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The Falls Report: Niagara Falls

In reality, words do not do justice to Niagara Falls. This three-cascade (Horseshoe, American and Bridal Veil) wonder of nature, the most visited waterfall in the world and one of the world's largest in terms of width and water flow rate, is really best described in visuals, whether it be in person, video or, in this case, pictures. Luckily for me, my spouse and my parents, we hit just about the best time for visiting: just after the last big influx of tourists (the Labor Day weekend) but before the weather started taking a turn toward chillier temperatures.

Anyone visitor to the Falls, and particularly first-timers, should try to view them from both sides of the border (note: if you choose this option. bring your passports - you are required to present them to inspectors when crossing the United States-Canada border.) The American side of the falls, particularly at Niagara State Falls Park at Goat Island ($10 entrance fee) allows you to get the closest to all the falls as well as the rapids immediately before, but the views are generally from a sideways angle. Horseshoe Falls is also viewable at less of a sideways angle, but the prevailing winds this day and the overwhelming mist from these falls made this a drenching experience for all who to ventured even remotely closely to the edge of the overlook.

(Top) A rainbow-enhanced view of American & Bridalveil Falls from Goat Island
(Bottom) The rapids and mist that greeted us from the Goat Island view of Horseshoe Falls
In addition, Goat Island also has the "Cave of the Winds" option, where those determined to get soaking wet can pay a separate admission fee for a raincoat and the opportunity to descend on to wooden pathways around and near the base of American and Bridal Veil Falls (as it was a cool blustery day, we chose not to partake in this option.) Another point of interest, for those with a scientific streak, is the statue of Nikolas Tesla, the inventor of numerous things including the alternating current electrical power system (not surprisingly, the Niagara Falls area was one of the first areas in this country where people attempted to harness the power of the rushing water into electricity.) This statue, a gift from the former country of Yugoslavia to the park in 1976, is now a topic of much debate due to its possible relocation to the nearby city of Buffalo.

The Tesla Statue, and a rain-shielded guidepost to the Cave of the Winds attraction.
A river-level view of where Cave of the Winds participants end up
The Canadian side ups the ante by giving you the panoramic, head-on view of all three of the falls, as well as a view of the colorful curtain that the falls create at night through some carefully-placed lighting. In addition, area ups the ante in the scope and number of super-touristy attractions available to the area's visitors as compared to the U.S. side. Most of these attractions, mainly concentrated in or surrounding the Clifton Hill region, may not be everyone's bag of tea. However, I figure the appreciation factor for these sideshow attractions goes higher for those with bigger families and/or larger tour groups.

Panoramic views of the three falls, including the view of American Falls at night
You can find it all (for better or worse) in the Clifton Hill section of Niagara Falls, ON
One attraction that we would say is a must at least once for any visitor is the boat cruises that take you to the base of all the falls, whether it be the Maid of the Mist (American side) or, in our case, the Hornblower Cruises on the Canadian side. Here, the slightly off-peak period of the year again made it easy to acquire a walk-up ticket ($19.95 CDN) at the time that worked out best for our group, and the relative lack of passengers made traversing around the boat for multiple angles of the falls fairly easy. This is perhaps where we found out why the Rainbow Bridge (the main connector between the U.S. and Canada here) is named such: you almost couldn't help but have a rainbow or two pop up in your visual field.

River level on the Hornblower Cruises' trip to the bases of Niagara Falls
Our family visit to Niagara Falls was in reality fairly short, but nonetheless a more than worthwhile visit for all. Though it may be somewhat obvious to say, anyone considering a trip of more than a couple days to this region should investigate the multitude of tourism-oriented websites and resources that tout region-wide discount passes to various attractions and other visitor incentives (for us, the local AAA Office in Worthington had such passes available should we have had the need.)

Niagara Falls State Park (Visitor Center)
332 Prospect St
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
716-278-1796
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Hornblower Niagara Falls Cruises
5920 Niagara Parkway
Niagara Falls, ON  L2E 6X8
1-905-NIAGARA
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