Saturday, November 27, 2010

Falling in Love with Niagara Falls

Just because it's winter, it's no excuse to sit at home by the electric fireplace!  With the excuse of visitors in town, Heather & Brett took the opportunity to cash in on the chance to check out some more of the New York countryside.  Except we kept driving this time and ended up in Canada!  Our first stop was just past the border to the Niagara Falls.  It's about five hours from Clifton Park and we got to see a little snow on the ground just outside of Buffalo.

The New York snow was a sight for Heather's Missouri based parents, Mr. Ed & Phyllis, but we were ready for the main attraction.  We didn't even bother stopping on the American side of the falls to check out the was straight on to Canada, baby!  Once we were able to clear customs and cross the Rainbow Bridge, we had a perfect view.  (This trip marked a first for Mr. Ed to head outside of the U.S. so he was a little disappointed they didn't stamp his passport)

Horseshoe Falls, Canada
You see photos of Niagara Falls and watch movies or television show set there, but nothing really prepares you for how amazing the view really is in person!   Heather had seen it once before in college when she visited her cousin Kari, but it still was spectacular.  We wasted no time checking into our room at the Courtyard by Marriott Niagara Falls and walking back down to the border.  Sure, most people come in the summer to visit, but there's plenty of things to do in Niagara when winter strikes.

American Falls
The best view of the falls is from the Canadian border so make sure you grab your passport before you head up here.  We arrived just before the 4:30 p.m. sunset (curse you Daylight Saving Time!) and just in time to see the Falls as the sun was going down.  Niagara Falls is made up basically of two sections:  Horseshoe Falls (on the Canada side) and American Falls (you guessed it...on America's side).  The smaller Bridal Veil falls are also on the American side.

Yellow is Mr. Ed's
favorite color
The Niagara Parks Service generously provided us tickets to the Journey Behind the Falls, which was-no joke-about the coolest thing we had ever seen!  If you make the trip up here, you do not want to miss out on this opportunity.  Totally worth it and totally amazing!  The view from the top is great, but if you want to see the Falls up close and personal you have to do this tour!  Tickets can be purchased year round and run $12.75 for adults and $8.35 for kids 6-12.  If you're 5 or younger, congrats 'cause you get to go for free!  Prices drop a little after mid December when the lower observation decks are closed because of ice.

First of all, we got to put on those fun little rain coats over our clothes (nothing like a little yellow to perk you up!)  and then we were off!  We headed down an elevator 150 feet and walked through tunnels that wove us behind the falls.  When we surfaced we were right at the bottom of the basin of Horseshoe Falls!

Just feet away from us was literally one-fifth of the world's fresh water crashing was almost overwhelming to be that close to the most powerful waterfall in North America!  At 13 stores high, the water comes over the falls at some serious speed, moving about 40 mph.  On average, during the summer daylight hours, 34 million gallons of water goes over the brink every minute!

Those yellow rain coats came in handy as the mist was flying at us.  During the warmer months, Niagara features a Maid in the Mist boat tour which takes you right out into the water.  We ended up plenty damp enough standing at the base of the Falls.  Our advice to the ladies...don't bother putting a lot of effort into your hair if you're headed near a water attraction!  

While exploring the 650 feet of tunnel behind the Falls, we walked almost one-third of a way across Horseshoe Falls.  Plus, we also got a chance to check out the Falls from the backside!  The Journey Behind the Falls tour features two spots where you can see the waterfall from carvings in the rock.  The sound of the water is so loud you almost have to shout to hear yourself think!

One of the cool things about Niagara is that it's not just a bunch of water...the volume of water flowing is controlled for industry and hydro-electric power generation.  The Falls erodes about a foot every 10 years!  But did you know that Niagara carries about 20% of the world's fresh water?  That's right!  It all comes from the Great Lakes.  

Niagara Parks also gave us tickets to watch the movie Niagara's Fury: The Creation of the Falls.  We were expecting maybe a cute cartoon to explain how the Falls were created, but the show was really more than a movie, it was a total experience!  Styled much like a 4-D Universal Studios-type of attraction, we felt the temperature drop, the water spray and the snow fall as a massive platform shook with Niagara's Fury.  Super cool, but Heather did leave with some wet pants legs.

We walked out of the movie to a view of Niagara that you'll only catch at night.  All lit up, the Falls took on a life of their own!  

On holidays and every Friday and Sunday night throughout the summer, you can watch fireworks over the Falls too.  For a complete schedule of illumination lights and fireworks, click here.  The fireworks also go off during the Winter Festival of Lights too, so if you're at the Falls on a Friday from mid-November to New Year's Eve you can catch them then too.

Look at how the fireworks magically appear behind us!
Sometimes it's hard to impress folks from Missouri.  The whole "Show-Me" expectation can be a big one to measure up to, but we think New York & Canada got the job done.  We think there's no reason you won't fall in love with Niagara Falls just like we did.

*Special thanks to the Niagara Parks Commission for providing tickets and admissions to the Journey Behind the Falls and Niagara's Fury: The Creation of the Falls.  Thanks y'all!


  1. Awesome journey, Niagara Falls is really one of my favorite destination. I visited there last year and it was most memorable trip for us, Maid of the mist boat ride was really adventurous experience for us. Natural waterfalls, luxury hotels in Niagara Falls, parks, lost of attractions and restaurants make this place perfect for the travelers.