One of the top bucket list destinations in the United States is
Niagara Falls and last year I had the opportunity to finally cross
this one off my list! I was excited for sure, but I was also sooo nervous.
I was going there all by myself, heard stories of huge crowds, and was
unsure of the parking situation and how everything was set up. Being
the planner I am, I really like to have a good handle on the lay of the
land before I go any place new if I want to feel comfortable so anxiety
was certainly high, but I am so glad that I faced my fears
and got soaking wet at Niagara Falls.
I arrived in the Goat Island parking lot number 2 about 8:00am and
somehow lucked out in not having to pay for parking (whether that
was because I got there so early or because it was a free lot on
weekends I’m not sure, but I certainly wasn’t complaining! Lol). This
parking lot is right by Cave of the Winds and since this was to be my
first stop of the day it was the perfect place to park. I had heard that
tickets for Cave of the Winds sold out quickly and since you can’t buy
tickets to any of the Niagara Falls attractions online I went straight
to the ticket booth after parking the car.
(The parking lot did not come up as parking lot 2 on Google Maps for me
so here is a picture of the map and the official address of where
I parked: Parking lot, Niagara Falls, NY 14303)
After I purchased my ticket for the 10:16am tour (which was the third
tour of the morning so everyone was right in saying that the tours fill
up quickly), I went back to my car, ate a quick PopTart breakfast (brown
cinnamon sugar of course), and then spent some time exploring the area.
(These are the falls you visit when on Maid of the Mist!)
Once my group number was called for the Cave of the
Winds “tour” (this is a 100% self-guided tour) I walked through a
gated chute to a place where you can have your picture taken in
front of a Niagara Falls backdrop (if you want to keep the picture you
have to buy it so I opted to pass on this) and then I was brought to a
station where you can pick up rain ponchos (trust me you will definitely
want one of these!) and then boarded an elevator
that took me underground.
After stepping off the elevator you will walk through a sketchy
underground tunnel for a little ways before emerging out the other
end to arrive at the boardwalk for Cave of the Winds.
As you walk the wooden boardwalk you will be able to see on your
left Canada as well as boats making their journey out to Horseshoe Falls.
On your right you will be met by the towering and roaring Bridal Veil Falls.
The boardwalk will lead you right in front of the waterfall where the
water thunders down onto rocks and the boardwalk below. (I also highly
recommend it if you are going to go here to wear waterproof shoes.)
There is also a great spot for a photo opportunity near these falls. As
you can see from the picture below, part of the waterfall was hitting
the boardwalk right behind me so there was water everywhere and
I got thoroughly soaked for this pic, but it was so worth it!
(Even though I was by myself I met a group of really nice ladies
that offered to take my picture in return for taking one of their group
so of course I said yes. I love this shot so much so thank you ladies!)
The name “Cave of the Winds” is a bit deceiving. In the 1800’s there
was a rock overhang –or a cave like structure– that allowed people
to stand under the Falls. The Cave collapsed in
the early 1900’s but the name stuck.
-From the Niagara Falls website
In the Cave of the Winds pictures you may have noticed people standing
above me and the falls so after I finished my tour I made my way up
to this lookout point. From here I had a great view of the river, the top
of Bridal Veil Falls, and some beautiful fall leaves. Now, if you did Cave
of the Winds or don’t have a lot of time to waste I would say to skip
this on your trip. It was a nice area and a great spot for wasting
some time, but I didn’t think it was a must see.
(So you don’t have to pay to be able to see the falls at Cave of the
Winds. Basically the “tour” is to provide you with an up close and
personal look. It is a little pricey for what it is, but honestly I do highly
recommend it and would definitely do it again in a heartbeat.)
From the top of Bridal Veil Falls I made my way across the pedestrian
bridge that connected Goat Island to another section of the park to
purchase my tickets for Maid of the Mist. I arrived at the ticket booth
for Maid of the Mist at about 11:00am and y’all the line that had already
formed by this time was absolutely INSANE. There were so many people
and talk that not everyone in line might even make it onto the boat so
waiting at this point was kind of a Catch-22. (I overheard one of the guys
that was working this part of the park say that by 8:00am that
morning there were already over 100 people in line and the ticket booth
didn’t even open until 10:00am!). Unfortunately, this one day was all I
had in the park and I didn’t know when I would ever be making it back to
Niagara Falls again so by George I jumped in that line
and stood, and stood, and stood some more.
After about 3 hours I finally made it up to the ticket booth and walked
across the Observation Tower to another elevator that took me
down to the loading dock for Maid of the Mist.
(Walking down to the loading dock from the Observation Tower elevator.)
(This is the view of the Observation Tower from the loading dock of Maid of the Mist.)
After waiting in line again (thankfully for not nearly as long), it was finally
time to board and make the journey out to the falls. I really wanted to
get a good spot on the boat (and totally lucked out by being one of the
first people that got to board within our group) so I made a beeline straight
to the upper deck and grabbed a spot by the railing.
(A look behind us as we made our way out to the falls!)
(Bridal Veil Falls)
On Maid of the Mist you practically are driven right into the waterfall
and I thought I got soaked at Cave of the Winds….HA! There was so
much water that my rain poncho was almost useless (and this was just
the mist from the falls, not even the water itself, that was getting me that
wet which just shows how big they truly are). Trying to hold up the hood
of my rain poncho, take pictures and videos of the experience, and, oh
yeah, not drop my phone into the water was sooo difficult to do. Just
be sure to wear waterproof makeup and clothing!
I somehow managed to step off that boat at about 3:00pm without
looking too much like a wet racoon, but even if I had it was an experience
that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Maid of the Mist was 1000%
worth standing in line over three hours for.
At this time I want to give a shoutout to my Pennsylvania
family, Jason, Molly, Bruce, and Vicki. Thank you so much for keeping
me company and chatting with me while we were standing in line for
Maid of the Mist. Y’all definitely made my Niagara Falls so much more
enjoyable and I am so happy I got the opportunity to meet you all. It was a
blast being a part of your family for the day and you made this little shy
and anxious introvert feel a lot more comfortable in that stressful situation.
After Maid of the Mist I set off on the rest of my trip (so no going over
the falls in a barrel this time! lol) and here are my final thoughts on
Niagara Falls. I honestly really enjoyed my time at this park. It was
crowded, but the park itself was so big that I didn’t really feel overwhelmed
by the amount of people. It was also really easy to navigate around the
park with maps and helpful signs everywhere you looked.
As far as ticketing goes if you go to Niagara Falls on a weekend like
I did I highly recommend going to Cave of the Winds first and purchasing
tickets for the latest tour time available and then beelining immediately
to Maid of the Mist. Hopefully by doing this you would be able to avoid
long lines and still get to see both attractions. Or just try and go during
the week because it sounds like there aren’t nearly as many people
there so you should be able to do both attractions no problem.
Have you ever been to Niagara Falls? What was your
favorite part? Let me know in the comments!