Guide to Niagara Falls Atractions for Tourists

More About Niagara: More Attractions on the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls

 

The Niagara Falls are two enormous waterfalls in the Niagara River, which straddles the border between the state of New York in the US and Ontario in Canada.
The American falls are on the American side of the border, and they make up only 10% of all the water in the Niagara Falls. They are 55 metres high and 330 metres wide. To the right of these falls is a smaller waterfall, separated from the others by the forces of nature, called Bridal Veil Falls. Goat Island separates the two parts of the American falls.

 

Niagara Falls

 

The Canadian Niagara Falls, located on the Canadian side of the border, are also called the Horseshoe Falls, as that is their shape. They are 52 metres tall and 750 metres wide. The huge mass of water flowing through them gives the waterfalls a greenish hue. The average depth of the water in the river below the waterfalls is 52 metres. 

The sources of the Niagara Falls are four of the five Great Lakes. From the waterfalls, the water flows down the Niagara River, pour into Lake Ontario, then through St. Lawrence River into the Atlantic Ocean. The height difference between Lake Erie (which is closest to the waterfalls) and Lake Ontario is 99 metres. Roughly half of this height difference is made up by the waterfalls.
Originally, 6060 cubic metres of water (2.09 trillion litres) flowed in the waterfalls every hour, but today half of this amount is redirected to hydroelectric power plants in the U.S. and Canada. The Niagara falls are the largest source of hydroelectricity in the world today. There are no tours available in the Canadian power plants but there is a visitor centre in one of the American power plants – the Robert Moses Niagara power Plant.
The waterfalls were created 12,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age, but their original location was 11.2 kilometres down the river from where they are today. The waterfalls slowly moved up the river due to erosion of rocks by the water. There were times in which the waterfalls moved 1.8 metres a year! Today, because of the redirection of some of the water and control over its flow, the erosion is much slower – about 36 centimetres every ten years.
The erosion was so significant due to the type of rocks over which the waterfalls flow. The upper layer is made of tough dolomite rock, but underneath it are softer layers made of sandstone and shells. The rough waters cut through the softer layers until the tough upper layer collapsed from lack of support. This erosion also assisted in keeping the wall of the waterfall vertical.

 

Recommended Hotels at the Canadian side of the falls:

The best hotel for families with great view of the Niagara falls and among many attractions:

Embassy Suites Niagara Falls - Fallsview

This is a 4 star suites hotel for up to 6 persons in each suite.

 

Near to this hotel, another one which also have a view to the falls from most of his rooms:
Hilton Hotel and Suites Niagara Falls/Fallsview

4 star hotel with  indoor pool with a waterslide, hot tub, sauna , gym.

 

More cheap hotel located less than one block from the attractions and restaurants of Clifton Hill:
Days Inn & Suites - Niagara Falls, Center St., By the Fall

Rooms include refrigerators and coffeemakers. Free wireless high-speed internet access. Fitness centre, indoor pool.

 

And even more cheap suites hotel located 10 min drive from the falls: 

Blue Moon Motel

Family suites which can accommodate up to 6 persons. 


 
Important points in the history of the Niagara Falls:

· 1678 – The Catholic priest and explorer Louis Hennepin arrived at the falls. He was the first European man to discover them.
· 1846 – Maiden voyage of the Maid of the Mist as a ferry between the two banks of the river.
· 1848 – In March, the waterfalls dried up for the first time in recorded history due to strong western winds which forced the water to remain in Lake Erie. A build-up of ice also blocked the river near Buffalo. The people of the area were happy to go into the dried-up river and the edge of the waterfalls, where they found, among other things, remnants from the war that took place in the area in 1812. In July, the first bridge over the Niagara River was completed.
· 1859 – Jean Francois Gravelet began his shows of crossing the river via tightrope walking over a whirlpool-ridden area of the Niagara, 1.5 kilometres from the falls. His shows attracted a crowd of 25,000 people. In one show he even carried his impresario on his back.
· 1885 – Niagara Reservation State Park was opened, attracting 750,000 visitors. It was the first state park in the U.S.

 

Tourism:

The waterfalls became a tourist site in 1820. Within 50 years, the number of tourists was ten times larger than it had been originally and tourism in the waterfalls turned into the main industry in the area. The falls are one of the most popular honeymoon destinations in the world. This began in mid-19 century and grew stronger in 1953 after the movie Niagara (filmed at the Falls, of course) was released, starring Marilyn Monroe as a newlywed on her honeymoon. During the movie her bottom was exposed for two whole minutes as she approached the falls to get a better look at them. Superman III was also filmed at the Niagara Falls.
The falls are known for having many tourist attractions, such as the Maid of the Mist ferry, the Skylon and Minolta towers, a walk behind the waterfalls, Historic sites such as Fort George National Historic Site, many parks and even a large casino.

 

 

Main attractions at Niagara Falls:

On the American Side:

The best viewpoint overlooking the waterfalls from the American side is Prospect Point tower. Sitting on a high rock, the tower rises up 85 metres above the waterfalls. From the top of the tower you can see a breathtaking view of all the waterfalls. You can go up the tower (for an entry fee) all year round. From the tower there are elevators which go down to water-level, to where the Maid of the Mist ferries are anchored (more on this later).
Between the two waterfalls stands Goat Island. You can get there by a mini-train or by foot across a bridge. Elevators lead to the Cave of the Wind. You will receive a hat, a plastic raincoat and special boots and enter underground tunnels which will take you to the waterfalls (Equipment use is covered by your entry fee). From this view point you can see and experience the waterfalls’ might and see the beautiful rainbow they create. Other tunnels lead you behind the waterfalls.
Roughly three kilometres north of the waterfalls is Whirlpool State Park, a 90-degree bend in the river where you can see the spectacle of the raging river waters. Another four kilometres away is Power Vista, a visitor centre at an enormous power station.

 

On the Canadian side:

Because the Canadian side is more impressive and developed than the American side of the falls, I will expand on it more.
You can see the waterfalls from every direction and angle: from the tops of towers, from caves at the bottom of the waterfall, from boats, from a cable car, and from the top of the waterfalls themselves.
A once-in-a-lifetime experience is seeing the waterfalls lit up at night, as one visitor described in as early as 1940: “Seeing the waterfalls at night is like being particularly awake in the kingdom of dreams.” The first attempt to light up the waterfalls at night was in 1860, even before the invention of electricity, for the arrival of the Prince of Wales. Many different techniques were used over the years to light up the falls. Today, 21 Xenon lights are used to create the amazing nighttime scene. Each of these lights is equal to 250,000,000 candles!
Every Friday evening at 10:30PM from late May to late August there are fireworks over the waterfalls.

 

The Maid of the Mist:

The original Maid of the Mist was launched in 1846 as a ferry crossing the Niagara river just below the waterfalls. It transported passengers, mail, and cargo. The boat was pretty awkward, but it could transfer a carriage with four horses. After the first hanging bridge was built over the waterfalls in 1848, the boats were used as tourist attractions, coming as close as possible to the waterfalls – this is what they do to this day. This attraction did very well, so a second boat was built in 1854. This is one of the oldest attractions in North America.
Since then, 11 boats have been built and the Maid of the Mist is selected every year as the top attraction of Niagara Falls. The newest boat was built in 1997. It has double the deck and can contain as many as 600 passengers at a time.
You can also board the ferries from either American side, at the base of Prospect Point tower, or the Canadian side, at the Maid of the mist plaza near Clifton Hill. The ferries arrive every 15 minutes at either side of the river. They are active between the 4th of May and the 24th of October. Activity hours change according to season. The boat ride is 30 minutes long. As you board the boat you will receive a long plastic raincoat, as the ride is a rather wet experience.

 

 

The boat goes to the base of the American waterfall and the Canadian Horseshoe waterfall. It is incredible to hear the thundering sound of the water and feel its spray on your face. One of the many journalists who have been aboard the Maid wrote that “Until you see the Niagara Falls from the deck of the Maid of the Mist, you cannot grasp the incredible force of the water.

 

Maid of the Mist

 

In its 155-year history, the Maid has carried millions of people, including presidents, kings, and movie stars.
 
Gallery of VIPs who have been aboard the Maid of the Mist over the years:
· 1860 – The Prince of Wales (Who later became King Edward the 7th)
· 1901 – Theodore Roosevelt (Later to become President of the US)
· 1949 – Prime Minister of India
· 1952 – Marilyn Monroe
· 1983 – Pierre Trudeat, Prime Minister of Canada
· 1983 – Mikhail Gorbachev , President of the Soviet Union
· 1985 – Li Xiannian, President of China
· 1987 – The Duke and Duchess of York, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson
· 1991 – Diana, Princess of Wales and her two sons, Princes William and Harry
· 1996 – Former US President Jimmy Carter and his wife

 

Welland Canal:

Welland canal was built in 1829 in order to connect Lake Erie with Lake Ontario and allow ships to avoid the Niagara Falls. The passage lets big ships from all over the world sail through the North American continent. It’s incredible to see 30,000-ton ships going up and down such great differences in height. But actually, the technology is rather simple. 150 years ago engineers already discovered the trick: Let gravity and water do the work. Locks are filled and emptied of water flowing from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. The water flow is controlled by the opening and closing of gates.
The canal is 45 kilometres long. Over the years it has gone through changes and improvements until it reached its current structure of eight huge locks which can raise and lower ships through a total height difference of 99 metres. Even the biggest ships can pass through this canal.
You can drive along the northern part of the canal through Government Street from Lake Ontario to Thorold, where the seventh lock is. There is an excellent viewpoint at the third lock, where there is also a visitor centre describing the history of the canal. Along the canal are orchards and vineyards.

 

The Floral Clock:

This is one of the symbols of the area, which is known for its many flower gardens. It was built in 1950, inspired by the floral clock in Edinburgh, Scotland. 12.2 metres in diameter, it is one of the largest floral clocks in the world. The flowers of the clock are changed twice every season. Every time, around 15,000 seedlings are planted. In the spring, the clock features violets. The clock was planned and is maintained by the Niagara Park Commission.

 

Floral Clock

 

Near the clock there is a lilac garden which blooms every year in late May. The clock is located 2.5 kilometres north of the Niagara Botanical Gardens.

 

Other Attractions:

On the Canadian side of the falls are two viewing towers: Skylon Tower and Minolta Tower. The taller of the two, Skylon Tower, is 235 metres tall. Visitors reach the viewing decks, an inner one and an outer one, via glass elevators. At the top of the tower is a revolving restaurant from which you can see the beautiful view while you dine. Minolta Tower is the older of the two towers, built in 1962 but been recently reconstructed. It is 160 metres tall and has a big indoor viewing deck. At the top of the tower is a restaurant called Pinnacle Restaurant. There is a shopping complex at the bottom of the tower. Both towers require an entry fee.
 
Rainbow Bridge crosses the Niagara River, bridging the US and Canada. You can see a beautiful panoramic view of the waterfalls from it. On sunny days you can also see a great rainbow above the waterfalls, created by the sprays of water.

 

Rainbow Bridge

 

From within the Niagara Spanish Aero Car you can see a smashing view of the whirlpools created by a sharp bend in the river. The aero car is located 4.5 kilometres down the river from the waterfalls. It is named after the Spanish engineer who designed it, Leonardo Torres y Quevedo, and has been running since 1916. The aero car operates 76 metres above the river. It is open between May and October.

 

Spanish Aero Car

 

Another recommended attraction is Journey Behind the Falls. You go down elevators in Table Rock House and go through 46 metre tunnels to two special view points: One behind the Horseshoe Falls, the other to their side. Admission price includes plastic raincoats to protect you from the strong spray of water. Open every day of the year.
 
The Great Gorge Adventure is another place where you can go down elevators and tunnels to a viewing deck from which you can see the Whirlpool Rapids. You can walk along the river on the 304-metre long Whitewater Boardwalk. The elevators are 3.2 kilometres down the river from the waterfalls.
If you want to get wetter still, you can go on a speedy jetboat called Whirlpool Jet which sails the stormy waters of the Niagara River up to the particularly stormy Whirlpool Rapids area. You will get a raincoat here as well but you will end up very wet nonetheless.
 
A drier experience is a 3D IMAX movie on a giant 6-storey-high screen, which tells of the disasters, wonders, and adventures of different people in the Niagara Falls over the course of history. Nearby is a small museum called The Daredevil museum, which displays exhibits related to people who have tried to cross the waterfalls over the years. Open every day of the year. The fee for the IMAX covers entry to the museum as well.
A more expensive but extremely impressive experience is flying in a helicopter over the river and the falls.
Besides the many attractions relating to the waterfalls, there are other tourist attractions in the area as well as many shopping and entertainment centres. Clifton Hill is a colourful tourist area with many attractions, such as wax museums, a Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum, the Guinness Book of Records museum, a family entertainment centre called Dazzleland, mini golf, a haunted house, Frankenstein’s house, and of course, a lot of restaurants and hotels.
Niagara Falls is full of beautiful gardens. Besides the flower clock, it has botanical gardens, a butterfly park, and Queen Victoria park, which is free to enter and has a beautiful view of the waterfalls. The gardens bloom from the beginning of spring to the end of fall.
 
Another family attraction is Marineland, a giant aquarium with marine animal shows combined with an amusement park with roller coasters and other rides.
Near Niagara Falls is a charming historic town called Niagara on the Lake. The town has kept its 19th-century charm. It has many gardens, parks, fortresses and artist workshops. Because of its strategic location, the town played an important role in the war of 1812. In fact, when you hear the story of this town, you understand Ontario’s history. Every year between April and October the town holds a theatre festival in which plays by George Bernard Shaw and others are performed.

 

Weather:

The coldest months in Niagara are November to March, in which the average temperature is -6°C to 4°C. There’s a lot of snow fall in this season. April and October can also be cold and rainy. The summer months, June through August, are warm, with temperatures of about 25°C during the day and 15°C during the night. Take into consideration that the waterfalls affect the weather conditions of the place. Even on a warm and sunny day, tourists near the waterfalls get quite wet from the spray. Hence, you should pack along some warm clothes, but most importantly, bring a thin raincoat.

More About Niagara: More Attractions on the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls

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