I have had the pleasure of experiencing Niagara Falls twice.  The first time was in 2001 on a solo trip – a stopover of just a few hours.  The second time was a honeymoon trip in 2004 - a considerably longer stay.  In 2001, I was on a trip from Illinois out to the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.  At some point, I realized that Niagara Falls was about 20 minutes out of the way.  I didn’t have a huge burning desire to visit Niagara Falls, but it was so close that it seemed silly not to make a side trip.  I was driving from Cooperstown, NY to Sandusky, OH that day, so I didn’t have a lot of time for Niagara Falls.

I was completely blown away.  The Falls have an awesome power.  I stood near the Falls, simply gazing at them for the longest time.  Even more incredible is the fact that much of the water from the Niagara River is diverted into a hydroelectric plant, lessening the amount of water that goes over the Falls.  In spite of this, it was still the most fascinating thing I have ever seen.  An interesting note is that Niagara Falls is the honeymoon capital of the world … and also the suicide capital of the world.

Of course, there is more to do than simply watching the Falls.  First and foremost, take a trip to the Canadian side.  Because of the geography of the Falls, the view from the Canadian side is much better.  From the US side, you’re kind of looking over the Falls from an awkward angle.  From the Canadian side, you’re looking straight into the teeth of the Falls.  The difference is night and day.

The most famous tourist attraction is probably the Maid of the Mist boat ride.  The boat takes you up to the very edge of the Falls (at the bottom, of course).  You eventually get close enough that the Falls pushes the boat away from the Falls and back toward where you came.  Each passenger is given a keepsake plastic raincoat (of the thin variety), and you’ll need it.  You’ll still get wet, though.  Another neat thing right at the Falls in the Journey Under the Falls.  This is a tunnel that actually allows you to walk under the Falls.  At one point, you actually view the Falls from behind.  There are also some other water-based activities in the area.  We took a jet boat ride through the rapids.  It was fairly pricey, but was a pretty cool experience.  You can also dine at a restauant high above the Falls or take a helicopter ride above them.

If you want some of the toursity type of activities, you are definitely in luck.  There are two Hard Rock Cafes (one on the US side, one on the Canadian side), a Planet Hollywood, a Hershey’s store, and a multitude of other stores and attractions (including a Ripley’s Believe It or Not and a few museums).  Of course, there are a large number of stores that sell souvenirs, so you needn’t worry about walking away empty handed.  And if you really want some big city thrill, Toronto beckons.  If you’re a history buff, there is quite a bit of history in the Niagara Falls area.  One example is Fort Niagara.  Fort Niagara is one of the oldest continously operated military bases in the US, dating back to 1726. 

I’ll warn you up front that photography can be a challenge.  The spray from the Falls tends to get the camera lens wet very quickly, leading to blurry photos.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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