Being a Tourist In Niagara Falls

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Sometimes, it’s fun to do “tourist” things in a city you may have been to a handful of times already; maybe even being a tourist in your hometown could be fun. It gives you a chance to see things from a different perspective, try out some other/new/different things, and see your city from the eyes of a visitor.

I’ve lived my entire life in Buffalo. I’ve been going to Niagara Falls since I was a kid – it’s only about a half-hour drive up from downtown Buffalo. Sometimes, I think I’ve gotten used to it, and then other times I’m struck by the fact that my house is less than 30 miles from this amazing thing that puts roughly 3,160 tons of of water over the Falls every SECOND and produces over 4 million kilowatts of electricity for the United States and Canada.

It’s easy to forget just how incredible that is… but wow, it’s incredible when you really think about it. So yes, it’s certainly fun to take a tourist-y trip up there every once in a while.

A few weeks ago, I took my father up there to celebrate Father’s Day. He hadn’t been to the Falls in years, so it was something different for him; here’s what we did.

First off, let me note that there is plenty of parking in the area, but be prepared to fork over a good couple of bucks. When we went, the official State Park lot was full (that’s usually where I park, but this WAS a beautiful Saturday afternoon.) So we parked in a lot not far from there, still in a convenient location…. but it was $20 for the day! I think that’s a little crazy, and I especially didn’t like how the lot didn’t have signage out in front, so you only found out once you had already pulled in and had five cars waiting behind you that you were expected to fork over the $20. What choice do you have then?

Anyways, I digress. It was an absolutely beautiful Saturday morning, the sun was shining and no clouds in sight. We started off the day by walking around Niagara Falls State Park for a bit, eventually making our way to the Maid of the Mist ticket booths. It’s currently running at $17 per adult, which I found quite affordable. It’s truly a unique experience that you’ll never be able to get any other way, so for that price….. it’s not bad.

For those who have never done the Maid of the Mist before, here’s how it goes. Buy your ticket, go through the turnstile, and take the elevator up to the observation deck. This is a great view in and of itself; look to one side and see the Falls, look across and see the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, look to your other side and you’ll see the Rainbow Bridge and the Niagara Gorge. You can stay up there as long as you’d like, but don’t stay too long – the real adventure awaits!

Once you’d had enough of the observation deck, you take an elevator all the way down to the dock area of the Maid of the Mist. Wait in line, hand in your ticket, get your poncho, and (eventually) board the boat. It’s a 20-minute ride and no matter where you are on the boat, I can guarantee two things: 1) you’ll get a great view and 2) you’re going to get wet. Even on the lower deck, you’ll still get wet. Don’t think you can avoid it — trust me, you can’t.

The ride is a short but incredible one, taking you by the American Falls, the Horseshoe Falls and the Canadian Falls and back around. It’s so difficult to describe it in words — it’s just breathtaking to get that close. Everyone, particularly those who live in WNY, needs to do the Maid of the Mist at least once in their lifetime. I’ve been fortunate enough to do it twice (2012, 2014) and I’d like to do it once more and try to convince my mother to go. And for those who might be scared — you’ll be so fascinated by the Falls that it’ll be hard to think about anything else.

After doing the Maid of the Mist, we walked across the Rainbow Bridge to Canada. If you’re going to do this, make sure you: a) have proper ID to get into Canada and back into the United States b) take a photo at the border line c) have 50 cents for the toll you’ll pay on the way back to the States.

Lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe was good, with live outdoor music being played just feet away. (A bit loud for my taste, but that’s certainly the aura of any Hard Rock.) Poutine was good, but not the best I’ve ever had. We also walked up to Clifton Hill and did a bit of sightseeing and shopping before going on the Niagara Skywheel.

I’ve been to Clifton Hill plenty of times, but this was my first time doing the Skywheel. It was an incredible view of the Falls; I could also see downtown Buffalo from the top! I had hoped to get a glimpse of Toronto’s skyline in the other direction, but that didn’t quite work out. Either way, it’s a pretty neat tourist attraction and I can certainly see why it’s so popular.

A walk back over the Rainbow Bridge and a drive back to Buffalo completed our trip. It was a nice little tourist day in Niagara Falls, a beautiful Saturday in June and overall, a good experience that I’d certainly recommend.

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