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The new high-speed thrill on Clifton Hill

The wind whips across your face as you begin your ascent, zooming around the curved track as you climb 40 feet into the air. When you finally reach the top, you’ll look out over the lights, sights and visitors of Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls, Canada, before lurching forward and down the hill.

If this sounds like a roller coaster, you’re not far off — it’s the Niagara Speedway, a new attraction (unveiled this summer) that merges go-kart racing with an elevated coaster-style track for a unique visitor experience.

“This is the first and only track of its kind in Canada,” said Joel Noden, a spokesman for HOCO Entertainment & Resorts, which owns and operates several attractions on the Clifton Hill tourist strip. “It incorporates the thrill of the elevated track with the challenges of a road course.”

Five years ago, visitor studies revealed that go-karts were a sought-after attraction for Clifton Hill, helping to inform the company’s subsequent redevelopment plan for a 10-acre parcel on the former site of a Comfort Inn. The hotel was demolished in 2015 to make way for a slew of projects, including new concession stands, an expanded SkyWheel pedestrian plaza, the interactive 4-D Zombie Attack ride and now the Niagara Speedway.

Niagara Speedway | The new high-speed thrill on Clifton Hill | Discover 2018 | Buffalo Magazine

To design the 2,000-foot-long track, HOCO president Harry Oakes and other staffers visited several tracks across the U.S, including a three-story track in Branson, Missouri, which inspired the Falls attraction. Oakes then collaborated with a team of architects and engineers to finalize the plans. In addition to regular safety inspections, Noden said the karts will be equipped with technology to slow or stop them if any issues arise.

Noden expects the speedway will bring both new and repeat visitors to the Falls as other attractions did — including the MistRider Zipline and Aerial Adventure Course that opened in 2016.

“Our goal on Clifton Hill is to add attractions that become favorites among families and friends, and are the type that people will come back over and over again to enjoy,” he said. “The Niagara Speedway is an experience you won’t find anywhere else.”

On your mark, get set, go-kart!

If you can’t make it up to Niagara Falls this weekend, here are other locations where you can jump behind the wheel and race go-karts with your family and friends.

When you’re heading to the beach…
Stop for a drive at Bayview Raceway & Golf. A Hamburg institution, Bayview sits in front of Dos Amigos on the Lake (formerly Dock of the Bay), conveniently located near Woodlawn Beach and on the way to Bennett and Wendt beaches. In addition to go-karting, you can also enjoy 18 holes of miniature golf.

When it’s raining outside…
You can spend hours at Epic Fun Center. Located on Wehrle Drive in Williamsville, Epic Fun Center features a slick track with several twists and turns. Both child- and adult-sized electric karts are available. And, after you’re done driving, the complex also offers arcade games, a Kan-Jam court, billiards, foosball, a kid-sized volleyball court and ping pong tables to keep you busy.

When you need to finish back-to-school shopping first…
Plan a trip to RPM Raceway inside the Walden Galleria. Like most facilities, RPM offers go-kart racing on a first-come, first-served basis. But for budding NASCAR drivers, check out the once-a-week competitive go-kart leagues, or summer racing camps for kids ages 8-17.

When you’re on the Island…
Don’t miss the Grand Island Fun Center. The longtime family attraction includes laser tag, miniature golf, batting cages, water balloon launchers and, of course, go-karts. Unlimited passes are available, allowing you to squeeze in as much fun as possible into one, two or four hours.

When you’re nostalgic for your childhood…
Try the new Higher Roller Racing Experience at Lasertron. If you remember big wheel tricycles — and, really, what kid from the ’70s, ’80s or ’90s doesn’t? — now you can race your friends on an adult-sized version at the Amherst attraction. Adults receive a free race token with the purchase of a beer, wine or cocktail.

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