How to enjoy a day at Niagara Falls

A journey into the mist and beyond

A light mist landed gently on my skin.
I looked up at the clear blue sky with the sun shining brightly.
I felt my skin tingle as a soft breeze blew across my damp arms.
We had arrived.

How to enjoy a day at Niagara Falls.

Given that Niagara Falls is one of the most visited places in the world, my expectations were low regarding the potential to have a peaceful, serene experience in the presence of such a wonder of nature. Yet, I remained hopefully optimistic.

I had avoided planning or researching too much ahead of this trip. History has taught me that not knowing makes me more alert and present in a new place.

Friends who had been before had shared their enjoyment of taking the boat ride into the mist. I had bought entry tickets online, so we had a time window to keep in mind. The boat company’s website indicated there were a few parking options available nearby.

In hindsight, it might have been good to research those a little more to avoid paying $150 (CAD $11 per 30 minutes) to park outside the police station for the day…but having the car nearby turned out to be a blessing, so it was worth it.

Seeing Niagara Falls for the first time

American Falls

American Falls at Niagara Falls. Captured by Joy Taylor

Going on a Friday meant the crowds were not too bad, so we got a park straight away.

Being in Canada, we were at an advantage.

As we crossed the street from the car park, we were directly opposite the American Falls.

Joy and David with American Falls in the background

We have arrived at Niagara Falls. Captured by Joy Taylor

The sight of the wide span of water tumbling over the edge of the cliff and onto the rocks below was impressive. It felt as though the fall was not far, but as David reminded me, that was a bit of a trick of the eye.

The falls are 55 metres tall and 335 metres wide…it is all about perspective.

Turning my head to the right, I let my eyes wander across the landscape of the small island. The one which causes the waters of the Niagara River to part and create two separate paths.

Beyond the island, further to the right, the Horseshoe Falls (or the Canadian Falls, if you are a Canadian) came into view. At 762 metres across, it was almost difficult to take them all in at once.

Niagara Falls

The whole view of Niagara Falls is a lot to take in at once. Captured by Joy Taylor

It is estimated that during the day, 168,000 cubic metres of water tumbles over the edge every minute, which is about one million bathtubs full. It is this that causes the mist to spray up high into the air.

After taking in the view, I closed my eyes and felt the mist drift across my face and let the sound of the thundering water fill my ears.

Into the mist of Niagara Falls

A queue of people wearing pink ponchos, waiting to board the boat to go into the mist at Niagara Falls, with the American Falls in the background

The queue to board the boat. Captured by Joy Taylor

As the time for our boat ride was approaching, we made our way along the edge of the gorge and down the ramps to the point where we collected our bright pink poncho and joined the queue to board the next boat.

It was all very orderly, and did not take too long to get on board. We moved towards the front of the boat and found a spot amongst the families, couples, and friends who were all there for the same reason.

…to go #IntoTheMist

American Falls from the boat

American Falls from the boat. Captured by Joy Taylor

The boats leave from both the Canadian and American sides of the river. You can tell the difference as the Americans wear blue ponchos. They take it in turns to sail past the American Falls before disappearing into the mist at the base of the Horseshoe Falls.
Approaching Horseshoe Falls in a boat

Approaching Horseshoe Falls on the boat. Captured by Joy Taylor

The water beneath me was churning, and the air was full of tiny droplets making rainbows as I tried to look up to see the water coming over the ledge.

We lingered at the base for several minutes, ensuring every one of our senses was thoroughly immersed in the experience.

David and Joy wearing pink ponchos, standing near the front of the boat going into the mist at the base of Niagara Falls

David and Joy in the mist at Niagara Falls. Captured by David Masefield

Returning to the shore, disembarking and making our way back to the street via the obligatory gift shop. 

This gave us a few moments to remember why we normally try to avoid touristy places…but the experience had definitely been worthwhile. 

There had been some commentary on the boat, but I could not hear any of it.

Fortunately, I had booked us in for a walking tour later in the afternoon, with the hope of learning a bit more about the history of the area.

Until then, we had about an hour to spare.

Taking a breath at Niagara Falls

David resting under a shady tree on green grass in the park opposite the American Falls in Niagara Falls

David taking a moment to rest under a tree opposite American Falls, Niagara Falls. Captured by Joy Taylor

In days gone by, we might have gone to an overpriced restaurant for lunch or maybe even strapped in for the zipline down the side of the cliff.

Our change in mindset from travelling as a tourist to travelling full-time has changed our perspective on these types of opportunities.

We now embrace a mindful, slow travel philosophy.  

Instead, we found a shady tree in the park opposite the American Falls and got our sketchbooks and pens from the car.

Then sat down to relax.

I had picked up a few postcards from the gift shop, so I took the time to write to my parents and kids while David did a sketch of the scene in front of him.

David sitting with his back against a tree, sketching the scene of Niagara Falls

David sketching the scene at Niagara Falls. Captured by Joy Taylor

David's sketch of the scene at Niagara Falls

David’s sketch of the scene at Niagara Falls. Drawing by David Masefield.

Three Niagara Falls postcards on my lap

Writing memories and sending them to my parents and kids. Captured by Joy Taylor

Feeling calm and peaceful, we packed up and went to meet our walking tour guide.

We found Marc, from Walks, resting on a park bench in the garden near our car.

It turned out that we were the only guests booked on this walk today. Bonus!

Marc was a local fellow from just up the road who had started working on the boat we had just been on when he was a teenager.

His life had taken him away and back, and now he got to share his love of all things Niagara with visitors like us.

As we walked through the gardens on the way to one of the old power station buildings, we learned about some of the history of the falls from a natural, geological perspective and also from a human intervention perspective.

The Nikola Tesla statue in the garden in Niagara Falls

Statue of Nikola Tesla in the gardens at Niagara Falls. Captured by Joy Taylor

We saw the statue of Nikola Tesla and learned about his dream to make power from water and some of what his journey to create that reality included.

From the top of Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls

View from the top of Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls. Captured by Joy Taylor

David wondered about the people who had attempted to go over the falls. Marc shared stories and photos of each of those who had tried and succeeded or failed.

I cannot begin to imagine putting myself in a position to do anything like that, which I think is a very sane position.

The power of Niagara Falls

Outside the old power station at Niagara Falls

Outside one of the old power station buildings at Niagara Falls. Captured by Joy Taylor

Entering the old power station building, which was constructed in the early 1900s, gave me the opportunity to see how the building was designed to capture and funnel the river water through a series of turbines used to generate electricity.

Inside the old power station at Niagara Falls

Inside the old power station at Niagara Falls. Captured by Joy Taylor

The water from the Niagara River inside the power station building.

The water from the Niagara River inside the power station. Captured by Joy Taylor

This power station was decommissioned in the early 2000s as it produced power at 25 Hz, and most power is now consumed at 60 Hz.

New power stations have been built further downriver.

During the day, 50 per cent of the water in the river is diverted into reservoirs for the power stations.

At night, that increases to 75 per cent.

We took the elevator down 50 metres underground to the large tunnel, which fed the water from the turbines back out into the river. It was cold in the tunnel.

Apparently, it stays the same temperature all year round down there. This is interesting, as the falls themselves can freeze over in winter.

David and our walking tour guide, Marc, in the tunnel under the power station at Niagara Falls

David and our guide, Marc in the tunnel under the power station at Niagara Falls. Captured by Joy Taylor

David standing outside the exit of the tunnel under the power station at Niagara Falls

David outside the tunnel under the power station at Niagara Falls. Captured by Joy Taylor

We walked to the end and got to see the falls again, from almost water level. Being a little further away, the mist was not as thick, and we had a good view of the falls from top to bottom.

I tried to imagine what it would be like to stand there if the full amount of water was flowing over the falls.

Niagara Falls from the outlet of the tunnel under the power station

Niagara Falls from the tunnel outlet. Captured by Joy Taylor

As we made our way back to the car, we reflected on what we had seen, heard and felt. Overall, it was a lovely day that exceeded my expectations.

I am very happy we took the time to drive over for the day during our stay here in Ontario.

Niagara Falls with a rainbow

Niagara Falls with a rainbow. Captured by Joy Taylor

A few days later, we watched ‘The Current Wars’ movie. It tells a story about the race to provide electricity in the time of Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla.

While it only briefly mentioned Niagara Falls, my understanding of the storyline was greatly enhanced due to the conversations we had on the walking tour.

Nikola Tesla statue in a garden with the American Falls a rainbow. Niagara Falls

Nikola Tesla statue, with a rainbow in Niagara Falls. Captured by Joy Taylor

If you get the chance to visit Niagara Falls, I would highly recommend it.

Try to come on a weekday if you can, and do not try and do all the things; just pick a couple and enjoy the day!

Also, we learned that you can park for $35 for the whole day at the parking lot near the power station.

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Joy Taylor

Joy Taylor

Joy has been working her way around the world with her kids, solo and with her partner for over 20 years. Her motto is ‘travel cheap, travel deep’. She built a green house and tries to live a green life. 36/196


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