Winter in Niagara Falls - Four Great Local Draws

Niagara Falls Winter by phawr

This is the second year of making the daily trek to Niagara Falls each day. There are many interesting things to do in Niagara Falls for visitors, unfortunately for the local crowd some of the best and cheapest activities remain seasonal.

Frijoles Fresh Mex

Between the pricey dishes and the random fees most of Niagara Falls is a bust for people looking to save a dime, plenty of value for those that have time and money. Frijoles is the solution, Fresh is in the name. One burrito is enough for almost anyone, one burrito is equivalent in filling value to a footlong sub from one of the sandwich shops. Except you will never experience the spicy madness of the Scotch Bonnet Tin Sauce at a sandwich chain. Frijoles is worth the trip to Niagara Falls on its own.

Scenic Route to Welland

I drive to Welland in the dark each night in the Winter, the darkness becomes friendly and the glow of the three major cities has been a simple pleasure. This year has been interesting as the Welland glow has changed colour to match the new streetlamps. Just stop by Welland for some beer and wings this winter and compare the different glow of each city from the dark countryside.

Niagara Falls Cineplex

Even in the dead of Winter the Cineplex is the biggest draw for locals on the south side of Niagara Falls. Located on the same grounds as the Niagara Square Mall, which is experiencing an extended slow period due to slow development in the land around the mall. In Niagara the Cineplex in Niagara Falls is among the cleanest and most spacious of cinemas, although it comes at a cost. Admission to the Seaway Cinemas in Welland are typically between 10% to 30% cheaper, although that is to a flat floor cinema facility. As anyone that frequents a Cineplex Odeon facility knows the Tuesday night discount makes the cinema experience a little easier on the pocket book.

Niagara Falls Festival of Lights on the Cheap

I'll admit that much of the tourism in Niagara Falls is an effort to exchange amusement for money. This pushes the question 'what if the amusement were free?' The answer is simple - it was free already. While the drive up the Niagara Parkway may not be as stunning as seeing the city covered in snow from the Skywheel it is a little over $10 per person cheaper. Each year I make it a point to do a 'lights off' run through Dufferin Islands, the park that has dozens of trees wrapped in mesh lighting. This can be troublesome with some of the other vehicles plowing through the park with their high beams on and it would be nice to see a notice asking for some courtesy. Did I mention this is free? The good volunteers have made this free for a very long time - take at least a quarter of that money you saved and donate it to keep this tradition alive.

Would like to post more, but four is the limit for now. Try these local activities and save some money to pay off debts before interest rates go up.

2012 Great Development Year

2012 Great Development Year - Apple and Cat

In 2012 the Responsive Web Design took centre stage as part of the ongoing transition to HTML5. I've been working to improve the way websites function and how users can access content.

Unfortunately there are many other existing players online that cannot change the foundation of their existing web data management systems. In my future there is likely to be more conversion than construction.

Also started looking into the basics of Android development again. The OUYA project could be a real game changer in that market and lead to a burst of development for both the OUYA and AppleTV products.

Welland Rose Festival - June 1st and 2nd 2013

Welland Rose Festival - Days in the Park - June 1st and 2nd 2013

As it turns out I've been helping with the Welland Rose Festival, as a member of the board of directors and a co-chair of the first event. I hope that all of the businesses that left during the recession can make a comeback, alongside some new ones. On June 1st and 2nd the Days in the Park Event kicked off the 2013 Rose Festival.

Since many businesses from outside of Niagara have made it their mission to specialize in festivals it has been difficult to convince local groups to make the effort. I'm hoping that the most successful groups in Niagara will be able to look at their figures and decide to return to Niagara's most resilient festival.

Some especially exciting news this year included the fact that we doubled the number of spaces for participating vendors at the two-day event. Alongside the vendor space is a children's area that includes an inflatable park, enchanted princesses, and numerous freebies. For the adults the festival board expanded the time for live performances and the permit for the beer tent. If we're lucky, all of this will go according to plan.

Thanks to the increasing number of volunteers the festival has been able to pass on savings to vendors. A festival of this size still takes a lot to put together and once all of the sponsors are on board we can release details about your favourite brands and businesses that believe that Wellands oldest and largest festival should also be one of Niagara's biggest events.

I know I'd like to thank last years major sponsors in advance since their contributions from previous years have been able to let us get a head start. Major gifts from Leons Furniture, Casino Niagara, and the Fallsview Casino contributed to our success in 2012 and will help again in 2013.

Feel free to contact the Rose Festival office for more information.

Boxer8 OUYA Console

Boxer8 OUYA Console

The OUYA has been touted as the best bet to reset the gaming market. It is also going to replace my Wii as the media centre unit of choice. At roughly the size of a Rubiks Cube it will be an easy fit.

Tegra3 Wayne Processor

The OUYA is going to be small and open-source, but the best part is that it will be using an energy efficient ARM processor. The popular Tegra3 ARM processors from nVidia will be in the OUYA in early 2013.

Square Enix, Namco Bandai, and Clear Channel Support the OUYA

The commitments of game publishers and broadcasters to bring their high quality content to the platform indicates that this will be a multimedia powerhouse.

Boxer8 and Julie Urhman

The Boxer8 team has been doing a great job so far in promoting the hardware, software, and content of the OUYA. Hopefully the console doesn't get caught up in price wars online, high retail markups to deal with the fact that retailers cannot sell the games for the console, or worst of all if ANY of the promised content is locked out for Canadians. Clear Channel specifically may be up against some issues related to the dominance of Astral Media in Canada - I'd rather have both than just one of the two.

Mahtay Family Dinners at the Mahtay Cafe

Maytay Family Dinner July 2012

One of the nicest new local businesses in Niagara is the Mahtay Cafe in St.Catharines. It is located next to the Fultons 24-Hour fitness and is in the same building that used to hold Red Square Night Club.

Local Connection

The first Mahtay Family Dinner featured meats and vegetables from local vendors, including the Country Corner Market. Since then the event has been a showcase for local season food and quality meat. Since the event is ran at a specific time, with a specific number of guests the event can be affordable and high quality - without hurting the bottom line.

Connect with Niagara Residents

The event is a great way to meet new people, with festival seating throughout most of the restaurant you may end up bumping elbows with the future of Niagara. During the last couple events that I attended there were members from local environmental groups, economic development professionals, and higher-ups from local and national charity organizations. This kind of exposure usually costs hundreds of dollars per plate.

Mahtay Cafe in Niagara - Advanced by Design

Mahtay Cafe is known for being among the most technologically sophisticated of the current cafes operating in St.Catharines. Faster WiFi, tablet based POS systems, energy efficient espresso and kitchen equipment, and more are all in plain sight.

The restoration to the building has been a real highlight, Maytay is one of many shops and apartments in the building that have improved insulation, new ventilation systems, and cleaner materials used in the refit. It is an excellent template for other property owners looking to save money and improve the aesthetics of their downtown buildings and businesses.

Port Credit Canoe Adventure

Port Credit Canoe Adventure

While celebrating over the weekend I had a chance to canoe somewhere that I've never been before. While visiting family in Mississauga the whole group went down to Port Credit with some canoes and went up the Mississauga river. Only a couple issues came up, one of which was falling off the canoe into Port Credit. The other was the visible impact of the drought on the river and Lake Ontario.

This 2012 drought is no joke - but it didn't stop the day trip to Port Credit in Mississauga. The waters of Lake Ontario were beautiful, albeit a little low as you go upstream. The journey came to an end a short distance past the QEW Bridge because the water was too shallow.

Mississauga has a wealth of developed public spaces. While it would be nice to see the same kind of activity in Welland, it is not the right time. The money saved through the well planned infrastructure upgrades will save enough money for a full transformation of the city without the need to build additional debt. Although it would be nice to see more shade along the shores of the Welland Canal so that canoe, kayak, and paddleboat riders can ride without having to roast.

3D Video in Welland

So it has now been two years since my last proper camera stopped working, time to find a new camera. Things have really changed in the last couple years as many new cameras have automated HDR, 3D functions, and some features that I never thought I needed. So many new features that I've had to narrow down what I'm looking for.

The Camera has to be:
+ Rugged and Waterproof
+ Ready for 3D
+ Stadards compliant (No XD Cards or proprietary formats)
+ Lightweight
+ Good for HD Video

Of course a good price wouldn't hurt.

Above and Beyond Cupcakes in Welland

Cupcakes Welland - Ryan Hegedus, Anna Olson, and Stacey Clare

I had a chance to attend the grand opening celebrations of the new Above and Beyond Cupcakes in Welland. This new gourmet bakery is a product of the passion and sugar obsession of Ryan Hegedus and Stacey Clare. With the support of their families, friends, and the community at large they had a successful grand opening on July 7th, 2012 in Welland.

Even the mayor of Welland, Barry Sharpe, was able to attend the ribbon cutting celebration. Unfortunately being a weekend in the middle of festival season the Welland Tribune was unable to attend and cover the event. This was not a problem for Above and Beyond Cupcakes, part of their business is reaching out through social media and there were a half dozen cameras handled by their online supporters.

Pastry Chefs from Welland

It hasn't been a spontaneous creation, the cupcake boom is partially a product of pastry chef Michael Olson and his wife Anna Olson. Michael trains new chefs at Niagara College, and his incredibly popular program has allowed many ambitious young people to ear their white crown. Anna Olson is a celebrity chef and is involved with the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls. Anna is also an ambitious pastry chef that lives in Welland, she and her husband had a chance to congratulate Ryan and Stacy on the day of their grand opening.

Welland Cupcakes

Above and Beyond Cupcakes Welland is not the only place in town to get a great cupcake, it is a part of the new food culture in Welland. As a city Welland has been known for being a transportation hub between the lakes, an electrical superpower in the 20th century that fed dozens of factories, and a place for big families and lots of celebrations. Wile there are fewer ships stopping in Welland, fewer factories, and fewer large families for the time being there is still an abundance of celebration. Celebrations at Festivals, Weddings, Award Banquests, Sports Tournaments, and more feed into this need for food.

The Welland Cupcake Boom is fuelled by the skilled daughters of hard-working factory workers. Just like their mothers and fathers they are not afraid of the heat, long hours, or strange scents that they encounter at work. Albeit the scents at work in this era are much nicer, every job at a bakery is essentially a new factory job in Welland. It will require technicians to repair the industrial mixers, ovens, freezers, and numerous other tools of the trade and these jobs would not exist otherwise. It is easy for people to dismiss a cupcake shop or a flower shop since they are smaller than factories and greenhouses - but they are they same type of business and deserve the same type of respect. While I know this sounds really funny - if you want to respect workers in Welland then slow down and buy a box of cupcakes that were Made in Welland.

Above and Beyond Cupcakes
591 King Street
Welland, On L3B3L3
Welland Cupcakes
Welland Cupcakes on Twitter
Welland Cupcakes on Facebook

Heart Niagara Meeting

Had a chance to meet with Karen Stearne and Don Gibson from Heart Niagara in June and hear about how to make Niagara a better place. Heart Niagara has been around as a non-profit organization for decades, surviving multiple recessions and finding new ways to serve the community.

I could reiterate the presentation that Don Gibson delivered - but I'd prefer to highlight the end goal. Heart Niagara needs community involvment, and that includes volunteers, financial benefactors, research partners. Many non-profit groups in Niagara live grant-to-grant, Heart Niagara will be reaching out on Facebook, Twitter, and using other online tools to reach their goals faster. This new push is being led by Joanna Polillo and supported by Karen Stearne. Check it out.

They are running a swap meet and garage sale for charity on July 14th 2012 at their new HQ in Niagara Falls (6017 Valley Way, Niagara Falls, ON) - be there. More event information -

Events and Vacation Update for July 2012

So it has been another season of intermittent and non-existant posts. While I intended to post updates recommendations and a variety of other useful and useless bits of information it was always minutes before receiving a call or people stopping by and completely derailing the process. So the important details are below in short form.

Broadwell Canoe Trip

Went on a canoe trip over the Victoria Day long weekend. Stopped by Webers Burgers on the way up north. Ended up joining a small flotilla of canoes (5 canoes) for a group camp along a small lake. Dan Lantagne, Joey Dostie, and Alain Ouellette brought a bunch of new guests up to the cabin. Dan caught some fish and fried them in batter. One of the new guys was completely unprepared, between the bites and sunburn the days were bad for him and at night he rolled too close to the fire and is very lucky that his sleeping bag was flame retardant. After the rest of the group I stayed at the cabin an extra couple nights to ejoy some peace and quiet.

Anime North 2012

Finishing the week long vacation in May was the Anime North Convention. It is one of my creative recharge events and there are photos in my gallery. This was the biggest event to date, spreading to three new hotels outside the TCC, Doubletree, and Sheraton. I stayed at the Residence Inn by Marriott and got to enjoy a king size bed and their free breakfast. It was a weekend of Rice Balls and Cosplay, however I was unprepared again. I think I have to find a new default costume for Anime North, but that can wait until after Halloween.

Wallenda Walk

I was lucky enough to watch the Wallenda Walk in person from the 32nd floor balcony of the Marriott Gateway on the Falls Hotel. It was amazing and I was glad to have some time with Alie doing something new and unique. Of couse as everyone knows Nik Wallenda made it across, and we kept out little radio on 105.7FM - The Astral Media station on the roof below ours at the Marriott Fallsview Hotel. I also had a chance to meet some American journalists and photographers from the Buffalo News that came to report on the event.

Darien Lake 2012

Had a chance to visit Darien Lake for the first time in years. Used to be a tradition when the factory would have a large group visit the park. Darien Lake has changed a lot since then. Good points include the reusable containers with a cheap refill incentive, free dog trick show (great to get out of the sun for half an hour), plenty of ground level rides for people like me that are not fans of high rides, and the Laser Blast concert was a great finish to the night.

Top ratings to the Park Managers, Ride Operators (Except Ferris Wheel), Dog Show Team, Laser Blast Team, and the Hard Working Employees. Improvements are needed to the Facilities Maintenance, Ride Maintenance, Landscaping, Food Services, and Food Offerings. Darien Lake is still a great place - stay at the campground though since it is a long drive after dark.

This is as far as I can get before being distracted by another beautiful day in the sun.


Subscribe to RSS