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Even though the winter storms have started to blow across North America, believe it or not that now is a great time to visit Niagara Falls. Ideally you's want to drop by one of the nation's biggest tourist traps during warmer weather, but if you’ve already been during the tourist season, then you'll discover a new side of the place when things chill out a little bit. The Falls are obviously still doing their waterfall thing, but the Winter Festival of Lights helps transform the area into Canada’s largest lights festival.
Grab a cup of coffee from Tim Horton’s—there’s a huge one right on Clifton Hill—and head down to where the water is flowing. The falls are illuminated in rainbow colors for the holidays, and on certain nights, they even shoot some fireworks to close out the evening. Away from the falls there are over three million lights decorating trees, shrubs, and everything in between. They have over 100 animated displays dedicated to all kinds of Disney magic, just in case a trip down to Florida isn’t in Santa’s sleigh this year.
Western Australia's capital city of Perth might win prizes as the most isolated city in the world, but that doesn't mean it's not worth a visit. And thanks to Virgin Blue and Jetstar, it no longer costs the earth to get there. Visitors from the US will find their flight stopping in Sydney or Melbourne first, but you'll get there eventually.
Once in Perth, here are the five must-sees:
Kings Park, which overlooks the city center, is bigger than New York's Central Park. Grab supplies from the supermarket and use one of the free barbecues to have one of the best outdoor meals in the world.
It's finally here, and we're pretty sure it's not worth the wait. We're talking about the Southern Star Ferris wheel in Melbourne, an attraction that was originally planned to open for the 2006 Commonwealth Games (yes, 2006!), and then had various false starts before finally starting to spin on Saturday, with a fireworks-led grand opening.
So far, there's been a mixed reaction to the Southern Star and a lot of people think the A$29 ($20) price is a bit hefty. That, and Melbourne's not really a city that gets more attractive from the air. From a guy who won a competition and got his ride for free:
It's a bit dull. There's nothing really that interesting to look down on and I certainly wouldn't pay 30 bucks to do it again.
Our only tip for the Southern Star is that it could be a cool place to hang on New Year's Eve. It's usually open 10 am-10 pm every day but for New Year's it'll stay open until 1 am. Since the fact that it's open at all is a surprise, there are probably still tickets available. But be warned: The online booking system isn't working yet, so for now you have to physically buy the tickets down at the wheel itself--that's another reason we figure they're not sold out yet.
· Southern Star [Official Site]
· Wheel Life Takes to the Air [The Age]
· Will Someone Please Hit the Switch on Melbourne's New Ferris Wheel? [Jaunted]
[Photo: Vermin Inc]
Ferris Wheels of the World / Ferris Wheels / Ferris-Wheels-of-the-World / Tourist Attractions / Australia Travel / → All Tags
Whether the delay in opening Melbourne's new Southern Star Ferris wheel is a publicity stunt gone wrong, a safety problem or just plain bad organization, nobody knows, but rumor has it that sometime today, the wheel should start turning.
Or maybe tomorrow. Nobody seems to be able to tell us for sure. All we do know is that it won't be cheap to see the sights of Melbourne from the equivalent of 40 floors up--an hour-long adult ride will cost A$29 ($19), nearly double the cost of the big tourist viewing platforms nearby like the Rialto Tower or Skydeck 88.
So we're waiting to see that big wheel turnin', so to speak, and while we're not as convinced as the owners are that it's going to be the "new symbol of contemporary Melbourne," we're curious if nothing else. Sometimes that's enough.
· Southern Star [Official Site]
· Southern Star Observation Wheel Charging $29 A Turn [Herald Sun]
· Ferris Wheel Travel: Awaiting the Southern Star [Jaunted]
The Japanese truly are an overly polite people. Remember back in April, they decided to limit tourist access to Tokyo's famous Tsukiji Fish Markets? The new rules were that tourists had to show up before 6.15am and were meant to be confined to one designated spot during the big tuna auctions.
This obviously didn't work out. The poor fishmongers and tuna auctioneers have still had to put up with a blitzkrieg of camera flashes and tuna-touching tourists--not what you want if the tuna's headed to a classy sushi restaurant.
From December 15, tourists will be banned entirely from the early morning auctions, a decision that's probably quite fair. But the Japanese are still too polite to ban us forever, so it's just for a month--perhaps after that any tourists who've completed Fish Auction Etiquette 101 will be allowed back in.
Something must be in the water Down Under (and we don't mean too much pee) because every city's suddenly in a struggle to get their own ferris wheel. Melbourne's Southern Star is due to start turning next month and a ferris wheel in Sydney could start spinning any day too.
But it's the tourists and locals of Adelaide who are most obsessed with the ferris wheel thing. And fair enough, since they've been waiting over two years to see their colorful ferris wheel turn at beachside Glenelg.
Bankruptcy and tricky regulations are apparently to blame but nobody can really say for sure when the ferris wheel will start operating, although early December is the current rumor. Which will probably make it the last new Aussie ferris wheel to open, even though it got planned first. And the wheels keep on turnin'...
· Glenelg Wheel Still Waiting a Turn [Adelaide Now]
· Ferris Wheel Travel: Awaiting the Southern Star [Jaunted]
· Ferris Wheel Travel: Now Sydney Wants One Too [Jaunted]
· Please Tourists, Don't Pee in the Lake [Jaunted]
The proposal for a 45-meter-high Ferris wheel is on the desk of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority now, and if approved it will be sitting on Circular Quay shortly.
The big difference is that for some reason, the organizers just want this Sydney Ferris wheel to be temporary--after January 2009 it will (apparently) disappear. That's a pity, because although we love Melbourne, we do admit that the views looking over Sydney are better. Not that we're weighing into the Melbourne versus Sydney argument again.
Economic crisis, environmental crisis, there's bad news everywhere we turn and in Tokyo the bad news is smelly, too.
We're talking tuna. Tuna that once went for ¥20 million (US$200,000) for a 445-pound fish at the Tsukiji Fish Markets in Tokyo is going to have to get even more expensive, say the experts, or it'll simply run out because of over-fishing.
We're sensing conspiracy here. Remember that the management at Tsukiji have now strictly limited tourist access to the famous markets? Are the Japanese planning to keep all the tuna for themselves and just feed us the line that it's all been fished out?
Soon we'll only have YouTube videos like the one above of the Japanese fish market to sustain us.
Sometimes being second best is still an exciting thing: That's what they're thinking down in Tasmania where they've just discovered the world's second tallest tree.
The giant swamp gum tree measures 330 feet, making it quite a few feet smaller than the tallest tree found in California's Redwood National Park. But being second isn't harming the tourism potential of this tree with plans already taking shape.
Luckily the tree is close an already-existing tourist attraction, the Tahune AirWalk. The forestry people in Tassie are looking at erecting a boardwalk to get visitors close to the massive tree. And they're also hurriedly measuring the rest of forest to see if they can win the tallest tree award too.
Australian explorers were prone to naming landmarks with a few depressing names: Lake Disappointment or Mount Hopeless come to mind. But some Aussies in Tasmania have learned something handy. Bad names like this don't attract tourists.
For this reason Forestry Tasmania has just made a big decision. Dismal Swamp, a tourist attraction near Smithton, has now been renamed Tarkine Forest Adventures and they've added a bunch of nocturnal wildlife spotting and other tours to the only blackwood sinkhole in the world.
There's still a Great Dismal Swamp between Virginia and North Carolina, so perhaps it'll be up next for a name change. Something cheery, please? We'll take suggestions.
We might be jumping the gun a little bit here, but figured we'd throw our support behind Melbourne since it's quickly becoming top dog down under.
Engineers are busy at work as the construction deadline for the city's Southern Star observation wheel continues to approach. Set to open late this year, the wheel is similar is design to the London Eye, and will rise more than 38 stories into the air.
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Even with the warmer weather on the way out, Niagara Falls is still a great place to take in some of nature's beauty in cooler temperatures--especially within heated "pods."
The Niagara SkyWheel, situated on the Canadian side of the falls within Clifton Hill, rises more than 175 feet into the air as it slowly rotates to give riders a view of the falls.