Geocaching in Niagara

image001Geocaching is a form of high-tech treasure hunting that takes place all over the world. Armed with little more than a smartphone or GPS device, good shoes, weather-appropriate clothing, and the GPS coordinates that will get you to a specific cache, geocaching is an activity that almost anyone can participate in, and for visitors enjoying the Niagara area, it’s one more unique way to experience the region.

Canada ranks third out of the hundreds of countries and millions of people participating in geocaching around the world, so you may even run into fellow geocachers when you’re out and about hunting for a cache.

How to Play

To get involved, all you need to do is register for a free geocaching account at geocaching.com. A premium membership will afford you more features and opportunities, but a free account will suffice. (There are also a few other sites where you can find out about caches, including opencaching.com and Earthcache.org.)

Then, head to the Hide and Find a Cache page, or download a geocache app to your tablet or smartphone to seek out a cache to hunt in the Niagara Falls area. Select any cache listed and click on its name. Either enter the cache’s coordinates into your GPS device or locate the cache on your app’s map.

Follow the map or GPS device to the general vicinity where the cache is hidden. Using the clues provided by the person who hid the cache and others who have found it and left comments, find the hidden cache.

Once you find it, sign the logbook that’s provided, and be careful to return the geocache to its original location. After you’re through, share your experience and photos online with the rest of the geocaching community.

Tips For Play

image003In many ways, geocaching is a very straightforward bit of fun, but there are still some tips that may enable you and whomever you’re geocaching with to have a better time. When you’re hunting a cache, keep in mind the following:

  • Geocaches can be hard to find. Some hiders take great pride in making a cache hard to spot. If you’re having trouble finding a cache, don’t give up! Read through comments for clues and be creative about looking. GPS coordinates generally get you within at least 30 feet of a cache, so some will really require you to give some noble effort.
  • There’s lingo. From muggles to crazy acronyms like BYOP (Bring your own pencil.) and TNLNSL (Took nothing. Left nothing. Signed logbook.), you’ll need to brush up on the language used by geocachers in order to decipher their online hints and clues. Here’s a glossary to help out.
  • Sometimes there’s a trade involved. Some of the geocaches are large enough to include items to trade in and out, so be sure to bring along a few worthy items to trade out and leave for others to find after you’ve returned the cache.

Geocaching can provide a wealth of fun anywhere in the world, but set against the backdrop of Niagara Falls, it’s especially exciting. For a vacation activity that will give you a unique experience of the Niagara Peninsula, plan an afternoon around the coordinates on a GPS device, and go treasure hunting in Niagara.

4 Reasons to Celebrate Mother’s Day in Niagara

image001Mother’s Day is one of the most happily celebrated holidays in North America. While taking Mom out to eat is the most traditional way in which it’s celebrated, there’s no reason Mother’s Day can’t also involve a special trip to one of the world’s best vacation spots.

If you’re looking to give your mother a Mother’s Day she’ll never forget, here are four reasons to plan a trip to Niagara Falls.

1. Queen Victoria Park

Queen Victoria Park around Mother’s Day boasts some of the most beautiful native and international flowering plants in the area, including white and yellow daffodils and blazing red tulips. The park also features stunning views of the Falls, spectacularly manicured formal gardens, a rock garden, a hybrid tea rose garden, magnolia trees bursting forth with flowers, and much more.

If the day is warm enough, pack a blanket and a picnic lunch with all your mother’s favorite foods. You can even arrange to take a horse and carriage ride through the park for a Mother’s Day memory that’s not easily replicated.

2. The Floral Showhouse

image003Just above the Falls along the Niagara Parkway, The Niagara Parks Commission Floral Showhouse opens its Hydrangea Show just in time for Mother’s Day, but even if you don’t favor that flower, its year-round collections are a good enough reason to visit anyway.

Orchids, tropical plants of all kinds, succulents, and much more form the backdrop for tropical birds that sing and fly throughout the showhouse, while beautiful grounds including rose gardens and ponds surround the outside. The Floral Showhouse has eight different floral shows a year that coincide with the changing seasons.

3. Niagara-on-the-Lake

Considered by many to be the prettiest town in the Niagara region, Niagara-on-the-Lake boasts plenty of fun for you and your mother. From historical sites and plaques to the Riverbrink Art Museum, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a great place to spend an afternoon and evening.

If your mother is a film buff at all, she’ll love the fact that this little town has been a location set for many films, including The Dead Zone, Trapped in Paradise, The Ref, and Canadian Bacon. You can also enjoy high tea in Niagara-on-the-Lake at the Prince of Wales Hotel complete with finger sandwiches, house-made scones, pastries, and organic tea served in an ornate dining room by a conscientious staff.

4. That Mother’s Day Meal

Whether you actually go out to eat on Mother’s Day or on one of the days preceding or following it, the Niagara region has some of the best restaurants in Canada, and with so many of them boasting a farm-to-table model, you can not only enjoy a delicious meal, but you can eat it knowing it was made from ingredients grown close at hand. Here are some of the excellent restaurants worthy of the woman you call Mother:

  • Benchmark
  • Windows by Jamie Kennedy
  • Treadwell
  • Peller Estates

Don’t settle for your run of the mill Mother’s Day this year. Plan a special trip to Niagara, and let your mother know just how special she is to you.

Bring Your Voluntourism to Niagara Falls and Walk to Defeat MS

image001There’s a new trend in travel, and it combines seeing the world with volunteer work so that good deeds can be performed alongside any fun that’s had. Known as volunteer tourism or “voluntourism,” proponents of the practice claim to enjoy a more meaningful travel experience when volunteering as opposed to taking a more traditional approach, i.e. traveling to satisfy their own whims and wishes.

While Niagara Falls isn’t known as a hot bed for volunteer tourism, the city and region nevertheless do host regular events that visitors to Niagara could participate in if they wanted a more charitable experience. One such event is just around the corner: the Niagara Falls MS Walk.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system that affects those who suffer from it in unpredictable, often disabling ways. Disrupting the flow of information between the body, spinal cord, and brain, MS can affect cognition, muscle control, memory, eyesight, and more, but everyone who suffers from it is affected differently.

While doctors still don’t know what causes it, research is continually being undertaken to find a cure. More than 400,000 people have been diagnosed with MS in the United States, and 200 new cases are diagnosed each week. In Canada, over 100,000 suffer from the disease, making it the country with the highest incidence rate of MS in the entire world.

MS Research Is Working for a Cure

image003Even with those numbers, there is much to be thankful for in the world of MS research. Decades of study have yielded increased understanding of the central nervous system and immune system. There are now 15 therapies approved for treating and managing MS, and more therapies are currently in development than at any time in the past.

Earlier diagnosis is becoming more common, so treatments and therapies can help affected individuals earlier, effectively slowing the disease’s advance. However, there is still no cure, and preventing MS is still a goal instead of a reality. It’s because of the significant progress that’s been made over the years along with the pressing need for that progress to yield more fruit that raising funds for MS research is so important, and because so many Canadians know someone who suffers from the disease, the MS Walk is an event that draws tens of thousands of participants across 160 different Canadian communities each and every year.

The walk is community-supported, family-friendly, and wheelchair-accessible. Walking routes are usually offered at different lengths so that anyone who wants to can participate. The Niagara Falls MS Walk is scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 3 at 9 a.m. with a check-in that starts at 7 a.m. Walkers can choose a 5k or 10k route. There are currently 18 teams and 129 walkers signed up to participate, although by the time the day of the walk arrives, that number will most likely be higher.

If you’re planning a trip to Niagara Falls, and you’d like to do a little voluntourism while you’re here, why not throw your hat into the ring, and join in raising funds and awareness to bring an end to MS, while enjoying a walk in our beautiful city.

4 Sports Bars Where You Can Catch the Game in Niagara

image001Canadians, like people from all countries and walks of life, love sports — playing them, watching them, fretting over them, and talking about them. From ice hockey and lacrosse to curling and Canadian football, the variety of games that Canadians care about is impressive, and while many of the to-die-for favorites are more popular in Canada than anywhere else in the world, Canadians can rage about basketball, soccer, and baseball with the best of them.

For the sports lover planning a fun vacation in Niagara Falls, there’s no reason to miss out on your favorite team or hole up in your hotel room just because you’re far from home. Whether you need a comfortable place to catch the game, or you want to experience what it’s like to watch hockey, drink beer, and eat food in the company of a group of fun-loving Canadians, Niagara Falls has a sports bar or two that will make you feel right at home.

1. Grand Central Niagara

Located on Queen Street, Grand Central Niagara is an unassuming and inexpensive bar that serves up plenty of decent food alongside rivers of Labatt Blue beer. A favorite in the neighborhood, you won’t find many tourists wandering in here, which means you’ll get a pleasant dose of local flavor.

Bear in mind that while they have plenty of televisions throughout, once hockey comes on, it might be difficult to find a TV that’s showing the baseball or basketball game you came in to watch.

2. Hoops Sports Bar and Grill

A chain that has locations throughout Canada, Hoops maintains a loyal following with its good pub fare, robust number of taps, and shocking number of televisions. Each booth has its own TV, and the walls, floor, and ceilings even double as televisions in some parts of the bar, so the odds of not finding the game you’re after are slim to none. They offer food and drink specials at different times throughout the day, so be sure to ask your server about any when you order.

Another plus? They’re open 365 days a year, so if you find yourself in Niagara on a holiday, Hoops will be open, and their televisions will be on.

3. Kully’s Original Sports Bar

image003Located in St. Catharines, this sports bar is one of the newest to the Niagara scene, as it’s only been open since 2014. However, the food is up to snuff; it’s chock full of televisions; and it has a fantastic craft beer selection on tap — much of it local — for sports lovers who want a great beer experience while they watch the game. Kully’s also serves food until 2 a.m. just in case you find yourself there after hours.

4. Hooligan’s Sports Bar

This Niagara Falls establishment is known for its cheap drinks and good bar food, and while it doesn’t have as many TVs as some of the other bars on this list, if what you want to watch isn’t too buried into the nether numbers of ESPN, you’ll probably be able to find it. Locals enjoy this place regularly, so if you want to feel like part of a local scene, Hooligan’s is a good choice.

Whether you need a place to watch American football or you just want to rub elbows with other fanatics when you’re in the Niagara region, these four sports bars will be sure to make catching the game an enjoyable experience.

How to Speak Canadian

image001Canada, like most countries and regions throughout the world, has been around long enough to take on its own unique flavor, norms, and customs that are different than what you’ll find elsewhere. One of the areas where this distinctive flavor is most notable is in the way native Canadians speak, including the language they use. Whether you’re booking a stay in Niagara Falls for the first time or the 20th, here’s a fun, little primer on some words and phrases that will help you speak with all the charm and expertise of a local.

Money Talk

Canadian money is, in many ways, like the money from other places — some of it is printed on paper and some of it is minted into coins. For the newcomer to Canadian soil, however, the money talk can be a little confusing, especially surrounding the $1 and $2 coins. Known as a “toonie,” the $2 coin was put into circulation in 1996 and is not to be confused with a newcomer to Boston. The $1 coin is known as a “loonie” because of the loon who image graces it.

Coffee Talk

Ordering coffee in Canada isn’t likely to get you into trouble, but understanding how most Canadians order it will be helpful nonetheless. Many Canadians, when ordering coffee, simply ask for a “Double Double,” which means a regular coffee with two creams and two sugars. So, if you don’t want your coffee sweet and creamy, be sure to specify that when ordering.

Food Talk

Chances are good that you’ve been what Canadians call “gut-foundered” before and you didn’t even know it. Any time you’re hungry to the point of lacking any and all discernment or care about what you eat, you’re gut-foundered.

Eating cold, leftover pizza you found under your roommate’s bed? That’s a classic example of being gut-foundered. Another slang term that can accompany both pizza and being gut-foundered is the “two-four,” which is what beer-loving Canadians call a case due to the fact that it has 24 beers in it.

Clothing Talk

image003There are a number of clothing items that, while they may look identical to items worn in other parts of the world, have distinctly Canadian names. Some examples include:

  • Gitch. This refers to a pair of men’s or boy’s underwear.
  • Gotch. This is the female version of the gitch.
  • Toque. The toque is most common winter hat worn by Canadians.

Random Talk

Other common Canadian terms that you’ll hear when you’re out and about (pronounced aboot) Niagara Falls and the surrounding area include:

  • Deke. This word is a reference to faking out a hockey opponent, but it’s commonly used as a synonym for any time someone takes a detour.
  • Mountie. This word refers to any member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
  • Matrimonial cake. Sold at bakeries, a matrimonial cake has nothing to do with weddings. It’s simply a date square or tart.

Regardless of whether you try them on yourself, keep your ear attuned to these words and phrases the next time you’re north of the border for an experience of Canada that’s distinctly Canadian.

Record Store Day in Niagara

image001The third Saturday of every April marks an international holiday known as Record Store Day. At once a celebration of vinyl records, the people who love them, and the bands that make them, Record Store Day is also a celebration of independent record stores and their owners, who are — more often than not — denizens of taste, culture, and art.

Record lovers have seen their value and importance in the community rising steadily once again, thanks to the enduring sound quality and the amazing artwork that so often accompanies vinyl. For lovers of music and local businesses, Record Store Day is the perfect time to show your affection, especially for the visitor staying in Niagara Falls, because the area has a few excellent record stores that will be marking the occasion.

Not long ago, it seemed like digital music would wholly usurp vinyl as the way people experienced recorded music, and although its popularity certainly dropped, vinyl never really went away, and now, it looks like its popularity is on the upswing again. With the Wall Street Journal reporting that 2014 vinyl sales increased by 49 percent over the previous year, and this year looking to surpass that, there’s never been a better time wander into an independent record store — especially on Record Store Day. Here is some of what you can look forward to and where to get it.

What’s Happening

image003The most exciting reason to head into a record store on April, 18th 2015 is because of all the vinyl releases are coming out that day in record stores only. While each local store will have local offerings that can’t be gotten elsewhere, national and international acts put out records that are distributed all over, from rare, never-before-heard B sides to classics that are out of print. Here is a sampling of what’s coming out this Record Store Day:

  • Johnny Cash, Koncert v. Praze. This record features a live concert recording of the Man in Black when he performed in Prague in 1983.
  • Miles Davis, The Prestige 10 Inch LP Collection Volume 2. These recordings are from when Davis was the bandleader of Prestige. All the songs are from 1954, and they’re reproduced with original artwork.
  • Goldfrapp, Felt Mountain. This is the first reissue of the British duo’s 2000 release. Original copies of it routinely sell for more than $100.
  • The Sugarhill Gang, The Best Of. A double 12-inch set, this release features all the hits from one of hip-hop’s seminal acts.

If you’re planning on being in the Niagara region the third weekend of April or after, pencil in some time to experience Record Store Day at one of these area stores:

  • Ragged Glory CD & LP Exchange. Located on Queen Street in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Ragged Glory specializes in vintage vinyl and video games.
  • Shop Radio Cast. This newly opened boutique record store just opened on Main Street in Niagara Falls, Ontario, but they’ve been doing business online for over seven years.
  • Music Matters. This Niagara Falls, New York store has been trading in vinyl, CDs, video games, and more since 2008.

Fill your vacation with music by hitting Record Store Day when you visit Niagara.

Bowling in Niagara

image001One of the best parts about taking a vacation — especially with your family — is that the simple act of carving out time to spend together allows you to do all the fun things you could do back home but never
seem to make time for. From mini golf to matinee movies, going on vacation to a new location allows the freedom to more fully focus on the art of having fun, even on those easy afternoons when we don’t want to totally reinvent the wheel.

Niagara Falls is home to plenty of out-of-the-ordinary fun, like a giant, indoor waterpark and climbing behind the waterfalls, but it also offers a lot of the ordinary kind of fun, too — like bowling. That being said, in Niagara, ordinary bowling is anything but.

When you go bowling in the Niagara region, you have your choice of two similar, but distinct, games. Regular 10-pin bowling is certainly an option, and if you’d like to try your hand and luck with bowling’s most popular version, you can head to any of these bowling alleys:

  • Strike Rock ‘N Bowl at Clifton Hill
  • Cataract Bowl (which also has a family fun center)
  • Bowl-O-Rama Lanes in Welland

However, the Niagara Falls region is home to another type of bowling called five-pin, and if you’ve never heard of it — let alone played it before — it’s a game all its own.

Five-Pin Bowling

image003Five-pin bowling is a type of bowling played only in Canada. Invented at the beginning of the 20th century by a Toronto bowling alley owner whose customers found 10-pin too tiring. The less strenuous version involves five pins that are about 25 percent smaller than a standard pin and feature a heavy band made out of rubber around their centers.

Unlike 10-pin, a five-pin ball is small enough to hold in one hand, which makes five-pin a great game for kids. Because the balls are lighter and smaller, they don’t need finger holes.

To start play, the five smaller pins are arranged at the end of a standard wooden lane in a V-shape. The ball is rolled with the intention of knocking down as many pins as possible just like in 10-pin. However, in five-pin, each pin is worth a different number of points. The center pin is worth five points; the pins on each side of it are worth three points each; and the two pins at the farthest edges are worth two points each. The total you can get for knocking down all five is 15 points.

Players play ten frames, and each frame allows a player three balls to topple as many pins as possible. Scoring is like it is in 10-pin, so that a strike adds in the scores of the next two balls, while a spare adds in the score of the next ball. A perfect game in five-pin bowling occurs when a player scores 12 strikes in a row across the 10 frames and ends up with a score of 450. You can five-pin bowl at these establishments:

  • Fairview Lanes in St. Catherines
  • Bowl-O-Rama Lanes in Welland
  • Hillside Lanes in Welland
  • Pla-More Bowling Lanes in St. Catherines

For a game that’s both familiar and brand-new, try five-pin bowling the next time you and your family find yourselves north of the border.

Fallsview Indoor Waterpark Makes List of “7 of the World’s Best Indoor Water Parks”

TeensWavePoolFallsview Indoor Waterpark has been named one of the “World’s Best Indoor Water Parks” in a recent travel article published by Paste Magazine. The article lists seven thrilling indoor waterparks found all around the world that “defy the laws of nature and offer visitors a summer-like vacation even in the dead of winter.”

With 16 thrilling waterslides, a 1,000-gallon tipping bucket, full-sized wave pool, adult-only Jacuzzis, plunge bowl, outdoor activity pool, and much more, Fallsview Indoor Waterpark offers amazing fun for people of all ages. With an incredibly unique location directly across the street from the spectacular Niagara Falls, Fallsview Indoor Waterpark is a world-class destination that has everything you need for a thrilling and fun indoor water experience!

3 Reasons to Take a Family Vacation to Niagara Falls

image001Planning a family vacation that satisfies everyone is no small task, and many parents just assume it’s a pipe dream better left alone. After all, how are you supposed to find a destination that appeals as much to grownups as it does to your little ones, especially since their tastes and preferences so rarely overlap?

Long known as a popular honeymoon destination, these days find Niagara Falls full of families out to achieve the impossible: Experience an all-around great family vacation. With a plethora of options available to the vacationing family, it’s possible Niagara might become your family’s favorite vacation spot. From the beauty of the place to the learning opportunities and fun available, here are three reasons to load up your family and head to Niagara Falls.

1. It’ll Be Beautiful

The dramatic beauty of the Niagara Falls area isn’t just something adults can marvel over, it’s something people of all ages can readily and unabashedly enjoy. While the majesty of the three waterfalls will certainly be the most obviously dazzling sight in the region, there’s plenty more to see. Depending on the time of year you visit, you and your children can feast your eyes on an astonishing array of beautiful things, including:

  • The landscape. From rustic vineyards to farms and pristine countryside, the land around Niagara is lovely any time to year.
  • Dufferin Islands. This 10-acre park includes a handful of small islands joined by quaint bridges and footpaths.
  • The Floral Clock. One of the largest floral clocks on the planet, its face is filled with an array of fresh flowers.
  • The Winter Festival of Lights. Over 125-animated light displays and 3-million lights illuminate the Niagara Parks Winter Wonderland each winter.

2. It’ll Be Educational

image003Most parents would love to take a family vacation that sparked their children’s curiosity and helped them learn, and Niagara Falls is exactly that kind of place. Here are just some of the places where fun-filled education occurs:

  • Bird Kingdom. In addition to housing the world’s largest free-flying aviary, Bird Kingdom also includes a 125-year old house from Java, an exhibit that includes over 15 nocturnal species of animal, a 40-foot waterfall, and more. It’s the perfect place to learn about birds and other fascinating creatures from around the world.
  • Niagara Park’s Butterfly Conservatory. This lush and tropical conservatory includes over 2,000 butterflies representing over 45 species and includes a window where you and your kids can watch butterflies emerge from their cocoons for the first time.
  • Marineland. Marineland of Canada will give you and your children an up-close experience with a wide variety of marine life and other animals, including dolphins, walruses, and Beluga whales. The 2015 season opens in mid-May.

3. It’ll Be Fun

Finally, you should bring your family to Niagara Falls, because sometimes you just need to partake in some pure, unadulterated fun. Whether you hole up among the 125,000 square feet that make up the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark (and yes, there is an adults-only section) or you engage in some friendly competition with one another at Wild Safari Mini Putt, there are scores of fun-filled attractions that will keep each one of you engaged and happy throughout your stay.

From wee ones to grandparents, few places offer such a wealth of family amusements as does Niagara Falls.

5 Reasons to Visit Niagara Falls in March

image001In some people’s estimation, March isn’t one of the better months to take in Niagara Falls. Winter often has the place in its firm and chilly grip, and when it doesn’t, it can make for a very wet and muddy time that’s still plenty cool.

Additionally, some of the better known tourist attractions will be closed in anticipation of the peak tourist season that’s still months away. However, even with those tally marks in the cons column, for certain types of travelers, March is the perfect time to visit Niagara Falls. From saving money to enjoying a slower pace, here are five excellent reasons to visit Niagara Falls during the month of March.

1. Fewer People

While it’s possible to thrive on the energy of large crowds like those that fill the city of Niagara Falls from June to August, enjoying the natural splendor of the Falls without the teeming throngs can feel downright luxurious to some. March sees much fewer tourists to the area, so you can take in all the sights and sounds with plenty of elbow room and breathing space. It’s easier to get reservations at the finest restaurants, and you and any travelling companions will be able to focus more of your energy on the place and one another.

2. Lower Rates

If you’re vacationing on a budget, March is definitely the best time to travel to the region. Due to the reduced number of visitors and the law of supply and demand, almost every hotel drops its rates. You can then either save some cash on your lodging or book nicer accommodations than you normally might. Either way, it’s a benefit vacationers at the height of summer never get to enjoy.

3. There’s Still Plenty to Do

image003While some of the more popular attractions are closed in March (like the Maid of the Mist voyage), there is still plenty to do in and around Niagara Falls. Visit award-winning vineyards. Spend the afternoon marveling at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! or speeding down waterslides at a waterpark that is great any time of the year. Enjoy an evening of spine-tingling magic at the Greg Frewin Theatre. While the offerings are a bit slimmer, there’s still a vast array of entertaining options at Niagara Falls all month long.

4. The Slower Pace

It’s hard to explain the difference in pace between Niagara in March and Niagara in July unless you’ve experienced both, but different they are. While it’s true that the large groups of people from around the world, the street performers, and long days make for a high energy experience at the height of summer, the more serene pace of the city and the area right around the falls during March has its own charm. Especially if you’re looking to relax and rejuvenate, March’s calm is ideal.

5. The Food!

No matter what time of year you visit the Niagara region, the eating is always good. Due to the region’s rich farm heritage and a number of talented chefs who have put a major emphasis on utilizing local foods, there are some remarkable restaurants that will make any trip in March a delight. Two of the city’s finest are Windows by Jaime Kennedy and the Rainbow Room by Massimo Capra.

So, head to Niagara Falls this March. Whether you spend a day or a week, there will be more than enough to catch your fancy and make you glad you came.