It’s a tale of two cities: Niagara Falls, New York (USA), and Niagara Falls, Ontario (Canada). Both overlook a natural wonder – 150,000 gallons of water per second, plunging more than 1000 ft – and both provide a load of tourist kitsch surrounding it. The Canadian side offers somewhat better views and a much larger town. However, the view from the New York side is still impressive and the falls surroundings are far more pleasant as they are preserved within a beautifully landscaped national park. The town itself is also largely devoid of the commercial razzmatazz you’ll find on the Canadian side; if that’s what you want, it’s easy to walk across the Rainbow Bridge between the two – just be sure to bring your passport.
Maid of the Mist
The main reason to visit Niagara Falls is to see the falls and one of the most memorable ways to do just that is to sport a poncho and hop on a Maid of the Mist boat. These boats have been shuttling visitors to and from the base of the falls since the 1840s. Be prepared to get wet: the Maid of the Mist practically dunks you under the falls, but rain gear is provided and many say that this is one of the best ways to experience the splendor of Niagara Falls.
Old Fort Niagara
If you enjoy history, make sure to save time for a visit to Old Fort Niagara. Located on the U.S. side of the falls, this 17th-century fort has changed hands between French, British and American troops. This site has seen action during numerous wars, including the American Revolution and the French and Indian War, making it the longest operational fort in North America. Today, the fort occupies one of the most scenic areas in western New York, overlooking both Lake Ontario and the Niagara River. Inside, you can explore underground gunpowder rooms, old army barracks, and ancient cannons. If you’re looking for a more in-depth history, make sure to stop by the visitor center.
Cave of the Winds
Many recent visitors called the Cave of the Winds a “must-do.” After taking an elevator 175 feet down into the Niagara Gorge, you’ll be able to roam a series of wooden walkways that put you within feet of the Bridal Veil Falls. It’s called the “Hurricane Deck,” thanks to the tropical storm-like conditions. Even with the souvenir poncho and shoes, you’ll likely get wet.
Journey Behind the Falls
On the Journey Behind the Falls, you’ll be able to stand directly behind the roaring sheet of water and get a literal behind-the-scenes peek at this magnificent natural attraction. The tour begins with an elevator ride to an observation deck where you can take in the view of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls and the Niagara River. From there, follow the caverns and enjoy the roaring curtain of the falls from a different perspective. However, be prepared for crowds – Journey Behind the Falls is one of the most popular ways to see the falls, so you may find that the tunnels are rather cramped.