Niagara Falls Attractions – Trip Review

This post was originally published on my Fun with Your Kid Blog. I have consolidated the content onto Ann Arbor with Kids.

As I mentioned earlier, we spent a few days in Niagara Falls, ON earlier this month. I had previously been to Niagara Falls in 1986. The main draw to Niagara Falls are the Falls themselves.

Niagara Falls with Maid of the Mist

Since we arrived from Toronto and were returning home to Michigan (by driving west through Ontario), we stayed on the Canadian side of the falls. The Canadian side is an absolute must-do since you have the best view of the falls from the Canadian side. On my first visit  we had not visited the American side even though we came through New York.

Niagara Falls has done a great job keeping the area immediately surrounding the parks un-commercialized. While there are modern amenities including bathrooms, concessions, and merchandise stores, they are limited to the Maid of the Mist Plaza and the Table Rock Welcome Center. The White Water Walk is even more rustic. There is a small gift shop that houses the elevators.

We purchased the Niagara Falls Adventure Pass from The Niagara Parks Commission. The Adventure Pass included a ride on Maid of the Mist, Journey Behind the Falls, Niagara’s Fury, White Water Walk, and two days on the WeGo bus transportation system. The Adventure Pass is $46.95 ($68.05 value)for adults and $34.95 ($45.02 value) for children 6-12 (FREE for younger children).


Maid of the Mist* 

Ready to board Maid of the Mist

We started with the Maid of the Mist boat tour of the falls. When we purchased our Adventure Pass, we received timed tickets for Maid of the Mist. Since the day we were there was a Canadian Holiday (poor planning), the line was quite long but moved fairly well. The initial bottleneck was at the elevators to descend from the plaza level to the boat/river level. Then they took our picture (in front of a green screen) and we were handed our ponchos. When we arrived at the boat level, we were handed blue plastic rain ponchos (quite an improvement from the heavy black raincoats I remember from the 80s). I remember the old raincoats being heavy – and wet from previous users. These are disposable (recyclable) ponchos. I actually recommend saving these ponchos for use at Journey Behind the Falls and Niagara’s Fury since the Maid of the Mist ponchos provided more coverage.

We definitely recommend doing the Maid of the Mist boat tour. They have been operating since 1846 and run boats from both the Canadian and American side of the river. The boat first travels past the American Falls before proceeding to the Horseshoe Falls and turning to return. The Maid of the Mist is a double decker boat. We rode on the top deck and we definitely got wet at different points. However, there were many points where I felt comfortable having my phone out to take pictures. Since it was warm, we wore shorts and sandals or flip-flops. However, our feet didn’t get soaked, so you would probably not get soaked if you had on long pants in colder months.

Horseshoe Falls from Maid of the Mist

Journey Behind the Falls
Journey Behind the Falls starts in the building at Table Rock near the top of the Horseshoe Falls and descends 150′. There are two portals that look out behind the falls and an observation deck. When we saw the observation deck from the Maid of the Mist, I was surprised to see the people in ponchos because it didn’t seem to be that close to the falls.
Journey Behind the Falls Observation Deck –
taken from Maid of the Mist
Boy was I wrong! Below, you can see my daughter huddled from the mist behind her. The mist was so bad that I could barely keep my phone out for a picture. 
Getting Soaked on the Upper Deck

This picture above was taken on the upper deck – the lower deck had even more spray, so I left my phone under my poncho and have no pictures. The mist was so heavy that we barely stayed on the platform. Unsurprisingly, the lower deck is closed in the winter months due to ice formation. 

You can also follow a tunnel behind the falls to two different cataracts that look out into the falls. As you walked down the hall there were lots of informational posters. My daughter loved learning about the falls. She was particularly fascinated by the daredevils who went over the Falls in barrels.

Looking out at the Falls

The tunnels were slippery, so be sure to walk carefully. Also, the disposable ponchos provided here were not as good as the Maid of the Mist ponchos. The sleeves were shorter, and had a larger under arm gap that did not keep your arms as dry. I recommend keeping your Maid of the Mist poncho and reusing it here.

Niagara’s Fury
Niagara’s Fury is also located in the Table Rock Welcome Center. We were pretty disappointed by Niagara’s Fury. It started with an animated pre-show movie featuring woodland creatures learning how Niagara Falls was formed. Then, you are led into the main attraction, the creation of Niagara Falls with swirling winds, thunderstorms, rain, rumbling floor and surging water. Niagara’s Fury uses the same poncho style as Journey Behind the Falls, so again I recommend the poncho from Maid of the Mist.

We do not recommend Niagara’s Fury as a must see. The show seemed completely disjointed. The pre-show was geared towards younger children – many of whom were scared of the thunder and pounding water in the main attraction. You could definitely skip this and not miss much.

White Water Walk
Downriver from Niagara Falls is a Class 6 rapids. Class 6 rapids are considered un-navigable. White Water Walk is an observation board walk along side the rapids. It is located 4 km downriver from Table Rock Welcome Center. The WeGo bus will take you between the falls area and White Water Walk. One of the things that my daughter liked the best about White Water Walk is that it featured placards describing the various Niagara Falls daredevils – from those who traveled over the falls or through the rapids in barrels to tightrope walkers who walked across the gorge.

One warning is that there are no bathrooms on the trail. You need to go across the street from the gift shop to find a restroom.

Overall, I recommend doing the Adventure Pass. Even if you skip Niagara’s Fury, you will save money over buying each of the other three attractions – plus you get the use of the bus transportation. Depending on where your hotel is located, WeGo can be very useful in transporting you from your hotel to the Falls area.

Update: 12/2/2013
* I just discovered that Maid of the Mist is no longer operating from Canada. They will still operate tours from the American side. Boat tours from Canada will be provided by Hornblower Niagara Cruises. Hornblower currently provides boat tour experiences for US National Parks at Alcatraz Island in San Francisco and the Statue of Liberty from both New York and New Jersey.

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