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|Greetings! We pick up where we left off last week: on our way to Niagara Falls. After a couple of nights there we travel to JFK for an international flight to…
GETTING TO NIAGARA FALLS
The taxi ride from the Buffalo airport to Niagara Falls (US side) is 25 miles, takes 30 minutes and costs $45. The other closest major international airport is Toronto’s Pearson (YYZ) -- 75 miles, 90 minutes and $75 by cab.
Niagara Falls is renowned for its beauty and valuable hydroelectric power. The falls are located on the United States-Canadian border, between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. They lie both in the State of New York and the Province of Ontario. The name "Niagara" is believed to originate from an Iroquois word meaning "thunder of waters." And thunder is what they do. The mighty Niagara River plunges at 600,000 gallons per second over a 167-foot cliff of dolostone and shale. That makes Niagara Falls the second largest falls in the world (behind only Victoria Falls in Africa). What’s amazing is that 20 percent of all the fresh water in the world lies in the four Upper Great Lakes (Michigan, Huron, Superior and Erie), and all the outflow empties into the Niagara River. The river eventually goes over the falls, then into Lake Ontario (the fifth Great Lake).
TRAVEL MEDIA SHOWCASE
I hadn’t been to Niagara Falls since I was a kid, so when I was invited to attend the Travel Media Showcase (TMS) I jumped at the chance. The three-day conference is an excellent place for travel writers, Convention and Visitor bureaus and PR firms to network. The format is unique: Exhibitors set up individual 15-minute appointments with travel writers and personalities. Each participant has 40 appointments over two days. That gives writers a chance to learn about a specific city, state or country they are interested in, because CVBs and PR firms come from all over the U.S., Canada and a few foreign countries as well. Obviously, New Orleans had to cancel, but everyone looks forward to seeing them at next year’s TMS in North Carolina.
The host hotel was the Holiday Inn Select. This full-service property with restaurant, lounge, pool, sauna and Jacuzzi is in need of a renovation. And it will get one in December, when Crowne Plaza takes over. The $8 million renovation will be completed by September 2006. The hotel was fine for my couple of nights, though. It’s in a good location: near the heart of Niagara Falls USA, and directly across the street from the Seneca Niagara Casino. The hotel has 397 guest rooms, and the best part is high-speed internet access is available for free in all of them. Room rates start at $71. Holiday Inn Select, 300 Third Street, Niagara Falls, NY; tel.: 716-285-3361; 800-95-FALLS.
TOP OF THE FALLS RESTAURANT
My first stop was the opening reception party held on the lawn of the Top of the Falls Restaurant. I’m not sure how the restaurant food is (we were at a catered event), but I do know this place has incredible views of the Horseshoe Falls. Three falls make up Niagara Falls: the "American Falls" (between Prospect Point and Luna Island), "Bridal Veil Falls" (between Luna Island and Goat Island), and the "Canadian/Horseshoe Falls" (between Goat Island and Table Rock). This was my first chance to get up close to the Falls, and I was surprised how close the sidewalk is to the gushing river. When the sun sets the Canadians across the way turn on their different-colored flood lights, which illuminate the falls and the mist nicely. This reception was a perfect place to catch up with friends, and meet new travel industry colleagues. Top of the Falls Restaurant, located at Terrapin Point on Goat Island; tel.: 716-278-0348.
One of the first questions everyone asks (well, at least I did) is: How many daredevils made it over? The first to jump and survive was Sam Patch in 1829; the first person to go over in a barrel was 63-year-old Annie Taylor in 1901. She and her cat survived. Fourteen other people have intentionally gone over the falls in or on a device (five did not make it). In 1960 a 9-year-old boy wearing a life preserver fell in and survived the plunge. It made news throughout the world, and is still referred to as the "Miracle at Niagara." The second question I asked was: Do the falls freeze? The answer is: The water is always gushing, but the water does freeze along the banks and the river.
As you can imagine there are many tourist attractions on both the U.S. and Canada sides. In fact, there are Hard Rock Cafés directly across the river from each other. Our neighbors to our North have the best view of the falls. They also have nicer hotels and casinos. But the Canadian side is also more touristy, so your choice depends on what you want. To get across one of the three international bridges (Rainbow, Whirlpool and the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge) that are within six miles of the falls is easy. The Rainbow Bridge is the main tourist border crossing, and that’s the one I walked across. It took five minutes and cost 50 U.S. cents, which was collected on the way back to the U.S. on the Canadian side (Driving across costs $2.50 USD). Be sure to bring photo ID. For now driver's license are okay, but in 2007 passports will be required (but that might change).
NEW YORK SIDE & CAVE OF THE WINDS TOUR
On the American side, the major attractions can be completed in a day. Many tourists make a day trip from New York City by flying into Buffalo on JetBlue, since flight time is only 55 minutes. However, those who want to relax and take in all the sights need at least three days. Of course, I had only one full day. I chose the two most popular attractions: a boat ride and the Cave of the Winds tour. When we were handed our very own sandals and disposable yellow rain poncho at The Cave of the Winds, I knew we were in for a treat. Still, I had no idea how much of a treat it would be. After a short wait (In the summer the line gets real long -- and it’s usually hot) for the 17-story elevator ride down a rock cliff, we were quickly briefed by a guide. We were then let loose to walk down, around and up a special wooden platform of stairs that are rebuilt each year. The Hurricane Deck brings visitors within a few feet at the base of Bridal Veil Falls. Going up there really made me appreciate how powerful and awesome Niagara Falls is. Just be prepared to get wet, because the poncho doesn’t do much up on the Hurricane Deck. At the end, it was neat to see that almost everyone donated their sandals to the folks in New Orleans. Adults $8; juniors (6-12) $7; children 5 and under Free. Cave of the Winds, Niagara Falls, NY; tel.: 716-278-1730.
MAID OF THE MIST
The second -- and most popular – attraction is a boat ride on The Maid of the Mist. A park ranger gave me a good tip: He told me to keep my sandals on from the Cave of the Winds tour, then donate them after the boat ride. The Maid of the Mist provides passengers with their very own stylish blue poncho. And if you think you get wet walking up the Cave of the Wind stairs, wait till you take this 15- minute ride. In the summer boats depart every 30 minutes from both the American and Canadian sides. The American side is better for this one, because there’s a better launch, with a new sleek observation tower/elevator that takes passengers to and from the dock. Once on the boat, passengers truly understand why it’s called Maid of the Mist: You get within 100 yards of the Horseshoe Falls, and yes it’s real misty. It’s amazing to get up close, and hear the roar and feel the gale force wind power of the falls. Boats operate between April and October 24. Maid of the Mist: Adults $11.50; juniors (6-12) $6.75; children 5 and under free (price includes $1 for tower).
The following day I had a 12:55 p.m. JetBlue flight to JFK. I left the hotel at 11:30, and arrived at the airport at noon. The JetBlue agent told me the plane was delayed due to bad weather in New York (remnants of one of the hurricanes). I wasn’t worried, because my international flight was not departing until 7:40 p.m. The good news is that Buffalo Niagara International Airport is pretty nice. There are not many shops, but there are restaurants that serve both of Buffalo’s signature treats: hot wings, and a beef on weck. There is even an Airport Salon (716-634-6644). After a few hours of waiting (JetBlue did a good job giving everyone info on the delay, and even brought a snack cart through the waiting area) I started to get concerned. I had good reason to worry: My JetBlue flight ended up delayed by five hours! Can you believe it? I arrived at JFK at 7:10 p.m., and still needed to grab my checked luggage and run to a different terminal for my overnight international flight. I’ll tell you next week whether I made it or not, and where the flight was to.
Here’s a 1-minute Johnny Jet video. of my trip to Niagara Falls.
*Please tell us what you think of this week's newsletter!
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- Really enjoyed your two part article on my new "home town" (I was born and grew up in So. California-Orange Co. area). I have lived here for over 21 years and even though the summers can be a little brutal, the only thing I really miss about California is In-and-Out Burger. Even though St Louis has a lot to offer, it has a small town feel and passion about it. Glad you liked your trip to our city! Fred L St. Louis
- You can tell from our email address that we are long-time residents of STL. You were very well informed about some of our attractions (and their attractive admission fees). We are always surprised, in traveling elsewhere, that heavy fees are required for so many of the attractions which are included in our tax support and free for our enjoyment, i.e. Art Museum, Zoo, History Museum, Forest Park in all its Frederick Law Olmstead designed glory (as was Central Park in NYC). The Central West End around the Basilica, Laclede's Landing and Pioneer Park on the St. Charles/Old Town River Front and the Old Cathedral at the Arch might have been included along with another famous part of STL, The Hill (the Italian District still well centered around St. Ambrose Church, with a stop thrown in for a bite of the great Amighetti's Sandwich. It puts many lunch bites to shame. Vivianos, Volpe Sausage, and Missouri Baking offer more fare for an alfresco picnic, perhaps in the brand new Confluence Park (the placee where the Missouri and the Mississippi meet. On a rainy day, how about a trip to the wonderful art collection in the Cupples House on the St. Louis University Campus, or a trip to our vibrant Repertory Theatre at the Loretto Hilton Center of Webster University. And then there's the Emerson Theatre at Washington University, The Blanche Touhill Center at the University of Missouri St. Louis, and.......oh yes, The Fox Theatre on Grand and Best Steak House across the way - a fascinating, inexpensive (and tasty) look at urban eating. Thanks for letting us see our city through our favorite Travel Writer's eye. PS Next time, try Bissinger's famous Dark Chocolate Covered Molasses Lollipops! with a chaser of Kitchen made Heavenly Hash from Crown Candy Kitchen the 50 esque sodal fountain on 14th and St. Louis. Signed Two Fellow Travelers who have long used Frommers as a knowing guide.
- Are you kidding? You couldn't find a direct flight from LA to Buffalo since the closest airport is Niagara Falls? So you flew into Cleveland? I hope you are never my travel agent. The regional airport in Niagara Falls has virtually no flights while the new Buffalo airport has all the major carriers AND due to massive competition the flights are cheap as heck. Why not have a stopover in Chicago and/or Detroit and go into Buffalo? If nothing else, you could to NYC and then go back to Buffalo on about seven major carriers. I can fly roundtrip and usually direct from Tampa to Buffalo for $103, cheaper than to a major hub like NYC.
Lynda Smith- Tampa, FL. REPLY: You might want to reread the newsletter. I flew into BUF via CLE.
- Dear Johnny Jet: Loved your newsletter! I never saw it before. I just skimmed it quickly but I loved all your links and ESPECIALLY the photo of your french toast. It made me giggle! Thanks for the smiles. Amy B - Cherry Hill, NJ
- Just wanted to thank you for answering my email on questions about Rome. Everything went very smoothly for my husband and I. Bea V -
- Hey Johnny, thanks for the great videos of my home town! I currently live in Homer, Alaska. This trip being a last minute one - due to the death of my grandmother - I used Frontier Air out of Anchorage and through Denver to DFW - I connected in DFW to LIT on American. My return on Frontier was out of STL. What a great price for that open jaw! $547 - unbelieveable - Alaska Air wanted $900 - and I still would have had to connect out of Chicago. I really like those Airbus 319? Frontier flies - is it my imagination or are those seats more comfortable - they seem more padded than the 737's and MD-80's (yeah, I don't like them either) I am used to flying. Next time I need a last minute trip or not using miles - I will definitely check out your site.
It was so hot when I was in St. Louis - wish I had remembered to go to Ted Drewe's! Thanks so much for your newsletter, I love it. Barbra Davis - Homer, Alaska
- I enjoy your newsletter when I get a chance to read it. Tell me... Why don't you like MD-80s? I typically haven't liked them either since my days flying them on Reno Air, and in fact, I would take Southwest just to avoid them. I'm just wondering if you have an even better reason to avoid them. Robert G California. REPLY: I dont like them because they are small, old and uncomfortable.
- Martinique sounds "tres bien" and I would love to go there. I have traveled all over the world but never been to the Caribbean.
I like how you link the photos with the story. Photos make such a dif with travel writing. BTW, travel writing is the worst of journalism. I think this site is a bit better than most writing though. Most travel stories in newspaper travel sections are ridiculous candy coated stories with no "dirt" at all. As if everything was perfect everywhere. There are always poor slums or beggars on the beach or ... In addition, travel articles are commonly filled with lines such as: "IT IS SAID THAT....." By whom, I ask!!! Usually these info bits are simply prose...definitely not fact checked journalism. Although it was clearly a trip awarded you, I think you did a pretty good job at telling the story. Though I would like to hear more about budget travel to places such as Martinique. The Cap Est is way out of my price range! Christopher McMahon AIA, San Francisco, CA
- Why send someone who suffers from motion sickness on a trip such as this one? Sounds as if she enjoyed the parts of it that didn't involve travel, such as eating and sleeping. Good report on those aspects. Maybe you didn't know about her problem? Marjorie Hewitt
- I liked your sister's article about Martinique. It sounds like an amazing place. There isn't t that much that's attracted me to the Carribbean, but the more I think about it, the closer I realize all these places are (minus a three-stop flight!). Let me know if you're around in the next two weeks. Joe S Venice, CA
- EARTHQUAKE RELIEF: Dear Mr. Johnny Jet, This is a long shot, but we need help. Please read the message before deleting it. Over 48,000 people killed, over 2.5 million people are homeless as a result of the earthquake that hit Pakistan's northern regions on the morning of Saturday 8 October 2005.Those whose houses survived the quake which measured 7.6 on the Richter scale, are to scared to live in their houses, for fear of destruction in the aftershocks. Saturday was a school day, and in the collapsing of schools, a whole generation of children would have died. The winter is setting in, and in a couple of weeks access by road to the areas will not be possible. Rebuilding of homes and infrastructure can only begin in the spring. Meanwhile, the homeless need to be put up in tents, to survive the harsh winter conditions. We do not have the infrastructure to make tents on the scale required for the homeless in the mountains. Distribution continues by trucks while conditions last, then the only form of communication will be by helicopter. There is an acute shortage of helicopters still, despite those sent from other countries. I was hoping you could donate some tents (new or used) suitable for extreme cold mountain conditions, for the affected people here, or even to accommodate the homeless temporarily on the cold plateaus..
I was hoping you could pass this information to members of your association, in the hope they can help. The national airline, PIA, is transporting relief goods free of charge from some destinations. Perhaps they can advise you
PIA Toll Free Numbers are as follows:
USA & CANADA: 1-800-578-6786
Saudi Arabia: 800-844-0524
United Kingdom: 0-800-587-1023
Procedure for sending goods through PIA International:
Please note that Tents and medical supplies are priority items in the relief effort. Donations are being collected by various organizations in the private sector, as well as by the Government. Please note that one US Dollar is worth Sixty Rupees. So every dollar contributed will go a long way locally. The rebuilding effort will take a long time. The minimum preliminary estimate is US$ 5 billion, WHO (world health organization) estimates it at US$ 10 billion. The Pakistan government is collecting funds in the "President's Relief Fund for Earthquake Victims 2005": As of 16th September 2005, US $ 480 million have been collected. Please forward this message to others who might be in a position to help. Thank you for your patience in reading this message. Best Regards, Sohail Osman Ali
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