When visiting the Niagara Falls, NY area, take my advice and stay in the town of Grand Island, located smack in between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, New York (www.niagara-usa.com) The Holiday Inn Grand Island Resort and Conference Centre (www.holiday-inn.com/grandislandny) was our base for the second time in almost six years and we simply loved this gorgeous 263 room property, located at 100 Whitehaven Road. We were lucky to get a reservation, selecting a comfortable Jacuzzi suite. This is a great year-round choice. In the winter, the fitness centre, large indoor pool and whirlpool are real bonuses. The property is ideal for business and leisure travel alike. In the summer an attractive outdoor pool is in operation. There is also an on-site health and fitness center, a gift shop and yes, for the business executive, secretarial services.
Standard Guest rooms have private balconies, flat screen televisions with on command movies and free wireless high speed internet. The hotel has two room executive suites, two room jacuzzi suites or two room hospitality suites, each of which has pull out sleeper sofas and large private balconies facing the majestic Niagara River. They also are equipped with microwave ovens and mini refrigerators. Right next door is the River Oaks Golf Course. On site you can enjoy a delicious meal in Currents “A Bistro on the Niagara” or unwind over a cocktail in the hotel’s comfortable lounge. On Fridays, there is live entertainment. If you are a member of the Holiday Inn Priority Club, then you have access to an exclusive lounge featuring free refreshments. The hotel recently installed new carpeting new vinyl wall coverings and received new bedding.
In the summer you can look forward to a number of fireworks displays at the annual Canal Festival. The hotel is conveniently located just a few minutes off of Highway 190, yet secluded from the hustle and bustle of the busy Falls tourism trade. “Sedate” is the best way to describe it. Parking is free in the large outdoor lot and you are only a short drive from a large Tops grocery store and two pharmacies. There are two beaches nearby – Beaver State Park and Sandy Beach. For more information you can call 716-773-1111.
SHOPPING OPTIONS: There are two fabulous shopping options to consider. The Fashion Outlets (www.fashionoutletsniagara.com) , with 150 stores, can keep you busy for hours, with bargains galore. There is also a Target store nearby. In Buffalo, the Walden Galleria (www.waldengalleria.com) is a fabulously large shopping centre, with major anchors such as Macy’s, JC Penney, Lord and Taylor and Sears. It is a 25 minute drive from Grand Island. We spent six hours there. Our only disappointment was the two hour wait to get into the Cheesecake Factory Restaurant.
ATTRACTIONS: Niagara USA (www.niagara-usa.com) offers visitors “A Great American Getaway” filled with exciting events, one-of-a-kind attractions, fascinating history and adventure that the entire family will enjoy. This place exerts its powerful pull on young and old alike. But anyone who has ever seen the look in a child’s eyes as they experience the Falls region – with its unforgettable natural beauty; year-round activities and enriching diversions for families – will have their own sense of childlike wonder re-kindled, and not soon forget the experience they shared.
Centered by the awesome majesty of the Falls, Niagara USA is a destination unto itself, capturing the hearts of families and drawing them back throughout their lives. And the attractions in the surrounding area are fun, active and exciting for parents and kids alike. The main attraction, Niagara Falls State Park, is the perfect spot for experiencing this magical landmark. There are a number of viewing platforms here, as well as some unusual opportunities to get even closer. For those who don’t mind becoming one with the water, the Park’s Cave of the Winds is a thrilling guided walking tour along wooden platforms at the base of Bridal Veil Falls. Participants will inevitably get wet as they walk through the spray. Another wet adventure is the famous Maid of the Mist (www.maidofthemist.com), a boat cruise which takes guests right up to the roaring water at the base of Horseshoe and American Falls (don’t forget to don your free plastic poncho). The Maid of the Mist can be accessed from both sides of the Falls. It is one of North America’s oldest tourist attractions, and its history is resplendent with stories of daredevil rescues and visits from royalty.
Nearby is the Lockport Cave and Underground Boat Ride. Blasted out of solid rock over 140 years ago, the cave system initially served as a tunnel to provide river water for mills and electrical power. Today visitors can walk through the mysterious tunnels as guides talk about the history of the area and point out fossils and other geologic formations in the rock walls. The tour finishes with an eerie half-mile underground boat ride. Every Halloween, the attraction becomes a “Haunted Cave,” drawing thousands of visitors through the month of October. Families with older kids who want a little more adventure have several options. A helicopter tour over the Falls with Rainbow Air provides a unique perspective for viewing the natural wonder of Niagara. Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours takes guests on a thrillingly fast upriver Jet Boat ride into the whitewater rapids in the magnificent stonewalled Niagara Gorge canyon. For those seeking a slower-paced journey, two-hour water tours of the historic Erie Canal and its dual locking system are available at Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruises. The nearby Erie Canal Museum and cruise exemplify the living history that is widespread throughout the Niagara region.
History-themed attractions will educate younger minds and capture the attention of their mature companions. Old Fort Niagara is a wonderful chance for families to travel back in time, together. Preserved as they stood in the 1700’s, the Fort’s structures (the oldest buildings in the Great Lakes) include several barracks, powder rooms, a bakehouse, an officers club and more. Visitors enjoy touring this large fortress and chatting with the park’s “historical re-enactors” who, dressed in period costume, explain, in character, the various aspects of 1700’s life at the Fort. The Niagara Aerospace Museum lets kids learn about aviation through fun, interactive exhibits. Flight-simulators, aircraft, rocket engines, aircraft models and even personal memorabilia of local servicemen and women illustrate the history of American aviation. Here, you can earn about the extraordinary accomplishments of world-renowned aviation pioneers such as Glenn Hammond Curtiss, Lawrence D. Bell, “Rosie the Riveter”, Chuck Yeager and many others. The “Niagara Frontier Vintage Aircraft Group”, a group of highly skilled and dedicated volunteers, can be seen at the Museum working to bring a classic World War I airplane – the Curtiss J-N4D Jenny — back to life. The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum is the only museum in the world housed in an authentic, original carousel factory building. Located in North Towanda, the building is listed on both the New York State and National Registers of Historic Sites and features a series of seven interconnected structures. Open since 1983, the museum hosts some 20,000 visitors each year. Perched above the Niagara river, the Niagara Power Project exhibits the history of energy, electricity and the community’s past through fun, kid-friendly exhibits. The Niagara Wax Museum features life-like wax figures of many of the Niagara frontier’s early explorers. Other displays include Indian villages and historical street scenes. The museum also has a collection of maps and other artifacts related to the Niagara Frontier. Admission is free.
Niagara Falls USA’s Daredevil Museum is noted for holding the barrel used by Steve Trotter and Lori Martins, who went over Horseshoe Falls in 1985 amongst many other artifacts from death-defying feats. The Aquarium of Niagara has more than forty exhibits showcasing 1,500 aquatic animals from around the globe, including a colony of the rare and endangered Peruvian Penguin. Niagara USA’s great outdoors, with its diverse seasonal changes, is also host to its share of family-friendly attractions. Becker Farms in Royalton features a petting zoo, hay and pony rides and live entertainment, along with several summer and fall weekend festivals. A magnificent celebration of the arts happens every summer at Artpark, which is nestled atop the Niagara River Gorge. Artpark offers a full spectrum of entertainment from Broadway musicals, swinging big band and celebrity performances, to free concerts and cultural festivals. The opportunities for enjoying picnics, relaxing, and fishing are endless. Clearly, whatever age or interest, there’s something waiting for everyone (and their families) in Niagara USA.
But for the kids, there is no better place to go than Martin’s Fantasy Island (www.martinsfantasyisland.com), located at Exit N-19 (Whitehaven Road) in Grand Island. It is recognized as Western New York’s most affordable and fun theme park, with more than 100 rides and attractions. That includes a neat water park, complete with slides, a lazy river and a wave pool. There’s theatre, a petting zoo and games. This is, in fact, a place for kids of all ages. Kiddy and thrill rides include the spectacular Chaous, Up, Up and Away Ballooon, Sea Ray, Patriot, Giant Gondola Wheel, Super Sizzler, Wildcat Coaster and The Silver Comet, the latter of which happens to be the newest classic wooden roller coaster in Western New York. We loved getting soaked on the log flume. It is open from mid-May until Labour Day Weekend.
During the baseball season, keep in mind that Buffalo’s beautiful downtown Dunn Tire Stadium is only 15 minutes from Grand Island off Highway 190. This is the home of the Triple A Buffalo Bisons (www.bisons.com), the minor league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.