June 15, 2017

Niagara Falls State Park

My next tourist destination is one of the more famous tourist spots in upstate New York. But first, let me get my Sheldon Cooper on and present you with some fun facts about the Niagara Falls:

Foreground: American Falls with the Bridal Veil Falls behind it
Background: Canadian (AKA Horseshoe Falls)
Along the river is the Maid of the Mist (USA side - blue) with the Hornblower (Canada side - red)

  • Niagara Falls is actually the name of the city in which the state park is located
  • Niagara Falls State Park contains the American Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls, and part of the Canadian Falls
  • The Canadian Falls is also known as the Horseshoe Falls (IMHO the most recognizable falls of the three)
  • This state park is the oldest state park in the USA, and is situated along the US/ Canadian border

Niagara Falls State Park is around 1 hour and 45 minutes from Rochester, and since we wanted to maximize our day trip to the park, we decided to travel the day before and book overnight accommodations near the park.

Where to Stay, Where to Eat

Our group chose the Holiday Inn Niagara Falls mainly because one of us is an IHG Rewards Club member, but there are a lot of other accommodations to chose from within a 10-minute walking radius.

For the Holiday Inn Niagara Falls, its affiliated restaurant is Tony Romas, and there are a lot of other restaurants in the vicinity (mostly Indian cuisine, though) if ribs isn't your taste.

What to Do

We were able to experience four of the many attractions one can experience inside the state park.

1) Illuminations

No fees are collected for this attraction.

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At night, the falls are bathed with lights that change colors every few minutes. Color combinations vary throughout the season and on holidays. Special lighting requests can also be requested, to help raise awareness for charities and special causes.

Weather permitting, fireworks displays are also held during the summer season.

2) Maid of the Mist (tickets can be bought online)

Rates as of June 2017
- Adult: 18.25 USD
- Child (6-12 yo): 10.25 USD
- 5 yo and under: free

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The Maid of the Mist is a boat ride that will take you down the Niagara River, past the three falls onto the basin of the Horseshoe Falls. On this double-decked boat, tourists can see the waterfalls up close, and experience the powerful sprays from the waterfalls.

Complimentary ponchos are provided, but it is also advisable to have extra clothes in case the sprays become extra rough during the ride. Open or waterproof shoes are a must!

After the boat ride, tourists can walk to the Crow's Nest, a deck that offers a closer view of the American Falls (with more sprays). The perfect time to do this is during the late morning when the sun is slightly above your head, for you to see spectacular rainbows on the steps below.


As this is a popular attraction in the state park, it is recommended that tickets be purchased online to save time.

3) Observation Tower (separate fee cannot be bought online)

Rates as of June 2017
- 1.50 USD for Observation Tower only (i.e. skipping the Maid of the Mist)

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The Prospect Point Observation Tower is included with the Maid of the Mist, but supposedly it can be visited separately for a small fee.

The tower stands at 282 feet and offers a panoramic view of all three falls, as well as an unobstructed view of the Canadian skyline and the Rainbow Bridge.

4) Cave of the Winds (tickets cannot be bought online)

Rates as of June 2017
- Adult: 17 USD
- Child (6-12 yo): 14 USD

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Similar to the Crow's Nest, the Cave of the Winds is an attraction where tourists can walk along a wooden deck on the gorge that leads to the Bridal Veil Falls. Complimentary ponchos and sandals are provided in this attraction.

Prior to reaching the deck, tourists must cross a pathway cutting across a nesting ground for seagulls. While the birds are most definitely wild, they are not afraid of human beings, which makes it easy to take photos or videos of the birds chilling by their nests. Beware, though, of poop bombs from flying birds--the pathway is littered with bird droppings.

At the top of the deck, nearest to the Bridal Veil Falls, is the Hurricane Deck. Here, tourists can experience more sprays from the falls, which is described as tropical storm-like conditions.

The walkways and decks are removed every November, and are rebuilt every spring. Summer is the best time to experience this attraction.

Additional Notes:

  • As it can get very cold and very wet near the falls, certain attractions are only open on specific seasons. Best check out the state park's official website for schedules and special announcements
  • Don't forget your sunscreen! This is an outdoor park with limited shade near the attractions. Since queues can get pretty long during peak hours, additional measures are needed so you don't burn under the sun
  • Certain attractions prohibit food and drinks within the premises. Be guided accordingly
  • Waterproof your gadgets! A simple plastic Ziplock over your phone works wonders. Also, wear comfortable sandals and/ or shorts as much as possible.

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