Travel 

Ontario: A family dash to Niagara Falls, Ottawa

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Meridian Writers' Group

NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario-Two teenagers, one day, one natural wonder of the world. With our vacation time running out in Toronto, our family makes a mad dash to Niagara Falls. Our plan is simple: get there early, stay late, see as much as we can.

Of course, "early" is a relative term with teenagers. It's 10 a.m. when we wheel into the Rapidsview parking lot and hop the quick shuttle ride to the Falls' Table Rock area. When the bus stops, our excitement bubbles over and we practically sprint to the guardrail.

Wow. In fact, big wow. The volume of white-blue water thundering over the long curving edge of Horseshoe Falls is astounding. Mist floats in the air, as does the sound of tourists chattering in a dozen different languages.

Many snapshots later, it's in to the Table Rock complex for our "Journey Behind the Falls." We don yellow ponchos and take an elevator 40 metres down to a tunnel that leads to two observation decks and two portals. While it's fun to get sprayed silly by the curtains of water, my sons deem the experience "a bit lame."

(Since our visit, a new attraction has opened at Table Rock: Niagara's Fury, a Universal Studios-style experience that tells the story of the evolution of the Falls, with trembling floors, falling snow and much drama. No report on whether it's lame or not.)

We follow the crowds downriver to the Maid of the Mist boat ride. This time we're given blue ponchos that protect us (sort of) from the drizzle that becomes a downpour that becomes a deafening deluge as the boat motors past the American Falls to the base of Horseshoe Falls. "Awesome," say my soggy teenagers.

For lunch we head up Clifton Hill, a neon-lit street filled with cheesy museums and chain restaurants. Unimpressed, we grab a quick sandwich and head back to the riverside to catch the People Mover shuttle bus (included in the price of our "Niagara Falls & Great Gorge Adventure Pass," as are many of the attractions we visit). We get off at the Whitewater Walk, where we descend 70 metres to river level for an ultra-close and highly recommended look at the racing, churning rapids below the Falls.

From there we head further downriver to Niagara Helicopters and the hands-down highlight (and most expensive part) of the day, a 12-minute ride up and over and around the Falls in a helicopter. The teenage verdict? "It totally rocked."

Exhilarated but fading, we pause for a tasty dinner with killer views at the Table Rock restaurant, then dash to the Imax theatre for The Falls Movie . The film looks a bit tired, but the history lesson is excellent.

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