Niagara Falls’ natural beauty and proximity made it the Honeymoon Capital of the World once upon a time. Rumors of its recent revival as a world-class romantic destination made us more than curious to find out for ourselves. We found lovers holding hands while experiencing all things to do in Niagara Falls that, coincidently, have been experienced throughout its rich history. Niagara offers the kind of magic where you wake up with your husband, you’ve been married to as long as you can remember, and you realize that you are still twitterpated.
Niagara Falls – America’s First State Park
Niagara Falls sits half in Canada, half in the US, about 45 minutes north of Buffalo, New York and 2 hours south of Toronto, Ontario. As the Niagara River flows from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, it drops 167′ down over a series of three falls: Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls (collectively known as Niagara Falls). The height doesn’t make the falls special, if you hike to Havasu Falls, you’ll see that Mooney Falls is taller than Niagara Falls, but it doesn’t have the same flow. How much water flows over Niagara Falls? Over 3,000 tons every second!
Like so many travelers since the park opened in 1855, we left Ed’s family farm in Ohio and drove up to Niagara Falls State Park. We parked on Goat Island and followed the trails down to Terrapin Point. Being an ex-hippie ski bum, I loved the Dead Head sticker somebody cleverly placed on the sign. “Inspiration, move me brightly; light the song with sense and color.”
We first saw the mists rising hundreds of feet into the air. Then we heard the water roaring over the precipice. Finally, we were standing on top of Horseshoe Falls, watching the cascades that inspired so many people to say yes, and many more to challenge the power of the falls.
We left Horseshoe Falls and walked the half mile across Hell’s Half Acre to stand on top of American Falls. Though not as powerful as Horseshoe Falls, the sheer power of standing close to the precipice took our breath away. We walked hand in hand back to our car to cross over into Canada.
The Iconic Skylon Tower
Everybody who visits Niagara Falls State Park realizes its weakness, you only stand on top of the falls, you never get to look at them directly. Skylon Tower sits on the Canadian side, strategically located between the falls. The observation deck, standing 775′ above the base of the falls, offers 360′ degree views. Since 1965, Skylon Tower offers visitors and celebrities one of the best and most unique vantage points for the falls.
Skylon offered us two sets of tickets for the observation deck so we could see how the view changed between the day and the night. During the day, the deck was nearly empty. We could kiss, cuddle, and enjoy our first head-on view of the falls. Even during the off-season (we went in September), the night view was crowded. Everybody wanted to see the Niagara Falls Light Show where 100’s of LEDs illuminate the falls from three locations. It was beautiful, chilly, and we could only imagine the scene if we came up during one of the Niagara Falls Fireworks Shows.
The Night Promenade on the Niagara Parkway
Our night of fall views wasn’t complete with Skylon Tower, we continued down to the Niagara Parkway on foot. A boardwalk follows adjacent to the parkway along the top of Niagara Gorge. We snuggled together to keep the fall chill out and the good feelings in. The light show was nearly as beautiful at ground level, and perhaps more romantic without crowds at Skylon.
We walked about a mile up and down along the promenade from Queen Victoria Park to the Fallsview Tourist Area. Each step brought us another beautiful view of Niagara Falls at night, and also added to our step total for the day. Pro tip- wear comfortable shoes to visit Niagara Falls, we logged over 10 miles that day!
Usually, at this point in the trip, we would wow you with our romantic hotels. There is any number of beautiful hotels in the Fallsview area above the tourist center. We went budget on this trip, so our hotel was literally, nothing to write about. Putting it out into the universe, if somebody wants to host us in a romantic Niagara Falls hotel, there’s a paragraph for you right here 😉
The Historic Maid of the Mist
In 1846 the first Maid of the Mist boat began commercial operation on the Niagara River. The operators quickly realized how lucrative it could be ferrying tourists into the mist beneath the falls. Since their inception, Maid of the Mist boats have carried the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, Jawaharlal Nehru, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Jimmy Carter, and Mikhail Gorbachev to see the might and power of the falls.
We woke up early to catch the first boat out at 9:00. Early for me anyway, since I am not a morning person. We took the elevators down the Niagara Falls Observation Tower to reach the Maid of the Mist. Let me tell you, if you don’t feel like walking or entering Canada, this is the best view from the American side! It is well worth the $1.25 cost of admission to the observation tower/platform and included in your $19.95 Maid of the Mist ticket. There was no waiting in the mornings so, before we knew it, we had donned our blue rain jackets and were steaming up the Niagara Gorge to the Falls.
It seemed a little kitsch for everybody to be huddled up in their raincoats until we entered the falls zone. It was, in a word, awesome. The water pounded down loud, wet, and wild (no, not the waterpark in Tijuana). Mist sprayed our faces, and we all laughed, knowing that we cheated death. You never know the power of a waterfall until you stand at its base.
The Mistrider Zipline
We traveled from Maid of the Mist, one of Niagara Falls oldest things to do, to the Mistrider Zipline, one of the newest. For us, this journey took a week because of the unpredictable fall weather. We traveled down to Corning, New York for the TBEX travel writer conference and returned later in the week. You might notice how our all pictures are suddenly bright and sunny.
The foul weather and crowds at the conference had taken their toll on me by this point. I was feeling feverish, and not in a good way. In my delirious state, I even left our GoPro in the bathroom (never to be returned). Love is getting a hug after you lose the GoPro.
Sick or not, I was going to do the Mistrider. Ed chauffeured me to Fallsview Visitor Center to watch the water pouring over into the mists. It reminded of the female badass Annie Edson Taylor – the first person to survive a barrel ride over the falls in 1901. The Mistrider is kind of like that, in that you fly through the air with a great view of the falls, only there isn’t the risk of death.
Mistrider wasn’t the longest or the fastest zip line I had been on, but man-o-man the views! It reminded me of the views from ziplining in Costa Rica. I wouldn’t have wanted it to go any faster either, so I could have more time with the scenery. They even let Ed and race down side by side with me so we could share the experience.
The Whirlpool Adventure Course
Riding through the mists wasn’t the only daredevil feat at the falls that day. Niagara Falls has a long history of ropewalkers starting with Jean-François Gravelet, known as Blondin for his golden hair. In 1859, he became the first person to rope walk across the falls. How do you top that? He crossed carrying his manager, on stilts, blindfolded, in a gorilla suit, and pushing a wheelbarrow (not at the same time of course). To this day, Niagara Falls’ Boldin Street still honors his memory.
My aerial adventure took place at the Whirlpool Adventure Course. Again, fantastic views of the gorge and Niagara River, but much, much, safer. I was still sick and almost bagged out, but 800 mg of ‘vitamin I’ later, I felt good enough to try it out.
One of the cutest things I ever saw was a couple celebrating their 50th anniversary on a ropes course in Indianapolis. I’m saying this now, Ed and I are doing a ropes course for our 50th anniversary. We will be 90 years old, but we’re doing it!
You learn and share so much with your partner on a ropes course, as we saw from the young couple behind us. They were all excited to start out, and a little bit annoyed that we snaked our way in front of them. We were pulling away a bit at the start, but soon we realized that they weren’t behind us. The woman decided she had enough and bailed off the course. (Wildplay had exits regularly around the course).
We had a sizeable lead, but the man was gaining ground like his hair was on fire. We waited at the Tarzan Swing so he could get by us. We were still close enough at the end of the course to watch him rappelling down to his girlfriend, waiting impatiently with her arms crossed.
Sick and all, I made it all the way through. They said it takes 90 – 120 minutes to complete the course, but a lot of people don’t finish. We would have liked a little more variety in the elements, but the course was long and physically challenging. The views were absolutely amazing, and the equipment was in good repair. A good time was had by all, except maybe our young friends who didn’t find the same romance we did on the ropes course.
Wrapping up our Trip to Niagara Falls
We found Niagara Falls to be as beautiful as advertised and loaded with fun things to do. The views were better from the Canadian side, and we saved a lot for next time. We’ll have to come back for the Journey Behind the Falls, biking the Waterfront Trail to Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tour, and maybe even that romantic hotel experience at Embassy Suites Fallsview or The Niagara Falls Marriott Fallsview. We might even head up the road a bit and check out some of the things to do in Toronto.
Disclosure: This post was written in partnership with WildPlay Niagara Falls, Maid of the Mist, and Skylon Tower. As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.
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