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bhunt70 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 01:33 PM
Original message
Going to Niagara Falls this week, need some info.
My wife and I are going to Niagara Falls/Buffalo this weekend to celebrate our 11th anniversary. We're staying in Buffalo and don't know anything at all about the city. We're just looking for a good restaurant or two, an interesting shopping area (non mall preferably), and possibly a museum, zoo, or park that is a must see aside from the falls. Does anyone have any ideas? We'll have a rental car so getting around shouldn't be a problem.

Also, we would like to go to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. I know a passport wasn't required years ago, but has anything changed since 9/11? She lost her passport a few years ago, and mine is about to expire if it hasn't already. We both have state issued ID's, will that be good enough?

Thanks
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Beer Snob-50 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 01:39 PM
Response to Original message
1. Usually you need the following forms of ID
a birth certificate and license. I stayed on the Canadian side last year for my vacation. I was disappointed generally as it was very commercial (losts of arcades, wax musuems, ect) But we took little trips on both sides of the falls that were interesting.
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bhunt70 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 01:40 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. ok thanks for the information, That's an original BC, I assume.
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Rosie1223 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 01:46 PM
Response to Original message
3. My recent visit
We visited Niagara Falls this summer w/the kids. The view from the Canadian side is better than the American so definately go over there for pictures. All the stores take US$ so don't worry about exchanging money. The parking fee in Canada is outrageous, though. Consider parking on the US side and walking across the bridge.

On the American side we rode the Maid of the Mist, visited the museums and took the tour 'under the falls'. You can buy a package ticket and save money if you want to do multiple activities. Be sure you get a shuttle bus pass for the American side -- the activities are too far to walk between.

The border crossings were ridiculously easy for us. My husband and I showed our driver's licenses. I had birth certificates, insurance cards, etc. but the border patrol didn't ask us for anything. However, we are a middle-class white family in a minivan.

Enjoy your second honeymoon!

Rosie
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July Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 02:04 PM
Response to Original message
4. Not sure about the border, but here's some stuff to see in Buffalo.
My mother (lives in Buffalo) says she usually gets through at the border just stating where she's going and her citizenship, but I would think you'd need some ID to be on the safe side.

In Buffalo, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery is a must-see. It's not very big, but it's one of the best modern art galleries in the country. Near there, going into downtown Buffalo, is Elmwood Avenue, which has lots of places to eat and some interesting shops. It's near Buffalo State College, so plenty of young people in the area. Go down Elmwood towards downtown and you'll be in "Allentown," an artsy segment of downtown Buffalo (last I checked, though, downtown was a mere shadow of its former self).

The zoo isn't great, but it's in Delaware Park, a nice, big park that is one of several in Buffalo designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Near the park is the Darwin Martin House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. I think it has a website you could look at.

Besides the chicken wings (try Duff's), there is a good local dish called "beef on weck," a roast beef sandwich on a salted Kaiser roll. My family usually goes to Schwabel's or Eckl's for it. Good pizza in Buffalo, too.

Where are you staying?
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bhunt70 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 03:03 PM
Response to Reply #4
6. staying at the hyatt regency in Buffalo.
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July Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 03:57 PM
Response to Reply #6
9. Just about on top of the lake, heart of downtown.
I second the tips in this thread about seeing the Canadian side of the falls and about the drive in Canada -- excellent advice. From the hotel you're minutes from the Peace Bridge that will take you right into Canada. You'll be amazed at the difference between the U.S. side and the Canadian side.

There is some interesting architecture downtown; be sure to ask at your hotel for the tourist info.

Have a great time. I'm hoping for a full report, and also hoping you like my home town. It has its charms (including the snow).

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CanuckAmok Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 04:27 PM
Response to Reply #9
14. I love Buffalo's architecture.
There is even a good "Architecture Walk", organised by the Historical Society and the Architects' Guild. The front desk should have info.

July... did you ever Frequent the Continental, on Franklin Street?
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July Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 04:46 PM
Response to Reply #14
15. Doesn't ring a bell.
All I remember from Franklin Street is the Rue Franklin. But I haven't lived in Buffalo since 1983, though I go back frequently to see my family.

Where are you in Canada (if I may ask)?
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CanuckAmok Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 04:53 PM
Response to Reply #15
16. I'm in BC, but I grew up in Niagara.
...
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July Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 04:57 PM
Response to Reply #16
17. Well, then, howdy, (ex-)neighbor! nt
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CanuckAmok Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 05:01 PM
Response to Reply #17
18. howdy back atcha!
I love Buffalo. Haven't been there in seven years!
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July Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 05:25 PM
Response to Reply #18
20. I manage to be there for all the good snowstorms.
Usually go for Christmas. Two or three years ago was the seven-feet-of-snow-in-two-days storm. Now that I live in NJ, I'm missing real winter.
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henslee Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 02:07 PM
Response to Original message
5. Advice: Do not get in any barrels.
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Flavin Donating Member (107 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 03:37 PM
Response to Original message
7. stay on the canadian side
My spouse and I visited the falls 2 summers ago and stayed on the Canadian side.

Everyone took US $s
Everyone was super friendly.
The Food was better.
The parks were better kept.
We took a hotel room right up the hill from the park and left our
car there while we site sawed (chuckle, s/B site seed?) :)Free
parking.
The view was better.
You can do the maid o' the mist from the canadian side (it has
better facilities than the US side).
and, at night there is a big strange almost carnival-istic expanse
awsome kitchy tourist places that crawl up the hill.

We visited the US side and was sorely disapointed, dirty, run down, crappy view of falls, rude americans (working there).


Flavin
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CanuckAmok Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 03:47 PM
Response to Original message
8. I grew up in Niagara Falls.
Okay, first of all... get all your gas in NY if you can; gasoline is over $4 per gallon throughout Canada.

Now... instead of driving to Niagara Falls, New York and crossing to Canada via the Rainbow Bridge, cross into Fort Erie, Ontario directly from Buffalo (over the Peace Bridge). There's not much to see in Niagara Falls New York; not a great view of the Falls, and it's pretty much an unattractive city.

The Niagara Parkway follows the curves of the Upper Niagara River, and will take you right to Niagara Falls (and beyond), and it's a far, far nicer drive than taking one of the "I" routes through NY State (although it takes a little longer). This time of year, in particular, the Parkway is a wonderful drive, because it's bordered by huge trees, and the leaves are all changing colour.

Once in Niagara Falls, Ontario, the main "drag" from the actual Falls themselves into the city is "Clifton Hill". CH is Ground Zero for tourist traps, wax museums, arcades, etc. It's also just west of Casino Niagara, the largest casino in Canada.

For less expensive parking, just go up Clifton Hill, past Ferry Street, and keep going until the area becomes residential. Just find a spot and park for the day; you're only about a 15 minute walk back to Clifton Hill, and another 15 from the Falls themselves.

The City of Niagara Falls isn't very pretty beyond the falls area proper; it's a bit of a dump, actually, so don't bother, unless you like strippers and pawn shops.

There are a couple of scenic towers within walking distance of Clifton Hill; splurge and take in the view of the Falls from them.

As far as activities, there's the aforementioned trip behind the Falls, there's the Maid of the Mist boat tour which sails around the Falls (at the bottom!). There are the goofy wax museums if you're into that.

Museum sidebar #1: The only wax museum worth seeing was the Houdini Hall of Fame, which held many of Houdini's props and costumes, single-print films, and a pretty impressive collection of magic and Vaudeville memoribilia. Sadly, it was destroyed by fire a few years ago. The other "museums" along the strip are just collections of wax figures and cheap special effects... no actual history.

Museum sidebar #2: With one exception! About a :15 walk east from the base of Clifton Hill, there's an ugly 5 or 6 story building called the Niagara Falls Museum. It's a bit off the beaten track, but it's the only legitimate museum in the city. It has a comprehensive collection of artifacts dating from the 17th century, the War of 1812, and the early days of the City as a tourist centre beginning in Queen Victoria's time. It also houses Canada's largest collection of Egyptian mummies and artifacts, as well as a great deal of artifacts surrounding the American Indian nations who populated the area before we killed them all.

If you double back the way you came (West) along the Parkway, you can follow the signs to the Mount Carmel seminary; that area is a nice place to take a walk, or see the Falls from its higher elevation. The Table Rock House is nearby, too, and it's a nice place for lunch.

Heading back Eastward, about a very scenic :30 drive east along the Niagara Parkway takes you along the canyon of the Lower Niagara River, and literally through the Issac Brock Generator Station, which is powered by the force of water flowing through the river. It's not always open for tours, but if it is, you should go in. At the very least, park and have a look over the brink into the Gorge.
There are also a few places along the bank which have stairs leading down the 400+ feet to the river, and into some beautiful, wild parkland. If you don't mind steps, it's a nice walk.

Also along the route is the Butterfly Conservancy, which is a living zoo of all things creepy-crawly, and, of course, butterflies.

Not far from there is the Niagara parks Commission Botanical Gardens, which are spectacular. Nice place for lunch, too.

Another :30 or so will get you into the towns of Queenston and Niagara on the Lake (NOTL). The latter being my hometown (no plaque, yet).

Queenston was the site of the Battle of Queenston Heights, the battle which determined the course of the War of 1812. It is also the Battle where General Brock and his horse, Alfred, were killed. There are monuments to both, and Brok's Monument is accessible inside...it's quite a hike up it's 300+ stairs, but the view from the top is breathtaking.

NOTL was the first capitol of Canada, when it was still known as Upper Canada. It was burned to the ground by American raiders during the War of 1812, and it was that attack which prompted the British Regiment under Col John Butler to sneak into Washington and burn down the original White House. Careful, we might do it again one day.

NOTL is a beautiful little town, filled with surviving and reconstructed Georgian architecture. It's really pretty, especially in the Fall. From the public beach on Lake Ontario, you can see Fort Niagara in Youngstown New York; a 18th Century French fortress which was captured by the Americans.

There are a couple of companies in NOTL offering powerboat trips up river to the Whirlpool... it's a blast!

The NOTL Historical Museum is small, but worth a visit if you're intereste in Victorian living.

Fort George is a reconstruction of the original British settlement in the area. It's not terribly impressive for it's size, but it is a very well-maintained National Historic Site, and the curator, John Jupien, is probably the world's authority on colonial warfare and lifestyle. He has amassed a collection of antiquties from the period which propbably is the best in North America. Everything from furniture to musketballs.

But.... best of all, the area surrounding NOTL is all agricultural land, and mostly vineyards. There are several winery tours, and the Grape and Wine Festival and Peach Harvest festivals are around this time of year.

Now, as far as Buffalo goes... ask for directions at the front desk, but you'll want to check out shopping/dining along Elmwood Avenue, and have a look at the Albright-Knox art gallery and the incredible Buffalo Museum of Science. And, of course, the Buffalo Zoo!

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bhunt70 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 04:05 PM
Response to Reply #8
10. Wow, thank you all. Good info here. Printed it out.
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CanuckAmok Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 04:18 PM
Response to Reply #10
11. Good! Experience Clifton Hill once.
I find that when people see it for the first time, they're only good for about half an hour. It's such a sensory overlaoad of crapola, but it can be enjoyed on an ironic level.

And, at night, it's THE place to pick-up, if your a local teen. Ewww.

I forgot to mention the "Evil Knevil Museum", which is in the back of a pawnshop on either Queen or Ferry Street... it's just bizarre. They have Evil Knevil memorabilia, of course, including many of his bikes and the battered Snake River Canyon rocket-bike, but also a truly surreal collection of...everything. Shrunken heads, old TV sets, Pakistani ceremonial scimitars, Nazi armbands, broken toys from the Seventies, antique cotton-candy machines, giant magnets... It's just odd. And there's no clear theme...everything is just kind of piled-up randomly in display cases. The guy who runs it was clearly shocked when my friend and I said we wanted to buy two tickets to tour the museum. You gotta see it!
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TrogL Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 04:20 PM
Response to Reply #8
12. Slight change of route
When driving the Parkway from Fort Erie, you'll get to a small town called Chippewa. When you get to the town sqaure, make sure you turn right and go over the concrete bridge, then IMMEDIATELY turn right again to continue down the parkway. You should see a park and beach on your right-hand side. Otherwise you'll end up down at Marineland - a tourist trap.

If you're into golfing, there's a world-class golf course along the parkway just past the city of Niagara Falls. There's also a crappy little par-3 across from Marineland.

If you want a helicopter ride over the city, the heliport is on the far side of the city just as you're leaving town. The view is worth it so I'd suggest it.

Near there there's also a place that lets you walk down into the gorge. Careful not to fall in. A friend of my father's was killed when a tourist dropped a purse and he reached down to get it and fell in.
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CanuckAmok Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 04:25 PM
Response to Reply #12
13. Yeah, zoo or no zoo, do NOT support Marineland.
The owner of that place is a nut, and he treats the animals like crap. He's been investigated by the Humane Society dozens of times, but he always manages to best the charges because of the tax revenue his attraction generates.

One of the things he does is feed the dead animals to the rest; even the whales are cut up and fed to the other animals, instead of buying nutritional food.

Marineland bad.

Evil Knevil Museum good.
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Ravenseye Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 05:05 PM
Response to Original message
19. Anchor Bar for Wings
If you like wings you have to go to the Anchor Bar.

http://www.anchorbar.com /

It's the home of the Buffalo Wing. They were invented there. If you're going to stay in Buffalo, and you like wings, you at least have to go to the Anchor Bar once and get wings.
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