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USATourist News Magazine by Elizabeth Blair
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USATourist News Magazine

February 2011 - Buffalo and Niagara Falls, New York

In this issue:

Welcome to the February 2011 issue of USATourist News Magazine. Today we're exploring a wonderful region in New York where one of the most spectacular natural attractions in North America is located.

Maid of the Mist

The Maid of the Mist is a great way to experience the Falls up close.
© Beth Blair

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls State Park consists of 400 acres and is filled with lush scenery and wildlife, but the main attractions are of course the three waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls: American and Bridal Veil Falls on the US side and Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. The water that produces this natural wonder is delivered by former glaciers we know today as four of the five Great Lakes: Erie, Huron, Michigan and Superior.

The Maid of the Mist is the most popular activity at Niagara Falls. There are two boarding docks: Niagara Reservation State Park at Prospect Point on the US side and Queen Victoria Park at the Maid of the Mist Plaza on the Canadian side. After guests pay for their ticket they make their way down to the boarding dock. Guests are issued lightweight ponchos and then, in a fast and furious boarding process, passengers excitedly scurry to claim their spot on the boat. Before long the Maid of the Mist begins its journey up the river for an up-close view of the falls. The mist is very strong, so take precautions with your cameras.

Clifton Hill

On the Canadian side, Clifton Hill is the main tourist area. One of the newest attractions is the Niagara SkyWheel which stands 175 feet (53 meters) and offers views of the Falls. The SkyWheel is open year-round and features fully enclosed gondolas, each equipped with heating and air conditioning depending upon the season. Other nearby activities include playing 18-hole mini golf at Dinosaur Park or visiting Marineland (open seasonally) where guests can partake in feeding sessions with the variety of sea life or watch them in their habitat via underwater viewing stations. Movieland is another fun choice. It's a wax museum filled with duplicates of top movie, television and music celebrities such as Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones and Tom Hanks as Forest Gump.

Travel Tip: Save time and money with the Niagara Falls, Ontario Winter Magic Pass and take advantage of our special USATourist discount rates. Another option is the Niagara Falls Power Pass that includes admission to both US and Canadian attractions. Save 10% off of the regular price of a 3 day Power Pass. Book through March 1, 2011, use code NFPPWINTER

American Falls

The American Falls is one of the spectacular waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls.
© Beth Blair

Nearby Buffalo

The closest city to Niagara Falls is Buffalo, New York which is a quick twenty minutes away and home to the easy-to-navigate Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

If you're interested in natural history, Buffalo Museum of Science is a wonderful place to spend a few hours. It houses 700,000 specimens related to the Greater Niagara Region. Another fun attraction is the Buffalo Zoo, especially if you're traveling with children. Like most zoos, it is very family geared with a playground and farmhouse with livestock. There is also a kiddy train, carousel and the opportunity to feed nectar to caged lorikeets (these cost an additional but minimal fee). A nice zoo feature is the color coded signs that coordinate the animals with a particular geographical region: Blue - The Americas, Green - Australia/Asia, and Orange - Africa.

The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum is a unique attraction. It's located in the original Allan Herschell Company factory and is listed on both the New York State and National Registers of Historic Sites. The first floor offers factory exhibits and demonstrations. In addition to the museum there are several programs which include various woodcarving classes, family events and guided tours.

Be sure to visit the Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau for other things to do in the area.

Buffalo Wings

If there's one thing you should do in Buffalo, it is eat Buffalo wings. After all, they were founded in this city. There are two popular restaurants known for their Buffalo wings. Duff's Famous Wings is located just outside of Buffalo on Sheridan Drive in Amherst (not far from University at Buffalo's Amherst Campus). It's a small, non-flashy restaurant with a short menu which, in addition to wings, does include sandwiches and wraps. The wing menu is basic and even worn on the servers' shirts: "Medium Is HOT, Medium Hot Is VERY HOT, Hot Is VERY, VERY HOT". On the walls are photos of President Obama's recent visit to this famous joint.

Buffalo Wings

Buffalo Wings are fried chicken wings coated in a spicy sauce and typically served with celery and blue cheese dressing.
© Beth Blair

The Anchor Bar is located in downtown Buffalo on Main Street and boasts being the original founder of Buffalo Wings. The restaurant is much bigger with an extensive menu ranging from sandwiches to pasta. The wings choices are: Mild, Medium, Hot and Suicidal. I've been to both places and you can't go wrong at either restaurant.

Buffalo History

If you're a history buff, you will also appreciate Buffalo's rich US history. The best place to start is at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, to explore exhibits about Buffalo's industrial heritage, view weapons used in the War of 1812, including the revolver used by Leon Czolgosz to assassinate President William McKinley.

After McKinley's assassination, Theodore Roosevelt's inauguration as the 26th President of the United States was held at Ansley Wilcox House. Today it is known as the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site.

A Frank Lloyd Wright creation

Over the years we've pointed out buildings designed by the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright and luckily Buffalo has been graced with his work. The extensive six-structure Darwin D. Martin House Complex includes the Darwin D. Martin House, the George Barton House, Gardener's Cottage and recently reconstructed carriage house, conservatory and pergola.

Where to stay

During our visit we stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites in downtown Buffalo. If you don't mind staying in the city, it's a very nice hotel. Guests have the option of upgrading to their extremely spacious suites complete with a kitchenette, breakfast table and Jacuzzi tub. The hotel is equipped with an indoor heated pool. Every morning guests can enjoy the free tasty hot breakfast, featuring eggs and hash browns and cold cereals - a terrific way to save money on your travels.

If you prefer to stay closer to Niagara Falls, the centrally located Comfort Inn Niagara Falls Hotel on the Canadian side is just one block to the Falls, Clifton Hill and Niagara Parks attractions. Guests enjoy free deluxe continental breakfast, ample parking, large indoor pool/whirlpool, free wi-fi, and well-appointed accommodations.

You can search for more hotels as well as flights and car rentals with the USATourist reservation engine.

My Favorite Place

Whitefish, Montana

By Ronnie Allen, Web Developer

I've been making a yearly pilgrimage to Whitefish, Montana, for the past 15 years. It all started back when a high school buddy of mine moved there and invited me to visit. Having time to spare, my intended one-week trip turned into a month-long adventure. The down-to-earth people, who consider living in Whitefish a "way of life," and the adventures awaiting in the northern Rocky Mountains call me back every year.

Ronnie in Glacier National Park

A two-mile hike in Glacier National Park can have you exploring crystal clear lakes surrounded by 10,000 ft. rock peaks.
© Ronnie Allen

Winter Adventures

Most of my trips to Whitefish have been during the ski season around the first week of February, when the Whitefish Winter Carnival is in full swing. Still a hidden gem in the ski world, the Whitefish Mountain Resort at the Big Mountain offers 3,000 acres of on-piste and off-piste terrain, nearly 2,400 feet of vertical drop, a terrain park and backcountry skiing opportunities. With a base elevation of 4,400 ft. and summit elevation of 6,800 ft., the resort averages 300 inches of pristine snow per season. The resort is located minutes from downtown Whitefish and the free SNOW (Shuttle Network of Whitefish) Bus makes it easy to get to and from the mountain.

In addition to downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are both popular winter activities. Whitefish Lake is a well-travelled place to partake in such outdoor pursuits. Most people use the trail system around the lake, but brave souls crisscross the lake itself when it's sufficiently frozen over. While Glacier National Park is closed to vehicular traffic during the winter, it is accessible for winter backcountry pursuits.

Summer is a great time to visit too

The biggest summertime attraction is Glacier National Park, which holds the largest expanse of undisturbed wilderness in the United States outside of Alaska. With more than 700 miles of trails, varying from short jaunts to those venturing deep into the wilderness, there are plenty of options for those who like to throw on the hiking boots, whether for a few hours or several days.

The West Entrance to the park is a 45-mintue drive from Whitefish and provides access to the Lake McDonald area, park headquarters and the Apgar Visitor Center. It's also the west access point to Going-to-the-Sun Road, which is a must-do drive for those who aren't faint of heart behind the wheel (steep and narrow road in some spots). Once at the top of Going-to-the-Sun Road, there's a visitor's center with a trail system. Big horn sheep and mountain goats are frequently seen within feet of the trail.

For those who don't mind getting wet, the town of West Glacier, which is home to the West Entrance to Glacier National Park, offers a few river rafting companies. Spending a few hours in a large raft with people from all over the world and a skilled guided is good fun. For the more adventurous, there are three day float trips which start well inside the park. There's also Whitefish Lake where boat rentals are available. Top notch fly-fishing opportunities can also be found within the region.

Accommodations

As a destination spot, there are many places to rest your head after a long day. The general Whitefish area has a host of hotels, ranging from budget inns outside of downtown to more expensive properties along Whitefish Lake and at the Whitefish Mountain Resort. However, the best bang for the buck usually can be had by renting a home or condo, especially for large groups of people.

Shopping & Eating

Downtown Whitefish has the typical trinket shops filled with t-shirts and local arts and crafts. The outskirts of town have the garden variety fast food restaurants, while the downtown area offers an assortment of saloon-type establishments with bar food as well as more upscale places to fill the belly. The Great Northern Bar & Grill is a nice spot for lunch and a cold beverage and the Buffalo Café is a must stop for breakfast - their French Press coffee and chorizo and eggs come highly recommended!

Getting There

Glacier Park International Airport is about 15 miles from downtown Whitefish. It's a small airport and serves small airplanes. However you can get a connecting flight in from major cities such as Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Denver, Atlanta or Las Vegas. Shuttle service and car rentals are available at the airport.

The Whitefish Depot is a major stop for Amtrak with daily train arrivals from Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, Spokane and Chicago. From Seattle, passengers board the train in the early evening and arrive in Whitefish at 7:30 AM - just in time to get settled in, grab breakfast and then hit the ski slopes.

Driving is also an option although winter driving can be hazardous.

Travel Deals

The Niagara Falls Winter Magic Pass saves you time and money and includes admission to the best attractions in Niagara Falls, Ontario: Niagara Fury, Journey Behind the Falls, and Butterfly Conservatory. Click here to purchase on-line and save over $33%. Receive your USATourist discount E-ticket instantly via e-mail. Winter Magic Pass expires 4/14/11

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Written by: Elizabeth L. Blair


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