When visiting Niagara Falls, getting up close and personal with the thunderous waterfalls needs to be at the top of your to-do list. Two attractions offer you the chance to see the falls from unique vantage points and place you smack in the center of the wet, windy action. At Niagara Falls State Park in New York, my family was thrilled by Maid of the Mist and Cave of the Winds. You’ll want to try both of these well-known attractions but if you only have time for one, here’s what to expect and how to choose:
Most important tip? Bring a waterproof camera!
Maid of the Mist
Maid of the Mist is a boat ride that takes you past American Falls and close-up to Horseshoe Falls. You start out on the observation tower, where you’ll get a different perspective from way up above the falls for panoramic photos. Next, descend down to the Niagara Gorge via elevator and don your blue rain poncho. Everybody gets one, one size fits all. Board the boat, and soon you’ll set sail. There are no seats or restrooms.
From the boat, you’ll see the massive rock formations at the bottom of American Falls and feel the (significant) spray of Horseshoe falls. It’s loud, windy, wet, and awe-inspiring.
Pros: Good for younger kids because it’s easy to contain them on the boat. Your feet and legs will stay mostly dry. Great views from the observation tower.
Cons: The boat gets close up to the falls but you leave wanting to get even closer to the action.
Tip: You can walk along the rocks near the American Falls after the boat ride.
Cave of the Winds
Walking along wooden walkways on the Cave of the Winds tour, you’ll barely fathom how it’s possible to get so close to the falls! Start by getting a yellow poncho and sandals that you can take home as souvenirs. If you are wearing flip-flops or waterproof shoes that will dry quickly, you’ll be fine. If not – take their sandals because your feet WILL get soaked.
An elevator ride takes you down into the Gorge where you begin your journey along the walkways, decks, and stairs. Soon, you’ll feel the exhilarating power of Bridal Veil Falls, walking within feet of the pounding water. Continue on to the Hurricane Deck where the falls are almost raining down upon you. The rainbows, mist, and rushing water combine for frame-worthy photo opportunities!
Pros: Get unbelievably close to the falls, allowing you to really feel the power.
Cons: You’ll get soaked. If your kids are sensitive to noise, it’s very loud. The stairs and decks felt very safe, but they are wet, so watch little ones closely.
If I had to choose only one attraction, I’d have to choose Cave of the Winds for the up-close, wet and wild experience. But if you can do both, I highly recommend going on the same day – a warm, sunny day! – to get your soaking done all at once. The Niagara Falls Discovery Pass gives you admission to Maid of the Mist, Cave of the Winds, Niagara Adventure Theater, Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, and Niagara Aquarium – enough to keep you busy for a couple days and learning the long and interesting history of America’s Oldest State Park.