Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor
NIAGARA FALLS, ONTARIO — Niagara Falls has never been afraid to roll the dice.
This may be the location of one of the world’s biggest draws and most impressive natural wonders, but that hasn’t stopped it from taking the plunge, so to speak, on two of Canada’s most prominent gaming houses, Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara. With more than 295,000 square feet of gaming excitement between them, Fallsview and Casino Niagara are used to mega-stars and high times. On June 15, however, you can expect that even some of the high-rollers at the blackjack and poker tables will take a break from the gaming action to check up on the biggest risk taker in town.
For one day, North America’s leading daredevil will make sure neither the casinos nor the Falls are the centre of attention in Niagara.
Historic walk will attract thousands of people
Nik Wallenda will focus attention above the natural wonder as he makes his historic tightrope walk next Friday. Tickets for the spectacle were sold out in less than 10 minutes — great news for a city that’s gambling Wallenda’s feat will be the biggest thing to hit the Falls since, well … the casinos. It’s estimated around 120,000 people will attend to watch him walk across the Niagara gorge, so already the stunt seems to be paying off for the city.
Wallenda is a seventh-generation circus performer, part of the famed Flying Wallendas. According to his website, he set a Guinness world record on October 15, 2008 for the longest distance and greatest height ever travelled by bicycle on a high wire.
While this is a dream come true for the 33-year-old daredevil, he isn’t going to get everything he wants. According to The Huffington Post, Wallenda said that ABC insisted on a safety tether.
“It seems as though that’s what I’m going to be doing,” he told The Associated Press as he prepared to walk a practice wire outside the Seneca Niagara Casino, where a fire truck sprayed water and a jet boat motor served as a powerful fan to simulate the mist and wind that occurs as water rushes over Niagara Falls to the rocky gorge below.
“I’m upset. I’m not used to it,” he said. “I’ve never worn a tether before so it’s just something else I have to contend with when I’m out there.”
This isn’t the first time a daredevil has taken a shot at the Falls. People have gone over packed into wine barrels, rubber inner tubes, and hot water tanks. Annie Taylor, a barrel pioneer who took the plunge in 1901, is well known. But the most famous of all Niagara’s daredevils is “The Great Blondin“, who crossed the falls with his manager Harry Colcord on his back during the summer of 1859.
According to the Niagara Tourism website, this will be the first time anyone has attempted to walk on a tightrope over the actual waterfall since Blondin.
Since then other daredevils have followed, some more successful than others. Karel Soucek went over in a barrel in 1974 and survived. But sadly, on October 1, 1995, Robert Overcracker rode a jetski over the Falls to promote awareness for the homeless. His body was never found.
While most of us will never get the opportunity to walk in Wallenda’s shoes … and probably wouldn’t want to … there are other adventurous things you can do at Niagara Falls that probably won’t get you killed.
The Sky Screamer is the world’s highest triple tower ride, standing over 137.2 metres (450 feet) in the sky and dropping you like a rock at a speed of about 96 km/hour. If that doesn’t do anything to raise your adrenaline, Dragon Mountain is the world’s largest steel non-stop roller coaster. And if that also doesn’t do anything to boost your adrenaline, then you may be in need of medical attention. A day pass to the park costs $42.95 for adults.
Additional Information: 1-905-356-9565
Location: Marineland Theme Park, 7657 Portage Road
Ride A Helicopter
Why not get above it all? Beginning with the Sir Adam Beck Generating Station and the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture, the helicopter tour follows the Niagara River from the Whirlpool area, eventually following the curve of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Flights cost $132 per adult.
Location: 3731 Victoria Avenue
Maid of the Mist
Don’t like heights? That’s okay. One of those things every visitor to Niagara Falls should try at least once is the Maid of the Mist ($19.75 for adults). Departing every 15 minutes, the powerful diesel-engined boat will take you “from the Canadian docks past the base of the American Falls, then into the basin of the magnificent Canadian Horseshoe Falls.”
Location: 5920 Niagara Parkway
Journey Behind The Falls
Need to get even closer to the Falls? Well, this is probably about as close as most thrill-seekers will want to find themselves. You can actually stand in the mist where the mighty Horseshoe Falls tumbles and experience “the awesome spectacle of one-fifth of the world’s fresh water crashing down to the basin below.” Cost is $14.95 per adult ticket.
Location: 6650 Niagara Parkway