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Monday, August 1, 2011

"Everyone loves Marineland" theme park marking its 50th year in Niagara Falls

   One-Tank Trip for July 30/31 2011
 
   (c) By Jim Fox
Adam Fox of Kitchener enjoys a close encounter while feeding a beluga whale at Marineland’s Arctic Cove. (Jim Fox photo)
   “There's a place I know in Ontario, where the sea lions kiss, so the story goes.
   “Its amazing shows and Friendship Cove . . . everyone loves Marineland.”
   Wait, there’s more:
   “You'll be spinning, diving and soaring high. Our roller-coaster ride will fly you to the sky. Now you know what you'll say when you leave here today . . . everyone loves Marineland.”
   Love or hate that commercial, it’s a sure sign of summer and sure catches the attention of kids.
   The “love-in” seemed apparent during a recent visit to the iconic theme park in Niagara Falls.
   It’s been some years since we took the kids to Marineland and now that we have kids again (grandkids), it was time to return.
   On a recent visit with Adam, five, and Nathan, 10 months, they were captivated by the kissing and frolicking dolphins and sea lions as well as seeing all that marine life up close.

The underwater viewing area for the orca “killer whales” is a popular photo opportunity at Marineland. (Jim Fox photo)

 
    Marking its 50th year, Marineland has expanded with many rides, including Sky Screamer, called the “world’s highest triple-tower ride” with views of the falls, Dragon Mountain coaster, the “dipping, spinning” Topple Tower and rides for younger children.
   Marineland’s Sky Screamer (Barbara Fox photo)

   But, the main attraction remains the high-flying dolphins, adorable walruses, comical sea lions, friendly white belugas and orca “killer” whales all putting on a show.

   Two tanks, three sea lions
   Marineland, one of North America’s most successful theme parks, began in 1961 with “one determined owner (John Holer), one small plot of land, two water tanks and three sea lions.”
   Expansion by 1970 included a 4,500-seat outdoor stadium, gift shops, restaurants and wildlife, followed by the first killer whales that put Marineland on the map.
   Holer’s dream has been to share his “enjoyment and appreciation for animals with others,” said Marineland manager Ann Marie Rondinelli.
   “Animal displays are designed so that guests can, as often as possible, touch, feed or walk among the animals,” she said.

   Flip, flop and fly
   The marine animals put on quite a show as they flip, flop and fly to the delight of onlookers.
   King Waldorf Stadium’s dolphin, walrus and sea lion shows have these critters performing “amazing flips and other awesome feats.”
Dolphins perform “amazing flips” during their performance at Marineland’s King Waldorf Stadium. (Jim Fox photo)
   Along with upbeat music and comedy, visitors see the speedy and high-flying aerials of the dolphins and the antics of the walruses and agility and energy of the California sea lions.
   Over at Arctic Cove, the beluga whale habitat, visitors can touch and feed these marine mammals while Friendship Cove is the orca whale habitat, where they jump and splash to amazing heights.
   Both habitats are designed to reflect the ocean environment and have expansive viewing areas to observe the underwater world of these ocean creatures.
   There are also wildlife areas where visitors can pet and feed deer, view majestic elk, bison and black bears, and feed fish in a lake.

   Sheraton oohs and aahs
The Sheraton on the Falls has floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the Horseshoe and American falls. (Barbara Fox photo)
   That night, we had a front-row seat for the fireworks over the falls from a 14th-floor room at the Sheraton on the Falls hotel.
   The kids loved the floor-to-ceiling room windows with views of the Horseshoe and American falls, the Maid of the Mist tourist boats and all the activity below.
   In the heart of the fall’s entertainment district, the Sheraton is connected to the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark and Casino Niagara.
   The 670-room hotel has some off-weekend room rates from $129 a night. There are also packages through Sept. 4 with the “Ultimate Family Bonus” including $300 in dining, show and attraction passes.
   This includes tickets for four to Adventure City attractions and the Danny Zzzz Master Hypnotist show, a $40 Fallsview dining card and Kids Eat Free Breakfast at the Fallsview Restaurant. www.niagarafallshotels.com/sheraton; (905) 374-4445.
The view of the Horseshoe and American falls as seen from a guest room at the Sheraton on the Falls hotel. (Jim Fox photo)
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   If you go:
   Marineland, 7657 Portage Rd, Niagara Falls, Ont., is open daily through Oct. 9 with admission from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (except 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., September and October), with activities continuing until nightfall.
   Admission is $41.95 plus tax for ages 10 to 59 and $34.95, five to nine and 60 and older (children to age five, free). An additional $5 will buy a season pass and parking is free.
   There are numerous food outlets and picnic facilities, along with Marineland’s nearby King Waldorf’s Tent and Trailer Park.
   Details: www.marineland.ca; (905) 356-9565.

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   Jim Fox can be reached at onetanktrips@hotmail.com

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