Niagara Falls State Park, New York
Updated: Sep 10, 2022
The Niagara Falls area surprised us in a few ways. We found the following to be great for kids:
Cave of the Winds
Maid in the Mist
exploring Niagara Falls State Park
Old Falls St
The gift shop, yes the gift shop
This is one of the few pictures everyone gets at Niagara. I'm not sure which of us took the picture but I like Canada in the background and the Maid of the Mist in the water. There are a few ways to experience the falls in Niagara. Cave of the Winds allows you to walk into the Falls, Maid of the Mist gives you a boat tour of the Falls, and Niagara Falls State Park provides pleasant hikes next to the Falls.
For our brood, Maid of the Mist is best taken in the morning when the lines are less. The fee for Maid of the Mist also includes access to the observation tower which leads to elevators that travel down to the boats. Speaking of the boats, I was surprised to learn that the Maid of Mist boats are all electric. What a great idea to showcase the electricity generation of the water and use batteries for the perfect application of short runs to the falls and back. It takes seven minutes to charge the batteries with huge electrical cables during the loading and unloading process. The boat ride is about 20 minutes from start to finish. It seems like a short amount of time however, the tour is not rushed and there is plenty of time to take pictures. We were surprised that the Falls create an extreme amount of wind. You can't really experience the wind through photos and video. The wind was random, too. Sometimes the wind would hit us on the boat and in other locations it was calm even though we were getting sprayed from the falls.
We did not research Cave of the Winds before we bought tickets. First there is no Cave. Second you get really wet! So, wet that they offer disposable sandals so you don't have to walk in wet shoes all day. The attraction includes, in order, a picture opportunity with your group getting a picture going over the falls. Be patient here as the next stop is a small theatre that showcases the story of Niagara. We learned that Nikola Tesla invented and built the first hydroelectric generation system here and was the first to commercially prove AC power by transmitted the electricity to Buffalo. After the movie you will receive your sandals and walk across to the elevator. that takes you down to the tunnel (we guess this is the cave) where you will exit and receive your ponchos. Put your ponchos on so that the birds don't rain their gifts on your head.
From there you will experience nothing like you've ever seen before. First there is one of the largest breeding grounds for gulls in North America. Second you get to walk into the Falls and experience the power of the water and wind the falls create. Here is a link to our video of Cave of the Winds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5aNE3uwOrM&t=98s
When we travel it is always in the RV. So, most of the time we plan our meals, pack all the food we need and make our own meals. When we go to a city we look for opportunities to go out to eat at new places and get a break. During this trip we found Old Falls St. Niagara has done a great job creating a relaxing space on Old Falls St. There are nice restaurants and while we waited for them to open we played ping pong, bean bags, checkers and walked the street admiring the architecture. The casino seems out of place but I am sure it offers additional commerce and revenue for the city. If you are looking for a place to eat or just want to walk the city Old Falls St. is a destination that should be added to your itinerary.
Niagara Falls State Park provides for balance between nature and industry. Although, the water is used for creating electricity you would never know from the Park that it is happening. The park has many trees, trails, and fields to explore and enjoy nature. Goat Island is completely preserved as a park with walking bridges to other areas of the park. The park allows access to stand right next to Horeshoe Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and the American Falls. The rainbows and spray from the falls add to the experience. Maid of the Mist and Cave of the Winds are also located in the Park. Vehicle parking is limited and appears to fill up around lunch time. We didn't really hear a whole lot about the park before our trip and were surprised with how big and how nice the park was designed and maintained.
In summary, Niagara Falls has many opportunities for enjoying your exploration of the area. All the experiences are different and add to the complete experience. We enjoyed seeing the falls from the Maid of the Mist, and from above on Goat Island. We also enjoyed seeing the falls from inside as we walked the boardwalk of Cave of the Winds. The City of Niagara is also setup for visitors and we enjoyed the architecture and time we spent downtown.
Bonus if you made it this far. My kids love gift shops. The building is a lot bigger than the shop itself. Here is a great picture of the outside of the shop and they have nice hats, shirts, magnets, post cards, penny machine, and all the other items you look for in a gift shop!