Have you been to Niagara Falls? When I ask this question, the answer generally is “Oh, I was there with my parents when I was 10, or 12, or 15.” If you haven’t seen Niagara Falls since you were a kid, you need to go back and take your own children or grandchildren! It will be an unforgettable experience for everyone. One great thing is that you don’t have to leave the United States to see this marvel of nature! That means you don’t have to get passports for yourself and your children unless you want to enter Canada. In addition, this is an ideal multi-generation trip. There is something interesting, exciting and relaxing to satisfy children from ages 8 to 88! A word of caution – very young children might be a bit overwhelmed by the more rigorous adventure possibilities, so you might save this trip for their “tween or teen” years.
TIP BEFORE YOU GO: If you want to enter Canada, a passport is necessary for all adults and all children too. Be sure you have at least 6 months remaining on all passports in order to re-enter the United States. Be sure to allow enough time to apply for and receive passports. Certain times of year require a longer lead time, so don’t wait till the last minute!
What draws millions of visitors every year to the Falls? It’s the sheer majesty, beauty and power of this wonder. It’s one of the Seven Natural Wonders of North America with good reason, and its impressive formation dates back several thousand years to the Ice Age. Niagara Falls is actually a National Park and comprises three falls: the American Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls and the Horseshoe Falls. You will see park rangers working and maintaining the properties. (They will even try to fish your dropped cell phone from the edge! A word of warning – hold on tightly to your phone or camera!).
In the past, visitors said that the best views of the falls were from the Canadian side. However, recently the American side has been extensively developed to allow close access to all the falls including the largest Horseshoe Falls which is technically on the Canadian side but requires no passport. This photo is my close-up view of the Horseshoe Falls from the American side.
The only place on the American side to view all three falls at the same time is from the Prospect Point Observation Tower which extends dramatically over the Niagara Gorge. Don’t worry — it’s safe while being a thrilling experience for all ages. There is a nominal $1 fee for adults and children.
The observation tower has elevators that take visitors to the boarding area for a thrilling boat ride on the Maid of the Mist. The boats go up the river and around the Horseshoe Falls, and the experience is pure exhilaration. Everyone is given a blue poncho because of the spray, but let me assure you, you will get soaked! Not just “misty” but drenched!!
For more adventure, you can walk down to the Cave of the Winds behind the Bridal Veil Falls. You’ll get a yellow poncho but you’ll still get soaked! If you are on the Canadian side, you can take the Behind the Falls tour at the Horseshoe Falls.
TIP #1: Bring a change of clothes because every article will be soaked! In addition, since it’s much cooler in upstate New York even in summer (which is actually a very good reason to visit the area), you will not only be wet but cold too!
TIP #2: If you (or Grammy, that’s me!) don’t want your hair to get wet, you should watch the family adventure from one of the observation decks. But if you’re willing to risk it, I guarantee that a ride on the Maid of the Mist is one of the thrills of a lifetime – I have done it twice!
From the boat, you will see the Rainbow Bridge over the Niagara River. The International Boundary Line is in the middle of the bridge, so if you want to walk on the bridge you will need a passport, enhanced driver’s license or NEXUS card to return to the United States. (A standard driver’s license is not adequate). The bridge itself is aptly named since there are almost constant rainbows during the day. At night, the falls are illuminated with changing colors so you see nighttime rainbows too! In the summer, there are fireworks on Fridays and Saturdays.
Last month, I visited the falls for the sixth time and it was just as exciting and awe-inspiring as the first! This time I fulfilled a long-held wish — to visit the Red Coach Inn, located on the American side overlooking the rapids, where my parents spent their honeymoon. We had a delicious lunch at the inn with service from a warm and friendly server who was just as excited as I was about my special visit. For the best views, ask for a table in the Rapids Room or on the terrace. You can also stay at the inn, and the suite accommodations make it ideal for families. My daughter, Paige and I indulged our interest in getting beautiful shots (maybe a hundred!) of the falls from multiple aspects. I’m also working on my selfies!
What else is there to do at Niagara Falls? There is an aquarium. There are casinos for the adults. There are New York State Wineries. You can also take advantage of your location to visit Buffalo and spend time at the recently developed lakeside area. Don’t miss the opportunity to try the traditional foods — Buffalo chicken wings, or as locals say,”wings” at the historic Anchor Bar. (Warning – even the “mild” wings are hot!). Another specialty is the Beef on Weck sandwich. Sweet Buffalo treats include sponge candy (reminds me of honeycomb covered in chocolate) and peanut sticks (a donut covered in peanuts). You can see why this is a trip that the kids will love! It’s almost better than Disney! There are food festivals every month so it’s likely that you can find one during the summer. The biggest event is the Buffalo Wings Festival over Labor Day weekend.
I guarantee that a visit to Niagara Falls will be a most memorable trip for every member of your family!
At publication of this blog, I will be cruising the Greek Islands and the Dalmatian Coast. Details to come next month!
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