Visiting Niagara Falls

Often classed as one of the seven wonders of the natural world, Niagara Falls is a pretty impressive place to visit. Staying just a half hour drive away in Buffalo, we would have been mad not to go and see them during our trip to the USA. Sure enough, seeing the falls was one of the highlights of our time in Buffalo and was certainly the most impressive sight that we saw.

Even though I knew that the city of Niagara Falls was fairly built up and situated right next to the actual waterfalls, I was surprised at just how close it was. The huge man-made hotels and flashy casinos just didn’t look like they belonged that close to such an incredible natural geographical feature. The four Upper Great Lakes of the USA contain one fifth of all the fresh water in the world, and all the outflow empties into Niagara river, eventually cascading over the falls. You can’t really believe just how powerful it is until you’re right up close to it, soaked in its spray and unable to hear anything except the roar of water.

Our visit to the falls wasn’t quite what we’d planned. Approaching from the American side, we’d wanted to visit the Cave of the Winds and walk behind the American Falls, as well as taking the infamous Maid of the Mist – but unfortunately both of them were closed. Visiting in mid-May, there was still a risk of ice and there were clearly some repairs needed to the infrastructure on the American side. The Canadian Hornblower was running, but the queues were huge and we decided we’d be better off just seeing what we could from both sides. It means if we ever go back we’ll still have plenty to do!

We started off at Terrapin Point on the American side to see the Horseshoe falls. There was so much spray and mist that initially we couldn’t really see that much, although where the water tumbled over the edge you could see just how clear the water was. As well as being noisy, it was several degrees cooler stood right next to the waterfall but I didn’t really mind because it was such a hot day.

From here, we walked over to see the American falls and Bridal fall. This was where I have to admit I was a little surprised as I hadn’t realised that they were significantly separate to the Horseshoes falls which are so famous in photographs. There’s quite a chunky piece of land separating them! It was here that I quite liked just watching the river leading up to the falls as you could really see how strong the current was in the rapids.

I was really keen to see the falls from the Canadian side as well so we’d made sure that we’d brought our passports with us so that we could cross the border. Although I was told that the view would be just the same, I’d strongly recommend seeing the falls from both sides. In my opinion the view from the Canadian side was much better, although it was much more crowded and touristy. We walked across the border over Rainbow Bridge. It was incredibly windy walking across but there’s a good view on the way. It was somewhat surreal getting my passport stamped to go into another country for about an hour, but worth it. The bridge crossing cost $1 and we just needed our passport.

When you get across to the other side, I’d recommend just walking along slowly until you reach the Horseshoe falls. You’ll be able to look out at the American and Bridal falls head-on, and then will get a much clearer view of the curve of the horseshoe. We got a lot wetter on the Canadian side, so something to be aware of for a day when it isn’t quite as hot. It was pretty crowded along the railings, but we still managed to squeeze in at regular intervals and take the photos we wanted to.

Although we could have done pretty much everything from a zipline alongside the falls to a 4D experience of ‘Niagara’s Fury’, we decided to forgo the attractions. Instead, we drove out along Niagara Gorge a little way and through wine country towards Lake Ontario. This gave us a chance to see the scale of one of the Great Lakes. I also fell in love with some of the beautiful lake side houses that we passed.

We stopped off in Olcott for a bite to eat and to wander around the cute little seaside style gift shops. Again, it was much cooler being close to the water of the lake. Usually there is a little beach there, but it was closed because the water was too high. It was a cute little town and the sort of place I can imagine getting very busy on a weekend in the height of summer with daytrippers and people on holiday.

I was blown away by Niagara Falls, and although the city on the Canadian side being so close spoiled it a little bit for me, it’s definitely worth making the time to go and see. I’d like to go back and see it at night, or in winter when it’s frozen, or even just return in the summer to go on the Maid of the Mist (although I’m not sure I’d enjoy the crowds). Buffalo was a really good base for exploring the falls and one to consider if you want to avoid the touristy crowds across the border.

Have you been to Niagara Falls? What did you think?

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