 2014

onguiaahra“Onguiraaha – Thunder of Waters, ” a new outdoor sound and light show opened to rave reviews over the weekend.

Niagara Falls started with “single drop of water” 12,000 years ago and it will end the same way 50,000 years from now, according to a new “sound and light show” being staged until December in Queen Victoria Park.

Standing within throwing distance of the Niagara River is the perfect setting to learn about water – “one of the most powerful forces in nature” – and how it shapes the geography that surrounds us.

All the while, a narrator talks you through how Niagara Falls was created 12,000 years ago when a single drop of water decided to run downhill toward Lake Ontario and started carving out the Niagara gorge.

As the show ends, the narrator forecasts a day 50,000 years from now when a single drop of water “will push the falls into oblivion, leaving just a river.” This kind of sound and light show is a natural for Niagara Falls.

Onguiraaha – Thunder of Waters opened on Friday Aug. 22 and is on until Monday Sept. 1., 2014. It runs three times every night – at 7:15 p.m., 8:15 and 9:15. On Friday and Sunday night, the show was a warm-up for the thousands of people hanging out in Queen Victoria Park waiting for the 10 p.m. fireworks display.

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The Surprisingly Useful Side of Niagara Falls

August 26th, 2014

sotfblog42.jpegWe certainly could talk to death about the beauty and awesomeness of Niagara Falls. Not only is the general environment simply perfect — we love the temperatures in every season — and the city full of activities for any group, but the waters themselves are so powerful and thrilling as to stop visitors in their tracks.

However, not many travelers to the region realize that the rushing water they’re watching is also being used to generate power as well! People have been using Niagara Falls for resources and energy for thousands of years, but in the past centuries we’ve been able to harness its power to fuel our modern lifestyle. Here’s a brief look at how we get energy from the falls, so you can stand in ever-more wonder of this amazing natural feature.

A Brief History of Energy in Niagara

Around the end of the 19th century, Canadians and Americans began looking for energy sources to enhance their quality of life. Power from steam and coal was rapidly increasing in importance as technology was developed that required more muscle than a horse or ox could provide. Humanity had long known about the usefulness of rivers and streams in efforts like grinding grain, and the intense waterworks of the Niagara region seemed a choice place to experiment with hydro power.

In 1893, Canadians installed the first hydroelectricity plant in Niagara Falls to provide energy to a small radius of the surrounding region. The plant pumped only 2,200 kilowatts of energy to the local population and was meant primarily to supply power to an electric railway joining nearby Queenston and Chippawa.

The capacity of hydroelectric plants has since grown and changed, and today both Canada and America boast a sizable amount of energy provided to local communities by the falls. When the current Niagara plant first began pumping in 1961, it was the largest facility of its kind in the Western world, churning out 2.4 million kilowatts of energy every day. For reference, this is enough to power to light 24 million standard light bulbs all at once!

How Hydroelectricity Works

sotfblog44.jpegTo obtain energy from the rushing water, engineers have devised a brilliant system of channeling the already moving water through energy-catching turbines. To best preserve the ecosystem, water is diverted from the main channel of the river and pushed through channels under the city of Niagara Falls. There, the water (at a speed of about 375,000 gallons per second) forces its way through a series of turbines, somewhat like familiar old-fashioned water wheels, that power generators. That is how we turn the mechanical energy of the falls’ water into electrical energy which we can use and store more efficiently.

What You Can Do During Your Visit

While you’re staying in the more lavish Niagara Falls, Ontario and seeing the sights on the Canadian side, you can easily pop over to the New York side to pay a visit to the Niagara Power Project Visitor’s Center for more information on how hydroelectricity was developed and what the energy is used for today.

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Phil Esposito in Niagara Falls for Charity Event

August 19th, 2014

phil-espositoLegendary Hockey Hall of Fame great Phil Esposito was in Niagara this past weekend to lend a hand for charity.  Esposito was in Niagara for an event at the ScotiaBank Centre and was the guest of honour for the ceremonial puck drop at the Hockey Night in St.Catharines charity game.  He also found time during his stay to visit the Sheraton on the Falls to take in the spectacular view.

Esposito played 18 seasons in the NHL  the Chicago Black Hawks, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. He is considered one of the best to have ever played in the NHL, and is the older brother of fellow Hall-of-Famer Tony Esposito, a goaltender. In 1969 he became the first NHL player to score 100 points in a season, far eclipsing the “century” mark with a record 126.  Before turning pro, Esposito played for the St. Catharines Teepees during the 1961-62 hockey season.

Esposito also helped lead Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series as leading scorer in the series. He also scored the first goal of the Summit Series and he scored two and assisted on two goals in the eighth and deciding game.  Esposito won the 1972 Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s outstanding male athlete of the year and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

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Native Niagara: A History of Niagara’s Peoples

August 18th, 2014

sotfblog32.jpegWe can recognize Niagara today as a haven for all peoples looking for a fantastic vacation. The attractions and festivities are fun for all creeds and colors, all sizes and shapes. Even the splendor of the falls themselves is appealing to all sorts — it’s basically undeniable that the falls are wondrous to behold no matter where you come from.

However, before Niagara became a vacationer’s wonderland — even before Europeans “discovered” the new world — Niagara was populated and revered by America’s very first travelers: American Indians. If you like to read up on the history of a place when you plan your vacation, here’s a brief exploration of Niagara’s native population.

Hunting and Gathering

Nomadic peoples first discovered the Niagara region around 12,000 years ago, right when the falls first started to form. These primary inhabitants were members of the Clovis culture of nomads in North America. These people are recognizable in archaeological digs throughout North America by their unique and revolutionary method of chipping stones for weapons and tools. Most likely, these first inhabitants settled seasonally along the shores of Lake Eerie to hunt the migrating caribou, moose, elk and mastodons. One of these earliest groups called themselves the Onguiaahra, which is suspected as being the inspiration for the modern name Niagara.

Hunter-gatherers roamed the area for a little less than nine thousand years, through both the Archaic and Woodland periods. During this time, small groups would stay in the area year around, including the harsh winters, but large groups would migrate to the area during lush and fruitful summers to hunt deer and moose as well participate in mass fishing initiatives along the lakes and rivers.

The Beginning of Agriculture

In the Woodland period, the Iroquois began cultivating the soils around Niagara for agriculture, planting corn, beans and squash to fill the bulk of their diet. With food needs covered, the Iroquois were able to establish more permanent communities with palisaded villages and surprisingly large populations.

Various complex cultural rituals were introduced during this period, including burial ceremonies and ceramic creation, and more complicated political systems came into being with the enhanced importance of kinship ties.

Of the Iroquois confederacy, the most prolific in the Niagara region was the Atiquandaronk tribe. These groups, like many of the Iroquois, lived communally in huge longhouses segmented into areas for different kinships and classes.

The Invasion of Europeans

sotfblog34.jpegFrench explorers were the first of the white settlers to discover the Niagara region. They renamed the resident American Indian groups the “Neutral” tribes, though they included more than nine different tribes under this single moniker. The promise of trade from the wealthy and exotic Europeans as well as age-old disagreements encouraged inter-tribe fighting, which led to the degeneration of the native cultures.

Additionally, the introduction of European missionaries as well as various European diseases and wars led to diminished native population and influence. After the War of 1812, virtually all of the native tribes had vacated the area or began assimilating (as best they could) with the European towns. Today, the Iroquois Nation still exists and continues to fight for the land and rights stripped of them by various European groups.

If you’d like to learn more about Niagara Falls, its history and its peoples, visit the Niagara Falls History Museum during your stay.

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7 Famous Celebrity Trips to Niagara Falls

August 12th, 2014

sotfblog22.jpegNiagara Falls is a vacation destination for couples, families and groups of all kinds. So, it seems totally natural that famous people love to come and spend time watching the splendor of the falls and experiencing the thrill the falls instill. Niagara Falls has been a must-see location for centuries, and celebrities from every decade have graced the shores of the river to behold the wonder and beauty. Though there are truly too many to name, here are a few of the more outstanding celebrities of the present and past who have visited Niagara Falls.

Jerome Bonaparte

Though perhaps he is not the most recognized of the Bonaparte brothers — his older sibling Napoleon certainly stole the show with his militaristic antics — Jerome and his wife chose to honeymoon in Niagara Falls, which kicked off Niagara’s moniker “Honeymoon Capitol of the World.” Reportedly, Jerome and his wife traveled all the way from New Orleans by stagecoach to see the magnificence of the falls. Other famous faces of the time were then inspired to visit for their honeymoons, and a tradition was born amongst the laypeople as well.

King George VI

In the past couple of years, good King George VI has received quite a lot of press from the release of a movie chronicling his battle with a speech impediment, “The King’s Speech.” However, the movie failed to depict a famous and fantastic voyage the king and his family made to Niagara Falls in 1934. You can learn more about the king’s trip by visiting the statue erected in his honor during your own stay in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Marilyn Monroe

Niagara Falls’ popularity has made it a hot spot for movie production as well as a vacationer’s dream. The mystical feeling of the falls as well as their known ability to encourage passionate love has inspired many a filmmaker to set his or her film amidst the falls. Marilyn Monroe’s hit movie “Niagara,” a film noir following two honeymooners to the region, was shot on location in Niagara, as there was no other way to accurately capture the true essence of the falls.

Shirley Temple

Earlier this year, Shirley Temple passed away at the comfortable age of 85, but she previously made headlines earlier in her career by visiting Niagara Falls. Though her trip took place after she was quite grown and in fact married — her name changed to Shirley Temple-Black — the lively and jovial child actress continued to captivate with her beauty and charm.

Princess Di With Prince William and Prince Harry

sotfblog23.jpegThat enigmatic and important princess of England came to Niagara with her two young sons in tow in 1991. Princess Diana participated in several popular Niagara attractions, many of which are still active today. If you want to see Niagara like a princess, be sure to book a ticket on the Maid of the Mist, which brings you right up close to the bottom of the falls, and take a few walks around the surrounding parks and hiking trails.

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Niagara Falls Is Peachy Keen

August 5th, 2014

SOTFblog7.jpegWhen you think of major peach growing regions, you probably think of the southern U.S., specifically Georgia, South Carolina and Texas. You probably don’t think of the Niagara Falls region — after all, Canada’s climate isn’t all that similar to most peach producing areas.

Yet there is a small (but growing) contingent of farms in the Niagara region that have added peaches to their orchards; enough so that every August, Niagara-on-the-Lake hosts a popular Peach Festival to celebrate the sweet fruit. This year, the Peach Festival is scheduled for August 9 and 10, and organizers promise a “peach” of a celebration.

Food, Fun and Family

As you might expect, the star of the Peach Festival is the fruit itself. While you’ll be tempted to fill up on peach pie, peach cobbler and other peachy treats, there is much more to do than that during the two-day event.

Saturday’s festivities begin at 11 a.m., in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Heritage District. Queen Street between King and Victoria Street will be closed to cars, and visitors can explore booths featuring homemade peach specialties, crafts and art from local artisans, live music and games. The festival also honors the region’s history with historical displays and a fife and drum procession along Queen Street.

At 5 p.m., Queen Street will turn into a night market, with local restaurants, shops and vendors setting up booths along the street. Until 10 p.m., you can peruse the booths, try local food and wine and pick up a unique souvenir from your trip to Niagara Falls.

The fun continues on Sunday morning, when it moves to the grounds of the St. Vincent de Paul Church on Picton Street. Family fun is the focus here, with face painting, games, crafts, clowns and more, along with a family-style picnic featuring hamburgers and hot dogs along with a wide array of peach dishes. Visitors can help judge a peach pie-baking contest, check out more local crafters and artists, and in the afternoon, head over to Niagara Falls Park for a free concert by the town band.

Important Details

SOTFblog8.jpegNiagara-on-the-Lake is only about a 20-minute drive from Niagara Falls, a picturesque drive along the lake that passes by several fine wineries. If you decide to make the trip up for the Peach Festival, be aware that you may have to park some distance away from the main festival area and walk; however, there are plenty of public parking areas in town.

The festival itself is free, but you’ll want to bring plenty of cash to pick up the delicious treats and to shop the tents. Also, leave some time to explore the rest of this quaint town or possibly take in one of the productions of the works of George Bernard Shaw at one of the three theatres in town. The Shaw Festival, a nine-month celebration of the playwright’s works, will be in full swing at the time of the Peach Festival, meaning you can experience two of the best events that the Niagara Falls region has to offer in one memorable excursion.

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