3 of the Best “Pick Your Own” Farms in the Niagara Peninsula

image001The Niagara region has long been one of the most important providers of fruit and produce in all of Canada thanks to the temperate climate, rich and well-draining soil, abundance of water, and numerous farms and orchards in the area. It’s the primary reason why the farm-to-table movement is so common in area restaurants: The region’s fertility and variety make using locally sourced food a relatively easy choice.

If you’re planning on visiting Niagara and you’re looking for an experience of the place that’s out of the ordinary, head toward the countryside. Many of the region’s excellent farms or orchards include a “pick your own” option that makes for a fun and delicious afternoon. From pumpkins to blackberries, here is a closer look at three of the best “pick your own” farms and orchards on the Niagara Peninsula.

1. Parkway Orchards

Located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Parkway Orchards has a wide variety of fruit for anyone intent on eating from Niagara’s bounty. Cherries, peaches, nectarines, apples, grapes, and more can all be picked by visitors to the orchard — it just depends on when you visit and what’s ripe. Cherry picking and peach picking usually happens around the start of the summer, while plums and nectarines are often picked in August and, sometimes, September. Apples are usually ready throughout September, and grapes can be harvested in October. Located right on the Niagara Parkway, the orchards are beautiful year-round, and whatever fruit is in season is always mouth-wateringly good. They also have a gift shop, and ice cream available for purchase.

2. Bry-Anne Farms

image003While Bry-Anne Farms grows a large variety of produce and fruit — including tomatoes, strawberries, and raspberries — it’s their pumpkins that form the most exciting “pick your own” crop each year. Every October, Bry-Anne Farms turns into the Great Pumpkin Patch. Not only can you select your own pumpkin for jack-o-lantern carving, but they also have hayrides, a straw maze, a hay play place for kids, and a barn for exploring. Regardless of what time during the growing season you visit Niagara, however, Bry-Anne Farms is always a great place to visit.

3. Ridge Berry Farms

While much of Ridge Berry Farms’ 27 acres is planted in corn each year, the owners still maintain a decent amount of fruit production, and the variety they offer is what makes it such a lovely pick your own farm to visit. Small patches of blackberries and purple raspberries are available for visitors to pick, and they also boast fruit like Arctic Kiwis, Saskatoon berries, mulberries, and Concord grapes. They also have a few apples varieties for picking during the autumn months. Visitors can also walk through the farm’s old Carolinian Forest, which includes everything from Black Walnut and Shagbark Hickory trees to wild, edible mushrooms and wild leeks. Be sure to contact the farm ahead of time to let them know you’re coming; because they’re further off the beaten path, reservations are required.

Enjoy Niagara in a whole new way by visiting one of these three excellent “pick your own” farms.

The Best 9-Hole Golf Courses in the Niagara Region

image001Golf is a game with a lengthy history that goes back at least as far as the 15th century where the first written reference to the sport, in 1457 in Scotland, occurred when James II banned the game, because it was creating too much of a distraction from the practice of archery. By the time James V rolled around, the distraction had been whole-heartedly embraced, and today, all over the world, that distraction continues.

In the United States alone, more than 24 million people play the game, and in Canada, the numbers sit somewhere between 3 and 6 million. Canada’s golfing season is shorter than much of North America’s, but the Niagara region still boasts an impressive number of courses. Especially for the golfer who’s most intrigued by the sport’s precision and finesse, Niagara’s many excellent 9-hole courses are a must. If you fancy yourself a golfer, and you’re looking to relax in Niagara during the spring, summer, or fall, here are some of the best 9-hole courses in the area.

1. Royal Niagara Golf Club

image003Also located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Royal Niagara Golf Club boasts three unique courses that cover over 7,000 yards. Every hole provides a satisfying challenge, whether you’re teeing off at The Escarpment Course, playing The Iron Bridge Course, or enjoying the beautiful scenery along The Old Canal Course. The green fees here are noticeably higher than at Peach Trees Golf, but then again, the atmosphere is a bit more exclusive. Be sure to follow the dress code: Men must wear shirts with sleeves and collars, paired with Bermuda shorts or slacks, and women must wear Bermuda or walking shorts.

2. St. David’s Golf Club

The only 9-hole course in St. David, this course is situated near the site of the Battle of Queenston Heights, the first major battle of the War of 1812. With enough bunkers, dog legs, and water hazards to challenge just about any golfer, this 9-hole course also has rental pull and power carts available.

3. Oak Hall Golf Course

This Niagara Falls course is a Par 3, 9-hole course that covers 1,050 yards, and is great for beginners and golfers with time constraints. The course is located just a short distance away from the thundering Niagara Falls and offers a great value in green fees. For a golfing experience where you can test your skill and take in the natural beauty of the area, head to Niagara Falls, and play the Oak Hall Golf Course.

Be sure to bring along your golf clubs the next time you find yourself in Niagara. These 9-hole courses will not only place you in the midst of the lush Niagara landscape, but they’ll also further you along on your quest to become a better golfer.

Traveling Alone? Why Niagara Falls Is a Great Destination

image001When most people think about going on vacation, they envision time spent with family, as a couple, or among friends in fun-filled, exotic locations, and while people jet setting in pairs or groups is certainly the most common vacation experience most people have, the trend toward solo travel is steadily gaining steam for a number of reasons.

Imagine going to sleep and awaking whenever you wanted to, eating at the restaurant you desired every meal, and sightseeing according to your own interests — traveling alone offers the individual willing to try it a chance to experience a new place at her own pace and according to her own desires. Many people claim solo travel is the epitome of rest and relaxation. Others love the feeling of not being hampered by others’ whims and tastes. Whatever the reason, if you’re considering embarking on a solo trip in the upcoming future, make sure staying in Niagara Falls is at the top of your list. From Canadian amiability and hospitality to sights and events that are great regardless of whether or not you’re alone, Niagara Falls is a great destination for the solo traveler.

The Benefits of Soloing in Niagara

image003The primary benefit to traveling alone — especially in Niagara Falls — is that you’ll have to interact with strangers. Most people traveling on business or vacation interact with strangers routinely, because the people who staff the hotel in which they’re staying, the bakery they frequent in the mornings, the vineyards they tour, and the restaurants in which they dine are people they don’t know.

When you’re traveling alone, however, all your interaction will be with strangers, and while that may be off-putting to the more introverted among us, engaging a stranger actually has remarkable benefits — as every seasoned solo traveler knows. Because human beings are social creatures, we all need plenty of interaction with our own kind in order to feel safe, connected, and satisfied on a day-to-day basis, and, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia, when we engage a stranger in kindness, our mood is lifted and our feelings of benevolence toward our loved ones and others is increased. Niagara Falls makes interacting with strangers a breeze, because it routinely hosts so many out-of-towners looking to make friends with those around them, and because its inhabitants understand the role that tourists play in the health of the region’s economy. The city of Niagara Falls really is one of the easiest places to be alone, because you’ll be surrounded by people who are genuinely glad to make your acquaintance throughout your visit.

Niagara Falls is also great for solo travelers, because there is so much for a person to do alone. The stunning majesty of the Falls ensures that any expedition undertaken in and around the water will more than occupy you, and the wineries’ tasting rooms are filled with oenophiles just dying to talk about the grapes, the vintage, the mouth feel. The place has more than enough to fill your senses, your time, and your imagination. Who needs a group of friends when you’ve got Nature’s power and a storehouse of entertainment all around you? Great solo options include:

What are you waiting for? Book the vacation of your dreams, and travel by yourself to Niagara Falls, where lovers and individuals have the time of their lives.

The Two Islands That Make Niagara Falls Great

image001Everyone knows about the magnificent waterfalls that give the Niagara region its name and fame. However, not many people know about the large, natural islands that emerge around the swirling, thundering waters of the Niagara River. On your next stay in Niagara Falls, consider exploring either of the following beautiful islands to learn a little more about Niagara history and ecology.

Goat Island

The largest, and most memorable, island in the Niagara River is Goat Island, which works to separate the large, Canadian Horseshoe Falls from the smaller American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.

In the late 18th century, the Seneca, an American Indian group, signed a large portion of land in the Niagara region to the British in reparations for their historical attacks on British traders. One of the victimized traders, John Stedman, claimed an island as his rightful property from the treaty, and he used the land to raise goats. Though the goats died in a particularly harsh winter not long after Stedman assumed the land, the name of the island stuck: Goat Island. Even after New York gained control of the island — and attempted to rename it Iris Island after the Greek goddess of rainbows — locals refused to call it anything but Goat Island.

As Niagara Falls became more popular among tourists, many entrepreneurs imagined Goat Island as an extension of the bustling tourist district. Vanderbilt, the railroad titan, imagined the island as a smaller, more elite attractions space, filled with hotels, shopping, and restaurants. Conversely, P.T. Barnum of circus fame fought heavily to make Goat Island one of the country’s largest circus grounds. Today, Goat Island is legally owned by the State of New York, and it is registered as a part of the Niagara State Parks system. Because the island is open to visitors but bereft of inhabitants, the flora and fauna indigenous to the region have flourished.

Situated between the two groups of Falls, Goat Island offers some unique views of the region; you absolutely cannot miss Terrapin Point, which offers a grand look at the Niagara landscape of New York. You can reach Goat Island via a variety of routes: a foot path, road, and trackless train all cross the thundering Niagara River to deliver visitors to the beautiful island.

Luna Island

image003A smaller spot of land to the north of Goat Island, Luna Island separates the American Falls from the Bridal Veil Falls. While this location is often overshadowed the grandeur of its larger neighbor, Luna Island has plenty to offer intrepid travelers looking for exceptional views.

Initially called Prospect Island due to the land’s superior views over much of the Niagara region, the island soon became famous for the inimitable moonscapes visible from its lookouts. On bright moonlit nights, many a face turned skyward on Luna Island could see magnificent lunar rainbows through the Falls’ mists. Today, the magnificent fireworks shows and the nightly illumination of the waterfalls and surrounding landscape make moon bows a rare sight — but dedicated visitors may still perceive a dash of color in the night sky.

Tourists can reach Luna Island by traveling to and through Goat Island. Though Luna Island isn’t large enough to warrant a vehicle path, pedestrians may cross a walking bridge to see Niagara from this picturesque space.

Top 6 Books Set in Niagara Falls

Lady reading a book There is no better time to read than when you’re on vacation. When you’re away from your everyday troubles, you have ample time to sit back, relax, and devote yourself to a compelling story in a far off land. Niagara is a beautiful land filled with mystery and excitement, so it’s no wonder so many authors place their characters in the midst of the falls. During your relaxing Niagara vacation, pick up a tome set in Niagara, and be consumed body and mind with the drama and wonder of the place.

“The Falls” by Joyce Carol Oates

Oates is a prolific and excellent writer, and she proves her skill once again with this impressive tome. The plot follows young Ariah Erskine in the mid-20th century through her wedding, honeymoon, and widowhood — which all occurs on the same fateful day. But all is not hopeless for Ariah at Niagara Falls, and what follows is a story of passionate romance, but also distrust and greed.

“The Whirlpool” by Jane Urquhart

Another tale of tragedy and mystery set at the falls, this story follows the lives of four different individuals living in or visiting Niagara in the late 19th century whose lives all converge at the whirlpools at the bottom of the falls. The prose is rather Gothic in tone, so if you’re a fan of dark romances, this book is for you.

“The Day the Falls Stood Still” by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Niagara FallsBuchanan has lived in the Niagara region for much of her life, and her beautifully realistic depiction of life around Niagara Falls shows it. This novel follows 17-year-old Bess Heath, an upper-class girl who falls almost instantly for a working-class boy, Tom Cole — a romance riddled with obstacles in early 20th century Niagara Falls, Ontario. You’ll learn plenty about the region and the exploitation of the falls, and you’ll be swept off your feet by the drama of Bess’s and Cole’s budding love.

“The Widows” by Suzette Mayr

One of the few novels on this list not starring a young person in love, “The Widows” instead is concerned with the lives of three old women who make a pact to go over the falls in a steel barrel. However, what sounds like an absurd literary jaunt actually has plenty of meaty layers to peel back, including issues of racism and homophobia.

“Stone House Diaries” by Robert C. Moore

If you’re a fan of historical fiction, you’ll love this extensive exploration of the history of Niagara Falls the city. Spanning several generations of Niagara Falls natives, from the Loyalists coming to Canada from America to nearly modern-day Canadians, the stories told depict how life has changed in Niagara Falls over the past few centuries.

“City of Light” by Lauren Belfer

Although this story is actually set on the Buffalo, New York side, Belfer includes plenty of history and drama that includes the entire falls system. Set at the turn of the century, “City of Light” examines Niagara Falls at the peak of the industrial Revolution, when it was full of the bustling activity of high society and big industry — not to mention crime. This story is an engaging thriller that will keep you interested until the very last page.

5 Movies Filmed in Niagara Falls

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. Book one of the best niagara falls tours to make sure you don’t miss any of these Hollywood hot spots.

“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 now known as Hornblower Niagara Cruises 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 must 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.

A History of Niagara’s Peoples

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, make sure to stop by the Niagara Falls History Museum during your stay.

7 Famous Celebrity Trips to Niagara Falls

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

Shirley Temple 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 Hornblower Niagara Cruises (formerly 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.

The Screaming Tunnel: A Must for Ghost Hunters in Niagara

SOTFblog5.jpegIn every small town, there is a place that local legend — true or not — has turned into a place of mystery. There’s always that one spot — a long-abandoned building, an old graveyard, a clearing in the woods — that’s rumored to be haunted and where people go to either discover the truth for themselves or just be scared out of their wits.

In Niagara Falls, Ontario, that place is the Screaming Tunnel, located in the northwest corner of the city, off Warner Road. For decades, the tunnel has been the place where local teens prove their bravery and where ghost hunters visiting the Niagara Falls region attempt to see some paranormal activity live and in-person.

From Practicality to Paranormal

The Screaming Tunnel is often believed to be an abandoned railroad tunnel, but the 125-foot long tunnel was actually constructed to allow for drainage under what is now Canadian National Railways. The tunnel was constructed so that water could safely drain from the surrounding farmlands without washing out the train tracks and so that farmers, equipment and animals could pass safely under the tracks instead of over them and risk being hit by an oncoming train.

Today, though, there aren’t many local farmers leading cows and sheep through the tunnel, and most of the visitors come equipped with wooden matches, hoping to experience the phenomenon that gives the tunnel its name.

Local Legends

SOTFblog6According to local lore, in order to experience hear the screams that give the tunnel its name, you must walk halfway into the tunnel at night, without any lanterns, flashlights or other illumination. Once you’re in the middle of the tunnel, the legend says, you must light a single wooden match. When the flames go out, you’ll hear the sounds of a girl screaming from somewhere in the tunnel.

The identity of the screaming girl is unclear, as there are several versions of the story. In one version, the screams are those of a young girl who escaped a nearby farmhouse that had caught fire; her clothing was on fire and she ran into the tunnel to try to extinguish the flames, but died in the process. In another version, the girl is the daughter of a couple in the throes of a contentious divorce, and the father burned her in the tunnel to avoid losing custody. In the third, and arguably most disturbing version, the screams are those of a young girl who was attacked and killed in the tunnel and then burned to hide the evidence.

Regardless of local lore, there have never been any confirmed incidents of such crimes inside the tunnel, nor any identification of whom the screams could actually belong to. Nonetheless, the Screaming Tunnel continues to draw visitors from both the local area and ghost-obsessed tourists from around the world who want to try to hear the screams for themselves. Of course, the fact that scenes from the Stephen King film “The Dead Zone” were filmed here doesn’t hurt its popularity with tourists at all.

So what do you think? Will you brave The Screaming Tunnel on your next visit to Niagara Falls? If you do, make sure you don’t forget to bring a single wooden match — and maybe your running shoes.