Exploring Niagara Falls, part 1

Niagara Falls is one of my favorite places that I have ever visited! I roadtripped to Niagara Falls when I lived in Washington D.C. as a weekend trip and it was the best trip I took all year! This is part one of my adventure, so keep an eye out for part two next week!

Niagara Falls is located on the American-Canadian border, in between Ontario, Canada, and New York, USA. It’s about 20 miles from Buffalo, NY, and was a seven hour roadtrip from DC. I, unfortunately, don’t have my passport renewed so I wasn’t able to go to Canada during my visit but if you have yours and you visit Niagara Falls, I highly recommend a visit across the border.

Niagara Falls is a New York State Park, and one of the oldest state parks in America. It consists of three waterfalls — the American Falls, Horseshoe Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. The American and particularly the Horseshoe Falls are the iconic symbols for Niagara.

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It is free to visit the falls on both the American and Canadian sides, but there is a fee for parking (costs depend on garage/lot).

The American side of the falls primarily consists of the state park and is more “natural.” It’s mostly walkways, grassy areas, the visitor center, and occasionally places for food and bathrooms. The Canadian side also had a small park right next to the falls, but there are also casinos, larger hotels, an amusement park, and more up-scale restaurants. It’s two very different ways of experiencing the falls. I, of course, was more than happy to stay on the nature-oriented American side of the falls. (For the sake of the rest of this post, please assume that I’m talking about the American side, unless I mention otherwise!)

When I visited Niagara Falls, I stayed in an AirBnB on Grand Island, a 15-or-so minute drive from the falls. AirBnB was the cheapest option and I was able to rent a room in a lovely lady’s home for two nights. New York (and places on the east coast in general) have toll roads, which are typically not too expensive but it’s still annoying, so that is something to keep in mind while traveling. I really only had one full day in Niagara Falls and I definitely made the most of my day! I spent well over 12 hours at the falls that day.

All I have to say about the falls is… WOW! It’s actually quite hard to describe what it was like to see the falls for the first time. As you walk closer to the falls, you first feel the water that they throw up into the air (making it more humid), and then the sound washes over you. Finally, you see them. It’s magnificent. It took my breath away. The falls are so beautiful with so much power that it’s terrifying and mesmerizing.

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After standing in awe at the falls for 15+ minutes, I meandered around the central part of the park and wandered into the visitor center (more on the visitor center later).

During my visit in the summertime, it was extremely busy. I was very surprised to find how many tourists there were and that there were tourists from all corners of the globe. It was amazing to see all of these people admiring the falls, but it was also quite sad to see how commercial this once-natural piece of landscape has become (aka, mostly the Canadian side).

The Niagara Falls State Park visitor center is quite small. It has a little gift shop (where I bought an awesome shirt), food court (including ice cream!), bathrooms, water bottle filling station, and lots of history! I enjoyed reading each and every little placard of information about the falls. There is so much history I didn’t know about and wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t read those cards! One thing I learned is that the falls themselves are no longer completely “natural.” All of the falls have undergone some form of construction for various purposes — safety, erosion, hydropower, etc. I’m not going to go into the details of construction on the falls, but the visitor center has the entire history of the falls and Niagarafallsstatepark.com has tons of information on this topic online. (I’ll leave the other secret history of the falls up to you to discover!)

After the visitor center, I wanted to grab some lunch before wandering too far away from the downtown area. There is a Hard Rock Cafe located right by the falls and I ordered a delicious veggie burger — YUM!

The Maid of the Mist boat tour was on the top of my bucket list for my trip to Niagara. It’s been taking tourists to the base of the American and Horseshoe falls for decades and is a traditional and historical part of the falls. So, I bought a ticket and waited in line. Current 2019 tickets costs $19.25 for adults and $11.20 for kids, and I think that hours for the boat tour vary depending on the season. I didn’t wait too long in line (lines at Disneyland took longer than the Maid of the Mist!) before I boarded an elevator down to the base of the waterfall, where I was given a blue poncho and got in line to board the boat.

If I thought that my first experience of the falls was incredible, it was nothing compared to the Maid of the Mist tour!

I was thoroughly damp from the Maid of the Mist tour and went to explore more of the park. To see the Horseshoe falls, visitors must take bridges to Goat Island. It’s a lovely paved path that goes across Green Island to Goat Island. I followed the trail to the other side of the America Falls and Bridal Veil Falls on Luna Island, laughing at the people who did the Cave of the Winds tour. I would have been one of those people if I had more time and clothes to change into afterwards (you get completely drenched from this tour!).

I made a quick stop for some delicious ice cream on Goat Island before venturing to see the Horseshoe Falls from above.

My experience at Horseshoe Falls and what I did during the second half of my day at Niagara Falls will be published in part two next week, so be sure to check back in a week to finish the adventure with me!

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Thank you for reading! Have you ever visited Niagara Falls? Do you want to?? Let me know in the comments below and like this post if you want more like it!

Xoxo’s

Emmalee

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