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NIAGARA FALLS HELICOPTER TOURS

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Ever since a rain-suited Marilyn Monroe kissed her lover here, in 1952, in the movie Niagara, the falls have been a romantic and dramatic cinema backdrop.

Aerial view of Horseshoe Falls below and American Falls above
Aerial view of Horseshoe Falls below and American Falls above
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The Man of Steel flew to Niagara Falls to film a scene for his first Superman movie in 1979, then flew back again in 1981 for Superman II. And in 1986, an empty hot air balloon plunged over Horseshoe Falls for the Warner Brothers' comedy, Police Academy IV.

Perhaps the most impressive views of Niagara Falls are the aerial ones, such as those found in IMAX films, such as Flying and Niagara: Miracles, Myths & Magic.

Cameramen usually fly by helicopter. One company even painted its helicopter grey so it could play a role in FX-2.

You don't have to confine your bird's-eye views of Niagara Falls to the big screen, however. National Helicopters runs sightseeing tours, romance and wine country flights. Private romantic heli-tours include a bottle of Niagara champagne. Winery flights include educational wine tours at Hillebrand Estates Winery, Peller Estates Winery or Chateau des Charmes Winery.

Flight through a rainbow

The most popular tour is the Niagara Grand Tour, which follows a 60-kilometre (35-mile) route. We boarded a Bell 206 Jet Ranger B III for the smooth 20-minute flight.

Gently lifting off, from Niagara District Airport, we climbed up for an eagle's-eye-view of Brock's Monument and the Niagara River. Ahead of us, the Skylon Tower sprouted like a tall mushroom into the sky, with clouds of mist from Horseshoe Falls, rising at its feet.

Wine tasting at Hillebrand Estates Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Wine tasting at Hillebrand Estates Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

We skimmed above the emerald green rapids of the gorge toward the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. As the pilot banked the helicopter in a slow circle, we gazed in awe at the thundering waters. (More than 168,000 cubic metres of water go over the crest line every minute during peak daytime tourist hours. That's equivalent to a million bathtubs of water going over Niagara Falls every second!)

Below us, Hornblower Niagara tour boats plied their way toward Horseshoe Falls like toy boats. Crowds of people, no bigger than ants, lined the railings overlooking the scene. We took picture after picture.

As we traced our route back through the gorge, past the American Falls, a rainbow appeared, only to vanish, as we flew through it.

Flying over the whirlpool, Rainbow and Lewiston Bridges, we circled over Niagara's vineyards before landing, as gently as a butterfly, at the airport.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

National Helicopters: www.nationalhelicopters.com

More things to see and do in Niagara:

Icewines from Niagara Wineries for Icewine Festival

Niagara Falls Honeymoon and Romantic Getaway

Niagara Wine Festival Parade, Tastings, Touring Passport