It may sound strange, but it all started with the Miami Dolphins. My husband is a huge fan of the fins, but we figured a trip to Miami for his birthday in early December was not in the cards. So I started to look around for other unique ideas how to celebrate his special day and checked the Dolphins’ road games schedule and realized that they were playing in Buffalo, barely two hours south of Toronto, on December 10. Sure enough I bought the tickets online and figured a nice birthday surprise was in the making.
Then I started thinking some more and given the fact that my husband likes to gamble every once in a while I thought why not expand this little getaway and spend a bit of time in Niagara Falls, Ontario, to do some gambling. Of course my insane curiosity never sleeps and I added a couple of extra days during which I would have a chance to discover the city and all its various attractions in order to develop an entire feature article series about the Niagara Falls experience.
The Departure Hall at Toronto’s Union Station
So I got in touch with the experts at Niagara Falls Tourism who were extremely helpful and assisted me in preparing a detailed itinerary for my explorations of Niagara Falls, Ontario. We worked out a tightly packed program that would expose me to a variety of diverse attractions that this city has to offer.
Finally, my adventure was ready to start. I had booked my Via Rail train ticket to Niagara Falls online and my husband dropped me off early this morning at Toronto’s venerable Union Station. I exchanged my online booking confirmation for a paper ticket, and shortly after 8 pm I was on my way to Track 13 where my comfortable train to Niagara Falls was already waiting. At $21 for the ticket it was also a very affordable and comfortable way of covering this two hour journey. With just a slight delay I arrived shortly before 11 am in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and moments later I picked up my nifty Budget Rental car. I had always found the Toyota Yaris very cute, but I was not so sure if I could ever get used to the location of the instrument panel in the center of the dashboard. In addition, this micro-car did not have sufficient space in the trunk, so I decided to drop off my luggage right away at my home away from home for the next two days.
One of Niagara Falls’ landmarks: the Skylon Tower
I found my way to the Best Western Cairn Croft, a 165 room hotel located centrally on one of Niagara Fall’s main strips: Lundy’s Lane. Along this road there are more than two miles of hotels, restaurants, shopping opportunities and various attractions. A friendly and humorous receptionist welcomed me and directed me to my room on the third floor where I got myself organized and relaxed a bit in one of the spacious Tower Rooms.
The modern administration building at Niagara Helicopter
Just before I got too comfy I set off on my first real Niagara Falls adventure: I was about to go on my first helicopter flight in my entire life. The receptionist at the Cairn Croft drew me some directions and off I was to my destination, Niagara Helicopters, on Victoria Avenue at the northern end of town, close to the Niagara Parkway. I saw an attractive and very modern retail and administration complex, and in the background helicopters were taking off and landing. I walked in and got greeted by some of the team members at Niagara Helicopter. Lena, the Executive Assistant to owner Ruedi Hafen; Shea, the Guest Services Manager, and René, Operations Manager and one of the helicopter pilots, showed me around and gave me an overview of the company.
Rene, Lena and Shae from Niagara Helicopters
They took me through the attractive gift shop to an area upstairs that will be turned into a café and explained that the building that houses the facility is very new and was completed in 2001. Niagara Helicopter is very environmentally conscious and actually purchases carbon offsets against the greenhouse gas emissions that it creates. In addition, top modern boiler facilities, custom designed for Niagara Helicopter, heat the helicopter pads and keep them free from ice and snow.
Ruedi, moi and my pilot Rene