Updated: Sep 28, 2020
We made this bucket list journey to Niagara Falls in late September, 2018. Since we happened to be visiting Toronto anyway, we made the easy 1-½ hour drive with no problem or delays. We were lucky to stay at the Marriott Niagara Falls affording spectacular views from their Falls View windows.
Pretty much everyone says the Canadian side of Niagara Falls sports the best view. Since I haven’t been to the US side, I can't comment on that, but there are plenty of websites that will give you the pros and cons of each. In any case, no matter which you pick, you can always walk the ¼ mile from one side to the other via the Rainbow Bridge and decide for yourself. Just remember to bring your passport and $1 along for reentry to the US.
Weather this late in the season can be iffy, but we were lucky to arrive just in time to catch the last rays of sunshine that bring out the rainbows on the falls, before ‘enjoying’ drizzle and rain over the next 24 hours.
Photos by Seguras: Room with a view (Marriott Niagara Falls), Rainbows over the Niagara River
Niagara Falls novices, we bought a package that included the White Water Walk, Journey Behind the Falls, the Hornblower Yacht cruise and Niagara’s Fury. The Maid of the Mist that everyone talks about, operates from the US side.
Again, keeping in mind that this was late September and a chilly day, we had zero wait time to board the Hornblower and they pack it, shoulder to shoulder. Once on board, head straight to a railing upstairs for the most unobstructed view. It is a mere 20-minute ride that includes brightly colored ponchos that will only marginally keep you dry, but that’s part of the fun; although probably a little more fun in warmer weather. :)
Photos by Seguras: On approach to Horseshoe Falls, no space wasted on the Hornblower regardless of time of year, and best shot up close
We brought a waterproof camera and I put my cell phone in a ziplock, which worked fairly well for the few minutes we were close to the falls. It’s worth the trip to feel the sheer power and experience the vast amount of water flowing over the precipice at such close range. Keep in mind, it’s only about 10 minutes there, turn around and 10 minutes back, but well worth the ride.
Tip: Head for a railing, either Forward or Aft. That way you'll get your best shot either on approach or when headed back.
If the Hornblower experience was a highlight, Niagara’s Fury was not. First, you enter a small theater where a cartoon Beaver narrates how the falls came to be. Even though it’s a cartoon, it would be over the head of any child. Then, you don yet another poncho, for a two to three-minute experience that includes some minimal ground shaking, heavy mist and brief snow flurries. Suitable for your average six-year-old, no one in our party was very impressed.
For Journey Behind the Falls, we were given our 3rd pancho of the day. Even though they are deemed biodegradable, we couldn’t help wondering if there was a way to consolidate the vast amounts of plastic that are thrown away here every day. We descended 125 feet in one small elevator to walk through tunnels that were built over 130 years ago with posters along the way noting historical facts. I think there was only one (maybe two) small portals where you could stand directly behind the roaring sheet of water. It was not busy when we went, but I could imagine that in a large crowd it could be difficult to get up close. The observation deck is worth the visit just to be able to stand so close to the falls.
Photos by Seguras: Viewing portal behind the falls, up close on the observation deck at Journey Behind the Falls
Finally, we took in the White Water Walk, a nature trail that runs alongside the Niagara River. Another elevator descends about 220 feet and the walk itself is about ¼ mile in total. We arrived when they opened and it was rainy and cold so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It’s a lovely area and it’s truly hard to imagine the sheer volume of water that breezes past at a rapid clip.
Photos by Seguras: The White Water Walk - Pretty scenery; wish it was longer than 1/4 mile walk.
To see other sights, including the White Water Walk, we jumped on the WEGO Trolley, which runs $7.50 for a 24 hr pass. There are three with different routes, so you need to pay attention to which Trolley goes where when they pull up. We road as far down as the flower clock, which is, as you’d expect, a clock with planted flowers all around it.
It’s worth it to stay after dark to see the lights come up on the falls. There are any number of restaurants and viewing areas where you can see the falls, day or night. We were there from about 2:00 pm on a Monday, until 4:00 pm the following day and were easily able to see all the sites mentioned above. During the summer, wait-times in lines would be a definite drawback. But even if you only drive to walk to the Falls overlook, it’s worth it. We felt similarly about the Grand Canyon. It looks lovely in pictures, but there is absolutely nothing like experiencing the raw power of nature in person. Definitely a bucket list adventure!
Photos by Seguras: The lights at Niagara Falls from the Marriott
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