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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

It's wet and wild on the water in Niagara

   One-Tank Trip for May 5/12
   (c) By Jim Fox

   It’s time to go wet and wild in Niagara on jet boats and the venerable misty maid.
   Then, grab a bite to eat from a food truck at a posh Niagara-on-the-Lake winery and pair it with a fine vintage.
Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours offer wet-and-wild, white-water trips on the Niagara River.
   Splish, splash
   Niagara jet boats got into the chilly waters early with warmer weather and ice-free conditions.
   Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours made a splash with one of its earliest starts ever on April 19, said publicist Stephen Murdoch.

   It was 20 years ago that Whirlpool’s lone jet boat made its maiden voyage on the Niagara River giving 4,400 people unforgettable rides through the turbulent white water.
   Now there’s a fleet of eight 54-passenger boats carrying 100,000 people a season from the mouth of the Niagara River in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
   They travel through the Devil’s Hole Rapids and to just below the incredibly powerful Niagara Whirlpool.
   It’s an experience riders “can’t get anywhere else in the world,” said Whirlpool president John Kinney.
  Guests in open-topped jet boats return to the dock soaking wet as their boat powers through the rapids at high speed and spins through the chop in a 360-degree turn.
   Passengers experience a “thrilling and educational one-hour guided tour,” taking in the awe-inspiring scenery of the Niagara Gorge, feeling the rush of the Class 5 Devil’s Hole rapids and marvelling at the power of the whirlpool.
   “We make a high-end whitewater experience available to everyone from four-year-old children to their 80-year-old grandmothers,” Kinney said.
   These are three departure locations: Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls, Ont., with a shuttle bus from the Spanish Aero Car check-in at Queenston dock, and Lewiston, N.Y.
   Not quite ready to get your feet and everything else wet? Then try the dry option.
   Passengers in the covered Jet Dome get the same thrill ride – minus the splash – and return as dry as they were at the outset.
   For information and tickets (prices and discounts vary): www.whirlpooljet.com; 1-888-438-4444

   Getting misty
   All good things appear to be coming to an end for the Maid of the Mist Steamboat Co. that runs its ship near the base of the Horseshoe Falls.
   This season was in doubt after turbulence caused by the Niagara Parks Commission as it ended the agreement with the maid’s owners in favour of a more-lucrative one with Hornblower Canada effective in 2014.
   The seventh version of the Maid of the Mist, dating back to the first boat 166 years ago that was originally a ferry between Canada and the U.S., started service early on April 12.
   Company owners had considered ending the service after the parks’ decision but the ship packed with tourist wearing bright blue raincoats are back on the misty waters.
   The 30-minute trips start from Queen Victoria Park at River Road and Clifton Hill in a calm part of the Niagara River near the Rainbow Bridge.
   They pass the American and Bridal Veil Falls and then cruise inside the curve of the Horseshoe Falls.
   Prices are $19.75; $12.65, ages six to 12. www.maidofthemist.com; (905) 358-5781

   Sip and nosh
   The food truck craze is rolling into Peller Estates Winery (290 John St.) in Niagara-on-the-Lake on May 20 and 21 of the Victoria Day weekend.
Food trucks and wine will be featured on the Victoria Day weekend at Peller Estates Winery.
   Consider this to be the ultimate backyard bash as Food Truck Eats brings together 16 of these rolling food stands for a party overlooking the vineyards.
   There will be 16 wines from Peller Estates’ portfolio served alongside “some of the most daring, tasty and innovative street food available,” said marking manager Sherri Lockwood.
   Event hours on the Sunday are from noon to 6 p.m. and holiday Monday from noon to 5 p.m.
   Tickets are $15 and include a glass of wine and souvenir Govino glass, with additional wine and food available for purchase. www.peller.com; 1-888-673-5537

   Artists at work
   Happening today and Sunday (May 5 and 6) is the fifth annual Oxford Studio Tour.
   Some 40 artists and artisans show their creations at 22 locations across the county and in Woodstock, Ingersoll and Tillsonburg from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Work by artist Shane Norrie will be shown at the Oxford Studio Tour.
   There is original art, pottery, jewelry, weaving, fabric arts and photography. Free admission. www.oxfordstudiotour.ca; (519) 842-6151
   Winding up today (May 5) at 7:30 p.m. is the Kaleid Choral Festival at Knox Presbyterian Church in Woodstock. http://woodstockfanshawesingers.ca


Jim Fox can be reached at onetanktrips@hotmail.com

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