Niagara Falls straddles Ontario, Canada, and New York and is a spectacular force of nature that guarantees a memorable getaway or family road trip.
On October 24, 1901, Annie Edson Taylor became the first person to survive riding Niagara Falls in a barrel. For most people, just standing nearby the 165-foot drop and witnessing the mighty rushing water is more than enough excitement. Straddling the U.S. and Canadian borders, Niagara Falls draws roughly 30 million people each year with its awe-inspiring scenery. If you’re planning to discover this amazing natural wonder, then consider these tips and must-see activities to get the most out of your Niagara Falls getaway.
Get Your Passport Ready
To truly appreciate all the wonders of Niagara Falls, you’ll want to experience them from both the U.S. and the Canadian sides. You can cross from the U.S. to the Canadian areas of the falls, but upon your return, you must show either a valid U.S. passport or an enhanced driver’s license to border patrol.
If you don’t have these forms of identification, you can apply for or renew a passport at your local post office, and you can apply for an enhanced driver’s license through the Department of Motor Vehicles. Whichever means of identification you choose, be sure to apply early so your documents will be available in time for your trip to Niagara Falls. You can find more information about border crossing from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Brush Up on Your History
As fascinating as the falls are to see up close, they become much more amazing in their historical context. Niagara Falls got its start way back in the Ice Age. As the ice melted, rushing water was released into a river. Natural erosion continues to determine the shape of the falls, although purposeful conservation efforts ensure that this natural beauty is protected from unforeseen damage.
In addition to attracting sightseers, Niagara Falls earns respect for producing hydroelectricity. The falls have been generating electricity since 1882. Amazingly, about 1.2 million gallons of water per second are diverted from the falls to produce hydroelectricity, yet the remaining 600,000 gallons per second provide enough water to create the cascades that make Niagara Falls a thrilling attraction. Before your trip, learn more about Niagara Falls’ rich history by visiting the Niagara Falls State Park website.
Plan a Weekend Stay – or Longer
A quick glance at Niagara Falls doesn’t suffice. For a memorable up-close tour, you’ll want to take in various views at different times of the day. Since the Falls are located just 20 miles from Buffalo, it’s easy to plan a day trip, but you’ll find that the magic of Niagara Falls deepens through a longer visit.
Cave of the Winds (U.S.)
One of the most exciting ways to experience the natural wonder of Niagara Falls, the Cave of the Winds takes visitors within 20 feet of the roaring Bridal Veil Falls. Following an elevator ride into the Niagara Gorge, make your way across wooden walkways that daringly draw you to the sights and sounds of rushing water. Clad in a bright yellow poncho and specially designed footwear, you gain respect for the beauty and power of Niagara Falls.
Maid of the Mist (U.S.)
This enchanting tour boat made its first voyage in 1846. Today, Maid of the Mist continues to captivate passengers by cruising close enough to see and feel the dramatic waterscape along the Niagara Gorge.
Niagara Falls Illumination and Fireworks (U.S. and Canada)
Every evening for several hours, the Canadian and U.S. sides of the falls present a captivating display of color. Bright lights transform the wall of water into a masterpiece of art, and fireworks make for a thrilling grand finale. Shows take place all summer long, weather permitting, beginning at 10 p.m. Special fireworks displays coincide with certain Canadian and U.S. holidays.
White Water Walk (Canada)
A self-guided tour leads you within splashing distance of the white-water rapids. Photo ops abound, as do opportunities to quietly absorb the beauty of the falls. Available tour packages include White Water Walk and other Canadian-side attractions.
Skylon Tower (Canada)
Get above it all with this tower tour that offers magnificent 360-degree views. Skylon Tower features indoor and outdoor observation decks rising 775 feet over Niagara Falls. When you’ve had your fill of sightseeing, the tower offers two levels of dining as well as a family activity center. Games and rides for the kids and shopping complete a full day at Niagara Falls.
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