Niagara Falls: Activities

Mist everywhere as we looked towars the Horseshoe Falls and the Maid of the Mist
At Niagara Falls, there's much more to do than going on the walks alongside the Niagara River and by each of the falls. These activities let you experience the grand waterfalls in different and exciting ways. Other tours and excursions let you experience other aspects of the Niagara River and Gorge area. We did quite a few of the paid excursions while in the area during our 2007 trip including the Maid of the Mist, Cave of the Winds, Journey Behind the Falls, and the Observation Deck. Below is a list of these and other activities and sights though this is by no means an exhaustive list.

  • Maid of the Mist - This is said to be the oldest running tour of Niagara Falls (dating back to 1846). It's probably still the most popular tour around the falls area. It's basically a tour where you're in a large boat along with lots of other paying guests (typically standing room only). There are boat docks on either side of the Niagara River so I don't think it really matters whether you're on the American or Canadian side (though the American option also lets you check out the Observation Deck). Anyways, the boat takes off and heads upstream directly towards the three-sided misty torrent beneath Horseshoe Falls. On the way, we got to see from the bottom the American Falls as well as see some abandoned (or destroyed) buildings along the banks of the Niagara River. There was also a multi-language audio narrative over the loud speaker though I don't recall it was easily heard over all the noise and commotion. Also included with the price of admission was the recyclable rain coats. You're going to need them because for sure you're going to get wet along with your fellow screaming passengers!
  • Cave of the Winds - This exclusively American excursion takes you down an elevator into the gorge area where a metal catwalk leads you right up to the base of Bridal Veil Falls. I heard that the tour got its name because there used to be an alcove area that allowed you to go behind the Bridal Veil Falls, which also happened to be very windy. Unfortunately, that cave was closed due to concerns about falling rocks caused by the natural erosion from the force of the falls. The tour provides recyclable rain coats and foam sandals because you're certainly going to get drenched.
  • Journey Behind the Falls - this exclusively Canadian excursion takes you down an elevator into a tunnel area and lower viewing deck right besides the awesome Horseshoe Falls. The tunnels take you to a pair of openings cut right behind the waterfall. I recalled the noise was deafening within the tunnels behind the falls, and I swore the ground was trembling a bit too with the force of all that water crashing onto the earth beneath your feet. In addition, the lower viewing deck was misty and turbulent, but provided quite a rush to be so close to the thundering wall of water as well as getting closer looks at the folks on the Maid of the Mist tour also getting blasted by mist.
  • Observation Deck - This exclusively American structure has a protruding viewing platform jutting out above part of the Niagara River. It's a little further upstream from the Rainbow Bridge spanning the US-Canadian border so I'd imagine the views would be somewhat similar. Anyways, the fee for this deck is included if you do the Maid of the Mist Tour on the American side. There's also a walk that takes you close to the side of the American Falls itself.
  • Helicopter Ride - this is not exactly the most environmentally friendly way to experience the falls, but you do get a birds eye view of the scene. From up here, you'll certainly understand why Horseshoe Falls got its name. You'll also be able to understand the scale and grandeur of the falls.
  • Jet Boat Tours - these types of tours go downstream from the falls area and into the turbulent Class V or greater rapids of the Lower Niagara Gorge. Thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies will appreciate the open-air rafts on this excursion. While difficult to pay attention to the surroundings due to the danger of the rapids, it does give you a glimpse of the less-visited Lower Niagara River area.
  • The Whirlpool Cable Car - the turbulence of the Niagara River and the geology of the Lower Niagara Gorge area combine to form a whirlpool. This excursion lets you ride a cable car above the whirlpool for a thrilling top-down view of it. However, given the precariousness of the suspension wire, this tour can be closed due to high winds. So it's probably best to do this excursion earlier in the day when conditions are relatively calmer.


To get a better flavor of what we just described, check out the photos below taken from the excursions that we did...



Looking right at the American Falls from the Maid of the Mist TourLooking right at the American Falls from the Maid of the Mist Tour

Heading right into the misty torrent of Horseshoe Falls on the Maid of the Mist TourHeading right into the misty torrent of Horseshoe Falls on the Maid of the Mist Tour

Ticket booths for Maid of the MistTicket booths for Maid of the Mist

Rain ponchos necessary on this tourRain ponchos necessary on this tour

Catwalks beneath Bridal Veil Falls on the Cave of the Winds TourCatwalks beneath Bridal Veil Falls on the Cave of the Winds Tour

Looking down at the context of the catwalks for the Cave of the WindsLooking down at the context of the catwalks for the Cave of the Winds

Looking out from behind Horseshoe Falls on the Journey Behind the Falls TourLooking out from behind Horseshoe Falls on the Journey Behind the Falls Tour

View from the lower deck on the Journey Behind the Falls TourView from the lower deck on the Journey Behind the Falls Tour

A very in-your-face look at Horseshoe Falls from Journey Behind the FallsA very in-your-face look at Horseshoe Falls from Journey Behind the Falls

American Falls dwarfing walkers who made their way down from the Observation DeckAmerican Falls dwarfing walkers who made their way down from the Observation Deck

View from the Observation DeckView from the Observation Deck

This view was taken from the top of a short funicular rideThis view was taken from the top of a short funicular ride. However, I wouldn't count this as an excursion as it was more of a transport option to save on some walking

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