Niagara Falls Blog

Car Insurance Tips for the United States and Canada

nfhblog8When many people decide that they’re ready to take a trip to Niagara Falls the most logical way to get there is by car. It’s a destination that’s easily reached from most of the eastern seaboard of the United State and is an easy drive from most of eastern Canada as well. Plus, family road trips are always great experiences and allow you to take in the sights and sounds of the countryside.

However, when crossing an international border with your car, there are a few extra tasks that must be done to be certain you’re in compliance with each country’s auto insurance laws. While the requirements for the United States and Canada aren’t very different from each other these are a few things that you’ll need to know and need to put into motion early enough so your trip is not affected.

Coverage Requirements

Both the United States and Canada require liability and comprehensive collision coverage. Also, in most cases your existing policy on your car in your home country will provide the level of coverage you need when you cross the border. It’s always best to check with your insurance company to be certain, and most car insurance companies in the United States will issue a special, temporary card that you’ll need while driving in Canada. Canadian authorities do require the actual card and copies or email printouts are not accepted so you will need to allow for the time it takes for your insurance card to arrive in the mail.

For Canadians driving into the United States the rules are very similar. Your Canadian auto policy is valid in the United States for the length of your stay but be sure to check that your policy won’t expire during the trip and check with your insurance agent to ascertain that everything is in order so you can avoid surprises down the road.

Required Documents

In addition to your passports and birth certificates for children younger than 16 years of age, you’ll also need to bring all of your insurance paperwork, valid driver’s license, and your car’s registration certificate. Both Canadian and United States authorities have the right to check these documents, especially if they may think the car is stolen. Always be polite and provide any documents requested.

For people traveling from countries other than the United States or Canada you may need an International Driving Permit, and some states require this of Canadian citizens. Check this website to see if you’ll need an IDP.

In Case of an Accident

nfhblog9In the unlikely case that you’re in an accident while driving in the United States or Canada follow the rules that you would in your own country. Move your vehicle out of the way of traffic if possible and call both the police and your insurance company. Ensure that no one is seriously injured and wait for the police to arrive. Once police reports become available your insurance company will take care of the rest.

Driving in Canada and the United States is a great way to experiences both sides of the Niagara region but be sure that your insurance needs are taken care of well before you leave. After that, relax and enjoy your trip of a lifetime.


Rock Climbing in Niagara Falls

nfhblog6While the Niagara Escarpment is one of the most unique geological features in the world one of the things it’s not famous for its climbable walls and rock faces. The area is generally flat which is great for hikers but if you have a climber in your midst he or she might feel a bit disappointed.

However, that’s not to say that your climber has to go away empty chalk handed. In order to appease the growing number of local climbers and visiting ones there are now a few indoor climbing walls that can cure that climbing itch while you enjoy all the other things to do in Niagara Falls.

Niagara Climbing Center

If you’re itching to get acquainted with the climbing community in the Buffalo/Niagara area then the Niagara Climbing Center will feel like home to you. This outfit is generally open in the evenings from 4 p.m. but local school holidays see the climbing center open from 11 a.m. to accommodate the youngsters who are eager to burn off that “no school today” energy.

The Niagara Climbing Center offers 6,000 feet of climbing surface and 30 rope stations with a height of 20 feet. The expert staff at Niagara Climbing Center changes the routes frequently to stimulate their patrons and improve their skills that they will then use in real life rock face situations. Niagara Climbing Center also offers portable climbing walls for parties and they offer group rates and can help Boy Scouts complete the requirements for their climbing merit badge.

Peaks Indoor Climbing Center

nfhblog7Similar to their competition, Peaks Indoor Climbing Center offers 60 routes created by their expert staff and each is created with various skill levels in mind. All climbers from beginner to expert will find a route that suits their abilities. Lessons are available from onsite climbing experts and you can even get a mini bouldering demo and lesson if that’s something that you’re interested in.

Again, Peaks Indoor Climbing Center is great for groups, especially corporate groups interested in team building exercises as there isn’t a better way to build trust than to ask someone to hold your rope when you’re twenty feet off the ground.

Niagara Freefall & Interactive Center

If there’s one place in Niagara that will appeal to climbers and non-climbers alike it’s the Niagara Freefall & Interactive Center. Home to a 32 foot climbing wall that can challenge even the most experienced climbers this center also offers a free fall wind tunnel, laser tag, mechanical bull riding, and much more. Arcade games are available for the younger members of your family or group and a full service restaurant is available onsite.

Rock climbing as a sport has grown steadily over the last several years and you’ll find more and more people truly love to tackle sheer rock faces and have a great time in the process. On your next vacation to Niagara Falls be sure to allow at least one day for the climber in your family so he or she can indulge in their favorite pastime while the rest of you enjoy everything else Niagara has to offer.


How to Speak English in Canada

nfhblog7So you’ve got your bags packed and are ready for your vacation to Niagara Falls. Of course you didn’t pack a phrase book because they speak English in Canada, right?

Well, yes. And no.

Just like different regions of the United States and Britain have their own unique slang terms and words, Canada is no different. While you won’t find yourself puzzled too often when talking with a Canadian there are a few words that you may not understand.

So here’s a handy guide to some of Canada’s most popular words and phrases that you might encounter during your visit to Niagara Falls.

Eh?

Canadians use this term at the end of a question, like the way an American might end a question with “right?” Here’s an example: This is the best poutine in town, eh?

Pop

You might call it soda but Canadians use the word pop to describe those sweet, fizzy drinks. Here’s an example: Do you want pop or water with that burger?

Loonie

In Canada a loonie is not someone suffering from mental illness. It’s the nickname for the one dollar Canadian coin that features a loon as its emblem. The two dollar coin is called a toonie.  Here’s an example: Can I borrow a loonie? I haven’t been to the ATM yet.

Hydro

You know that thing that keeps the lights on in your house? You call it electricity but Canadians call it hydro. Here’s an example: That storm last night knocked out the hydro all over town!

Serviette

What you call a napkin the Canadians call a serviette. Serviette is also the French word for napkin, so this is one of those cases where French words have become part of Canadian English. Here’s an example: Can I please have another serviette? This one fell on the floor.

nfhblog8Toque

Another French word used in Canada is toque, pronounced as “took”, and is a winter cap or beanie. You’ll definitely need to know this word if you visit Niagara in the winter. Here’s an example: You’d better put your toque on or your head will freeze!

Zed

Nearly every English speaking country in the world uses this word, except America. Zed is how Canadians pronounce the last letter of the alphabet. So if you ever need to spell something out you’ll need to know this word. Here’s an example: My last name is Zimmer; it starts with zed.

Jam Buster

If you’ve got a sweet tooth you’ll want to know this word. It’s Canadian English for a jelly donut. Here’s an example: Let’s get some jam busters before we head over the falls.

Double Double

While you’re ordering your jam buster you might want to ask for a double double too. This is how Canadians order coffee with two creams and two sugars. Here’s an example: I’ll take a jam buster and a double double please!

Lines

Country roads are called lines in parts of Canada, especially Ontario. If you plan on taking a road trip during your visit this is a good word to know. Here’s an example: Which line will take me to the farmer’s market?

While it’s not absolutely essential to use these words it’s always fun to try out the local customs and language when you travel. Use one or more of these during your trip and see how fun it can be!


Free Things to Do in Niagara in September

NFHblog11Some say that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and that might be true in some cases, but this September in Niagara there are several activities you and your family can take part in that won’t cost you a cent.

Saving money while on vacation in Niagara is important to most visitors so the city does its best to provide travelers with numerous free activities to make it easier on the pocketbook. This frees up money that you can spend doing special things that you might not have been able to otherwise.

If you’re visiting Niagara this September these are a few of the things you can do that are absolutely free.

Onguiaahra: Thunder of Waters

Taking place nightly through September 5 is the spectacular display of light and sound called Onguiaahra: Thunder of Waters. Held in Queen Victoria Park at 8:15, 9:15, and 10:15 each night a projection of color will be added to a special water feature in the park and the history of Niagara will be displayed upon it.

This is also an interactive experience as attendees can project their own light onto the water through the power of lasers. This is one of the most inventive and unusual events held in Niagara and, again, it’s absolutely free. In addition, between each light show the park has arranged for various bands to be playing to keep the crowd in a festive mood.

nfhblog12Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens

Another of the fun and free things to do in Niagara is a visit to the stunning Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens. Covering 100 acres and featuring numerous species of plants the garden is tranquil and makes for a perfect spot to let your kids explore, have a picnic, or perhaps even a nap under one of their beautiful trees.

The gardens are designed and maintained by students of the onsite horticulture school there and you may even spot some of them learning the tricks of their craft. Guided tours are available during the summer months, but sometimes exploring on your own is best way to experience a garden such as this.

Ten Thousand Buddha Temple

Not something you’d necessarily expect to see in Niagara but is here nonetheless is the Ten Thousand Buddha Temple. Also called Cham Shan Temple this impressive seven-story structure is first and foremost a working Buddhist temple, but it also houses an interesting collection of Buddhist and Asian art.

Whether you’re interested in Buddhism or not, this is a great way to learn more about the practice and guided tours are offered on the weekends from June to October. This means that September is the perfect time to spend a few hours viewing the structure and the artifacts, all for free.

A visit to Niagara doesn’t have to be an expensive one and these are just a few of the free activities you can enjoy during September. Be sure to pencil these attractions into your itinerary and start saving money during your trip.


What Is Icewine?

nfhblog5The Niagara region is well known around the world for its incredible wines. Wineries dot the region and tours and tastings are among the most popular pastimes for most visitors to the area. All types of wines are produced here, but there is one variety that many might not be familiar with.

This is Niagara’s famous icewine. While it is produced in other parts of the world, Niagara’s icewine is likely the best known. If you’re a wine lover and plan to taste your way around Niagara, here’s all you need to know about this surprising and delicious wine you can try when you visit Niagara.

Icewine 101

As with many types of wine, icewine producers must follow strict guidelines from growth to fermentation. Only a select few varieties of grape can be used for icewine production, and these include Riesling, Vidal Blanc, and Cabernet Franc. To a lesser extent some vintners use Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

As with all wines, growing conditions must be exact and the Niagara region has the perfect climate for icewine. Mild summers and winters that aren’t too cold create the ideal environment.

How Is Icewine Made?

nfhblog6Icewine has a very distinctive growth and harvesting process, and you might guess part of it by the name. In late fall the vines are covered with nets to protect the grapes from hungry birds then the winemakers wait for the cold snaps to hit. A consistent temperature of -8 Celsius allows the grapes to freeze and begin to dehydrate. Once the temperatures reach -10 to -12 Celsius it’s time to harvest.

Since the grapes have dehydrated they don’t produce as much juice as other grapes, but the juice they do yield is much more concentrated and sweet. Due to the high sugar content, the icewine grapes can be difficult to ferment and this results in lower alcohol content.

Icewine is very sweet and is generally considered to be a dessert wine. However, many unique cocktails feature icewine as an ingredient, so you can experiment on your own or ask your favorite bartender if he or she uses icewine in any of their creations.

Where Can You Try Niagara’s Icewine?

Wineries all around the region offer icewine as part of their stock so choosing just one is difficult. The good news is that you don’t have to choose just one; winery tours often include several stops so you can taste the product for yourself and even purchase a few bottles to bring home.

The Ice House Winery is one of the region’s newest establishments or you could visit one of the first Ontario wineries to produce icewine, such as Inniskillin Wines. However, if you want to get a true feel for the industry a winery tour is definitely your best choice. Many of these tours can be customized for groups or special events and many include appetizers or meals to pair with the wines.

On your next visit to Niagara Falls be sure to explore the area’s wineries and try its most famous creation, icewine. Not only will you have a great time in the area you’ll get a taste of what Ontario is all about.


Where to Pick Your Own Apples in Niagara Falls

nfhblog1One of the best things about the Niagara region is its agriculture. Virtually everything grows in this fertile area which is great news for local residents and also makes for delicious farm to table dining. While most of these farms are large scale operations some are more of the family farm variety and one of the best things about these farms is harvest season, especially when that means you can pick your own fresh fruits and vegetables.

The country roads throughout the Niagara region are dotted with signs advertising a variety of produce that you can pick but the real treat comes as summer ends and the glorious weather of fall begins because this signifies apple season. With the perfect growing climate and conditions, apples are one of Niagara’s most treasured and profitable crops. Here you’ll find macintosh, red delicious, and empire apples in abundance as well as a few other lesser known varieties.

So on your next trip to Niagara Falls hop into the car and head for one of Niagara’s many apple orchards for a day of delicious fun the whole family will enjoy.

Parkway Orchards

Just north of the falls and popular with pickers throughout the year, Parkway Orchards has been one of the favorites in the region for years. During other times of the year cherries, apricots, and other fruits have pickers lined up but September sees the real action with the start of the apple harvest.

Their hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends but these times may vary due to weather. Be sure to check their website for current information. Parkway Orchards also offers picked and cleaned fruit for easy pick up, homemade pies, and other treats in their gift shop.

Windwood Farms

nfhblog2Another of Niagara’s most beloved apple farms is Windwood Farms, located just a little ways north east of Niagara. A true working farm in the sense that you won’t find petting zoos or hayrides here, Windwood prides itself on the quality of its product and their commitment to excellence.

Windwood grows over twenty varieties of apples and picking starts in September. A member of their staff will give you a quick lesson in the proper apple picking technique then you’re free to wander the orchards and chose your favorites. Windwood is currently only open on weekends but check their website for updated hours of operation.

Mathias Farms

Three generations of the Mathias family have seen this far flourish over the years and in addition to providing high quality berries and other fruits to local residents and restaurants their pick your own business really ramps up during apple season which tends to begin in September.

As a smaller scale operation their fruit is often picked out and sold rather quickly so if you want your choice of the best apples it’s wise to contact them through their website, check what’s available, and make an appointment for your picking session.

There’s little that’s more quaint and satisfying than picking your own fruits fresh from the tree. Apple picking in this part of the world is a yearly tradition for some families so why not join the fun on your fall vacation to Niagara Falls.


5 Reasons to Love Ontario (Besides Niagara Falls)

nfhblog3Canada is a huge country and it is vast and beautiful. Seeing it all and doing it properly could take a year or more, and not many people have that kind of time. However, by focusing on one province a trip becomes more manageable and more affordable, when it comes to time and money.

Of course Niagara Falls is one of Ontario’s treasures, but if you’d like to explore more of the province’s sites after your visit to Niagara Falls these are just a few of the reasons to love Ontario and some of the incredible activities you can take part in.

Toronto

Ontario’s capital city is one of the most diverse cities in the world and is only a few hours’ drive from Niagara. Here you’ll find world-class dining, museums, gorgeous parks, and a booming nightlife. The Lake Ontario Harbourfront is a great place to grab a meal or a beer with a gorgeous view.

However, the highlight of the city is the famous CN Tower. Topping out at just over 1,800 feet the sweeping view of the city also includes the airport, where you can watch the planes take off and land.

Lake Superior

Ontario is almost completely surrounded by water which makes for stunning scenery and endless road trip options. The Trans Canada 17 highway will take you through the forests surrounding the lake and the lakeshore itself, all the way to Thunder Bay.

Quaint shops and inns dot the way so you can take as much or as little time exploring this part of Ontario as you’d like, but we recommend taking your time for this beautiful part of Canada.

Stratford Festival

Within an hour of both Niagara and Toronto is the unassuming town of Stratford. However, it’s only unassuming until you realize the significance of this little town of 30,000 people. Home of the largest repertory theatre in North America, the Stratford Festival runs each year from April to October.

While the theatre primarily focuses on the works of Shakespeare they include performances from other well-known playwrights too. Check out this year’s schedule and take in an incredible performance while you’re in Ontario.

nfhblog4Thousand Islands

Located in the St. Lawrence River and numbering closer to 1,800, the Thousand Islands are another perfect way to experience Ontario’s gorgeous scenery. You can choose to kayak or canoe your way through the islands or hire a guide for a more thorough understanding of the area.

Since the St. Lawrence River makes up part of the border between the United States and Canada, be sure to carry your passport at all times.

Cottage Country

Cottage country is not one single place but rather any place where lakeside cottages exist, and in Canada that could be anywhere. However, Georgian Bay is Ontario’s most popular cottage country and when summer hits, the area is booming.

You can visit for a day and experience the laid back feel but why not rent a cottage for a night or two? Then you’ll really see why cottage season is so popular.

A visit to Niagara Falls is just one way to experience Ontario. Consider extending your trip and see some of the other things this area has to offer.


Why You Should Plan Your Autumn Niagara Vacation Right Now

nfhblog1Summer is definitely the most popular time to visit Niagara Falls. The kids are out of school, parents are able to take their vacations from work, and the weather is superb. However, since summer is such a popular time to visit, crowds and long lines for attractions can be a drawback.

So why not plan your vacation for one of the best times to visit Niagara? Autumn is wonderful time to be in Niagara and the surrounding areas, so planning your autumn trip now can put you a step ahead of everyone else, and here are just a few reasons why.

The Weather

While summertime temperatures in Niagara are never very hot, the weather in autumn is much cooler and drier. While some might find it a bit chilly, especially with the mist coming from the falls, autumn is still a very comfortable time of year to visit.

Additionally, the Niagara area sees spectacular fall foliage and hiking the area and visiting the parks will give you an up close glimpse of autumn’s stunning beauty. The contrast of the colorful trees and the falls always makes for impressive photos.

Lower Costs

Off-peak season in any tourist area often means lower prices. Hotels may lower their rates and ticket prices for attractions may be reduced as well. Do your homework and compare prices. It can also help to call hotels directly to enquire about seasonal rates and discounts.

Restaurants in the area may also offer special discounts on food to compensate for the fewer visitors. Check their websites to see if online coupons are available.

Fewer Crowds

nfhblog2Perhaps the best reason to visit Niagara during the autumn months is the fact that fewer people will be there. On weekdays you may even feel as if you have the whole place to yourself. Without the crowds to contend with you and your family can enjoy Niagara to the fullest, without any pressure.

Additionally, if you’re planning a group trip you should also consider the autumn months for the same reason. Group or large family trips are hard enough to manage, so the fewer crowds make it easier for everyone to enjoy themselves.

Autumn Markets

Niagara is a bountiful agricultural region and many of the produce grown in the area isn’t ripe and ready for harvest until the fall months. This means that the local markets are brimming with fresh fruits and vegetables and you can even visit local farms for a pick-your-own adventure.

Local restaurants rejoice at this time of year so expect to find inspired dishes created with local ingredients at eateries throughout the area.

Niagara is special at any time of year, but autumn might be the best time for you and your family to plan your trip. Discounts, fewer crowds, and the fall scenery are just a few of the reasons why you should choose autumn as your best time to visit Niagara Falls.


Dog Parks and Doggy Day Care in Niagara Falls

nfhblog7It’s becoming more and more popular for people to travel with their dogs, especially if they’re taking a road trip. As Niagara is within easy driving distance from many places in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada, furry friends are arriving in Niagara to enjoy a vacation with their humans, and this also includes service dogs.

While many hotels in the area are dog friendly, it’s not generally ideal to ask Fido or Fluffy to wait in the hotel room all the time while the humans are out enjoying the scenery. Luckily, the Niagara area offers several ways to include your dog in fun activities, or a safe place for your pooch to stay while you’re out exploring the falls and the beautiful surrounding areas.

If you plan to travel to Niagara Falls with your dog, these are some great resources that will not only help you ensure that your dog is safe when you’re not there, but also dog friendly places that will allow your dog to join the fun.

Niagara Falls Dog Park

Located within the already existing Firemen’s Park is the Niagara Falls Dog Park. It is fully fenced and has separate areas for small and large dogs so owners of smaller dogs need not worry about their little Yorkie in a sea of Great Danes. There are benches for the humans, drinking water available for the dogs, and shaded areas.

Dogs must be up to date on their vaccinations and dogs that are ill, female dogs in heat, and dogs younger than four months of age are not permitted. The park is open from dusk until dawn, but those hours may change seasonally. Visit their website for more information.

nfhblog8Burgoyne Woods Dog Park

Located in St. Catherine’s, Ontario is the Burgoyne Wood Dog Park. This leash-free dog park is popular with visitors and locals alike and is a great place for your dog to run, play, and socialize with other dogs. This park also features a separate area for dogs less than 16 inches tall, so, again, you can be assured that your small dog is safe.

Typical dog park rules apply, and the owner is responsible for their dog’s behavior at all times. No puppies younger than four months are allowed, nor are sick dogs or females in heat. The larger park which incorporates the dog park is also the perfect place for a picnic or a walk, as long as your dog is leashed after leaving the dog park.

DogSPAw Niagara

One of the most loved dog day care centers in Niagara is dogSPAw Niagara. While their specialty is grooming and they don’t offer boarding services they do offer daycare for dogs and their staff are highly trained dog lovers who are on hand to ensure your dog is entertained while you’re out sightseeing.

Dogs must be fully vaccinated and any special needs should be discussed with the staff before leaving your dog for the day.

Traveling with your dog is fun and Niagara is a great destination for dogs and their families. Consider one of these dog friendly options for your next trip.


Hands On: Niagara’s Best Petting Zoos

nfhblog5Niagara Falls is one of the most popular family vacation destinations for a number of wonderful reasons. Aside from viewing the magnificent falls there are many places that will have your children entertained for hours on end, which not only gives you as a parent a little reprieve, but also brings smiles to the faces of everyone involved.

Let’s face it, kids love animals. Even adults love animals and one of the best ways to get up close and personal with many different types of animals is the always popular petting zoo. Your kids can see, feed, touch, and play with a number of different types of animals at one or more of Niagara’s petting zoos, and all of them are perfect for an afternoon of family fun.

These are just a few of the petting zoos in the area, and it might be hard to choose which one to visit during your next vacation in Niagara Falls.

Safari Niagara

Not just a petting zoo, Safari Niagara is home to over 1,000 animals and covers 150 acres. Professional guides will escort you and your family throughout the area, showing off and describing the many different species that live here, including big cats, giraffes, hippos, birds, and a number of reptile species.

One section of Safari Niagara that is sure to appeal to children is Papa Steve’s Family Farm. Here your children can visit a variety of farm animals including goats, miniature horses, chickens, and more. And if someone gets bored with the animals Safari Niagara also offers paddle boating, catch and release fishing, a splash pad, and more.

nfhblog6Happy Rolph’s Bird Sanctuary and Petting Zoo

This 15 acre park houses numerous bird species but is most well known as a family farm and petting zoo. A large pond is home to many types of waterfowl, and children can visit and interact with many types of farm animals like cows, horses, goats, sheep, and more.

There are many trails throughout the property at Happy Rolph’s and they are all safe for wheelchairs and strollers. A snack bar and picnic area complete the picture and the combination makes for a fun morning or afternoon for the entire family.

Marineland

One might not think an aquarium would fall under the petting zoo category, but Marineland in Niagara certainly does. In addition to their numerous fish and marine mammals, Marineland has several herds of elk and deer that simply love people, and they really love people with food.

There are also a number of amusement park style rides at Marineland, as well as dolphin and killer whale shows. If you time your visit right you may even be able to participate in the feeding of their beluga whales. Visit the Marineland website for more information.

Offering your children the chance to interact with animals is a great activity to include in your Niagara itinerary. Be sure to visit one or all of these fun and fascinating animal experiences and we guarantee your kids will have the time of their lives.