Key Takeaways and Tips
a. If you can stay on the Canadian side, hotels are much cheaper.
b. If you have never been to the falls before, definitely budget more time than you think you might need. Staring at the power of the falls is an amazing experience. However, I think 24 hours is enough to visit Niagara Falls if you cannot go to the Canadian side.
c. Do not miss the Maid of the Mist, Cave of the Winds trip and a chance to see the lighting at Niagara by night is possible. There is a spot at Maid of the Mist docks where you can get close to the American Falls and feel its fury, similar to Cave of the Winds.
d. Parking at Cave of the Winds is $10 but free in the evenings and on Sunday. You can probably save that by parking on the street.
e. Niagara Pass Discovery Pass can be a good buy if you value your time. You definitely overpay compared to simply buying tickets for the Cave of the Winds, Maid of the Mist and Trolley ride. However, it saves you the hassle of buying tickets at every attraction.
f. Best view of the Horseshoe falls from the American side is from the viewing platform above Maid of the Mist.
By the time reached Niagara Falls State Park, it was almost 1PM. It was raining pretty heavily. I parked my car near Cave of the Winds. I decided not to buy the Discovery pass to see how much extra time I would spend in lines. The rain had probably dispersed the crowds and the lines were short. We were on our way to the Cave of the Winds elevator in less than 10 minutes.
Cave of the Winds
Living near Portland, I have been to countless waterfalls. Nevertheless, Niagara Falls held me in awe. At Cave of the Winds, we could experience the might and fury of the river. Basically, at the Cave, you go down to the base of the American and Bridal Veil Falls. As part of the Cave of the Winds ticket, you are also given a yellow poncho and a cheap slipper. It is fun to see everybody marching in yellow as if it was a uniform.
The lower decks of the ‘Cave’ are good for watching the American falls gushing down. It was so misty and cloudy that we couldn’t even see the top of the Falls! However, the special experience at the ‘Cave’ is going to the upper decks, close to the base of the falls. The water hits you hard and the wind tries to blow you away. Perfect spot for a ‘Titanic’ shot. I have heard that the Canadian version is better; however I have no idea about it.
We spent almost 1 hour at Cave of the Winds before taking the elevator up to the top of the Falls. The rains had stopped and the sky had started to clear out. We walked around Goat island and finally found ourselves at Luna Island. This is an island on the river, at the top of the falls. It is an experience the see the water rushing down, standing at the top of the falls. Luna Island is not to be missed.
Maid of the Mist
We took the trolley to Maid of the Mist. The ticket lines were again short and we were quickly on a boat that went out to the Falls. No doubt, this is the best boat ride I have ever taken. The boat ride is expensive at $14 per person. Nonetheless, you get a view of the American Falls that is difficult to get from ground. The main attraction of the trip is that it goes close to the Horseshoe falls. I am short of words to describe the beauty and might of the Horseshoe falls. Standing on the deck of the boat, with a 270 degree view, all I could see is a huge, tall waterfall on the all sides. The flying sea gulls and the mist added an element of mystery and it seemed as if I had been transported to the set of a fantasy movie. Sceneries like these make me philosophical. Nature is so powerful yet so graceful and serene. We, humans are the opposite. Why can’t we live in peace with each other and just gaze and smile at Nature’s beauty?
Returning back from the boat trip, we climbed up some extremely slippery stairs to reach the base of American falls. This was an experience similar to Cave of the Winds. Few people went there; but it is an experience no one should miss. To find these stairs, look for the restroom upon disembarking from the Maid of the Mist boat. Taking the elevator up to the viewing platform, we spent some more time gazing at the Horseshoe Falls. The viewing platform at Maid of the Mist is the only area I could spot, where it is possible to directly see the Horseshoe Falls.
Niagara at night
After a quick drive around Goat island, we returned to our hotel for dinner. We returned at around 630PM to see the top of the Horseshoe Falls. Did I mention that the Horseshoe falls are mesmerizing? After about an hour around the Horseshoe Falls, we walked to Luna Island again to see the American falls at night. The lighting display is spectacular; unlike anything I have seen before! I spent about an hour photographing the lights. I could probably have stayed there longer; but it was cold and my mom was not feeling well.
My mom had fever. So, we decided against visiting Niagara again. We drove by the Erie Marina on our way to the Buffalo airport. Would have loved to spend some time there; but that was not to be. It was a great trip; my mom’s dream trip.
- 24 hours at Niagara Falls: Part 1-Planning (52weekendtravel.wordpress.com)