I have to admit that Niagara Falls has never been on the top of my list of places to visit, despite having lived in NY my whole life. However, our recent trip to the Finger Lakes brought us in close proximity and we had to take the opportunity once it presented itself. If you read my previous post, you’ll know that we based ourselves in Canandaigua to explore the Finger Lakes. The drive from Canandaigua to Niagara took one and a half hours. If you get there early enough in the morning, before 11am, you will find parking easily on the NY side (at least in mid-October). Here are some views of the falls from the NY side. There are in fact, three waterfalls, which I didn’t know about until I did some research for this trip. Here is a view of Horseshoe Falls from Goat Island. You can somewhat tell from this picture that it is indeed shaped like a horseshoe.
Here is a view of the other two falls, the large American Falls and the tiny one next to it called Bridal Veil Falls (yes, that tiny sliver of a waterfall in the foreground that is separated from the other waterfall by a ruined platform).
I didn’t know why my Canadian friend insisted I had to cross into Canada to see the falls until I got here. Considering the limited view of the tops of the falls on the NY side, you owe it to yourself to bring your passport and cross over to Canada! There are two ways to cross into Canada from the immediate area – cross Rainbow Bridge by foot or cross it by car. Crossing by foot is far easier because you will not get stuck in traffic. We went through the customs office on the NY side in 5 minutes (keep in mind we were there before noon). The walk across the bridge takes just another 5 minutes, but I would imagine that everyone spends at least 15 minutes just gawking and photographing the falls from this vantage point.
The view from the Canada side is not that different from the view from the bridge. I will spare you the multiple pictures I took from the Canada side that look almost identical to the one above, just a little closer and flatter in appearance. Some things of note on the Canadian side – lots of casinos and a sea of authentic Korean and Japanese restaurants (many of them did not have English translations on their storefronts). Very interesting. Also, keep in mind that you will need to drop two quarters into a turnstile to cross the bridge back over to the NY side. Those Canadians!
I don’t know how many people just look at the falls and then leave. That would be a mistake. Further up north on the NY side is a beautiful area called Whirlpool State Park where you can see whirlpools from a safe distance. The water from the falls meanders its way here where its goes through some turbulence as it swizzles around a bend before making a 90 degree turn eastward. The whirlpools appear and disappear without any noticeable pattern and greatly vary in size. Whirlpools are quite disturbing if you have never seen one in real life. Now I can truly appreciate how ships can get sucked up into a whirlpool, never to be seen again. There is an aerial tram that takes you on a scary ride above the whirlpools from the Canadian side to the American side. It was not operating the day we were there because of strong winds.
For folks coming from NYC, I would recommend a trip to Niagara Falls if you happen to be near that area anyway, but not as a trip for its own sake. Also, I would agree with most people that you must visit the Canadian side to get a full view of the falls, but I would not recommend spending the night there unless you like casinos and amusement parks.