Niagara Falls – Where Does it Fall?

Genie Davis February 14, 2011 No Comments

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The old joke, when Niagara falls, where does it fall to – is easily answered. It falls up river and down, from above and below. It also falls not from one single waterfall, as we certainly thought before we arrived at this wonderful, wet, and decidedly must-see attraction; but from three of them, each of them colliding with spectacular force and a lot of water spray into the Niagara River. The water falls in the U.S., and in Canada. And how much water is falling? A lot. Approximately one fifth of this continent’s fresh water sails down the largest of this triumvirate of falls, the Horseshoe Falls.

And how long a fall is it? Two thousand, two hundred feet for the Horseshoe, which is the biggest and most impressive of the three, spewing dramatically onto the Canadian side of the border. On the U.S. side, what is collectively known as Niagara falls is made up of the American and Bridal Veil falls. These are impressive, too, of course, but the Horseshoe is larger that both of these put together, and as we discovered, Canadian viewing spots are the best way to experience the falls.

On the New York side, the town of Niagara Falls has fewer options for accommodations, so even if you’ll be experiencing the falls on both sides of the border, the hotel choices are better north of the States. Most visitors cross the border, and we did too, opting for a family size suite – purchased at a bargain Hotwire rate – at the Sheraton right there, fall-side. Although ours was not a room with a view, public viewing areas at the hotel offered great spots for viewing the nightly illumination of the falls. Over twenty multi-colored spotlights shine on the water, turning it into a vibrantly colored living art work. On weekends, weather permitting, fireworks go off as well, at sunset. If you’re not staying at the hotel, there are ample viewing spots along the river at the base of Clifton Hill, for the nightly technicolor extravaganza.

Niagara Falls – a view from our hotel

Niagara Falls – a view from our hotel

Another great spot to see the falls – at night or any time of day – is from the revolving Skylon Tower. The tower reminded us of Seattle’s Space Needle, with its straight-out-of-the-Jetsons design. Unlike the Space Needle, the Skylon has elevators with actual windows so you can literally see yourself rising above the falls to the observation deck or restaurant. The elevators afford some great ooh and ahh moments.

Back at ground level, our family crossed the aptly named – water spray and sunshine are both pretty common here – Rainbow Bridge. The bridge leads you back from Canada to the U.S. on an easy two mile loop trail in Niagara Falls State Park. One caveat – the path is an easy walk but it is also an unrestricted one. In several places there are no fences, railings, or barriers to prevent you from taking a nose dive into the falls. So be sure to keep a hand on your children on this otherwise delightful trail. On the Canadian side Victoria Park offers another great view of the falls, and some musical accompaniment from the Rainbow Carillon. Melodic bell concerts are performed by a fifty-five bell “choir” housed in a tower on Canada’s side of Rainbow Bridge.

But, the most dramatic viewing spot we found is Terrapin Point, where thick mist rises from the falls, and the view is startlingly clear when the mist parts. There’s also the Cave of the Winds. While we found this spot over crowded on the weekend we were there, it’s too memorable a tourist attraction to pass up. Toss on a throw-away plastic cape and put on a pair of rubber sandals; then take an elevator down to a wooden path that brings you right on top of the Bridal Veil fall. Be forewarned: plastic capes aside, you’ll still get wet. If its not a hot summer day, be sure to have dry clothes stashed for a quick change.

Niagara Falls from Maid of the Mist boat ride – good, wet fun

Niagara Falls from Maid of the Mist boat ride – good, wet fun

Another tourist attraction takes you right out into the water. The Maid of the Mist is a commodious boat that sails right in front of the falls – and you will get completely drenched here. Umbrellas, anyone? Visions of lost photographic opportunities danced in our heads as our kids just wanted to duck the onslaught of water and we weren’t really that keen on getting the IPhones or digital cameras wet. Not that it isn’t an awesome experience, but the soaking is fairly intense.

Still, if you and the kids aren’t quite wet enough, try the Falls View Indoor Water park. This is the safe way to actually go in some water, even if these falls – sixteen water slides in all – are man made.

Fingers and toes shrivelled up? Looking for some dry dock activities for awhile? Check out the fascinating Fort George, once home to the Centre Division of the British Army during the War of 1812. Our kids loved having the run of the green space and exploring the barracks; the fire and drum corps was performing when we were there and it was a great place to take a picnic and enjoy a little martial music.

Not far away you can get an aerial view of the water and still stay snug and dry by riding the Spanish Aero Car. This cable strung vessel takes you across the roiling river, from one bank to the other. Great views, and if you go fairly early in the morning you’ll miss the wait most tour bus driven tourists must endure. Even with a wait, it’s a great view and a fun ride.

The Canadian side of the falls also offers a tourist attraction called Journey Behind the Falls. You’ll take an elevator ride down six stories right up to the back of the falls. An impressive and new view, and one you will once again get a soaking from admiring.

For families with older children and a strong desire for adventure, there’s also the Whirlpool Jet ride, a power boat that runs fast through class five rapids, spinning and spewing water everywhere, most especially down upon the heads of its riders. Not an experience recommended for tots, but one that older kids will definitely enjoy.

For us, where did Niagara Falls, fall? Squarely on the side of fun – good, wet, family fun.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

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