It is estimated that 3,500 snow leopards currently make their home in the wild, where they use their claws and predatory stealth to scale central-Asian cliffsides in search of wild goats and rabbits. These secretive cats rarely let out so much as a purr, preferring solitude to contact with humans and even each other. Nevertheless, humans have helped their dwindling population grow in recent years through conservation efforts at zoos and habitats throughout the world.
Safari Niagara counts itself among the world’s safest havens for these downy cats. In working with the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the animal park provides a home for snow leopards and more than 500 other species of mammals, reptiles, and birds. The park’s conservationists lead educational presentations on threatened species and aim to shape children into the world’s future caretakers through up-close interactions with the park’s most social residents. Alpacas, river otters, grey wolves, and falcons are among the many animals that prowl the 110-acre facility, which also hosts an amphitheater where guests can watch musicians shimmy and shake in their natural habitat.
For almost 40 years, the instructors and staff of Dip 'N Dive have demystified the magic of breathing underwater. They instruct and outfit both scuba divers and snorkelers at their Buffalo location, and the facility's curriculum of PADI and NAUI courses help budding divers stay safe, maintain control of their equipment, and walk like Naomi Campbell while wearing fins. From beginning diving lessons to advanced instructor training, courses include classroom work, pool exercises, and real open-water-diving trips.
Dustin Ballinger knows guitars. With a degree in applied music and jazz guitar, extensive experience recording music with local musicians, and 15 years of performing under his proverbial belt, Ballinger approaches the instrument with ease and familiarity. “I have always believed that music lessons of any kind should be fun and friendly as well as challenging,” he says. He backs up his belief by leading his roster of classes with an encouraging and dedicated approach. Lessons unfold in a cozy, homey studio space complete with couches, rustic wooden accents, and windows that look out onto sparrows trained to sing the guitar parts from “Free Bird."
Bright orange orbs dominate the landscape at Mr. Pumpkin—one of Niagara’s oldest farms—along with a wealth of family-friendly attractions, which work together to signal the arrival of autumn. Outside, guests can wander through a 10-acre corn maze or stand still watching pumpkins get chucked up into the air. These flying fruits can reach speeds of up to 160 km/h and are shot up into the sky by air cannon or trebuchet-style Punkin Chunkin devices in an effort to knock down the sun. The farm also entertains younger visitors who can feed a carrot to Bella the pony or Darcy the donkey at the petting zoo or enjoy age-appropriate frights during a daytime haunt.
Bees’ Knees Dance offers adult dance courses, specifically geared toward beginners, in a fun and low-pressure environment. Students can put their sextet of drop-in dance classes ($10 each) to jump, jive, and wail through the lighter-than-air Lindy Hop moves of swing dancing. The one-hour classes are led by a fearless brigade of instructors ready to take on even the most inexperienced of toe-tappers. And with six to 30 students in the typical class, you'll enjoy social interaction far more pleasant than your ill-fated attempt to hand out free hugs at the zoo. The fall schedule has currenly has classes offered from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday evenings and a new session starts each month—see the schedule page for up-to-date info on current offerings.