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East, South, West, North – 18,068km through Canada and USA (Week 2)

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The following (really long) post relates to Week 2 of mine and Adela’s road trip from Jasper in the Rocky Mountains across Canada into America and back to Vancouver covering a total of 18,068 km in just 7 weeks. 

Its tricky trying to get photos of both of you

Day 8 – 11/09/2010 – Toronto.  It was a different kettle of fish and completely daunting being back in a city after spending the last 10 months working in Jasper which only has a full time population of 5,000.  We had decided before we left Jasper that we wouldn’t use a GPS either (and when I say we, I mean me since I am a man and can navigate by the stars).  Since I did the majority of the driving it was left up to Adela to navigate us through the city to find a parking spot.  She did an outstanding job but by the time we had parked we were playing a fun game I like to call “silence”.  Basically we enjoy each others company while slowly fuming away in silence until about an hour later one of us will laugh at the other for being so grumpy.  Its a great relationship builder…
Unhitching our bikes we set off for the day along the waterfront to the city centre to catch a ferry out to Toronto Island.  I love the bike lanes in countries such as America because they actually work and don’t unexpectedly stop down the middle of the road.  NZ government and local planners take note.  We spent the better part of the sunny morning biking around Toronto Island and it was amazing that there are a small number of houses that are actually on the island.  Great views over the water as well to the CN tower and cityscape.  


The almighty CN Tower

Made our way to Old York (apparently Toronto use to be called York but didn’t want to be Old York since New York sounded cooler and more modern) where we checked out the St Lawrence Market.  Suckers for a good food market we got stuck into all the speciality foods with the highlight an extremely tasty savoury muffin.  China Towns always seem to drag Adela towards them as well, and although they usually have some great food this one was a bit of a disappointment but we still got a quota of 5 plus a day fruit and veges to take in the car.  Kensington Market was the next stop on the agenda and we wish we had a few more hours to spend checking it out.  Very hippy and alternative with the local houses reminding us both of Dunedin student flats (without the Speights cans).  Some cool shops and little cafes where Adela wanted to eat everything and buy all the little dresses.  Luckily we stuck to budget.
Kensington Market street art

Found a cute campsite in Jordan Valley not far from Niagara Falls.
KM travelled = 182 km.
Spending = $50 (petrol), $4 (car parking), $13 (ferry), $13 (food), $32 (camping) = $112 total.

Day 9 – 12/09/2010 – Niagara Falls.  Free parking was found at Marineland since we are cheapskates before biking down to the falls.  Holy Moley.  What a site.  Even the rapids before the actual falls are intense then all off a sudden the ground just disappears and the water thunders over unrelenting.  Even the spray can be felt above the falls themselves.  What is scary is that there is a barge that is perched upon some rocks a few metres up from the falls and there are a huge number of nutters that have gone over in all sorts of stupid contraptions.  Some living to tell the tale and some just disappearing for ever.  We spent the better part of an hour being full on tourists snapping away getting some shots.
American Falls on the left and Horsehoe Falls in the distance.  Maid of the Mist in the foreground setting off packed to the rafters.




We donned the blue Maid of the Mist ponchos, which seemed a bit tacky and unnecessary to begin with but boy did we need them!  We piled onto the boat, which we decided looked like a  refugee boat with the hundreds of other tourists and set off.  The Americans must be gutted that the “American Falls” are actually smaller than the “Horseshoe Falls” which belongs to the Canadians.  However, they are both incredibly impressive and the boat drives right into the mist.  The water hitting the rocks creates a crazy effect of strong winds and heavy spray that feels like you are in the middle of a storm.  Two oldies elbowed their way in front of us as we drove up to the first falls but were quickly cowering behind us after a few minutes of getting pounded by the water in the heart of Horsehoe Falls.  Well worth the money we spent and such a cool experience. 

After drying off we headed to the main tourist strip.  I was really disappointed though as it had become so commercialised with souvenir stores, wax museums, and other tacky shops.  All in all though a great day out and would love to view it from the American side as well.  We packed up our bikes and headed to Peterborough to visit another Jasper friend who Adela worked with during the summer.  After staying in Walmart the night before Adela was desperate for a shower and I needed some clean clothes as there are only so many different ways you can turn your shirts inside out and back to front so it was good to do some washing up.  Huge burgers and beers before we crashed out.
KM travelled = 322 km.
Spending = $32 (Maid of the Mist), $10 (chocolate present for staying the night), $35 (food) = $77 total.

 


Day 10 – 13/09/2010 – A blissful sleep in with no real plans for the day apart from to drive to Montreal.  However as we headed along the road we decided to make an unscheduled pitstop in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, and what a neat stop it turned out to be.  Even though we only spent about 2 hours wandering around we still managed to check out Parliament Hill.  Some huge old buildings including the Peace Tower which had amazing panoramic views across the city.  The Peace Tower was built as a War Memorial and they never fail to move me.  Again we managed to find the local food stalls, this time at Byward Markets where we tucked into some tasty treats.  Finished the day stuck in freaking traffic before stopping just 30 km from Montreal at another Walmart.
KM travelled = 461 km.
Spending = $58 (petrol), $8 (car parking), $21 (food) = $87 total.
 Parliament building and the Peace Tower in the middle

Day 11 – 14/09/2010 – Rush hour!  Frick.  It took us 2 hours to travel just 30 km into Montreal city. Luckily the breakfast cafe we found quickly made up for it and put smiles back on our faces.  It is completely whack that in the middle of a huge English speaking country there lies Quebec province which incorporates everything to do with French people.  I was just keen to try my French out on everyone I met but quickly realised the very little I knew was completely useless.  However, we battled on hitting the tourist trail once more with Cathedrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde up first.  One word = Massive.  Its modelled on St Peter’s Basilica in Rome so had beautiful paintings on the roof and wooden carvings throughout.  Wandered on down past the town hall to the Bank of Montreal museum which was the first Canadian bank and actually invented currency.  

Chappelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours was next on the hit list.  The old sailors used to come in and pray for safe journeys across the ocean.  During their travels at sea they would often past the time by fashioning wooden model boats that they carved or made and these would be donated to the Chapel on their safe arrival back home.  Marche-Bon-Secours had been converted into a high-end shopping mall with little boutique shops and staff who turned their noses up at us as we wandered past in our jandals.  Definitely no chance of shopping there.  The old town roads were still the original cobble stones with heaps of street artists selling their wares.  I had to drag Adela off before she brought anything that we would then have to squeeze in to the cramped car. 



The final, and most impressive building was left to last, the Basilique Notre-Dame. Its one of, if not the most famous landmark in Montreal and well worth the donation at the end for a tour explaining the history, which included the 6,000+ pipe organ, the hidden stained glass window, the wedding chapel, Priests staircase and the largest bell in North America.

KM travelled = 94 km.
Spending = $8 (car parking), $32 (brekky), $10 (tour of Notre-Dame), $22 (camping), $10 (more food) = $82 total.


Day 12 – 15/09/2010 – We had found a campsite just outside Montreal so returned again to the city in the morning.  This time turning off the tourist trail to explore and educate our minds at the Montreal Science Centre. The main exhibits consisted of a glass area, sex exhibit and a hands-on area, obviously not all in the same place… Not quite sure what the sex part was all about but we were pretty much in hysterics the whole time.  Somehow we managed to spend about 5 hours taking it all in but it was nice not to be rushed for time.  Dinner was located in some funky French pizza cafe where again I established that I really wish I knew a second or third language. As a Kiwi I have hardly even mastered the English language, yet we would often met French-Canadians or other travellers who could speak 2/3 or more languages.  

I had heard of a surfing spot in the heart of Montreal on the St Lawrence river so decided we better go check it out.  AWESOME.  There were about a dozen surfers milling around on the shoreline patiently waiting their turn all having a good laugh.  Basically everyone takes turns to paddle straight out into the middle of the river current faces upstream and starts paddling like mad so that once you hit the perfect spot on these natural river waves you will remain stationary and can then stand up.  The ride can be endless but every minute or so a new paddler would jump in and they would just rotate out having to paddle back to shore before running along the track to the put in again.  I still wish to this day that we had stuck around for one more day so I could hire some gear and have a crack.  Hopefully we will visit again in the future!  
KM travelled = 113 km.
Spending = $50 (petrol), $24 (Science exhibits), $10 (parking), $28 (dinner) = $112 total.

Surfing on the St Lawrence – Signalling the next guy in for his turn
Could pull cutbacks and ride it for as long as you liked!  A surfers dream.



Day 13 – 16/09/2010 – No traffic thankfully as we headed away from Montreal via the St Lawrence river to Quebec City.  Some cute little towns that I wish we had time to explore but as always not enough time and too many k’s to do.  Straight onto our bikes around the Parc des Champs-de-Batallie (Abraham’s Battlefields Park) which was the site where the British defeated the French many moons ago.  I seem to have a fascination with old military weapons as you can see…  

The Parliament building was pretty neat as was the St Jean Church that had been converted into a library.  A great use of space for an old building that was no longer used.  Some how our noses, and the guide book, led us to the Chocolate Museum where we had to indulge in some tasty treats.  
Locked the bikes up to explore on foot and wandered down the Rue-St-Jean (very pretty french street) with little side streets tucked away and some cool houses around.  My favourite was definitely checking out the battlefields and the history there while Adela enjoyed the chocolate (surprise surprise) with Rue-St-Jean coming in a close second.
KM travelled = 271 km.
Spending = $22 (food), $8 parking, $12 (chocolate treats), $8 (clothes washing), $22 (camping) = $72 total.

Adela intent on buying some art

Day 14 – 17/09/2010 – Back to Quebec City in the morning for some more touristy delights.  Biked through the Battlefields again to the Quebec City Citadel, which is still an occupied and functioning Army base and one of only 2 in the world still active.  Walked all the way along the humongous perimeter walls into the walled Old Quebec City stopping in for lunch (starting to get sick of peanut butter sandwiches) in Place de Armes Square outside Le Chateau Frontenac.  A classic Frenchman was belting out a little bit of Andrea Bocellia who just happens to be Mum’s favourite Opera singer so I was tempted to sing along.  Alas we ran out of time but he deserved a tip for for entertaining us.
Le Chateau Frontenac is the most photographed hotel in Canada.  It was gorgeous, but we decided we have seen better.  Adela soon spotted the local artwork in a side alley and promptly fell in love with every piece there.  I restricted her to one item which she browsed over for about an hour while I lazed in the sun.  Started to get hot and bothered so wandered down the aptly named “Breakneck Stairs” to the narrowest legal streets in North America for some gelato and jumping.  Adela had been hanging out for a coffee all morning but we didn’t find them until it was early in the evening after the University area and Latin Quarter had been explored.  The Basilica Notre-Dam-de-Quebec was good and pretty inside but the Montreal one trumped all over it.
Walked our way around the rest of the wall and I found the Parc de L’Artillerie (no translation required here) with several old cannons and tonnes of photos for me!  The final stop of the evening was the Citadel where we managed to jump on the last tour of the day.  We always prefer getting a tour around areas including cities and buildings as I always think for the money you spend they are definitely worth it.  The Citadel is designed as a star shape so that you have loads of points to defend from covering all the different angles of approach.  The walls are all built into the ground with slopes leading up to them so that the enemy can’t actually pinpoint where to fire.  Very effective, all though the French still managed to lose it somehow.  


Exhausted after a heavy day of walking and sightseeing throughout the cities around Quebec and Ontario provinces.
KM travelled = 226 km.
Spending = $7 (car parking), $18 (dinner), $10 (treat), $10 (tour), $25 (painting), $55 (petrol) = $130 total.
Weekly KM travelled = 1669 km.
Spending for the week = $672.
 Atop the Citadel walls

Citadel looking back towards Le Chateau Frontenac

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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North America

The Best Way to Stay in LoDo Denver

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The Mile High City welcomes all comers with open arms. Denver is a unique city, and not just because it is located exactly one mile above sea level. No, Denver is unique because of the amount of fun it contains in one neighborhood. Meet Denver’s Lower Downtown, colloquially referred to as LoDo. LoDo is the most popular neighborhood in Denver, thanks to its incredible location. A stay in LoDo puts you within easy walking distance of Denver’s Contemporary Museum of Art, the historic Larimer Square, and the always impressive Coors Field. To be honest, we don’t feel any pressure to sell you on this, because LoDo Denver speaks for itself. However, we do want to point you in the right direction when it comes to picking a place to stay in LoDo, as that is a much less discussed point. There are a near infinite number of places of various sorts for you to stay in, but today we’re going to compare and contrast two of the most popular venues: hotels and vacation rentals. Let’s begin, shall we?

Travel Apartments

Travel apartments are vacation rentals don’t have to be used by people on vacation. Travel apartments let people who are visiting a new city stay in their own private residence. Rather than having to share space with in-laws or strangers, you can stay in travel apartments, which give you own space while in LoDo. Each travel apartment comes with a private washer and dryer, along with a fully functional kitchen. Let’s examine some of the other benefits.

Pros

  • Privacy. As mentioned, your travel apartment will be yours and yours alone. No housekeeping to worry about, no noisy neighbors; this is your home during your stay in LoDo.
  • Amenities. And even more amenities. In addition to your private kitchen and laundry room, you get a spacious, well-lit, upscale apartment to live in. Take your pick from any of the travel apartments in Denver linked above, because each one will have a sleek design and comfortable layout. There are more small amenities than we have room to enumerate, so we’ll let you discover those for yourself.
  • Location. Every travel apartment is located in the ideal spot for vacationers in a new city. Pick any one of the LoDo travel apartments and you’ll be within walking distance of the best attractions, restaurants, and bars in the Mile High City.

Now let’s look at some of the disadvantages.

Cons

  • You’ll need to book in advance. If just reading this article has convinced you to book a stay in Denver right now, it’s possible there won’t be a travel apartment available for you. Make sure to reserve your spot in advance.
  • You’ll have a specified leave date. Similar to the first issue, you can’t just purchase another week’s stay at the end of your trip, because someone else may have reserved the space. Be sure to book yourself a long enough stay the first time!
  • You’re unlikely to get that native influence. Privacy is great, but talking to Denver natives gives you a fresh perspective on the city. You’ll need to make a point of going out and meeting some locals during your downtime!

Hotels

You know what a hotel is, right? Okay, cool. Here’s the pros and cons of hotel living in LoDo Denver.

Pros

  • Availability. Hotels are everywhere, with a huge range of pricing options. No matter what corner of Denver you wanted to stay in, you could find a hotel there. Moreover, with that many options, it’s easy to find one that fits your budget.
  • Helpers. You have someone to clean your sheets and a concierge to answer questions any time of the night or day. If there’s a place to stay where you can order food straight to your room besides hotels, we haven’t found it.

Cons

  • Noise. Hotels are loud, nothing to be done about it. When you’ve got people living above, below, and to the left and right of you, things are bound to get a little noisy. All you can do is hope that the kids don’t start crying…
  • Unreliable advertising. Hotels all seem eager to advertise their tranquil oasis of a pool area. Sorting out which pools will actually fry your hair with hyper-chlorination can be exhausting.
  • No privacy. Between housekeeping, your four sets of neighbors, and that one guy from the next room over drunkenly swiping his key card at your door, it can be hard to find space that’s yours and yours alone.

So, what’s the right way for you to stay in LoDo Denver? Hotel or travel apartment? Ultimately, the choice is yours and yours alone. Of course, if you hate being indoors, maybe glamping in Denver would be more your speed? No matter what you choose, you’ll have the time of your life flying high in LoDo Denver.

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City Guides

The Best Dog-Friendly Attractions in Portland, Oregon

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With a green focus and an animal loving attitude, a superb collection of pet-friendly hotels and many fantastic pooch-welcoming bars and restaurants Portland is one of the most dog friendly cities in the USA. Check out our top dog-friendly attractions…

1 Sellwood Riverfront Park

With a 1.5 acre off-leash area which extends to the river this is a great place to bring your dog especially if yours loves to run and play with other dogs. You’ll need to put your dog back on the leash to use the connecting paths which take you through the forest, parks and neighborhood areas but there’s plenty of places for them to enjoy sniffing around. Make sure you bring your own poop bags and drinking water for your dog. The park provides picnic tables where you can rest after your walk.

Funny Jack Russell Terrier Dog Walks Down Street On A Leash. Dog Looks Directly Into Camera. Wide Angel Lens Shot.

2 Wildwood Trail, Forest Park

Situated at NW Germantown Road, this wilderness area is for serious hikers and canines of a high fitness level as its 30-mile hike takes a couple of days to comfortably get around. It is recommended that you consider getting a map of the Forest Park to find the best way to get around the trails as some are more challenging than others. You’ll need to keep your dog on a leash the whole time and you’ll have to bring your own water and poop bags as these are not provided.

3 Portland Saturday Market

If you and your pooch are the socializing kind then the open-air arts and crafts Saturday Market and Farmers Market at 2 SW Naito Parkway is the place to be. You’ll have to keep your dog on the leash at all times while you’re browsing for delicious baked goods, meats and cheeses but dogs are made welcome with plenty of drinking water stations and lots of shady spots when the weather gets too hot.

4 Portland International Raceway Dog Park

If you’re looking for somewhere you can let your canine really stretch their legs, the fenced off dog park here has got to be the best place to go. This is a very well maintained area where the grass is kept short and neat and garbage is constantly cleared away so take poop bags with you at all times. Portland International Raceway is the home of drag racing, auto racing, motorcycle racing and motocross as well as Cruise-in specials and all these are held at various times throughout the year so why not make a weekend of it and enjoy plenty of thrills, excitement, music and great food and drink. Remember though that your pet must be properly supervised, on-leash at all times and must be cleaned up after. Some events do not allow pets so check before you book.

group of dogs in the park walking with professional dog walker

5 Plum Hill Vineyards

How about this for something a little different? Plum Hill Vineyards, situated between Forest Grove and Gaston this family-owned concern brews its own wines and not for nothing do they say it’s ‘your dog’s favorite winery’! It has to be one of the very few places where you can enjoy the company of your canine friend and at the same time sample some of the delicious wines the Plum Hill Vineyard has to offer. This place is genuinely dog-friendly as well-behaved dogs (and their humans) are allowed into the tasting room and onto the outside patio area. There is a large fenced dog run right next to the Vineyard where you and your dog can play. Poop bags, water and treats are thoughtfully provided for you.

6 International Rose Test Garden

If you love to walk around well tended gardens that are full to the brim with the sweet aroma of more than 10,000 beautiful roses, other plants and attractions then this is well worth a visit. The International Rose Test Garden, the oldest public garden in the US, is pet-friendly and extremely easy to get around on paved paths. You can take one of the free public tours or just stroll around at your own pace to enjoy the fountain, statue and gardens. Why not bring a picnic lunch and sit a while to enjoy the superb view, provided it is a clear day, over the city and Mt Hood in the distance. The garden is open all year round but to see the roses at their best you should visit in June. There is free admission and a gift shop on site as well.

Four funny cute dogs ex abandoned homeless adopted by good people and having fun on the pillows in the pet shop enjoying new life selective focus

7 Sandy River Delta, Thousand Acres Park

Although known to locals as simply Thousand Acres, and located just off I-84, 20 minutes from downtown Portland, this is actually 1,400 acres of doggy paradise. Consisting of open fields, wetlands, hiking trails, two rivers (the Sandy River and Columbia River) and numerous blackberry bushes you and your pooch can enjoy as much off-leash fun as you can handle. If your dog loves to swim, run or just take a leisurely stroll at your side you should come here to appreciate all that the Thousand Acres has to offer. It isn’t solely for dog walkers either – the Park is popular with birders, waterfowl hunters, horseback riders and mountain bikers. There is one part of the park that you won’t be allowed into however as one third of it is an off-limits wildlife habitat so be aware of this. The park is open all year round from dawn until dusk and there is car parking on site. The US Forest Service is responsible for the upkeep and development of the Park as well as maintaining the off-leash regulations for doggy visitors. These state that dogs should be kept on-leash at all times in the parking lot and within 100 feet of the Confluence Trail.

8 Hotel Monaco

Canine and human visitors to Portland will need a dog-friendly place to stay and the Hotel Monaco is one of the best. The hotel welcomes all dogs whether large or small, pure-breed or mutt. On arrival you and your pooch are greeted by the hotels’ own canine, a Golden Retriever, to make you all feel at home. You can order up a dog bed, food and water bowls and mats if you don’t want to take your own. The hotel’s nightly wine reception welcomes guests and their pups and you’ll be glad to know there are a good number of dog-friendly restaurants nearby.

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North America

What to Do on a Day Trip to Niagara Falls

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Millions of people have added a visit to Niagara Falls to their bucket list. While some have the time to spend a whole weekend or even longer in this part of the world, which sits on the Canadian-United States border, others are short of time.

If you can only squeeze in a day trip to the Niagara area, there are ways to make the most of your trip and have a fabulous – if long – day. Whether you’ll be traveling from Toronto, Buffalo, Rochester or elsewhere, there are certain key things to do.

Journey Behind the Falls

Seeing the famous waterfalls is no doubt one of the main reasons why you’re planning a day trip to Niagara Falls. As such, buy a ticket to the Journey Behind the Falls experience. This option will get you up close to the Falls but from behind and below, as the tour takes visitors underground. You’ll travel down approximately 150 feet via an elevator and end up in purpose-built tunnels.

The hundred-year-old tunnels take you to Observation Decks that offer safe cocoons to see and hear the powerful waterfalls as they launch over the cliffs above and thunder down. As you complete the tour, check out the various posters on the tunnel walls. These detail the history of the Falls and the hallways.

Take a Boat Cruise

No trip to Niagara Falls is complete without seeing the waterfalls from the front, from a boat. Take a ride on a vessel operated by Hornblower Niagara Cruises if you’re on the Canadian side of the Falls, or hop on the Maid of the Mist when on the American side.

Both companies take passengers up close to the waterfalls, so you’ll hear the roar of the water and get drenched unless you’re wearing the supplied rain ponchos. The cruise lasts for about 20 to 30 minutes and will ensure you truly witness the wonder of Niagara Falls.

Picnic in the Botanical Gardens

Within the Niagara area, there are many excellent restaurants where you can stop for lunch and digest what you have seen. However, one way to take in more of the region while also refueling and learning something is to have a picnic in the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens. Take a packed lunch with you and eat it within the 40-hectare site. The only problem is deciding where to set up your picnic.

The rose garden is particularly popular with visitors. There are approximately 2,500 different rose bushes here, which not only look lovely but also provide a delicate floral scent to take in while you relax. After finishing your meal, explore the Butterfly Conservatory. This enclosed space is home to over 2,000 butterflies, hailing from over 45 butterfly species.

If your legs are tired from all the walking during the day, hop on the Gardens’ horse and carriage tour. This way, you can conserve energy while seeing more of the gardens. This tourist attraction is found ten minutes’ drive from the center of Niagara Falls.

Explore Clifton Hill

Next, head to the fun suburb of Clifton Hill. It’s on the Canadian side of the waterfalls, only a block from Horseshoe Falls. Clifton Hill is a happening spot bursting at the seams with entertainment, shops, museums, and other attractions. There is, for example, a 36-hole mini-golf adventure course, a massive bowling alley, Canada’s biggest entertainment complex (it boasts 300-plus interactive games), and a haunted house.

Pick up souvenirs at the Canada Trading Company, and novelty gifts at the Fun Factory. If you need a sugar hit to keep you going, stop by the Fudge Factory for a vast array of sweet treats. When you’re ready for dinner, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Clifton Hill, too. There are dozens of excellent restaurants here, with something to suit every taste.

Ride the Niagara SkyWheel

Also located in Clifton Hill is Canada’s tallest Ferris wheel. Round out your day with another look at the waterfalls from 175 feet in the air. Ride the Niagara SkyWheel once the sun goes down so you can watch the Niagara Falls fireworks and light show. This stunning show lights up the Falls in every color of the rainbow.

The SkyWheel has air-conditioned and heated gondolas for comfort no matter the weather, and each ride includes at least four rotations. You’ll get expansive views of the Falls plus the surrounding region.

While Niagara Falls is famous around the world for the waterfalls that gave the city its name, there is much more to do in this area. Prepare yourself for a full day of activities and you’ll be ticking off items on that bucket list in no time.

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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