Niagara Falls is one of the great natural wonders of the world with millions of guests from all over the globe. While some tourists have to travel thousands of miles to see the wondrous sight, Clevelanders are lucky that it is only approximately a 4 hour drive for them to witness the glory of Niagara Falls, thus making it a popular vacation destination for Northeast Ohioans.
Last year I wrote a 6-part series on Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. This 2-part series will focus on the attractions and activities in Niagara Falls, New York. First up — attractions directly related to the Falls.
Maid of the Mist One of the oldest tourist attractions in North America, the Maid of the Mist has been offering visitors boat rides for an up-close and personal look at Niagara Falls since 1846. Tours originally given in coal-fired wooden boats now use two 600 passenger diesel-powered ships with 350 horsepower engines that carry the vessels against the strong current of the Falls.
The 30 minute tour (leaving every 15 minutes) takes you from the Observation Deck dock ( at Niagara Reservation State Park at Prospect Point) where you board a double- decker Maid of the Mist boat. The boat travels past the base of the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls and then into the basin of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Passengers receive recyclable souvenir raincoats to help keep them dry from the mist and the spray of the Falls.
Famous Maid of the Mist passengers in the past have included Marilyn Monroe (in 1952 while filming the movie “Niagara”), Princess Diana and her sons Prince William and Prince Harry (1991), former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife Roslyn (1996) and actors John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer from the NBC comedy “The Office” (2009).
Departures take place from the Observation Tower dock. Current hours are 9:45 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. on weekdays and 9:45 a.m. – 5 :45 p.m. on weekends. Admission is $15.50 for adults and $9 for children (6-12). Children 5 and under (with accompanying parents or guardians) are free.
Some interesting Facts About Niagara Falls Only 10% of the water flows over the American Falls while 90% flows over the Horseshoe Falls. The water from the Falls flows down the Niagara River to Lake Ontario and then onto the St. Lawrence Seaway and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean. The Canadian Horseshoe Falls is 170 feet high while the American Falls is 180 feet high. Niagara Falls is one of the most popular honeymoon destinations in the world. Niagara Falls encompasses 1/5 of the world’s fresh water.
Cave of the Winds For a real thrill and an adventure that you won’t soon forget, pay a visit to the Cave of the Winds attraction .
A Bit About the Cave of the Winds Originally there was indeed a real cave behind the Bridal Veil Falls. It was discovered in 1834 and named Aeolus’ Cave after the Greek god of winds. Unfortunately, it was totally destroyed in a colossal rock fall in 1954.
Today visitors can get up-close and personal (closer than you can imagine) to the front of the Bridal Veil Falls via a series of walkways and decks. Your adventure begins with an elevator ride that takes you 175 feet into the Niagara Gorge. There you will be given a bright yellow poncho and specially designed footwear (sandals).
A tour guide will then lead you on a series of wooden walkways where you will experience tropical storm-like winds that can reach up to 68 MPH underneath the Falls. Don’t miss your chance to make a stop at the famous “Hurricane Deck” where you will get drenched as you stand a mere 20 feet from the raging Bridal Veil Falls. What a rush!
An Interesting Side Note: The wooden decking and stairs are removed after October 24 each year because of potential damage due to ice build-up during the Winter. The wood beams that support the decking are wedged into rock crevices and not secured by bolts or other construction material. Every Spring some special edition Cave of the Winds tours are offered where you can watch the decks being built for the upcoming Summer tourist season.
Current hours for the Cave of the Winds tours are 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. Admission is $11 for adults and $8 for children (6-12). Children 5 and under are free. Children must be at least 42 inches tall to partake of the Cave of the Winds tour.
The entrance (and parking) for the Cave of the Winds tour can be found on Goat Island. Parking at Goat Island is $8 per car.
For more information about the Maid of the Mist tours and the Cave of the Winds tours call 716-278-1730 or get online at www.niagarafallslive.com.
Niagara Falls, New York is approximately a 4 hour drive from Cleveland.
Part 2 of this series will look at other Niagara Falls area attractions including an aquarium and Old Fort Niagara.