Walking into Canada at Niagara Falls
One of the main objectives of my trip to Rochester — other than visiting my sister, of course — was to check Niagara Falls off my list.
Just five hours from my hometown of Albany and only an hour and a half from Rochester, it’s crazy to think I didn’t see it before — after all it is a national landmark, shared peacefully with our neighbors to the north. Not to mention, I am always seeing crazy deals for weekend getaways here. Niagara Falls actually refers to three separate falls that straddle the border between the state of New York and the Canadian province of Ontario.
There are enough falls-related attractions to fill a few days, from boat tours to observation towers to walks behind the thundering falls. We were on a time budget though, so we limited ourselves to only the most iconic activities — taking the Maid of the Mist boat ride, and walking across the border into Canada.
In business since 1846, the Maid of the Mist is without question the most famous way to visit the falls. The half hour trip starts from Prospect Point, glides past the American falls, and then comes eye to eye with the roaring Canadian falls. Best of all? The super fashionable blue ponchos come totally free of charge.
The first part of the boat ride was scenic and calm as we took in the beauty of the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls from a safe and calm distance. We wouldn’t be giving the Canadian Horseshoe Falls the same respect for personal space.
Within moments the boat pulled deeper into the dense mist that the vessel was named for. Suddenly we went from a leisurely sightseeing cruise to a balance-knocking, hair-soaking, shriek-inducing adrenaline ride. It was totally unexpected, and completely thrilling.
Thank goodness I brought my underwater camera! I would not have enjoyed the experience quite as much had I been crouching over, trying to protect my dSLR from the downpour. An appropriately packed camera bag is crucial at Niagara Falls!
It was unanimous — between my sister and I, of course — Maid of the Mist was a hit. Honestly, I wanted to do it because it’s famous and I wanted to cross it off the list and Jim and Pam got married there, but I wasn’t expecting much. Consider me blown away!
Before exiting the country, we made a quick jaunt up the side of the American Falls. Quick tip: Do not discard that beautiful blue poncho if you’re heading up to the side of the falls.
Pretty soon it was time to be warmly welcomed by our friendly neighbors to the north! Don’t they seem so happy to see us?
Maybe I’m a geography nerd — okay, I’m totally a geography nerd — but I love walking over a border crossing. It kind of messes with my head — one minute you’re in one nation, and the next minute you’re in another, with its own government, laws, language and currency. All in the process of a few steps. Or in this case, walking the span of a bridge.
I was pretty excited to get a new Canadian stamp in my passport. I haven’t been to Canada since a long weekend in Montreal in 2009 in which our group managed to maintain 20% of our sobriety and 80% of our passports. Needless to say, I feel kind of guilty about saying I’ve “been to Canada.” Maybe a few hours across the border doesn’t add much legitimacy, but at least I stayed away from alcohol this time.
I was slightly offended when the Canadian border patrol officer felt it necessary to confirm twice that I was not carrying any firearms. Hey Canada, we’re not all like that over on this side.
When it comes to Niagara Falls, the Canadian side is where it’s at. The self-proclaimed “honeymoon capital of the world” reminded me of Lake George, New York and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in terms of cheesy family fun on offer. From bowling to fair games, from haunted houses to cotton candy, this Canadian town could not have reminded me more of America.
While we strolled all over town, we were really there not so much for the upside down fun house or the heart-shaped jacuzzi motels but rather for the view. While the American side allows you to get up close, the Canadian side lets you sit back and soak it all in.
I left Niagara Falls with a new stamp in my passport, a new level in my Office fandom, a fun memory with my sister, and another level of appreciation for the excellent travel opportunities that exist so close to home. This trip was a short one, but I hope to be back to Niagara Falls again someday soon. Perhaps next time I’ll even spring for that heart-shaped jacuzzi.
Have you been to Niagara Falls? What did you think?
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Looks like you had a great time with your sister! A group of us au pairs went to Niagara Falls over Thanksgiving weekend in 2004 and I must say I was a little bit disappointed. We wanted to have dinner first before checking out the falls but since they are on the main street it was hard to miss them and they are quite small. But it was a fun weekend nonetheless and it may have included lots of alcohol, since in Canada I was already legal whereas I wasn’t in the States back then! =)
Aw, I’m sorry to hear you were disappointed! Sometimes low expectations are the key to enjoying things like this 🙂
It looks like you had a great time! I went when I was 13 so I don’t remember too much, I should probably go back considering I live not too far away. A few years ago I went to another huge waterfall, Iguazu – imagine Niagara in the jungle with lots of colorful butterflies, toucans and coati running around.
Iguazu is DEFINITELY on my life list! I’ve got to get there sooner rather than later…
We live in Toronto so have been to Niagara Falls a few times. Niagara on the Lake is much prettier but everyone has to do the Maid of the Mist at least once!
I’ve read about Niagara on the Lake and it sounds beautiful! Next time, when I have longer to visit, I’m definitely heading there.
Love the sissy pic at the end!!
Your pics are fantastic. I’ve been there, but I don’t remember it the way you’ve managed to portray it Keep it up, I love it, Gram E
Thanks Gram! Love having you reading! xo
Boundaries seem so arbitrary yet menacing at the same time.
Went to the falls many decades ago and got wet, but didn’t get the boat ride.
I was laughing at how menacing this particular border seemed. I would think things would be a bit friendlier between us! Ha.
We visited the Niagara Falls in summer 2011 and also took the Maid Of The Mist Tour – loved it! That was an intense boat ride, but totally worth it 🙂 We only saw the Canadian side, didn’t cross the border that day, but the town was a little bit over the top for us (how many haunted houses do you really need?!) We then followed the Niagara River through the Niagara Wine Country to Niagara-on-the-Lake, a gorgeous little town – try to go there next time you visit the Falls. The Wine Country was beautiful.
Your blog is the whole reason I know about Niagara on the Lake! I totally want to go there someday, it looked beautiful.
Now I’ve learned so much about Niagara Falls–only went there when I was so much younger and don’t remember much, except the Superman excerpt. Also want to visit Niagara on the Lake!
I want to go too! Maybe we should plan a post or pre TBEX Toronto trip!
I love the maid of the mist! I have done it several times and it never ceases to amaze me.
I hope I’ll be able to go back and do it again someday, though it sounds like they are having some financial troubles. Shame!
Haha – I know how you felt before you went on this trip. Can you believe that I spent the first two decades of my life living near Toronto, and now I’ve been all around Asia and Australia but I’ve never, ever, not even once been to New York City!? Ridiculous! Will definitely be rectified next time I’m visiting the fambly!
Maybe we’ll get lucky and be at the same hemisphere at the same time, and I can show you around!
So down for that 🙂
Great day…A visit to Niagara is near the top of my list…
It’s definitely worth checking off the list. And if my commenters are to be believed, it seems Niagara on The Lake is a must-do as well.
I am Canadian, so I kind of have to say this, but our Falls are so much better than yours! 😉 Even Tony acknowledges that if you’re going to do Niagara, the Canadian side is where it’s at!
I’ve never done the Maid of the Mist, but it looks like you and your sister had such a great time!
It’s true, there isn’t much going on on the American side! You can get much closer on our side is what I’ll say out of patriotism 🙂
I have never been to Niagara Falls. It is one of those places that has been escaping me for a long time. Would have to visit my family in New York and make a side trip to the falls area. I love border crossings too.
It’s definitely one of those places you just have to visit in a lifetime! Hope you get there soon!
The pics are over the top. love pics of you and Margaret together….Nos 2 and 3
I’ll send you a copy 🙂
The boat tours of that area are great – that whole area between the Great Lakes and the East Coast are full of historical significance and great little museums and state parks. The forts are great up in that area, which the kids always love. The East Coast Greenway will cut through the southeast corner of NY and continue on south – it meets up at the coast in NC, goes past the Myrtle Beach attractions for kids, through Charleston and all the way to Florida. Even doing part of that would make a great tour!
I got a chance to visit Niagara Falls in 1998 during March. There were great big chunks of ice coming over the falls. Very cool to watch.
That does indeed sound amazing! I’d make a trip just to see it!
Looks like you had a wonderful time there! That’s cool! As a geography nerd like you, specially about borders, there’s a question in my mind that I had never found an answer to it. Do maid of the mist boats cross the border? If so, how is it legal to go to another country without a stamp in your passport?
Hey Armin! From what I remember, we only went to the US side of the falls on the Maid of the Mist! Good question though 🙂
I went from the Canadian side, I remember our boat got very close to the American falls, and some US boats were there in front of the Canadian horse shoe falls.
Interesting! I guess I remembered it wrong 🙂 International waters, I guess?