Niagara Falls shows its tropical side
Lush flowers and flitting butterflies make Niagara Falls an oasis in winter
from: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/app ... 7702110306
Christine A. Smyczynski
(February 11, 2007) — Mommy, come into the jungle room with me," squealed my 4-year old. I had to admit that with the palms, cactus and warm-weather plants, the tropical room at the Niagara Parks Floral Showcase looked more like a jungle than like Canada in winter.
Located about a half-mile south of the cataracts in Niagara Falls, Ontario, the Floral Showcase may be one of the tourist town's best deals. Admission is always free, and in winter the parking is free, too.
During our visit in late December, the conservatory was decked out for the holidays with hundreds of poinsettias. Now that it's February, you'll walk among yellow, pink, and blue schizanthus and other spring flowers that defy the calendar.
My kids were intrigued with the turtles that made their home in a small pond beneath the 40-foot glass dome in the conservatory's visitor center. Tropical songbirds also make their home there; however, we didn't spot any, since they're active during the day and we visited in the evening.
Winter visitors to Canada's Niagara Falls will find other indoor retreats with winged creatures and warmer temperatures. The Winter Magic Pass promotion, which runs through April, makes it economical to visit them all.
Another chill-chasing, must-see attraction is the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory, located about 5½ miles north of the falls. This 11,000-square-foot conservatory, the largest of its kind in North America, is home to hundreds of tropical butterflies and numerous flowering plants that the butterflies feed on.
Butterflies are attracted to bright colors, especially pink or red, so my daughter wore a bright pink sweater for our visit. I was able to snap an amazing picture of her smiling at a butterfly sitting on her shoulder.
Bird Kingdom at the Niagara Falls Aviary, located just north of the Rainbow Bridge, carries on the indoor nature theme with nearly 500 free-flying tropical birds, a lorikeet feeding area and more.
The Magic Pass includes admission to the Skylon Tower observation deck. On a previous visit , our family combined seeing the sky-high view with lunch at the Skylon's Revolving Dining Room. (Diners get to take the trip to the top for free.)
Yellow bug elevators whisked us up in 52 seconds. In the hour it takes for the restaurant to complete one revolution, we were able to observe the city and the falls, 775 feet below. The kids found it amusing to pick out our car in the parking lot.
Those willing to brave the outdoors should make a trip to the famous cataracts and, with luck, glimpse the ice formations that form in the gorge during cold weather. This month, the falls will be illuminated nightly from 6:30 to 10 p.m.
Another Magic Pass attraction, Journey Behind the Falls, features a 45-minute tour down through a series of tunnels to the upper observation platform near the base of the Horseshoe Falls. (The lower platform gets too icy in winter.)
Christine A. Smyczynski is the author of Western New York, an Explorer's Guide.