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Introducing Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls: great muscular bands of water arch over the precipice like liquid glass, roaring into the void below; a vast plume of spray boils up from the cauldron, feathering into the air hundreds of meters above. There are dozens of taller waterfalls in the world (Niagara ranks a lowly 50th), but in terms of sheer volume these falls are unbeatable: more than a million bathtubs of water plummet over the edge every second.

By day or night, regardless of the season, the falls never fail to awe (14 million visitors annually can't be wrong!). Even in winter, when the flow is partially hidden and the edges freeze solid, the watery extravaganza is undiminished. Very occasionally the falls stop altogether. This first happened on Easter Sunday morning in 1848, when ice completely jammed the flow. Pious locals feared the end of the world was nigh…

Piety, however, isn't something Niagara Falls strives for these days. It's been a saucy honeymoon destination ever since Napoléon's brother brought his bride here – tags like 'For newlyweds and nearly deads' and 'Viagra Falls' are apt. More recently, a crass morass of casinos, fast-food joints, sleazy motels, cheesy tourist attractions and sex shops has bloomed parasitically around the falls in the Clifton Hill area – a Little Las Vegas! Love it or loathe it, there's nowhere quite like Niagara Falls.

The old downtown area, where you'll find the bus and train stations, is seeing revitalization along and around Queen St: millions of dollars have been pumped in to encourage growth and refurbishment. It remains to be seen whether or not it will work, but galleries and bistros are breathing new life into previously tired and shuttered buildings, and the streets are being repaved with hope. You can expect many more shops and restaurants to open in the future. Check the enthusiastic www.queeenstreetniagara.com to see what's happening.

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