by Richard Nicol

“At last, a fortissimo!” – Gustav Mahler, upon his visit to Niagara Falls, 1910

Though it isn’t completely clear what famed Austrian composer Gustav Mahler meant when he shouted this exclamatory phrase over the explosive boom and raucous rumble of Niagara Falls, one thing is clear: this wonder of the western world leaves a profound effect on all who see it.

Exploring Niagara can be daunting, if not intimidating, leaving one to question: where do I begin? Driving from attraction to attraction can be time-consuming and potentially frustrating, so why not leave it in the hands of professionals? Immerse yourself in the rich scenic and historical background of Niagara Falls through Magnificent Tours’ signature Niagara Falls Scenic Tour. This exclusive full-day tour provides you a thoroughly narrated tour of the most essential sights and scenes in this picturesque city.

As a local myself, I rarely venture out to the more tourist-friendly areas of Niagara; however, I was surprised to find out how truly thrilling and stimulating this side of the city can be. I decided to discover Niagara as the tourist sees it, taking along with me photographer Mike Farkas of G3 Designs Photography, as we both undertook a quest, “soaking up” the Niagara aesthetic. And so, the adventure begins…

Journey Behind The Falls
Approx. 45 min.

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A brief ride filled with history and amusing anecdotes of the area brought us to our first stop on the tour. We were provided an up-close and first-hand glimpse of the Falls’ raw power from clandestine tunnels fashioned out of table rock. The mineshaft-like caves show off several viewpoints, including an observation deck that juts out for the perfect perspective: intense, yet beautiful. Plaques adorn the walls of these caverns, offering the Falls’ history at your fingertips. *Keep in mind, mist and water tends to permeate the observation port, so use caution before heading out there, especially if you’ve brought along expensive photography equipment.

Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory
Approx. 30 min.

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Travelling down the Niagara Parkway, a short bus ride towards Queenston highlights a relaxing and clear view of Niagara’s waterfalls, including the Bridal Veil Falls. Circling the bowl of the whirlpool, we quickly came upon our next stop: Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory. This was truly an exquisite and sublime experience; as we strode through the rainforest-like atmosphere, we were enveloped within a deluge of fluttering wings and a vivid spectrum of colours. The Conservatory draws you into a different world, filled with exotic foliage, waterfalls, and ponds. Be sure not to miss the Emergence Window, which holds a scene of Kafkaesque metamorphosis in the pupae stage (if you’re lucky, you might behold this transformation as young butterflies escape their cocoons to take their first flights). A favourite of mine proved to be the Blue Morpho Butterfly, with its transcendental dual-colour wings — the inside a stagnant greyish brown, but the outside, a vibrant bluish hue that seems to glow. Among one of the largest butterflies in the world, you shouldn’t miss them swooping by.

Souvenir City
Approx. 30 min.
A brief stop at Souvenir City afforded an opportune moment for a quick feast in the food court, while allotting some time to shop in the tantalizing Chocolate World, which included homemade fudge (made on-site). Many others on the tour made sure to stop and grab a quarter pound of their favourite flavours before heading out to our next escapade.

Maid of the Mist
Approx. 30 min.
Perhaps what could be considered the climax of the tour, the Maid of the Mist is an experience like no other. To fully understand and respect the rush and intense power of Niagara Falls, one must come face-to-face with this marvel of nature’s creation. The Maid of the Mist brought us to the brink of each of waterfall, and we were introduced to Niagara’s herculean strength through an unyielding kiss of steam and spray. Though every individual is provided with a protective rain poncho, the force of the rushing water is so overpowering, it is almost impossible not to get damp. Try to get some photo ops if you can, but this trip proved to favour a more physical aesthetic in experience to the seemingly obvious visual one.

The Skylon Tower
Approx. 30 min.

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The final stop on this tour ends at the Skylon Tower. Though not nearly as exciting as the previous stop, the Skylon’s top tier offers a simple, yet stunning panoramic view of the surrounding elements and attributes of Niagara Falls. The trip up the glass elevator is something to behold in itself, as we ascended to towering heights for a bird’s-eye view of the city.

Our tour began at 1 p.m. and ended at 6 p.m. sharp, as we pulled into the Marriott Hotel. The full-day, five-hour tour seemed to fly by, keeping us entertained and enamoured throughout the entire afternoon. I highly recommend this tour for anyone who desires a pleasurable and educational afternoon out, with an eclectic itinerary that explores every nook and crook of Niagara Falls.

Book your tour now with Magnificent Tours online through www.magnificentniagarafallstours.com or call 1-888-614-8687.