The Legendary Niagara Falls
The song says, “don’t go chasing waterfalls,” but my husband and I have found this is actually a fun vacation strategy.
One of the kings of waterfalls is Niagara Falls (at least by volume and flow rate). We’d heard the area around Niagara was touristy and not a place we would enjoy. But there is plenty to do in the surrounding area and we are glad Niagara Falls created a reason to visit upstate New York and Canada.
Our trip included jaunts to:
Buffalo, NY – home of great architecture, history and a James Beard nominated Mexican restaurant
Jamestown, NY – location of the amazing National Comedy Center and also Lucille Ball’s hometown
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada – an adorable small town in southern Ontario, featuring delicious restaurants, restored 19th century buildings and more wineries than you can see in a weekend
But back to Niagara Falls: Even after seeing Niagara Falls on numerous television shows and movies, you simply cannot imagine the size of it all and the massive amount of flowing water. Sources say 700,000 gallons of water travel down the falls every second. The site consists of three waterfalls: the big one is Horseshoe Falls (which crosses both American and Canadian borders); and the two smaller are called the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.
Starting on the Canadian side, we got tickets for Niagara City Cruises’ Hornblower ship so we could see the Falls up close. (The ship on the US side is The Maid of the Mist). We had friends warn us that the Canadian side of the Falls called Clifton Heights is a tourist trap – but arriving in time for the first cruise of the day, we avoided some of the crowds, had an easier time parking and were not as distracted by the carnival-like touristy area.
The boat trip is only about 20 minutes, but so worth it to get close, feel the mist and be dazzled by the scale of this natural wonder. On the cruise we were told that since its formation, the power of the water of Niagara Falls has eroded seven miles of rock. It continues to erode about 1-3 feet a year.
Some cruise tips:
Wear a baseball hat – it will hold the plastic rain poncho up and off of your face, meaning your face will get less wet and you can see better. The wind will make a significant difference in how wet you may get.
Bring a change of clothes if it is a chilly day when you visit. We chose a September visit so that it would feel like fall, but not be winter. We were lucky it was sunny, which helped to dry off my jeans and sleeves. I was so excited taking photos and video that I did not stay inside the poncho and my arms were drenched up to the elbow.
Bring waterproof shoes or a change of shoes.
Parking is expensive, but if you go early in the day, taking the first cruise of the day, you may find parking in Clifton Heights nearby behind the hotels and tourist attractions. We easily did and for a short walk, shaved at least $20 off our day of parking. Plus, I was able to get a Starbucks fix (sometimes there are benefits of tourist traps?).
Everyone is in a good mood on this tour – and happy to take a photo of you. Just ask!
The boat trip brings you up close to each of the waterfalls and then spins around in a circle to bring you back to the dock. On our sunny day, the mist created a rainbow.
The Falls produce about a fourth of the electricity for New York state and Ontario.
Nearly 20% of the drinking water in the United States flows through Niagara Falls.
It is believed the word Niagara comes from the Indigenous word "onguiaahra" which means "a thundering noise."
People really have survived going over the Falls in barrels —seeing the speed of the flow, it is hard to believe. The idiots who went over in kayaks and jet skis died. Fish have evolved to survive the fall.
Nick Wallenda crossed the Falls on a tightrope in 2012 (this makes my stomach hurt thinking about it). You can watch the YouTube video and there is a statue of Wallenda on the Canadian side you can pose with.
We overheard so many languages coming from all of the tourists walking around the Falls…it seems no matter where you are from, you have heard of Niagara Falls and want to visit.
We loved the views so much we visited the US side of the Falls on our way back to the Buffalo airport. The US side is much more of a national park vibe, with a big visitors center and a more subdued and pretty setting that fits in with the park and the nature around it. Any views of the Falls are stunning, but I really preferred the views from the Canadian side. Seeing both sides of the Falls — I feel like we drenched ourselves in all possible views (haha—we got wet on both sides).
My husband wanted me to write a “waterfall of the week” feature when I started this blog, but we do not see that many. But when we do, we go big – and we will never forget Niagara!
Want to build a trip around Niagara Falls? Read about our adventures in the surrounding areas in Buffalo, NY and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada (and a side trip to the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, NY).