8 Free Things To Do In Niagara Falls

800px-Canadians_watching_the_Horseshoe_FallsWhether you’ve booked a week-long trip at the famous Falls, or you’re simply spending the day at this popular Canadian destination, here’s a list of 8 fabulous free things to do on your visit.

I’ve always wanted to do the whole thing and make a four-star Niagara Falls hotel break of it – if you make it there first, let me know how much you love it!

  1. Marvel at the falls

A trip to Niagara simply wouldn’t be complete without stopping by the dramatic waterfalls, and it’s free to do. Stroll by the gorge, past the Falls themselves or the paths above. You’ll find that it’s quite a walk, but the powerful sights are a real reward for the effort you put in!

  1. Discover Dufferin Islands

Discover 10 acres of relaxed parkland as you wander the bridges and footpaths that connect Dufferin Islands, stopping to feed the ducks. They are located south of the Falls, between the Rapidsview Parking Lot and Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse.

  1. Take the scenic route

If you’re looking for one of the prettiest drives in the world, look no further than the 56km stretch of Niagara Parkway, which is also fab for bike rides and hiking. You can drive along this road for the most wonderful scenery – and why not stop for a picnic? Niagara Parks Commission maintains the parkway to make sure it is always looking more than picturesque.

  1. Watch the winter lights

If it’s winter entertainment you’re after, make sure you put the Winter Festival of Lights in your diary. This wonderful event showcases over 125 light displays and 3 million tree/ground lights to illuminate the Niagara Parks Winter Wonderland. It includes the largest illuminated Canadian-American flag in the world. Admission is free each year, but donations are encouraged to help keep the event going. Over 1 million residents and visitors come to this event each winter, so expect it to be busy.

  1. Go birdwatching or bouldering

Entrench yourself in the wonders of nature at The Niagara Glen, this designated reserve is a hit with hikers and birdwatchers alike. It’s a lovely place to observe birds, explore California-like forestry and see the flora. This is a hotspot for bouldering activities too.

  1. Tour the Ten Thousand Buddha Temple

Experience the spiritual, with a trip to the Cham San Ten Thousand Buddha Temple which holds free guided tours every weekend through June-October. This tranquil building is a 7 level Asian temple and contains Buddhist artifacts and arts.

  1. Walk the Bruce Trail

Discover the longest and oldest recognised hiking trail in the whole of Canada, with the 885km long trek, the Bruce Trail. It also has over 400k of interesting side trails. Make sure you pack your camera for this one, there’s plenty to capture on film, whether it’s captivating wildlife or the wonderful scenery of the Niagara Escarpment – a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve.

  1. Browse the Farmers Market

Enjoy the sights and smells of the Farmers Market, who says you have to buy anything… although you’ll probably be tempted. The Niagara Falls Farmers Market takes place every Saturday between 6am – Midday. There’s usually 4 indoor vendors and up to 15 outdoors.

Photo credit: Wikimedia.

Artisan Travel

I love traveling over the holidays, and I recently fell in love with this creative company. Make your winter trip unforgettable with Artisan Travel. The personalized adultonly tour operator specializes in planning winter activity holidays (since I haven’t seen snow in years, some of the activities sound extra-awesome) to a variety of destinations across the world – focused on places like Alaska, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway, all hot spots during the winter season.

Winter Fun  (Explored)

Image courtesy of Flickr

As a way of accommodating different travel needs, Artisan Travel offers three holiday types: “small group,” “tailor made,” and “private departures.” The small group option usually has a minimum of four people and a maximum of twenty people, while the tailor-made trips allow travelers to craft their very own itinerary according to their preference, with the guidance of the experts on staff. The final option is the private departure, which is for travelers who want the holiday carved around their own time and interests.

All the destinations that Artisan Travel takes their travelers to have key attractions that are best experienced when travelling with the tour operator. They have invested in relationships with local operators to allow travelers to go beyond normal trails followed by tourists to discover the beauty within every destination. Some of the activities include enjoying a snowmobile safari or a husky safari. You also get to enjoy looking at the Northern Lights and midnight sun, which are rare and exceptional natural phenomenon. Finally, travelers get to enjoy out-of-this-world accommodation such as the tree hotel, log cabins, winter cottages, as well as ice and snow hotels.
2014 - Costa Rica - Sarchi - Miss Artisan at Work 2 of 2

Image courtesy of Flickr

To make these winter holidays one-of-a kind, the tour operator has hired travel experts who are sent off to these breathtaking destinations beforehand to get a feel before recommending them to clients. During their visits, they sample the accommodation, customer service, and get a general overview of the place. So, if they recommend a winter holiday destination, they know what they are talking about. Booking a winter holiday with Artisan Travel includes a personal conversation with the travel expert who has visited your preferred destination. They offer a personal touch to every client before they make decision to travel with them to any of their destinations. To reserve a winter holiday, a fee of £400 is paid as a down payment, and the rest is paid nine weeks prior to leaving for the holiday. As soon the deposit is made, the confirmation of the holiday is sent to the client for records.

Everyone at Artisan Travel is so passionate about their work – I couldn’t recommend them anymore!.

 

Chasing the Northern Lights

I’ve always been fascinated by the Northern Lights, one of the most spectacular natural phenomenons in the world, which happens in the Lapland and Arctic region. Catching a glimpse of them is considered a stroke of luck, as there are a number of conditions that have to be in sync for visitors to see them in their full glory. A friend of mine just got back from Antarctica, sparking a lively discussion. It turns out, for the best chance of viewing the Northern Lights, it is important to be within a band that encircles the arctic, popularly known as Aurora Zone.Blue Zone Image courtesy of Flickr

Furthermore, the best time to plan a trip to this Aurora Zone should be between the months of September and April when lights are more visible.

Fortunately, there are travel companies that offer exclusive trips to destinations that give visitors to the area an opportunity to see the Northern Lights. These tour operators have expert guides that are able to plan a trip to the arctic and use their expertise to ensure that tourists get a chance to see the exceptional lights. Holidays to the Aurora Zone are offered in a hunting package that includes suitable winter clothing, dedicated hunting of Northern Lights, aurora alerts, travelling with local experts as well as local guides. In addition, visitors get to engage in various Nordic activities which include dog sledding among others. They also arrange for accommodation, flights as well as transfers on behalf of their clients. The perfectly designed holidays target tourists that are eighteen years and above, who have an interest in travelling to particular destinations to see the Northern Lights.
A Lappish Night

 Image courtesy of The Aurora Zone

Since the best time to view the famous Northern Lights lies between 9pm to 1am, majority of the safaris take place at night to increase chances of seeing the lights. Most times, the displays of the lights vary in intensity with the first light being a stationary glow or even an arch before exploding into a marvelous show in the sky. The tour operators that have experience in hunting the Northern Lights know the greatest view points to ensure that visitors are able to see the lights clearly and even take photographs. In most cases, the holiday destinations for those seeking a glimpse of the lights within the Aurora Zone are in the rural areas. These areas are far off from the glare that is common in towns which makes the view of the Northern Lights in intense darkness much more splendid. In addition, the destinations make it easier for visitors to the area to easily step out of their accommodation spaces and gaze at the sky at night when the lights are easy to spot.

For a fruitful northern lights holiday, it is advisable to work with tour operators that are conversant with various northern destinations that offer a spectacular view of the Northern Lights. It does not matter if you are planning a family trip or your honeymoon the experts on their team will provide the best package for your holiday. Getting to experience the great display of lights across the sky at night is a once in a lifetime experience that is made possible by these travel companies.

Have you ever spotted a celeb abroad?

Beyonce performs at Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

Celebs work hard and need a break, too!

As we all know, celebrities are hardworking people: spending long days filming, keeping their image up in the public eye, and attending functions around the world (like many that you’ve seen here from my days in Las Vegas!). So even celebrities need their downtime, too – and they have plenty of extra cash to spend on it. So next time you’re on holiday, look and ask around. You just might spot a famous figure abroad, using some downtime to take in the sites, just like you are.

Sunshine.co.uk recently did a survey asking Brits: “Have you ever seen a celebrity while on holiday abroad?” The 1929 respondents were aged 18 and above, and had taken a trip abroad during the last 12 months. The response that came in was that 39%, two fifths, of us have managed to catch a glimpse of a famous person while on holiday!

It turns out that the top places to find your favourite celebrities while holidaying are fairly common destinations, including America, with 27% answering this, France at 24% and Spain at 16%.

Many actors, like Heather Graham, are spotted in America.

Many actors, like Heather Graham, are spotted in America.

Of course, not necessarily all of the celebs will be using that time to take a break of their own; many may be filming on location or keeping a business meeting in SoCal or mingling in the streets of Hollywood. The south coast of France is renowned as a high-class destination for those who want to see and be seen, whereas Spain might be the resort of choice for the younger generation of celebs looking for a good time.

The figures for the most popular type of celebrity to be spotted abroad were also collected during the survey. Apparently you’re most likely to see an actor or actress (37% of Brits abroad have done so), followed by sports stars (29%), reality TV stars (21%), singers (18%) and TV presenters (15%).

Brooke Burke makes an appearance in Vegas

TV presenter Brooke Burke spotted in Las Vegas.

Chris Clarkson, Managing Director at Sunshine, stated on the results:

“Celebrities need their holidays too and, let’s face it, they get to have more than most, so it is inevitable that some British holidaymakers will bumps into a famous face abroad every now and again. You’re probably more likely to spot a celebrity in more upmarket destinations and luxury resorts, but also if they’re filming in certain locations or away on business. Keep your eyes peeled and, you never know, you may get a signature or two!”

Taking a European Road Trip

Amalfi CoastWhether driving the meandering spaghetti like Transfagarasan Highway, the dramatic Amalfi Coast, or maybe even circling magnificent Iceland, there’s nothing quite like the freedom of a road trip. The beauty of stopping where and when you like to admire that mountain view or take a swim in a newly discovered lake is an unbeatable way to enjoy a holiday with a difference.

The Amalfi Coast

Breath-taking views await on the winding coastal road that ascends a staggering 500m above the sea. It really does present one of the most striking coastlines in Europe. No doubt, you will see why UNESCO deemed this glorious piece of coast as a place of outstanding natural beauty.

The Transfagarasan Highway

This exhilarating road trip offers some magnificent views along the way such as the majestic Fagaras mountains, tranquil lakes, and tumbling waterfalls, and not forgetting a rather impressive 887m tunnel. The road trip ends with the famous spaghetti twists and turns that descends past Ponari Castle of Vlad the Impaler fame. Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson rubber-stamped the Tranfagarasan Highway as “the best road in the world”. Maybe you will agree when you try it.

Around Iceland

 Iceland

A not so well known road trip of epic proportions awaits in Iceland. It is possible to circle the entire country during which you will take in some mesmerising sights including the tumbling waterfalls of Gulfoss, the explosive Geysir and other hot springs nearby, the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, the Eastern Fjords, and not forgetting the delightful city of Reykjavik.

Western France

Many beautiful sights await you on a road trip through Western France. Stopping off at idyllic beaches, fragrant pine forests, and the lofty mountains of the Pyrenees are all part of a road trip through Western France. Many start in St Malo and simply head south through La Rochelle and St Emilion all the way down to the border of Spain. In choosing your route, opt for local roads and avoid the rather monotonous toll roads.

Explore the Norwegian Fjords

 FJords

Take a road trip from Bergen to Trondheim and experience the magnificent fjords of Norway, mountains and waterfalls that no amount of superlatives can do justice. The Atlantic Road brings you alongside the ocean with its sharp twists and turns and rugged wildlife. You may even enjoy driving through the largest tunnel in the world, the Lardal Tunnel that is beautifully and artfully illuminated in naturalistic shades of blue and yellow.

The Antrim Coast Road, Ireland

 Ireland

Rated as one of the top five road trips in the world, the Antrim Coast Road features many areas of outstanding natural beauty such as the dramatic and rugged Garron Point, the three Glens of Antrim, and the world famous Giant’s Causeway which is as unique as it is mystifying. You might want to stop off and amble around the white cliffs and impressive rock formations of White Rock Beach. There are plenty of impressive sights and photographic opportunities as you drive along Ireland’s Antrim Coast.

Just remember when planning your epic road trip to include car hire excess insurance, which will ensure you enjoy the ultimate peace of mind leaving you to enjoy the trip of a lifetime.

 

Your safety is important

airport parkingUnfortunately we live in difficult times, and it’s a sad fact that we need to pay particular attention to advice that pertains to travel. This shouldn’t be something that causes you to cancel plans, unless of course you are particularly advised to, but simply something to bear in mind.

There’s no getting around the fact that it is scary to hear about hijacked planes, aircraft going missing, and other heightened security alerts, but these extra security measures are there to prevent such things from happening again, or even at all, so it’s important to comply with security staff at the airport as much as you possibly can.

With all this going on, you don’t need added stress to add to the mix, so arriving at the airport fresh and focused on getting to your destination, and all the fun you’re going to have there, is important. To do this, I always drive myself to the airport, park up, and pre-book airport parking with ParkBCP. If this is something you’ve never given much thought to in the past, maybe it’s time you did. Not only will you arrive calmer, but you will also save money when you compare it with the cost of public transport. No matter where you fly from you’ll find a service, including larger airports, and specific terminals such as terminal 3 parking at Heathrow offered at fantastic rates. It’s simply a case of checking out what it is available at your departure airport.

 

If you are travelling at a time where there is a heightened security alert at airports, see this as a positive thing. When there are extra measures in place, it means there is far less chance of something happening, and everything that is being done is there for your safety and wellbeing.

You can be reassured that you don’t need to do anything differently to what you normally would, unless you are advised differently. For example, at the time of writing this, there is a new regulation in place that means all electrical devices need to be fully charged, or at least charged enough to allow them to be switched on and off, and that these must be scanned separately to the rest of your hand luggage. This is no big deal and shouldn’t cause you any further upheaval anyway, because your devices will be charged to use them anyway, right?

If you have any questions, simply ask the staff at the airport, who will be happy to help you. The only thing you need to do is report anything that you class as suspicious, but you can be reassured that staff are on the look-out anyway.

Try not to let extra security measures cause you undue worry when you’re travelling off on holiday – at the end of the day, it’s all there to make sure you have a safe and happy travel day.

Bucket List: Beautiful Durban!

Image courtesy of taesmileland/freeDigitalPhotos.netDurban Offers the Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean coastline of Africa has wonderful beaches. Down in South Africa the main tourist destination for those wanting to enjoy sea and sand is Durban. At different times of the year the seas are the scene of whale migrations, the sardine run and the predators it attracts and sharks in habitat the seas all year round. There is no need to worry, the bathing areas are protected by nets that stop sharks coming too close so people wanting to enjoy these warm waters can do so in perfect safety.

Many Attractions

The Provincial Rugby Union side is even called the Sharks. Durban hosts wonderful sporting events each year with overseas teams as regular visitors for rugby and cricket. Durban is the main port on this coastline which inevitably raises its commercial profile. It is also the largest manufacturing region in South Africa after Johannesburg. All in all it means the city has a tremendous number of visitors each year and the quality of the local hotels reflect that demand.

Excellent Climate

If you want to know where to stay in Durban you can put ‘Durban accommodation’ into a popular search engine and it is likely you will get some excellent alternatives to fit most budgets. Its sub tropical climate means that tourists head to Durban right around the year. Winter at altitude in South Africa inevitably means cold nights so a break midwinter from South Africa’s interior has always been popular. Even in midwinter the temperatures during the night should never drop below double figures. The transport infrastructure is excellent with regular internal flights and excellent roads.

Quality

Hotel chains in South Africa have built up a good reputation with locals and overseas visitors alike. The standards meet everything that an international traveller would expect. South African wines complement the excellent cuisine that can be expected throughout the country. There have been many overseas influences that have produced huge variety on South African menus. It would be almost criminal for anyone staying in this area not to try the fresh fish at least once in a week.

Durban is an excellent base for anyone wanting to explore the region and a good starting point for a holiday that takes visitors north, perhaps to visit the ‘Battlefields’ in the interior, places where the Boer and Zulu Wars were fought years ago. It has been said that South Africa is many countries in one, such is its variety. It is something that the locals appreciate and overseas visitors are returning regularly because they have discovered it as well.

Even if Cape Town is the first choice of many, combining it with Durban makes good sense with flights so regular between all the major cities in the country.

You Need Travel Insurance! My top pick:

 

southern cross travel insurance2Southern Cross Travel: Your best choice in international travel

Going on holiday abroad is a dream for many people who need that time off to just relax and rejuvenate their bodies. It does not matter your destination really, because just the thought of taking a break from your normal schedule has a way of relaxing the body and mind. Nevertheless, travelling has its own challenges as there are times when one is faced with unexpected changes that require them to reconsider their travelling plans. It is for this reason that you need to plan for insurance when travelling with one of the best in the industry being Southern Cross Travel insurance.

If you are an animal lover, you probably want to explore different locations around the world that are home to the most sought after wild animals. Some of the most unforgettable moments I have experienced in my travels is my recent visit to the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand. The nature park is a sanctuary for elephants that are found to be distressed in any part of the country, and they allow visitors to interact with the animals and even volunteer their time at the park.

I also got the chance last year to explore Xiamen and Gulanyu, China, where my youngest brother lives. These two locations offer visitors scenic views with Gulanyu Island being a favorite of many visitors. The island is part of Xiamen city and gives tourists a chance to enjoy its rare natural beauty, varied architecture and ancient relics.

Macau is another “must visit” destination in China, because it offer both traditional and modern scenery that one can explore alone or with friends. You can explore the Macau museum where most of the traditional history of the county has been preserved and displayed. There is also a wine and grand prix museum, if you are looking for a more up market feel of the area. However, when travelling to such exotic locations, it is vital to have travel insurance as a precaution against any sudden emergencies. Southern Cross Travel insurance is an ideal choice because it offers cover for insurance travel and has variety of products to suit every kind of traveler.

Taking a visit to Victoria, BC for a short vacation is one of the best decisions I ever made because it allow me to travel with my family and have fun. Victoria is well known for its exhilarating scenery, active night life and wonderful people that love visitors. It does not matter your plans for the trip as there are a variety of places to visit and engage in activities both in the outdoors and indoors. Outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing or even biking may at times result in injuries that may need to be attended to, as quickly as possible. In such situations Southern Cross Travel Insurance comes in handy as they have a cover that takes care of evacuation as well as medical expenses.

In general, Southern Cross Travel Insurance offers unique services that can be used anytime you want to enjoy international travel alone or with family.

Living the Dream: Women and Aviation

flying a planeAmelia Earhart: That is the first and last name that comes to mind for most people when the subject of female aviators comes up. In 1932, she was the first woman to fly a plane across the Pacific ocean by herself. Unfortunately, even the greatest heroine of the air has an asterisk by her name in all the history books. Just five years after her greatest triumph, she experienced her greatest tragedy.
For in 1937, her plane disappeared while she attempted to fly around the world. It is past time we add a few more names and faces to female aviation, perhaps, one day, even yours, or that of your daughter.
Fortunately, history is not waiting for you to come and make it. Rather, it invites you to come and join it. Many women have already broken the glass ceiling and headed skyward. Here are just a few of those glass breakers as noted by the women’s history page on about.com:

 

  • 1880 – July 4 – Mary Myers is the first American woman to solo in a balloon
  • 1908 – Madame Therese Peltier is the first woman to fly an airplane solo
  • 1912 – April 16 – Harriet Quimby becomes the first woman to pilot her own aircraft across the English Channel
  • 1921 – Bessie Coleman becomes the first African American, male or female, to earn a pilot’s license

The list goes on and on. Women had the right to fly long before they had the right to vote. Today, they are fighter pilots, airline pilots, even astronauts. As in many fields, they are not equally represented in the air. But much of that is now up to the number of women who dare to dream the very possible dream of flying. Here’s how to make that dream come true:
Take Flying Lessons
The obvious first step is to take flying lessons. What is much less obvious is that you can take those lessons from a woman. Though only about 1% of flight instructors in 2009, there were 6,362 at that time. That year, women accounted for 6.2% of airman certificate holders.
The same source declares that many men, as well as women, prefer females as flight instructors, citing the female tendency to listen, empathize, and encourage as just some of the reasons. For men or women, the price of a private pilot’s certificate can be upwards of $11,000, and take as much as seven months to complete. Sport and recreational certifications cost less and take less time, but have fewer privileges.
Get Some Gear
Naturally, you are going to need some gear. Pilotmall.com offers safety gear, such as flares, a flashlight, a satellite-based GPS, and other goodies. Beyond that, you will want a decent set of aviation headphones and glasses to protect your hearing and vision.
Buy a Plane on a Budget
It almost sounds oxymoronic to consider budget planes. But like automobiles, they lose value the moment they are taxied off the lot. A pre-owned plane in mint condition is still a pre-owned plane, and provides an excellent value proposition.
This site lists planes that can be had for a couple hundred thousand. That is a far cry from the five million you thought you needed. If you can afford a second home, you can afford a plane.
It’s all about living the dream. But before you can live the dream, you’ve got to have the dream, and that takes a lot of courage. Just know that the way has already been well paved.

Daydream: Rural Calistoga

I loved Phifer Pavitt's tasting room.One of the (many) reasons I wanted to move to the San Francisco Bay Area was its proximity to the wine countries of Napa and Sonoma – and many others that will soon start to make an appearance on this blog. One of my very first trips after I moved here was to Calistoga, the northernmost town of Napa. I had never been to this neat little town known for its hot springs. It seemed like a throwback to the “old” Napa, from before Downtown Napa exploded and became trendy. I had actually noticed the last time I had been in southern Napa that people were starting to dress up more for the more scene-y restaurants. And I hadn’t even packed one pair of heels! As I wrote in Huffington Post, during my years living in Las Vegas, I always enjoyed my getaways to wine country, which I turned into my little escape, where I could be outside and learn about farming before heading back to to the bright lights of the Strip. It’s strange how a lot of people think Napa and such are so “fancy” – but it really is all about the land! In fact, I just wrote about Sonoma’s Benziger and the pictured Phifer Pavitt, in Calistoga, in a piece for Los Angeles Confidential about how eco-friendly wine country has become. Continue Reading »»

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