By Bridget Jackson
Niagara Falls is one of the natural wonders of the world. I have seen many pictures of Niagara Falls and was always captivated by its beauty. I knew it was a destination I had to visit. When I arrived in Canada and got a glimpse of the Falls I was in admiration of this magnificent waterfall. A picture cannot capture the same encounter as seeing Niagara Falls with your own eyes, hearing the waterfall roar, and feeling the force and power of the Falls with your body.
When I decided to plan my trip to Niagara Falls I wanted to make sure that I visited both the Falls on the American side and on the Canadian side. If it is possible I encourage anyone making this trip to do the same in order to enjoy a full 360 degree view of its entire splendor. My journey started in Buffalo New York, at the Buffalo Niagara Airport. From there, it was a short 25 mile drive to the border and crossing the border into Canada was very easy and quick. All you need is your passport, just make sure you have your passport available for the guard to check. Once I entered Canada, I took advantage of a currency exchange site near the border. They are only open during the day, but I found they had the best exchange rates near Niagara Falls. The majority of hotel, stores, restaurants, casino’s and tourist attractions do take American money but you won’t get the best exchange rate from them.
As I drove into Canada on the rainbow bridge I was immediately awestruck by the immense beauty of the Niagara River leading towards the Falls. I quickly checked into my hotel; the Hilton Falls and to my surprise I had a room with an incredible view of the Horseshoe Falls and part of the American Falls. It was worth the extra money to pay for the fantastic view of the Falls. It was early evening when I arrived and I walked to the Table Rock Welcome Center to plan out my itinerary. The visitor center is located literally at the edge of the Horseshoe Falls and has been in operation since 1926. Today it is filled with several shops and attractions inside. When I left Table Rock I took a leisurely stroll through Queen Victoria Park which is considered to be the heart of Niagara Falls. The park has several park benches surrounded by manicured lawns and a variety of plants plus a bonus feature the Falls as your backdrop. Have your camera ready because the photo opportunities are endless along the boardwalk at all times of day.
After a good night’s rest, in the morning I headed back to Table Rock and purchased my ticket for my first adventure, Journey Behind the Falls. After I picked up my yellow rain poncho (yes you will get sprayed with water mist) I walked through underground tunnels which had several lookouts that you could get a glimpse of the force of the Horseshow Falls. One of my favorite spots was lookout point where the Falls are pounding down directly behind you, this is a great photo spot too! It’s an invigorating experience and the magnitude of the force of the water flowing down is overwhelming but beautiful at the same time.
My next adventure took me aboard the Hornblower Niagara Cruises boat ride (American side is Maiden of the Mist) if you can only choose one attraction to visit in Niagara Falls I would pick the Hornblower boat ride. Although it is a short ride; it is well worth the experience to get the opportunity to a get a close up view of the American Falls and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. With my lightweight red rain poncho on, I found the best spot for viewing and taking pictures is to stand along the railing of the boat. The boat skims the edge of the American Falls therefore you will get wet from the mist at that point and also when the boat drives into the middle of the Horseshoe Falls. I wouldn’t trade getting a little wet for the experience of feeling and observing the power of water gushing from both waterfalls.
When I exited the Hornblower it was only a short walk along the boardwalk to the Rainbow Bridge. The Rainbow Bridge was a favorite spot for me! Make sure you have your passport if you choose to walk across to the American side. Since there is a good chance you will get wet being around so much water, I kept my passport in a Ziploc bag. On the bridge you will have a fantastic view of the Niagara River that leads to the Horse shoe falls. The middle of the bridge is a fun picture opportunity where you can have one foot in Canada and the other foot in the United States!
Once I was on the American side of the Falls I was at my next destination, the Niagara Falls State Park. Niagara Falls State Park has many activities for the whole family; Maid of the Mist boat ride, Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, Aquarium of Niagara, Niagara Falls Adventure Theater, Observation Trolley, and Top of the Falls Restaurant. It is easy to walk along the park’s many trails but they also offer a scenic trolley too.
My first stop was Prospect Point where to my amazement there was a very picturesque view of the American Falls.
After I left Prospect Point I made my way to the Pedestrian Bridge and headed toward Goat Island. Goat Island has many trails that have a great view of the rapids including the Niagara Gorge Trail that leads up to the American Falls. I took a trail to Luna Island which has a spectacular view of the Bridal Veils immersed with rainbows. Below this is the Cave of Winds attraction. The Cave of Winds is the American version of Journey Behind the Falls but on a smaller scale. You will also get soaked even wearing the rain poncho; if it’s a hot summer day that may be a great way to cool off, otherwise you might want to have a change of clothes. It’s also fun to enjoy watching people experience the Cave of Winds from a dry distance.
Next on my agenda was Terrapin Point; a short hike from Luna Point. Terrapin Point is at the edge of Horseshoe Falls, which offers a side angle view of the Falls where you are essentially looking down at the water cascading over the cliff.
Another preferred spot of mine just a mile from the Falls is the Whirlpool State Park New York. There are several lookouts and walking trails where I was able to get a bird’s eye view of the whirlpool and rapids. Boat rides are available if you choose to ride into the whirlpool. I think that’s a little scary swirling around in a boat. It looked intimidating but the boats were all packed!
Once I was back in Canada I found the perfect site for a picnic in Queenston Heights Park in Niagara on the Lakes. The landscape is beautifully maintained and walking throughout the park offers some breathtaking scenes of the Niagara River. The park also has botanical gardens, a butterfly conservatory, whirlpool aero car, and a huge floral clock. Unfortunately when I went to visit the clock they were in the middle of changing the floral design, but it was still striking.
Niagara Falls is a romantic destination but also can be fun for the whole family. A great spot after exploring all the falls is Clifton Hill. Clifton Hill is filled with several restaurants and attractions, just a few are; putt-putt, wax museum, bowling, a fun house, Guinness World Record Museum and the list goes on. To join in the fun I chose to ride the Niagara Skywheel. Its takes you 175 feet above the falls. The Skywheel goes slow and makes 4 loops around so you can get plenty of pictures and enjoy looking at the Falls and the city.
Niagara Falls at night is amazing. Take a ride up the Skylon Towers where you are 777 feet above the Falls. Depending how brave you are there is an indoor or outdoor observation deck to enjoy the scenery. Also available at the top of the Skylon is a revolving restaurant. Even when the sun goes downs the Falls radiates as it is all lit up by colored spotlights from the Canadian shore. A leisurely walk along the boardwalk at night is beautiful. The Falls are illuminated in a variety of colors that alternate throughout the night and shine over both American and Canadian Falls. Since my favorite color is purple I was excited when the Falls were illuminated in an array of purple. Another Niagara Falls treat is a spectacular fireworks show over the Falls at 10:00 pm on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday nights. You won’t find another fireworks show like it, with the Falls in the background. It was incredible and worth seeing! I urge making a special trip to the boardwalk at night just for this show. Also, I’ll add that the Falls are spectacular at dawn, if you are an early riser, you will be more than rewarded by an early trip to view the falls at daybreak, it is just stunning.
If you are looking for some great local places to eat that are just a short drive away from the Falls, I highly recommend dining at Syndicate Restaurant & Brewery on Lundy Lane. The prices are reasonable and the food is awesome, 5 stars. Another favorite hidden gem is Tide & Vine Oyster House, located on Portage Road. This is a favorite restaurant where the locals go, so reservations are advised. They have daily fresh catches from the area so if you are looking for great fresh seafood, you won’t be disappointed.
Niagara Falls was an extraordinary vacation; I never got tired of looking at Niagara Falls and can’t wait to return, perhaps in the winter! If you visit, I know you will have a great time and will also be mesmerized by this natural wonder. If you have any questions about this trip feel free to ask Bridget. Safe Travels!!
2 thoughts on “Niagara Falls –More than the average Water Fall; Parks, Rapids, Attractions, & Casinos. Fun for the entire family!”
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Thank you for all the information. Very good read 🙂