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10 ways to take in one of the world’s greatest natural wonders: Niagara Falls

Before I jump into all the way’s one can experience the grandeur and beauty of Niagara Falls, here are a few numbers for you to digest to get a sense of how big an attraction they really are – which, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you may already know.

6 million cubic feet go over the falls per minute.

The falls stretch over 56 kilometers.

Somewhere between 4-700 buses per day pull in to see the 12,500 year old falls.

One of Canada’s and the world’s greatest wonders attracted 13M visitors last year alone.

The Canadian Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls, Canada Jenn Smith Nelson

The Canadian Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls, Canada

Impressive isn’t it?

Straddling the border between Ontario and the state of New York, Niagara Falls are made up of three falls: the biggest being the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, followed by the American Falls and the smallest, Bridal Falls. The Canadian Horseshoe Falls are found mainly on the Canadian side and as the name suggests, the American Falls, are entirely on the American side.

The origin of the word Niagara is from “onguiaahra,” which means “a thundering noise.” Once you get up and close with the falls, you’ll find the name suits the natural wonder perfectly.

What makes these natural falls so extraordinary? It’s suggested the combination of both height and water flow has something to do with it. The Canadian Horseshoe Falls at 180 feet, allow 6 million cubic feet of water to go over each minute. This equates to about a million bathtubs full of water every minute!

Now that you are up to speed, here are some ways to make the most of your time spent in Niagara.

Go below and behind Niagara Falls

My first visit to Niagara Falls happened just a few months ago and the attraction I was most impressed with was Journey Behind the Falls. It really takes you up close and behind the scenes of the mighty waterfall. This 127-year-old year-round attraction is the oldest in the park and includes two observation tunnels behind the falls and two outside one upper and lower. From Table Rock Plaza, head down 150 feet to experience the thundering sound and mist of the falls on your face. The view from behind allows you to see 2,800 cubic meters of water tumbling 13 storeys above, travelling 65 kilometers per hour!

Journey behind the falls, Niagara Falls Jenn Smith Nelson

Face to face with Niagara Falls

Another impressive number for you: 2.2M people enjoyed the Voyage to the Falls with Hornblower Niagara. Formerly known as the Maid of the Mist tour (this is now on the American side only), this boat tour provides a true immersion in and around the falls.

You’ll view the Great Gorge and all three falls. Expect to get wet. Getting up, close and personal with the mighty Canadian Horseshoe Falls is a one of a kind experience.

Getting misty with the Hornblower Niagara Voyage to the Falls experience. Jenn Smith Nelson

Getting misty with the Hornblower Niagara Voyage to the Falls experience.

While it’s one of the can’t miss tours of the falls, I will warn that the boat can get pretty full (I kind of felt a bit like a sardine) and people are constantly moving around trying to secure the best vantage point. Bring your patience along with your waterproof camera and aim to visit perhaps during shoulder season as July and August are super busy!

It's a full house voyaging to the falls with Hornblower Niagara. Jenn Smith Nelson

It’s a full house voyaging to the falls with Hornblower Niagara.

Niagara Falls is Accessible!

One of the greatest things about Niagara Falls is without a doubt, its accessibility. You can literally walk the sidewalk along the falls to take in the immense beauty and sounds for free. However, to get down on the level with the falls and famous rapids, I highly recommend the White Water Walk.

White Water Walk, Niagara Falls. Jenn Smith Nelson

Autumn is a beautiful time to enjoy the White Water Walk in Niagara.

Only second to Journey Behind the Falls in my humble opinion, the White Water Walk is well worth the money (it’s hardly expensive at $12.25 + tax/adult). Like Journey, you’ll take an elevator about 70 meters down to a tunnel 73 meters long. Then you can walk a 305-meter Boardwalk, which takes you alongside the power of the world’s fiercest (and fastest) Class 6 white-water rapids, along the river’s edge.

White Water Walk, Niagara Falls Jenn Smith Nelson

There are many built in platform observation points that allow you to take in the different speeds of the Niagara River.

 Class 6 rapids along the White Water Walk. Jenn Smith Nelson

This is about as close as I’d want to get to these Class 6 rapids along the White Water Walk.


Soar above Niagara Falls

During my visit, the weather wasn’t super co-operative and hence I sadly missed the ability to experience a few above the falls attractions. However, I feel they are both worth a mention here as they sound super cool.

The first is the MistRider Zipline, one of Niagara Falls newest attractions. Four parallel ziplines have adventure seekers soaring 67 metres (220 feet), travelling 670 metres (2,200 feet) at a rate of 70+ km/hour, all while taking in the view of the river gorge, American and Canadian Horseshoe Falls.

I was highly anticipating doing a flight over the falls with Niagara Helicopters. I scorned the weather Gods for failing me as this (affordable for a helicopter ride @ $140/person), year-round aerial attraction I’m positive would provide the most spectacular and awe-inspiring views of the falls. From what I’ve researched, the tour takes guest along the Niagara River from the Whirlpool area over the Whirlpool Rapids and the Rainbow Bridge before passing by the American Falls, Skylon Tower and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.

Well at least the rain didn’t stop us from getting to do the Whirlpool Aero Car Experience high above the Niagara River.

Whirlpool Aerocar Experience Jenn Smith Nelson

The Whirlpool Aerocar Experience is another neat way to get a view from above Niagara.

This antique aerial cable car provided a fantastic opportunity to take in natural phenomena of the Niagara Whirlpool while viewing the 410-million year old rock layers of the Niagara Gorge from above. Traveling between two points of the Canadian shore, the car does a round trip of about one kilometer at 3,600 feet. Operating since 1916, this year marked it’s 100-year anniversary!

Jenn Smith Nelson Whirlpool Aerocar Experience

Enjoying the view. Image credit: Tamara Elliott/Globe Guide

Niagara Gorge Whirlpool Aerocar Experience, Jenn Smith Nelson

View the the 410-million year old rock layers of the Niagara Gorge during the Whirlpool Aerocar Experience.

Dine with Niagara Falls
I really enjoyed a visual feast while sitting directly next to the edge of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls at restaurant, Elements on the Falls. My recommendation – plan to eat dinner at Elements so that you can take in the brilliant lighting of the falls at night. And great news! The Niagara Falls Illumination Board just unveiled a brand new lighting system ($4M dollars!), which has greatly enhanced the hugely popular nighttime feature of the falls.

Niagara Parks, Falls at night lights

Brilliant lights switch colour making the falls come alive at night. Image courtesy of Niagara Parks

Canadian cuisine at its finest – Elements is committed to being certified as a Feast ON dining experience. What this means is that the restaurant supports and showcases a variety of Ontario’s unique offerings.

Like Elements, Skylon Tower offers those dining in another great experience via a grand and ever-changing birds-eye view 775 feet above! Enjoy lunch overlooking the falls from its world famous revolving dining room. After, head to the top via glass elevator to take in the view. On a clear day, you can see Toronto, New York and even the Niagara wineries from this sky-high vista.

View of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls from the Skylon Tower Jenn Smith Nelson

View of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls from the Skylon Tower.

Skylon Tower view Jenn Smith Nelson

The other side of the falls from the Skylon Tower.


Learn all about Niagara Falls

Daredevils have long looked to Niagara Falls as a way to earn notoriety via daring attempts over the falls. The Niagara Dare Devil Exhibit located at IMAX Niagara details the history behind thrill seekers attempts to challenge them.

Niagara daredevils are featured at the Niagara Daredevil exhibit. Jenn Smith Nelson

Niagara daredevils are featured at the Niagara Daredevil exhibit.

Dave Muday vessel Niagara Falls Jenn Smith Nelson

Think these vessels would keep you safe while attempting to go over Niagara Falls?

In a room full of fragile barrels and spheres, visitors can view, touch and learn all about the chambers that carried daredevils over the fierce waterfall.

Death Barrel Niagara Falls Jenn Smith Nelson

Death barrel is right. Many daredevils lost when pitted against the mighty falls.

If you are in the mood for some comfortable but informative storytelling entertainment, IMAX Niagara delivers. Miracles, Myths & Magic takes viewers on another thrill ride of sorts. The film allows visitors to examine the majesty and draw of by those who have challenged them.

Last hint: The view from my hotel, Marriott on the Falls, provided a not too shabby view to wake up to either!

If you’ve been, what’s your favourite way to view Niagara Falls?

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