Explore North America's famous falls by boat or by foot
Canada's Niagara Parks, an agency of the government of Ontario, boasts some of the most beautiful sights in the country and, arguably, in the whole world.
Visitors come to the area to see the Horseshoe Falls and experience the world-famous icon in a number of ways. The Niagara Falls Adventure Pass is a great way to take it all in for a low price.
Up Close and Personal
Maid of the Mist boats have been taking the curious up to—and almost under—the thundering waters of Niagara Falls since 1846, making this the oldest tourist attraction in North America. Maid of the Mist is one of the few privately owned attractions along the heart of the Niagara Parkway in Niagara Falls.
During the half-hour boat ride, visitors can grab a spot on the upper deck for the best view of the Horseshoe Falls on the way there and the American Falls on the way back. A free plastic blue poncho will protect your camera (but not your feet). Keep it after the ride, because there are plenty of opportunities to get wet around the falls. Considering you're getting doused by water from 20 percent of the world's fresh water supply, it's a bit like getting anointed by ecological royalty—more of a privilege than an inconvenience.
Journey Behind the Falls is one attraction where prebooking your entrance time saves you lining up and, next to the Maid of the Mist, it's one of the oldest human-made attractions along the Niagara River. Visitors start at Table Rock, take an elevator down several stories, and then walk through tunnels bored behind the great Horseshoe Falls to eventually peer through porthole-like openings behind the powerful cascade of water.
For some, it's a claustrophobic experience, but by no means dangerous. Considering the pressure of the falls creates 4,400 megawatts of electricity, it is well worth getting soaked on the lower observation deck (one of two) that puts you literally feet from the nearly 13-story-high wall of thunderously plummeting water. Again, the plastic poncho provided protects your camera and bags (if left underneath) but little else.
Walking Near Water
Some people like to ride river rapids, but along the Niagara Gorge, you'll have to settle for viewing from the shoreline, and that's just fine for most visitors to the White Water Walk. These class-six rapids are the most intense nature offers. Just downriver from the base of the falls, you'll be amazed by a captivating ballet of waves, spray, foam and rushing water. You descend into the Great Gorge via elevator, walk through a tunnel and end up along the safe railed boardwalk that takes you on an easy woodland stroll along the banks of the rushing river.
There are a few stairs, and two bi-level viewing platforms where visitors gather for photos against the backdrop of Niagara flora and fauna, or stand resting elbows on the rail for extended periods of time in awe of the massive force of nature drowning out all other sounds. It's an ideal location for the nature photographer.
Many visitors flock to Niagara Parks' newest multimedia, multisensory attraction: Niagara's Fury, the Creation of the Falls. This one takes to you to the very beginning.
The Fury is about the genesis of Niagara Falls, thanks to the Ice Age and subsequent melting glaciers. The 15-minute experience starts with a cute educational animated movie that clearly explains for little ones (and others geologically challenged) the natural process that created the Niagara region.
Just when you're wondering why you're once again wearing a plastic raincoat, the doors open up and everyone moves into a round theatre and holds onto rails, standing for the show. When the experience begins, you're surrounded by the sights, sounds, moisture and temperature changes of the violent, extravagant clash of water, waves, ice sheets and winter special effects racing you through millions of years of geological evolution. Giving away the details spoils half the fun, but this is one of the few technology-driven entertainment experiences that end with impromptu audience applause.
Taking Wing in Niagara Falls
The self-guided walking tour of the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory begins with a short, informative video presentation that is close-captioned for the hearing impaired. This magical attraction features more than 2,000 colorful tropical butterflies floating freely among lush, exotic blossoms and greenery. Paths wind through the rainforest setting, past a pond and waterfall and the emergence window, where butterflies leave their pupae and prepare to take their first flight.
You'll also enjoy 99 acres of beautifully maintained gardens, including perennials, rhododendrons, azaleas, a formal parterre garden, shade, herb and vegetable plantings, as well as a world-famous rose garden featuring more than 2,400 roses. Footpaths wind past the butterfly conservatory and butterfly garden, ponds and an arboretum featuring one of Canada's finest collections of ornamental trees and shrubs.
Above the Falls
Ride the Whirlpool Aero Car high above the racing Niagara River. You'll be transported through the air in an antique cable car as, far below, the torrent of water abruptly changes direction and creates one of the world's most mesmerizing phenomena in the world—the Niagara Whirlpool.
For millennia, man has been fascinated by the overwhelming power of the falls. Since 1958, Sir Adam Beck 2 Generating Station has captured that potential energy in one of Ontario's largest hydroelectric facilities. It's a wonderful example of a natural, nonpolluting and reliable power source that has worked in harmony with the beauty of Niagara for over four decades. Take a fully guided 40-minute tour the includes three observation areas, an 11-minute video and an interactive area.
Did you know?
Some fascinating facts about north America's most famous waterfall (courtesy of Niagara Falls, Canada):
• The falls at Niagara are about 12,000 years old.
• Falls were formed when melting glaciers formed massive freshwater lakes (the Great Lakes) one of which (Lake Erie) ran downhill toward another (Lake Ontario). The rushing waters carved out a river in their descent and at one point passed over a steep cliff-like formation (the Niagara escarpment). From the original falls going over the Niagara escarpment, the water began to wear its way back up the river. The path that it left is known today as the Niagara Gorge (a deeply-cut and very scenic river path).
• The Niagara River flows at approximately 35 miles per hour.
• It is the combination of height and water flow that makes Niagara Falls so beautiful.
• The Horseshoe Falls are 180 feet high and allow 6 million cubic feet of water over the crestline every minute during peak tourist hours (that is about a million bathtubs full of water every minute).
• Man-made attractions of Niagara Falls include Maid of the Mist, Table Rock Scenic Tunnels, Spanish Aero Car, Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum, Marineland, Casino Niagara, IMAX Theatre and the new butterfly conservatory.
• Skylon Tower rises 775 feet above the falls.
• In 1960, a boy named Roger Woodward survived a descent over the falls after a boating accident above the falls.
• Hydro electricity generated in Niagara Falls at the Sir Adam Beck 1 and Sir Adam Beck 2 power stations from redirected water flow serves the electrical needs of southern Ontario and western New York.
• Nicknamed "Queen of the Mist," Annie Taylor, a school teacher from Bay City, Michigan, was first person to travel over the falls in a barrel in 1901. Since her feat, many stunt artists have challenged the mighty falls, usually in homemade, barrel-like contraptions.
• Niagara Falls' nighttime illumination makes an after-dark visitation to Niagara a hauntingly beautiful event.
• Ice bridges form below the falls in winter when ice floes travel over the edge and collect at the base of the falls.
• Niagara Falls is known as the honeymoon capital of the world.
• The word Niagara comes from the word "onguiaahra," which means "a thundering noise."
• The 20th Century Fox movie, Niagara, starring Marilyn Monroe, was filmed in Niagara Falls, Ontario, in 1952.
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