Clifton Hill is a major tourist promenade of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. It offers an amusement area and center for every member of the family, day and night, with its gift and souvenir shops, wax museums, haunted houses, video arcades, restaurants, and themed attractions.
Today, the Clifton Hill Tourist District includes Clifton Hill – “the Street of Fun by the Falls”, Falls Avenue, Victoria Avenue, Center Street and Bender Street. This area is the vibrant and colorful heart of the amusement and entertainment center of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. It consists of many museums, restaurants, attractions and activities for all ages. It is the second busiest tourist sector, next to the awesome Niagara Falls.
At night, The Hill, as it is known to Canadians and visitors, becomes a hub of nightlife activities consisting of pulsating sounds of music as well as a magical world of sparkling and glittering lights.
Its main street, also called Clifton Hill, leads to Niagara Falls and the Niagara River. It stretches from the River Road on the Niagara Parkway and intersects with Victoria Avenue. You definitely have to spend at least one night in this district, along with your visit to the Falls.
Here is the layout of Clifton Hill.The photo was taken from the Clifton Hill Fun Pass brochure.
It looks like a fun, fun, fun place, right? I will make a post regarding a description of each attraction.
But for now, here is an alphabetical list of exciting attractions that you and your family and friends can go to in Clifton Hill district:
- Big Top Amazing Mirror and Lazer Maze
- Bronto’s Adventure Playland
- Captain Jack’s Fun Centre
- Crystal Caves Mirror Maze Adventure
- Dinosaur Adventure Mini Golf
- Dracula’s Haunted Castle
- Fun House
- Ghost Blasters Dark Ride (part of Great Canadian Midway)
- Great Canadian Midway
- Guinness World Records Museum
- Haunted House
- House of Frankenstein Haunted House
- Louis Tussaud’s Wax Museum
- Movieland Wax Museum
- Niagara SkyWheel Ferris Wheel
- Niagara Speedway
- Nightmares Fear Factory
- Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum
- Ripley’s 4D Moving Theatre Ride
- Rock Legends Wax Museum
- Strike! Rock and Bowl
- Upside Down House
- Wizard’s Golf
- XD Theatre 6D Motion Ride
- Zombie Attack!
You will definitely get hungry or thirsty with all the walking, and the exciting attractions you and your companions will visit, not to mention your trek to and from the Niagara Falls.
Some picture inserts came from the Clifton Hill Fun Pass brochure.
So, here is a list of restaurants in Clifton Hill, alphabetically arranged, which I will feature in another post:
- Antica Pizzeria & Ristorante
- Boston Pizza
- Burger King
- Clifton Hill Family Restaurant
- Club Mardi Gras Niagara
- Dairy Queen
- Downhill Ice Cream
- Fallsview Buffet Restaurant
- Fudge Factory
- Guru Fine Indian Cuisine
- Hard Rock Cafe
- Kelsey’s Original Roadhouse
- Mama Mia’sItalian Eatery
- Maharaja Grand Indian Fine Dining
- Niagara Brewing Company
- Pizza Pizza
- Rainforest Cafe
- Ruby Tuesday
- Sweet Jesus Niagara
- Sweets & Treats
- The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro
- Tim Hortons
- Yank’s Old Niagara Bar and Grill
A collage of Clifton Hill’s nightlife; photos taken from www.cliftonhill.com
Now, dearest Seniors and family, this destination is very much alive even at night featuring the following nightlife and entertainment options, in alphabetical order:
- Kelsey’s Bar and Grill
- Beer Garden Karaoke Patio
- Casino Niagara
- Hard Rock Night Club
- Greg Frewin Theatre
- Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort
- Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club Niagara Falls
- Seneca Queen Theatre
- Oh Canada Eh Dinner Show
Do you know how Clifton Hill became a popular tourist attraction? Who owned this Niagara Falls attraction through the years, till the present? Let Tita S tell you.
Initially, the land was acquired by the Philip Bender family in 1782 as part of a United Empire Loyalist land grant. This land is currently called “the Center” because it encompasses a major portion of the primary tourist core in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
In 1832, it was purchased by British Army officer Captain Ogden Creighton who served with the 70th and 81st Regiments in various parts of the world, including the Far East. He acquired a sizeable tract of land on what is now the south side of Clifton Hill as well as the area just beyond the top of the hill.
Creighton had this land surveyed, then made an urban plan for his town. He laid out the streets and building lots, naming the future settlement “Clifton Place”, presumably after Clifton, an inner suburb of the English port city of Bristol, located on the gorge of the River Avon.
In 1834, he called the primary street Ferry Road (now Clifton Hill) as the main street, named after the small rowboats which were utilized to transport people across the Niagara River between Canada and the USA at that time, approximately where the Hornblower Niagara Cruises loading dock now sits.
On the edge of the high bank facing the American Falls, Captain Creighton built his own residence, naming it Clifton Cottage. It stood where the Great Canadian Midway is now located.
The Creighton family left Niagara Falls in the early 1840s, moving first to Toronto and then to Brantford, Ontario.
In 1833, the first Clifton Hotel was built at the base of Ferry Road by Harmanus Crysler and became the best hotel available at that time, and there were very few buildings along Ferry Road. A small school house occupied the south side of the road for a brief period of time.
In 1842, the American contractor from Pennsylvania named Samuel Zimmerman came to Niagara, and made his fortune on projects like the Second Welland Canal and the Great Western Railroad from Hamilton to Niagara Falls.
Ferry Road provided the primary access route to the edge of the Niagara Gorge and the ferry service below, until 1848, when the first International Suspension Bridge was completed and this became the new form of travel between Canada and the USA.
Upon Creighton’s death in 1850, his wife sold the property to Samuel Zimmerman, who, in turn had the Erie and Niagara Railway routed through this town.
He created an estate property along the south side of Ferry Road, that he called “Clifton Place”. While building his estate, Samuel Zimmerman lived in Captain Creighton’s tiny Clifton cottage which stood near Ferry Road leading to the current Maid of the Mist dock.
He planned to build a mansion to live in, once it was completed. On his estate, he undertook to create many gardens and several large fountains, including the Zimmerman Fountain which still exists down in Queen Victoria Park.
The estate of Samuel Zimmerman occupied the entire south side of Ferry Hill and was bounded by the river, Murray Hill and Ferry Road (now Victoria Avenue). Today, this property is owned by HOCO (Harry Oakes Company).
He then purchased land in the Village of Elgin, now the area of Queen Street, Park Street, Huron Street and Morrison Street, and in 1856, the boundaries expanded to include the area of the Table Rock, and the newly formed town which then had enough residents, and was renamed the town of Clifton.
In 1856, the Village of Clifton became large enough to warrant a post office. In the same year, the Village of Clifton and the north end Village of Elgin were amalgamated to become the Town of Clifton.
The only buildings in the area of “the Center” on Ferry Road were the Clifton House Hotel and the Erie & Niagara Railroad Station; currently, they would have been located at the bottom of the hill and top of the hill, respectively.
Zimmerman created an estate property along the south side of Ferry Hill, now Clifton Hill, with many gardens and fountains.
The first structures that Zimmerman built on his estate were four gatehouses. Each gatehouse, which was large enough to be a house, was located at each of the four entrances to the 52-acre estate. The Clifton Gate House was the last of four such gatehouses built in 1856.
Zimmerman built a large stable for his horses and carriages. The stable was constructed of imported English yellow brick, which cost $18,000. The stables continued to exist until the mid-1950’s when the new Park Motor Hotel (Comfort Inn-Clifton Hill) complex incorporated a section of the stable wall into the hotel structure.
After the construction of the gatehouses and the stable, Zimmerman began working on plans for his mansion which he called “Clifton Place”, and was estimated to cost $175,000.
Alas, Zimmerman saw only the foundations of his mansion built before he was killed on March 12, 1857 in the Desjardins Canal Railway accident and did not see the completion of his mansion.
Following Zimmerman’s death, the estate was taken over by the Bank of Upper Canada. The Bank went bankrupt several years later and his estate was put up for sale. United States Senator John T. Bush of Buffalo, New York, bought Zimmerman’s estate at the bargain price of 25 cents on the dollar. Bush bought Clifton Place and the Clifton House along with the adjoining properties.
Senator Bush fixed up the estate and completed the mansion that Samuel Zimmerman imagined. The Bush mansion contained a great hall, measuring 4.9 meters (16 feet) wide and 27.4 meters (90 feet) long ran through the center of the main floor. The main floor consisted of five huge rooms and a kitchen. The second floor consisted of five larger bedrooms and the third floor consisted of a theatre, complete with a stage. A winding staircase, made with 1,829 board meters (6,000 board feet) of solid black walnut, allowed access to the various floors. The doors were 3 meters (10 feet) high. 300,000 kilograms (300 tons) of flat stone were used for the walls and hand cut limestone was used for the stone trim.
The view of the Niagara Falls was available from the many windows on the upper floors, the various balconies, and from a little stone turret built into one wing of the mansion. To reach the turret, one had to climb out of the nearby window and walk across the slate roof.
Originally, the mansion was heated by large fireplaces, however it changed to two large furnaces. Lighting was through oil lamps, but was eventually converted to electricity.
Senator Bush and his family lived in the mansion for the next 50 years. Following his death, Josephine, his daughter, continued to live in the mansion until 1927. In 1928, Josephine sold the estate to Sir Harry Oakes (Welland Securities) who eventually tore down the mansion in 1937, to give way to the booming tourism industry in the area, with the whole property catering to tourism.
In October of 1881, upon the request of its residents, the town received permission from the government to change its name to the town of Niagara Falls.
In 1898, fire destroyed the Clifton Hotel. It was replaced by the new Clifton Hotel in 1905.
The boom of tourism in the1920’s in Niagara Falls led to the creation of various camps and hotels on Clifton Hill. Niagara Falls Tourist Camp was opened by Charles Burland. It was located on the north side of Clifton Hill between the Foxhead Inn (currently the Sheraton on the Falls) and the Alexandra Hotel (currently the Comfort Inn).
Earl McIntosh opened two campgrounds; the Clifton Touring Camp and the Clifton Camp. The Clifton Touring Camp was located on the south side of Clifton Hill (currently the Comfort Inn). McIntosh also opened his Clifton Camp located on the north side of Clifton Hill.
In 1925, Howard Fox opened his famous Foxhead Inn on the corner of Clifton Hill and Falls Avenue. The Inn was a subsidiary of the Clifton Hotel and was located on the current site of the Sheraton on the Falls Hotel.
Reinhart’s Riverhurst Inn was located on the north side of Clifton Hill between the Niagara Falls Tourist Camp and the Foxhead Inn.
For several years after Welland Securities (Harry Oakes) purchased the Bush estate, two of the gatehouses were used as private residences. In 1937, Welland Securities began using the Clifton Gate House as their general office. As the years passed, the Clifton Gate House was utilized as an antique gun museum and later became a souvenir store.
The mansion was left vacant for 10 years until Harry Oakes announced it would be torn down. Despite a public outcry to preserve the mansion, it was completely demolished by June 1, 1937.
Of the four gatehouses, the Queen Victoria Park house and Robinson Street house were the first to be removed. By 1937, only two gatehouses and the stable remained standing, but by the 1950’s, the Victoria Avenue gatehouse was demolished.
In the 1950’s, the land on the south side of Clifton Hill nearest Queen Victoria was offered to the American Government to build a new American Consulate, however this offer was never acted upon. The land was later sold.
In the late 1950’s, the Park Motor Hotel (currently the Comfort Inn – Clifton Hill) and the Fallsway Hotel (currently the Quality Inn, and now the site of the Niagara SkyWheel) were built on a large portion of the former Bush estate. Harry Oakes owned the Park Motor Hotel, but the Fallsway Motel was separately owned until Harry Oakes bought it.
In November 1965, the 109-year-old Clifton Gate House, located on the south side, was demolished to make way for a two-storey building (today known as the Hollywood Wax Museum) worth $170,000.
Oakes was a Parks Commissioner who donated the piece of land in which the Oakes Garden Theatre currently resides to the Niagara Parks Commission, in exchange for another plot of land located just above the park, which is today the south side of Clifton Hill, with the current large chains of attractions and retail outlets still owned and operated by the Oakes family.
Today, the property is owned by HOCO (Sir Harry Oakes Company). The only memory today of Zimmerman is the Zimmerman Fountain, a large stone fountain-pond built by Samuel below the moraine, now Queen Victoria Park.
Clifton Hill continued to evolve and was transformed into the hub of the tourist district, second only to Niagara Falls. It was from approximately the mid-60’s that Clifton Hill really became known as the “Street of Fun by the Falls” with all its hotels, attractions, souvenir shops, and restaurants popping up.
Clifton Hill Tourist District is definitely the heart of tourist entertainment at Niagara Falls, not only during daytime but nighttime as well. So why not stay, at least overnight!
Here are the online contact sites for you to explore:
The information was obtained from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clifton_Hill,_Niagara_Falls1 , https://www.niagarafallsinfo.com/niagara-falls-history/niagara-falls-tourism-history/the-history-of-clifton-hill/, http://www.niagarafrontier.com/clifton.html, https://www.cliftonhill.com and https://www.niagarafallstourism.com.
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1“Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls” accessed August 6, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clifton_Hill,_Niagara_Falls