One of my earliest childhood memories is of a visit to Niagara Falls when I was four years old. Everyone donned waterproof ponchos before we walked through the tunnels to view the falls from behind the water. This memory, oddly, is so much stronger than the fragments of looking down on the falls from the viewpoints, though there are snatches of that too.
There are certainly other waterfalls around the world that are impressive. I remember a later childhood visit to Iguaza Falls in South America (forever associated in my mind with nearby Itaipu Dam, which had our childish minds giggling at the idea of eating a poo). A decade later, Pete and I clambered up Jamaica’s Dunn’s River Falls on our honeymoon and more recently we made our way to many beautiful examples around Iceland.
But few are as iconic as Niagara Falls, which has been attracting travellers and tourists for centuries; tourism becoming the area’s main industry by the 1750s.
The Falls (of which there are three) sit about halfway along the Niagara River, a short waterway of just 36 miles which connects Lake Erie in the South to Lake Ontario in the North. The falls straddle the border between Canada and the United States and tourists visit from both sides, though I’d say the views are most spectacular from the Canadian side.
The largest Niagara Fall is Horsehoe Falls, American Falls is next and Bridal Veil Falls is the smallest. The falls were formed at the end of the last ice age, when glaciers melted and waters from the newly formed lakes carved a way through the landscape, as they flowed North Eastwards to the Atlantic Ocean.
The best known attraction must surely be taking a boat ride into the heart of the gorge to view the falls up close.
From the American side, tours are run by Maid of the Mist, on boats of the same name. The original Maid of the Mist, launched in 1846, was actually a steamer designed for a passenger service between New York and present-day Toronto, with stops in Niagara on route. However, the ferry business was no longer profitable once the first Niagara Falls bridge was built, and the boat quickly became a tourist attraction instead.
Tours from the Canadian side are operated by Niagara Cruises on its Hornblower boats.
Ponchos are definitely advisable for the 20 minute trip which first swings by American Falls before taking passengers right into the plumes of spray that reach skywards from the Horseshoe Falls. If you don’t mind getting wet, head for the upper decks and stake out a spot by the handrail. The view is equally impressive from the lower decks, but also (a little) dryer! To me, this is the quintessential Niagara Falls experience; not to be missed! Current ticket price is CAN$19.95 per adult.
Another wonderful way to see the falls is by helicopter; soaring above the falls for a bird’s eye view was one of the highlights of my trip. Niagara Helicopters’ Classic Tour lasts 12 minutes, though that includes boarding time, so your time over the falls is a little less. The pilot makes sure to do a few figure eights to ensure that all passengers have a good view from different angles. The views are wonderful! Current price is CAN$140 per adult.
View my short video clip of our helicopter journey over the falls here. If the weather isn’t great, there’s still plenty to do in Niagara Falls on a rainy day, including riding the Whirpool Jet Boat, enjoying a meal in the Skylon Tower, taking a stroll along the White Water Walk, and more.
For more of Canada’s natural beauty, you may enjoy visiting Banff, a great year round destination.
Kavey Eats visited Ontario as a guest of Destinations Canada. A big thanks to Niagara Cruises and Niagara Helicopters for making our day at the Falls so special.