The fact that I could see, feel and experience this stunning masterpiece of nature, up close and personal on my birthday, which has stood the test of time and has been flowing for over thousands of years, was pretty surreal and truly a blessed and breathtaking experience. And I would like to share our captures and a few travel tips for those who are yet to visit it and hope to take you on a stroll along your cherished memories for those who have already been to the falls. 🙂
The stupendous Niagara Falls, actually consists of three different waterfalls. The American falls, the Bridal Veil Falls and the Horseshoe Falls where the first two falls lie entirely on the American soil(NY) and the massive Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side(Ontario). Over 700,000 gallons of water flow over these combined falls per second which makes it the highest waterfall by flow rate in the whole wide world. 😮 Now, that we have a primer on the falls and are finished gawking over that fact let me take you to our experience 😉
We landed in Buffalo airport, NY on 24th evening (and 25th was my birthday , woohoo. I know its over but I am still excited with the memories flooding me 😀 ). A half an hour drive to our hotel, and on checking in this was what awaited me!!
A hoard of helium balloons, bunch of lovely flowers and a sweet stunner of a cake with the perfect words. My colored hair and the comments from my friends had inspired the hubster also to call me “Barbie” it seems 😉 I still cannot stop gushing over how he planned everything sneakily and after taking like a zillion pictures and me totally going over board and literally jumping up and down with joy, we finally did make it to the falls to see the illumination and fireworks. 😀
The Old Falls Street which connects the park to the hotels, restaurants etc. was such a charming and scenic street, it was love at first sight for both of us. It. The baskets of flowers neatly arranged, interactive board games, lamp posts with hanging floral hampers..it set the perfect mood for visiting one of the world’s famous natural wonders.
We entered the Niagara State Park which is the oldest park in the USA but very well-maintained and soon were greeted by the intense sound of rushing water. And we talked towards the Observation Tower, which I had read would be the best vantage point to watch the falls drenched in rainbow colors and the fireworks.
In a few moments, there it was! The awe-inspiring thunderous falls, with an unstoppable flow of gushing water which seemed to speed up as it reaches the cliff as if it cannot wait to nosedive over the 180 feet drop. And the sheer force with which this crashing water hits the basin sends a mesmerizing mist back up to the air with the spray reaching unimaginable heights. (almost twice the height of 180 feet drop at horseshoe falls).
The illumination goes on till midnight and the fireworks for that day started at 10pm and lasted for around 8-10minutes. I thought I could not be any more ecstatic after the birthday surprise but the stunning fireworks and spectacular illumination over the unforgettable backdrop of the Niagara Falls proved me wrong and literally took my breath away.
We returned to our hotel and slept soundly, maybe a little too sound since we ended up being late the next day as per our plans. These swanky hotels, I swear they have the most magical beds and as if the bed at our home is not sleep-inducing enough (esp with my not-so-secret love-affair with them), these ones literally pull you back to the bed when you try to get up!
Our next day(my bday 😀 ) started with the Maid of the Mist attraction which is indeed a “must-do”. Before we went down the elevator to board the boat, we snagged a few selfies from the Observation Tower which is an excellent place to make use of your selfie sticks 😉 The day view of the falls from the tower was equally mesmerizing as the illuminated-night view. Maybe even better some say but we could not make up our minds on that, so I leave it to your discretion 🙂
This is the only way to get closest to the Horseshoe Falls in Canada from the American side. You are taken on a boat ride which is about 20 min, claimed as “monumental” and true enough it is. Everyone is given ponchos since we will definitely get soaking wet, when the boat nears the Horseshoe falls. How much just the “mist” from the falls drenched us gave us a perspective of the amount of water contained within the falls themselves 😮 Falling water, billowing mist and the resounding rumble of the falls. We felt as if we reached some other part of the universe when we entered the brink of the Horseshoe Falls!! You cannot see anything except the great plumes of icy mist and the mixture of turquoise waters and the thundering torrent of the falls and it really does strange things to you. (Like shouting and screaming like we did, oh yes including my “calm and composed” hubby 😉 )
The Maid of the Mist is a ticketed attraction and it also includes the opportunity to get close to the American Falls through a boardwalk past the boat dock for some amazing picture opportunities. With rainbows being a part and parcel of the fall as much as the mist this is a fabulous place to get pictures of ourselves with the rainbows and the Niagara river (and the mist if you are lucky to find a kind photographer 😉 ) as a backdrop. And if nothing works, atleast you can get some cool shots of this delightful spectacle.
With new-found respect and admiration for the grandeur of the falls we proceeded to the next attraction Cave of the Winds. We paid our price for over-sleeping with the queue for this one. After a wait for about an hour for the ticket, we were taken down an elevator ride of around 180 feet down into the Niagara Gorge. Clad in yellow ponchos this time and cool flip-fops(which is so comfortable that we even took it home with us) we walked up wooden staircases and decks among the spraying torrents of the Bridal Veil Falls.
And as we looked up we saw the “Hurricane Deck”, where the sheer force with which the falls hits you literally pushes you and keeps you moving forward from the base. Hair gets drenched and mist clouds your eyes but if you hold onto your heart and try to keep your eyes as open as possible you would be able to appreciate this thrill of a lifetime. The deck is aptly named since the powerful Bridal Veil Falls creates tropical storm-like conditions of “hurricane” gales.
The pictures are only the tip of the iceberg and nothing whatsoever can describe this incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience. Standing right next to the roaring falls, experiencing the magnificent spectacle of debatably one-fifth of the world’s fresh water crashing down to the rocks below. The fun part was we could spend as much time as we wanted to 🙂 They say nowhere on Earth gets you closer to the Falls, and as of now I might have to agree to it 😀
There were many Indian restaurants nearby and nothing like your homeland’s food when you are ravenous after all the adrenaline rush. 😀 We then decided to get back to our hotel for some rest time (read getting our hair dry 😀 ) Soon after we again set out leaving our waterproof camera behind and armed with our DSLR 🙂 This time we wanted to cover Luna Island which separates the American Falls from the Bridal Veil Falls and which is another great viewpoint plus you get to see the people enjoying Hurricane Deck right below.
We proceeded to the Terrapin point on Goat Island from where we could see the mighty Horseshoe falls. It was a sight to behold and the mist rising almost twice to the height of the falls was indeed hypnotic. Unfortunately the sun was right above us(we went in the afternoon) so we could not get any good pics except this one 😀 And you can evidently see the gloom on my face that we could not get much pics from here 😛
After visiting the Three Sisters Island as well we decided to call it a day. It was around 5pm or so and we had covered almost the whole park by foot and were quite exhausted. But after going back to the room we immediately knew we were “Niagara-Sick” !! After a quick round of freshening up, we again set out to enjoy a leisurely stroll around the park.
I know the post has already got a bit long but before I conclude, I want to share a few tips to those who are planning their visit to these mighty falls, based on our experiences so that you can have your share of fun without mascaras running down your face or shelling out unnecessary bucks. 😉 The reviews from TA were very valuable but I missed reading a comprehensive collection. Hope this will help 🙂
- Every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday they have fireworks over the falls in summer. Illumination is all season long. You can check this site for the detailed schedule – http://www.niagara-usa.com/falls/illumination-fireworks/#.V3gSfOYrL-Y
- Make sure you pack Sunscreen, Shades, Chapstick and a Waterproof camera in case you are planning to take pics at Cave of Winds. And ladies better get a waterproof mascara too 😉 I would recommend selfie stick too as it helped us get great photos in some vantage points.
- The Maid of the Mist and Cave of the Winds are the two attractions where we heard that we will get drenched, so we planned to do this together. But the ponchos they give is very effective and our dress stayed almost completely dry. But still your hair and face gets completely soaked, so a freshening up is almost inevitable after these two rides. You can check the schedules for both the attractions in the site. It varies seasonally http://www.niagarafallsstatepark.com/Explore.aspx If possible do the Maid of the Mist early in the morning so that queue does not build up. The other attraction, late afternoons we found queue was less.
- For Cave of Winds, they give plastic bags to keep your old shoes and any other stuff you carry like your wallet or so. But be careful with the bag when you take pics. The flow of water is just unstoppable and sometimes the mist even limits your vision.
- The Observation Tower is the best place to watch the falls illuminated and the fireworks. You can also see the casino on the Canadian side too changing colors 😀
- The Terrapin Point would be a good visit in the morning. We did it in the afternoon and with the glare of the sun could not get good pics.
- We walked the whole park but there is a trolley running around the park offering unlimited rides for 3$ per person for a day. But the catch we saw was there was a lot of queue for the trolley and if you are pressed for time, this might not be a good option. And some places were good to be walking than on the trolley. However, on less crowded days maybe this would be better than walking.
- For souvenirs you would be spoilt for options 😉 Since we liked the Cave of Winds the best we got a cute 3d texturized photo-frame from the flagship store. Personally we think the Maid of Mist Store was a little costlier than this one but it could vary. There are also stores right on the Old Falls Street so make sure you dig in there as well for options and prices. 😉
Hope you enjoyed the post and am glad if I was able to take you all on a trip with me atleast on a virtual note ❤
Have you been to Niagara Falls? Is it on your bucket list? I would simply love to know what other tips would you add to maximize the traveler’s experience or if you have any questions on planning the trip 🙂