Niagara Falls remains one of nature’s most impressive sights, each year attracting more than 20 million tourists. The city is situated midway between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The Niagara River hurtles off a 200-feet cliff (60 meters), dropping an astounding 34 million gallons (130 million liters) of water every minute. Easily one of the greatest natural wonders of the world, Niagara Falls is actually divided by a small island, creating a Canadian and an American falls. The Canadian Horseshoe Falls is the larger of the two. It spans 2,600 feet (793 meters) wide, while the American Falls is more than two times smaller at 1,000 feet (305 meters) wide. The water volume varies depending on the time of year, as more than 75% of the water is sometimes diverted to power stations on both the Canadian and American sides via canals. According to geologists, Niagara Falls will eventually be flattened by erosion caused by the plunging water, but tourists need not worry, because it will take about 25,000 years for that to happen.
Since the 1600s, people have come from long distances to see this natural wonder. Today, about 12 million people visit this spectacle of Mother Nature every year, especially honeymooners. How the Falls have become eternally associated with romance remains a mystery. According to one legend, Napoleon’s brother brought his bride to Niagara in 1804, riding a coach from New Orleans. The idea caught on with other honeymooning couples, becoming the tradition it is today.
Niagara Falls is everything it’s hyped up to be and, like the Grand Canyon or the Great Barrier Reef, is something everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. As Rupert Brooke marvels upon seeing the Falls: “I was so impressed by Niagara. I had hoped not to be, but I horribly was.” Almost everyone who visits for the first time feels the same way. More cameras, in fact, are bought there than anywhere else in the world.
Niagara Falls, of course, is all about the waterfalls. Tourists don’t expect to see or do anything else. The Falls are spectacular any way you view them, but especially at night when they are lit and emanate a rainbow color of spotlights. In the winter, it gets even better. The spray from the Falls freeze to form natural sculptures, linking Canada to the U.S. by ice. The best place to view the Falls is from Table Rock. This is the nearest point to the waterfalls and is guarded by metal railings. The Table Rock House elevators take visitors behind the Falls through tunnels, providing yet more different-angled views of the spectacle.
Maid of the Mist
Of all the boat trips that operate in Niagara, the Maid of the Mist is the most famous of them all. Located at 5920 River Road, the Maid of the Mist runs boating excursions to the very base of the American Falls as well as the Horseshoe Falls, depending on your fancy. The boat runs straight into the dense mist of spray of the Falls, taking passengers as close as they can get to their deafening sounds. It is the most exciting, if damp, experience offered in town. Passengers, of course, are given ponchos to wear. The trip runs everyday during the summer, from May until October.
Niagara River Cruises
The Niagara River Cruises operates tours aboard an old-fashioned ship called the “MV Senator”. These cruises involve dinner and dancing and run everyday. The company also runs daily sightseeing excursions to the Falls as well.
The Skylon Tower at Robinson Street is one of a couple towers in Niagara Falls that provide an aerial view of the city and the American and Horseshoe Falls. It is the tallest structure in town, standing at 520 feet high. Exterior elevators take visitors to the top, where there is an indoor observation deck, an outdoor viewing deck, and two revolving dining rooms. The complex also has a 3D Theatre and is connected by bridge to the Fallsview Casino.
Konica Minolta Tower Centre
The Konica Minolta Tower Centre was the first observation tower built in Niagara Falls. It stands at 325 feet high from street level and has a restaurant and indoor observation deck on the 25th floor.
Clifton Hill is Niagara Falls’ downtown area. This promenade is as commercialized as you’d expect it to be. It is lined with restaurants, hotels, museums, souvenir shops, thrill rides, waxworks, haunted houses, and other themed attractions. Major attractions include the 4D Moving Theatre, Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks, the Niagara SkyWheel ferris wheel, and the Guinness World Records Museum.
Niagara Falls Museum
The Niagara Falls Museum is located at 5651 River Road. The museum has a Daredevil Hall of Fame devoted to retelling the accounts of people who did daring things in the Falls in various ways, including dropping into the 200 feet of distance in a barrel. Bizarrely, the museum also has a collection of Egyptian mummies.
North Niagara Parkway
The North Niagara Parkway runs for 16 miles (26 kilometers) from the Falls all the way to Niagara-on-the-Lake. It is parallel with the river until it reaches Lake Ontario, making it a delightful drive or walk, especially with the historic buildings, gardens, and parks you’ll see along the way.
The Great Gorge Trip is something you’ll also find along the parkway. It operates everyday from May until October. It is an elevator that takes visitors to the bottom of a gorge, where there is a close-up of the violent rapids.
Farther along the parkway is the Niagara Spanish Aero Cars. This cable trip travels over the Whirlpool Rapids, giving visitors a birds-eye view of the swirling water below.
Next up on the parkway is Niagara Glen, where trails trod to the edge of the river and the forest gives weary travelers a tranquil refuge.
Nearby, you’ll find acres of flowers and shrubs at the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture, a series of beautiful gardens managed by the school’s students. The gardens are open daily in the summer until the sun sets.
Farther north is Queenston Heights. This is the site of the War of 1812 Battle of Queenston Heights in which the British defeated the Americans and prevented them from capturing Queenston. Today, the park is a peaceful setting for picnickers.
Accommodations are plenty in Niagara Falls with hotel and motel signs everywhere. Prices fluctuate immensely depending on the time of year. Summer is the peak season for the town, so you can expect prices to be higher during that time of year.
How to Get There
Queen Elizabeth Way is the main road connecting all the towns from the Canada side to Niagara Falls. If you are traveling from the U.S., the major highway leading to the Falls from both the southeast and southwest is the I-90.
Buses run every hour between Toronto and Niagara Falls and a couple of times a day from Niagara-on-the-Lake to the Falls. Shuttles also connect the Buffalo International Airport to the town. Amtrak has frequent trains coming in from various American cities, including Buffalo.
Carroll, Donald. Insider’s Guide Canada. Edison: Hunter Publishing, Inc, 1996. ISBN: 1556507100.
“Minolta Tower.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minolta_Tower>
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