Niagara Falls. One of the most famous attractions in the world. Niagara Falls is a group of three waterfalls that straddle the border between USA and Canada. From largest to smallest, they’re called the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls.
Niagara Falls are better known for their width than they are for their height: the Horseshoe, for example, is almost 800 meters wide, while the American Falls shoot down water from an edge 320 meters wide. More than six million cubic feet (168,000 m3) of water falls over the crest line every minute in high flow and almost four million cubic feet (110,000 m3) on average.
That’s a lot of water. And the scenery is honestly quite unlike anything else in the world.
So understandably, it all attracts a lot of tourists. Like, a whole lot.
Above: Horseshoe Falls is the most powerful waterfall in North America, as measured by vertical height and flow rate.
This natural wonder and watery miracle was one of the first major stops along our 8-week roadtrip route. We’d reserved an afternoon and the following morning for exploring the Falls area, as Satu knew there’d be a lot to see. This was my first time ever and as usual, I hadn’t read too much about it all beforehand.
So the first thing I was surprised by was the advanced infrastructure built for the masses. We arrived from the east and could already see the mist rising from the falls as we were navigating through a carefully planned and partly, just recently built roads and intersections. Next, we arrived to a full strip of gift shops and restaurants. I’d actually call it a visitor village instead of a visitor centre.
Shops after shops after shops, massive parking lots, distinct signage, wide footpaths, modern restrooms… yup. We hadn’t wandered far from the beaten path here, folks.
(I’m not sure what I was expecting. Surely I couldn’t have imagined this as taking a hike into a pristine rainforest to see the magical falls with just a few other visitors? Definitely not. Possibly something from between the two.)
At Niagara Falls all your selfies will turn into groupies.
But luckily, it’s possible to take humanless photos of, well, the water.
You can also use the surrounding people to emphasize the massiveness of the river in your photos. Look. These guys are tiny little ants compared to it!
If you get lucky, you might get a front row view of the falls. Just hold on to the railings. No fighting allowed – only polite elbow nudging.
And if you do get really lucky, you might get a good spot and snap some great shots of the falls… and all the casinos on the opposite shore.
This ain’t wilderness. This is civilization.
Humans have also added nice lights all around. So that the evening view of the river wouldn’t get too boring.
Another view over to Canada from the USA side of things.
After sunset you get to view the falls in a very different light. Literally. And it’s quite a beautiful sight. Just remember to reserve a spot on the viewing platform on the USA side in good time. It is going to be crowded.
(Look how pretty though!)
I’m quite happy to say that this year, I got to spend my birthday on the road. At Niagara Falls, no less. And there were fireworks that night! Now that was a good ending to a nice birthday. But again… finding an open view of the fireworks wasn’t as easy as one could imagine. People. Everywhere. So many people. Some of them noisy, some of them just adorable and happy, what with their families and kids and significant others and all the hugging and laughing.
After a lot of maneuvering and considering our options, we ended up standing next to the railing just on the side of the American Falls. Here, you can see the water rush over the edge on the low left corner of the photos. It was a little terrifying, but also amazing: listening to the waters roar and the fireworks go off was quite an experience.
We booked a motel on the Canadian side of the Falls, so naturally, we had to cross the border and go through the customs and all. You know, all those little routines that come with going from one country to another. Since the queues near to the Falls were quite long (there are handy info boards around telling you the queue times), we drove down to the Peace Bridge, which is located near Buffalo in the south.
We probably didn’t save a lot of time in the end as we then had to drive back up north on the Canadian side, but we considered driving a more fun option than sitting in the car in a queue. After all… we’re roadtrippers. Not roadwaiters.
If possible, the Canadian side of Niagara Falls was even more touristy than the USA side. At least the bits I saw. On the Canadian side, it looked even more like Las Vegas. Or maybe like a slightly smaller version of it, but still. Lights, lights, lights. Ads and billboards and restaurants and kitsch everywhere. Fancy hotels, fancy restaurants… for a few blocks.
Then, the outskirts.
If you drive far enough, the lasvegasness of it all just stops. Suddenly, it all gets – well, more normal. Basic city housing, basic hotels and cheap motels, basic restaurants, Burger Kings, car washes, run down garages and faded paintworks.
This is the area where we found a really cheap place to stay. It wasn’t fancy, it wasn’t the best we’d ever stayed at, but it was cheap. So we were pleased.
That morning we headed out quite early, right after breakfast. The parking lots weren’t quite fully packed yet, but we still had to walk a good distance to reach the edge of the water. We spent a little time in the gift shop (we’re suckers for souvenir stickers!) and then headed down to where the Hornblower cruise boats depart from.
At this point, it was starting to get super busy. Queues and people everywhere. We had to walk several hundred meters to even reach the end of the queue, but in the end, it didn’t take more than 20 minutes to get through. We boarded the cruise boat nice and neat with two hundred other people, all of us wearing these bright red rain ponchos, the boat departed in a swift fashion and off we went!
(On the American side, on the Maid of the Mist cruises, you get a blue rain ponchos. Here in Canada they’re red. Important to know.)
Here we are getting closer to the Horseshoe while finding it quite impossible to take impressive photos without capturing someone’s selfie stick in the process.
Maid of the Mist heading into the mist from the American side… AKA our enemies in blue! BOO! Our cruise is clearly better! Our experience will definitely be more memorable! You guys are the worst!
What the boat trip looks like when viewed from the Canadian side with the American Falls in the background.
The American Falls seen from the boat.
Maid in the Mist in the middle of the Horseshoe mist. Quite literally.
After the cruise we headed back to towards the parking lot and the Horseshoe viewing platforms. And boy, did we hit a wall of tourists then… we couldn’t all even fit on the sidewalk and whenever someone slowed down or stopped, we (poor tourist sardines) all stopped. It was Hell on Earth. It was too much, almost.
We ran on the road to get past a slow group of ladies. We jumped left and right to dodge a massive group of friends taking selfies. It was a fight for survival, friends.
But in the end, we made it out and reached the park area where everything became much more pleasant. I even spotted one of those weird black squirrels that I’d never seen before! Very excitedly, I ran after him and started snapping photos. Satu had a good giggle about it, photographing me chasing a squirrel while completely ignoring the massive waterfalls in the background.
Of course, some tourist kid had to ruin my moment with said squirrel. Because that is how things work at the Niagara Falls.
At least he wasn’t carrying a selfie stick.
(And I got a fun photo out of it!)
In the end, we stored away some really nice memories out of our (almost) 24 hours at Niagara Falls.
Who cares if we had to share it with a kazillion other tourists?
Because in the end…
We were all quite lucky to be there in the first place.
AWESOME TRAVEL TIP: If you’re visiting from Finland (like us!), the United Kingdom or the rest of Europe, you should definitely look into Icelandair’s StopOver deals and flights to Toronto, from where you can easily travel to see the Falls. This way, you’ll get to spend a night or few in magical Iceland for no extra flight costs!
Some parts of our movie roadtrip 2016 was done in collaboration with Icelandair, hotels, businesses and tourism offices. All opinions, experiences and views, however, are 100% our own. One simply can not buy our love ❤