A day in stunning Niagara Falls

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Rainbow at Niagara FallsIf you go to Toronto, you really need to visit Niagara Falls, and of course we did. It certainly didn’t disappoint and is something none of us will ever forget. The Falls – which are made up of the American Falls and the even more spectacular Horseshoe ones are truly magnificent, an absolute wonder and truly beautiful. We saw them in a number of different ways, and while Jess and Robert would say the helicopter was the best, Brian and I would go for the boat, which takes you right up to the edge of the Horseshoe Falls (and gets you soaking wet!).

Niagara is an amazing place to visit, and very easy to get around. We parked in the centre and then used the WEGO buses to get us from one place to another. The town is very busy, as you’d expect, and we’d recommend getting there early. We picked up a hire car from Toronto at about 8.30 am and arrived around 10.15.

There are loads of shops and eating places in the town, as well as more things to do such as visiting the world’s largest aviary or Guinness World of Records exhibition. However, we stuck to seeing the Falls themselves and were thrilled when we saw a rainbow right above them just before we left.

View above Niagara Falls from helicopter

Robert, aged 12, writes; Before getting up close and personal with the Falls, Jess, Dad and I decided to look at them from a different angle – up in the sky on a helicopter with Niagara Helicopters. We took off and flew towards the waterfalls, going so high we could see for miles and miles. The view of Niagara falls was breathtaking and it was amazing to look at it from above. The whole thing lasted about ten minutes and it was my favourite part of our day in Niagara. It was absolutely amazing!

View above Niagara Falls from helicopter, as seen on the Family Travel Times blog
Robert admires the view!

Jess, aged 15, writes: Our helicopter journey over Niagara falls was like nothing I’d ever done before. After being strapped into my seat, we seemed to zoom off into the air, with glorious views beneath us. We had incredible, unobstructed views of the whirlpool, rapids, American Falls, and Canadian Horseshoe Falls, and the route meant that you could see easily from wherever you were sitting in the helicopter. There was also audio commentary, but I was so overwhelmed by the experience that I didn’t really manage to take anything in! I was initially very nervous about going in a helicopter, but my fears were quickly dispelled – the journey was really smooth. Our helicopter trip over the falls was short, but incredible. I quite honestly loved every second.

Behind the Falls at Niagara Falls
We all had to wear ponchos so we wouldn’t get soaking wet!

Sarah writes: Journey Behind the Falls takes you behind the Falls, and I really enjoyed doing it. It starts with a lift which takes you down 150 feet. Everyone is handed a poncho (definitely necessary) and we headed to the observation deck first, which was stunning. It’s a brilliant way to see the Horseshoe Falls (which has up to 2,800 cubit metres of water thundering past every second) and amazing to stand right next to the water and see it rushing past you.
After this, you can join the queues to see the 130 year old tunnels, which have cut into the bedrock. You will hear the Falls too and then see the water in front of you.
Behind the Falls at Niagara Falls, watching the water come downThese tunnels do get very busy, and at the end, as you can see from the pic, you simply see water gushing past, and stand behind a barrier to do so. But that isn’t to put it down – you can’t really expect to be on a ledge or something within the Falls itself and the view is well worth it. However, small children may find the waiting a little frustrating (ours were fine and we enjoyed looking through both tunnels).

Brian writes: We had flown over the Falls in a helicopter, and then travelled down behind the Falls. Now it was time to get up even closer, by taking a trip on a Hornblower Cruise. We were all given red ponchos, so we knew we were going to get a little wet. It did not take us long to get onto a boat, as each one takes 700 people.  We managed to get a good spot on the top deck, and soon we were on our way up the river towards the falls.

Hornblower boat at Niagara Falls,
A Hornblower boat at Niagara Falls,

We first travelled past the American falls (and the Bridal Veil Falls) and it was surreal to see an alternative experience taking place not too far away on the US side – the Maid of the Mist boats and their passengers with their blue ponchos, and the Cave of the Wind walkers in their yellow ponchos. These falls were impressive enough, with the roar of the water thundering down not too far from the boat.

on the hornblower boat
We got wet, but it was brilliant!

However, this was nothing compared to when we reached our final destination, the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, where the noise and spray levels increased dramatically. The boat seemed to be ridiculously near to the base of the falls, and it felt a little tense, with people all around us screaming. The falls stretched impossibly high above us, and it was if we were in a biblical movie at the parting of the Red Sea.

A Hornblower boat at Niagara Falls

 

After a few minutes there the boat turned for home again – we were drenched, but it had been an amazing experience that we would remember for the rest of our lives.

View from the Hornblower boat at Niagara Falls
The views were amazing!

This was the highlight of my time at Niagara Falls (even more than the helicopter ride), as the Falls were literally in your face. It really was an amazing experience to see one of the natural wonders of the world up close, and this is a must do if you are ever lucky enough to come here.

View from the Hornblower boat at Niagara FallsJess, aged 15, writes: We ended our day with the White Water Walk: a short riverside boardwalk of the Niagara Rapids, classified as some of the most dangerous in the world. We began by talking a lift 70 metres down to the bottom of the gorge, where there was a short exhibition on the stuntmen and women who have tackled the Niagara rapids.

The rapids at Niagara Falls
The rapids at Niagara Falls

Next came the 300 metre boardwalk, which goes right next to the water’s edge. We learnt about the geology, flora, and fauna of the area, and marvelled at the rapids. These travel at speeds up to 48 miles per hour and can reach five metres tall, so it was very exciting to see them up close. There were also viewing platforms in order to help us get a better look. While it was a lovely walk, it was very short, the queue was long, and the views were not as amazing as the places we had previously visited. But it was still worth going!

Us by the fast-flowing rapids at Niagara Falls
Us by the fast-flowing rapids!

If you have time after your visit to Niagara, we would recommend driving back via the scenic route and Niagara on the Lake. This is a most beautiful little town with loads of shops and restaurants and beautiful views of Lake Ontario. The houses are gorgeous too (and very pricey) and we really enjoyed buying sandwiches and eating them overlooking the Lake.
It’s about half an hour away from the centre of Niagara and well worth a trip.

At beautiful and serene Niagara By the Lake
At beautiful and serene Niagara By the Lake

We were extremely lucky to be helped by Ontario Travel, Niagara Helicopters and the Niagara Parks Commission for our fabulous day out. They provided us with complimentary admission and transportation to all the attractions, but had absolutely no input into this blog post.
Our tickets for the helicopter trip were provided by Niagara Helicopters, which charges 144 Canadian dollars per adult (£89) and 88 per child. Niagara Parks sells an adventure pass classic which covers the Hornblower Niagara Cruises, Journey Behind the Falls, White Water Walk, Niagara’s Fury and two day access on the WEGO). It costs from $57 CAD (£35) + tax per adult 

 

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22 Responses

  1. This sounds absolutely amazing – I didn’t get chance to go to Niagara when I was in Toronto, and probably would only have had a flying visit if I had fitted it in, whereas it really needs some proper time to make the most of this natural wonder. I can imagine it would be incredible to see from the air, but I think I’d prefer the boat and the chance to get close as well, to really get a sense of its power.

  2. I’d love to do all of these! I went to Niagara Falls years ago, but didn’t have the chance to get a boat or go in the tunnels. It’s such an astonishing place.

  3. I would absolutely love to visit Niagra Falls and I like the diea of getting really up close to them. I can’t believe I haven’t made it to Canada yet, I really need to change that.

  4. What a wonderful trip. I was about Robert’s age when I got to visit Niagra Falls and I remember being thrilled at the time on The Maids of the Mist boat in my bright poncho. It looks much more sophisticated now, and the helicopter trip looks amazing. What a great experience. I’m a little jealous!

  5. I love the idea of visiting and seeing the falls from lots of different viewpoints. The boat trip sounds fun if a bit wet.

  6. I love the way you looked at it from different ways. Did you even get to go in the chopper with Robert 😉 Photos are beautiful. You’ve made me want to go.

  7. Oh this is somewhere I would love to visit with the kids – it looks like a beautiful place to visit x x

  8. This is on our family bucket list and this has just made me even more keen to do it

  9. Oh Sarah what a fabulous post. We were there this summer and from your pics the helicopter ride looks amazing. Gorgeous pictures, we did the boat trip and walk too. Looks like you guys had the best day!

  10. I visited Niagara falls last in 2002 with my (then very small) girls. We decided that we wanted to view it from both sides and so spent quite a while crossing the border. Once we had finally crossed, my girls were fast asleep and uninterested in waking up! I enjoyed it quite a bit, I’m glad to see that you did too.

  11. It’s amazing your have done the helicopter above the fall. And I can understand why all the young team member feel thrilled about the helicopter experience. However, I feel more inpressed by the boat at the Canadian Horseshoe Falls when it comes near to the base of the falls. Is it not dangerous?

  12. Megan Jerrard

    I have heard that the Canadian side of Niagara falls is better than the US side – so I would definitely choose Toronto when we manage to make a trip. I would love to do both the helicopter and the boat to compare the experiences – I don’t mind getting wet! The kids talk of the experience with so much fondness – sounds like a great family trip!

    Journey Behind the Falls sounds great too – I had no idea that there were 130 year old tunnels you could visit .Crazy to just see water gushing past from the view. And to end with the White Water Walk, how cool to say you’ve taken a riverside boardwalk along some of the most dangerous rapids in the world!

    Thanks for documenting your experience – I’ve always wanted to visit, though didn’t really know which activities and experiences were on offer once you get there. Excited now!

    • Thanks for such a lovely, detailed comment. Yes, I had no idea how much there was to see either, and, although I’ve never done the US side, apparently the Canadian side is much better!

  13. We visited Niagara falls ages ago before we had kids. Reading this reminded me we need to plan a trip to show them this beautiful natural wonder. Getting so close to the rapids and a aerial view of the majestic falls sounds thrilling.

  14. Niagara Falls is one of the world’s greatest waterfalls and sure it will be sure viewing the majestic natural wonder from above and below! I think there are different kinds of fun viewing it on a plane and then getting wet on a cruise, what a great day.

  15. Wow, what an amazing experience and an action packed day you had at the falls. I think you covered all aspects from water, land and air. It would be an amazing experience to visit this place

  16. jane gordon

    We used loads of your Toronto and Niagra tips for our amazing trip visiting our son who is studying in Canada, thanks so much. Would also recommend staying a night at Niagra if at all possible, can do this quite reasonably overlooking the falls and then you get to see the sun set and rise over the horse shoe falls and see the falls all lit up at night. Thanks for all the recommendations x

    • So glad to have helped! I would have liked to have stayed overnight – how amazing to see it lit up – but it was all a question of time. xxx

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