Niagara Falls, notably one of the natural wonders of the world, is a short 1.5 hour drive from Rochester, NY. Growing up in Rochester, and being so close to the Falls, we sometimes take for granted its magnificence. This Summer, I took the time to revisit Niagara Falls, taking along my daughter. Her last visit to the Falls was when she was two years old so this was going to be somewhat of a new experience for her.
There are three waterfalls that form Niagara Falls which lies between both the United States and Canada. There are the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The Horseshoe Falls are mainly on the Canadian side while the other two are on the American side. The Horseshoe Falls have always been my favorite, so when making a decision which side to visit it was a no brainer. Having passports in tote, we took off to Canada.
After crossing the border, you immediately feel like you’ve been transported into another land… and you actually have! It’s a big difference between Niagara Falls on the American side vs. Canadian. The Canadian side has beautiful parks with flowers, greenery, and cleanliness. Clifton Hills is a bit of a distraction, as it’s the major tourist area that hosts all sorts of entertainment. The street kind of reminds me a bit of Hollywood Blvd., but on steroids.
The main objective of the day was to take a boat ride to the Falls. Back in the day, Maid of the Mist was on both the American and Canadian side, but now it’s only on the American. Hornblower Niagara Cruises operates on the Canadian side. Once you have your ticket, you may have to stand in line which leads you down through a building to the elevators that take you to the boat dock. At the dock, you’re given a red poncho for water protection. You’ll also find food vendors, souvenirs, and restrooms. The smell can be a little fishy, but once you’re on board the smell dissipates. The boat is double decker providing views from on top or below. I’ve been on both platforms and there is no bad view. Lastly, sit back and enjoy the ride! The view of the Falls is incredible and you get to see all three Falls leading right up to the Horseshoe Falls (note: The Maid of the Mist does the same ride – only boarding done on American side).
Before taking a Niagara Falls boat tour, here are a few things you should know:
- Order your tickets ahead of time. I can’t emphasize this enough. Against my better judgement, I did not order my tickets online and purchased at the ticket office. We stood in line forever! It was hot and humid and I learned a valuable lesson to plan ahead.
- Plan to board late afternoon. I can’t guarantee shorter lines, but it seemed to be less people around this time. Everyone appeared to have the same objective of get in early so the line was longer. Later that afternoon we saw how short the line had become.
- Have a waterproof camera. You will get wet! Rain ponchos are provided but if you plan on taking photos with an expensive camera or phone camera, you better have protection. I kept my iPhone under my poncho as we got really close to the Falls.
- Roaming charges apply. Although it seems fairly simple to cross over into Canada, you are in another country. Check in with you phone provider for International rates/data plans before you go.
- Bring smaller bills. The nice thing about Niagara, Canada, you can use your U.S. dollars. However, you will be given Canadian money back so if you don’t want a lot of it then bring smaller bills or you can exchange the amount you’d like to use.
We spent only a few hours in Niagara, but I highly recommend an entire day or even two if you’re a first timer. Another neat attraction to check out and get an aerial view of the Falls is the Skylon Tower. A cool little yellow bubble elevator transports you to the top of an indoor/outdoor observation deck providing city and Fall views. There is also a revolving restaurant. I ate there in 2000, which it was good at that time, but haven’t since then. The experience was definitely a great one.