This is one of the most famous falls in the world, and one that is probably on your must-see-before-you-die list. The Niagara Falls is beautiful, grand and voluminous. Though it is not the biggest or the highest waterfalls in the world– during my visit, it’s sheer magnificence took my breath away. All I could do was stare at the white cloud of mist that forms when the strong surge of water from the top comes crashing down hundreds of feet into the rocks and water below.
The scene is hypnotic, the sound is deafening.
The Niagara Falls straddles the border of two countries; the United States and Canada. The falls is located along the Niagara River; in the province of Ontario in Canada, and the state of New York in the United States. It is made up of three waterfalls– the Horseshoe Falls, which is the biggest one in the shape of a horseshoe; and the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, both on the American side. The Horseshoe Falls is about 790 meters wide, and has a vertical drop of almost 57 meters.
Starting from my base in Toronto; I made a one day visit to Niagara Falls. The journey to the falls took almost two hours, and I made a quick pit stop just downstream from the falls before making my way there. There is another wonder of nature here:-
A whirlpool is caused when two opposing currents meet, causing the water around it to swirl. The Niagara Whirlpool is located in the Niagara Gorge along the Niagara River. There are a couple of viewing points near the whirlpool; but if you prefer to be suspended over the Niagara River for a better view, the Whirlpool Aero Car takes passengers over the river between two Canadian points.
Maid of the Mist
My first stop upon reaching Niagara Falls was the Maid of the Mist boat ride. Even before I got to see the falls in all its glory– I was taken on a crazy ride to experience the falls from below! The Maid of the Mist has been taking passengers beneath the Niagara Falls since 1846. The trip runs every 15 minutes throughout the day and costs about C$17 (US$13) per adult.
Before boarding the boat, I was given a blue hooded rain poncho to shield me from the gushing water of the falls. The boat itself, named Maid of the Mist, is an 80 feet boat with two decks. Passengers can choose to either get soaking wet at the upper deck, or get some shelter (doesn’t really help much, though) from the thundering falls on the lower deck.
The Maid of the Mist took us for a ride underneath all three falls; first passing the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls for a little intro into what was to come. Though these two falls got us wet enough, it was nothing compared to the strength and power of the Horseshoe Falls.
As the Maid of the Mist got nearer the Horseshoe Falls, I could feel the large pellets of water hitting my poncho. The sound of the cascading water got louder and louder by the minute, and by the time we were taken to the base of the falls– I couldn’t hear or see anything in front of me, just a curtain of white and lots and lots of water. It was chaos all around. I was in a water war zone. And it was amazing.
The Maid of the Mist is a fantastic experience, and definitely something not to be missed while at Niagara Falls.
The Niagara Falls
From the Maid of the Mist Center, I walked along the platform over the Niagara River overlooking the falls. The view of the falls is simply magnificent, and it was hard not to be completely mesmerized by its sheer majesty.
On the other side of the walkway is the town of Niagara. It is lined with hotels, motels, casinos and restaurants that would probably be lighted up with bright colors during the night; but I visited during the day and all I could see were the many bulbs decorated around its tacky signage. Buildings are high and the town is busy, but it wasn’t the town I was here for– just the falls.
Table Rock Center
At the end of the platform along the Niagara River is the Table Rock Center, situated at the brink of the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. It is an observation complex, complete with restaurants and a pedestrian mall. It also houses several other Niagara Falls attractions– like Niagara’s Fury, a whitewater simulation ride; and the Journey Behind the Falls that takes visitors through tunnels and platforms, along and below the falls.
I didn’t go for the attractions, but I visited the outdoor observation plaza on the upper floor of the center. The plaza overlooks the top of the Horseshoe Falls and offers views of the strong currents pushing the massive amount of water over the falls. The river flows with so much strength, speed and volume that walking to the edge just to see it got me completely wet!
After soaking in (literally!) as much of Niagara Falls as I could, I made a stop at Niagara-on-the-Lake before heading back to Toronto. This little town is situated where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario, thus the name. You can say it is where the chaos of the falls and the river turns into a calmer and more peaceful state. If you decide to stay in Niagara for the night– this is the place to be. The little town offers lovely quaint inns and B&Bs, surrounded by pretty gardens.
This area around Niagara is also said to produce one of the world’s largest volumes of ice wine, a type of dessert wine made out of frozen grapes. I stopped by one of the nearby wineries, the Pillitteri Estates Winery, to buy a few bottles. These are great souvenirs to bring home!