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Falls Tourists Say They Need More Amenities

“Niagara Falls is the only great view, and the casino, but what else?”

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Jun 09, 2008

NIAGARA FALLS — Pittsburgh resident Adrienne Little was the lead driver in a caravan of Girl Scouts Sunday morning when she came to a fork in the road on the Robert Moses Parkway.

She ended up heading toward the bridge to Canada. She was trying to find the Aquarium of Niagara.

“It was pretty stressful,” Little said. “Signage would be helpful.”

A few blocks away, China natives Michelle Li and Alan Qin were the only two people walking on tree-lined Old Falls Street near the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel. They were looking for the Maid of the Mist, but there was nobody around to ask for directions.

“Niagara Falls is the only great view, and the casino, but what else?” Li asked as they stood in front of the locked doors of the former Wintergarden.

This is a glimpse into life as a tourist in Niagara Falls.

They travel at great length to see the famous natural attraction. They are impressed by the roar of the Niagara River rapids, the plunge of the water and the rainbow floating in the mist.

But they want better directions, more restaurants and more things to do.

“Obviously, the falls are very im-

pressive, but the city needs better public transportation,” said Jamie Young, a university student from Scotland.

He and travel companion Susan Lang waited with backpacks under the hot sun on a plastic bench outside an Arby’s Restaurant on Niagara Falls Boulevard for a bus to drive them five miles to Niagara Falls State Park. The Falls was one stop on a three-week, cross-country trip the pair is taking from San Diego to Washington,

D. C., before they return to Europe.

State and local officials have focused for years on trying to develop the Niagara Falls tourism industry. They have rebuilt streets and sidewalks around the state park and the casino, improved county-wide marketing efforts and given out grants to spur new business. But interviews with nearly two dozen tourists Sunday showed visitors still find basic needs unmet.

Joanna Batog and her husband, Paul, loved the nightlife and the restaurants on Clifton Hill that they visited in Ontario on Saturday. When they returned to their hotel on the American side of the Falls, they found the streets were dark.

“Here, it’s like everyone is asleep,” said Batog, a native of Poland who has lived in Queens for five years. It was the couple’s second visit to the falls; they came this time with her parents, who had traveled from Krakow to see the United States.

Batog’s mother wanted to see where Marilyn Monroe filmed “Niagara.”

“When she saw it the first time, it almost took her breath away,” said Batog, a preschool teacher.

Several international tourists interviewed Sunday said they stayed on the American side simply because they did not have visas to travel to Canada.

Dipkankal Datta brought his sister, Mansi, to see the falls. He is a programmer for IBM and has lived in Westchester County for three years. His sister was visiting from India.

They did not go to Canada because his visa would not let him.

“I would, surely, because I heard that side is better,” Datta said when asked if he would have liked to have gone to Canada.

Like many of the visitors, Datta enjoyed the falls, but said two restaurants they had eaten in — one that served Italian food and another that served Indian cuisine — were not up to his standards. The siblings were also disappointed when they waited for more than an hour for fireworks at the falls Saturday night only to find out none were planned for the evening.

“I think probably what we need is a little bit more information displayed,” Datta said.

Puerto Rican resident Maria Figueroa visited the falls with her husband and two young children on their way to Boston. She was disappointed in the quality of their hotel.

“The hotel is so expensive; $200 and they didn’t have a good restaurant,” Figueroa said as she waited for a tour guide. “The falls are a very special place, but the other things in the town are not so good.”

Gade Padmanabham traveled from Hyderabad, India, to the United States last week for a scientific conference and decided to extend his stay to visit Niagara Falls with a friend.

Like the Figueroas, Padmanabham said he would have visited the Canadian side of the falls if his visa allowed it.

He enjoyed the Maid of the Mist and the Cave of the Winds and thought the state park was well organized, but said he was frustrated that he could see only a beam of light, but not the illumination of the falls, from his vantage point on the American side Saturday night.

“The place, I think, could be more busy so that you get the feel of being downtown,” Padmanabham said.

Paul DiCesare grew up in Niagara Falls, but left to join the military. He returned Sunday with his fiancee, Monica Ransom, and her parents. DiCesare now lives in Atlanta.

Except for the construction of the casino, not much had changed since he left nearly a decade ago, DiCesare said.

“We need quality things for people to spend their money on,” DiCesare said. “We’ve got enough little Disney World-key chain things. We need some substance.”

His future father-in-law, Gary Ransom, saw an abrupt difference between the green areas of the state park and the rest of the city.

“There can’t just be this border line where this is the nice, beautiful park and this is the city,” said Ransom, who lives in Farmington, Conn. “There needs to be a transition.”

Little, the Girl Scout troop leader from Pittsburgh, also has roots in Western New York. She grew up in Rochester and attended the University at Buffalo. She said she saw improvements in Niagara Falls since her last visit.

She said the proximity to Pittsburgh was a draw for the girls.

“It looks a little better than it used to,” Little said. “It was reasonably close, affordable. We could do it all in just one overnight.”

“Niagara Falls is the only great view, and the casino, but what else?”
Niagara Falls: Great view, but what else? /

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