Niagara Falls, mother-nature welcomes all

A visit to the Falls is wet and wild

By Arvin Steinberg

The magic of mother-nature is the calling card for visitors to Niagara Falls. Forget Disney, there is no animation here, just miles of cascading water rushing down rocky surfaces and splashing high in the air. But be prepared if you really want to see the Falls, plan to get wet! Plan on a bad hair day and plan on wearing shoes that can get soaked. Niagara Falls, which has been the backdrop for honeymoons and weddings, for more than 200 years, now has also become a popular family destination.

Maid of the Mist is the top attraction in the city. This world famous scenic boat tour of the American and Canadian Falls is a spectacular half-hour ride. You can access the Maid of the Mist tour via the Observation Tower elevator of Prospect Point in Niagara State Park. Prospect Point is the prime viewing area for the American Falls and the Rapids. Look for rainbows in the morning mist or see the Falls illuminated in colored lights every evening.

When you board the Maid of the Mist, you’re given a rain poncho with a hood and you will need it! The boat tour takes you right up to the Falls where the water sprays out in giant gusts like a mighty rainfall and there is no place on the boat to escape the gusts of water. The best time to visit the Falls is in the summer or fall when the weather is warm enabling you to dry off in a hurry. The view of the Falls from Maid of the Mist is spectacular. There are no seats on the boat. This standing room only show is a fabulous family affair that children will love as much as their parents.

I was not intimated by the Maid of the Mist and decided to visit the Cave of the Winds on Goat Island in Niagara Falls State Park. This too, is a wet experience. Here, visitors take an elevator ride down 175 feet to the base of the Bridal Veil Falls. I walked down several steps along the base of the falls on a series of wooden stairs and decks. Here, you can feel the power of Niagara Falls. The bravest of souls go to the Hurricane Deck just feet from the pounding waters. My wife and I didn’t get that far. We stood on the steps below and got a shower of water and wind as we gazed upon this marvel of mother- nature.
Picture of Phyllis and Arvin Steinberg in their raincoats at Cave of the Winds.
Phyllis and Arvin Steinberg in their raincoats at Cave of the Winds

Not all attractions are rainy and wet. You can visit Niagara Falls State Park and take a trolley ride around the park and view the Falls without getting wet. The ride takes about 50 minutes and is very scenic. The trolley goes within feet of the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls. The Park also has a restaurant, snack bars, gift shops, picnic tables, grills, hiking and nature trails.

Niagara Falls has other family attractions. The Niagara Aerospace Museum has more than 100 exhibits of airplanes, helicopters and rockets and is located right in downtown Niagara Falls a five minute ride from the Niagara Falls State Park The museum focuses on the rich aviation history of New York. There are also antique aircraft and a DVD presentation in a 200-seat theater.

A visit to the Aquarium of Niagara is an opportunity for the younger set and their parents to dive into a world of 1,500 aquatic animals, including sharks, piranhas, California Sea Lions, Moray Eels and a colony of endangered Peruvian Penguins. The aquarium is open year round and has free parking.

Adults will want to try their luck at the Seneca Niagara Casino which features reel-spinning slot machines, gaming tables of all types, including poker and video slots. Just a few blocks from the Falls, the Casino is huge with 112,590 square feet of gaming, several restaurants, live entertainment and an excellent buffet.

Just an hour drive from the Falls is the Lockport Locks and Erie Canal cruises. We enjoyed a narrated 2-hour boat cruise and going through the Locks. This manmade waterway connects the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean and is about 12 to 15 feet deep. The boat tour allows passengers to pass under two lift bridges that raise straight up and experience being lowered and raised about 49 feet in the locks.

Photos by Arvin Steinberg and Maid of The Mist

* For information about the Niagara Region, go to www.GreaterNiagaraUSA.com
* For information about the Erie Canal, go to www.lockportlocks.com
* For information about Maid of the Mist Boat Tour, go to www.maidofthemistcom
* For information about Cave of the Winds, call 716-278-1730
* For more information about Niagara Aerospace Museum, go to www.niagaramuseum.org
* For more information about Seneca Niagara Casino, go to www.senecaniagaracasino.com

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