On the US/Canada border, spectacular Niagara Falls attracts wedding couples and daredevils. Maybe something in the water makes them take the plunge.
Buffalo, New York has several claims to fame. It’s the birthplace of one of the great bar foods of all time-the Buffalo Wing. It has football fans who endured the bitter sting of four straight Super Bowl losses. It has some of the worst winter weather between Moscow, Idaho, and Moscow, Russia. However, life in Buffalo has an up-side.
Just a few miles away, on the US/Canada border, one of the awesome sights in the natural world can be seen. (And heard) Niagara Falls is one of the most popular and easily accessible waterfalls in the world.
When people think of Niagara Falls, they tend to think of one, a big, spectacular waterfall. In reality, Niagara Falls is a collection of three smaller waterfalls:
- Horseshoe Falls – The biggest of the 3, Horseshoe Falls is usually thought of as the “Canadian Falls.” It is on the western side of Goat Island and has a drop of around 170 feet. The precipice or “brink” of the falls forms the general shape of a horseshoe, and measures about a half-mile in total length. About a third of this length is actually on the American side of the border.
- American Falls – Northeast of both Goat Island and Horseshoe Falls, American Falls is located entirely on the US side of the border. American Falls is around 1000 feet wide, and the vertical fall at the base is only around 70 feet. After the water goes over American Falls, it continues to cascade down an enormous pile of boulders for another 100 vertical feet or so, where it reaches the same level as the bottom of Horseshoe Falls.
- Bridal Veil Falls – Often considered to be part of American Falls, Bridal Veil is separated from American Falls by a small island and has a similar 70-foot drop.
The three waterfalls combine for a breathtaking sight, and the noise made by the falling water is louder than a crowd at the Buffalo Bills game. Around 3/4 of a million gallons will go over the falls in a single second, with 80% of this volume going over Horseshoe Falls. Of course, water isn’t the only thing that goes over Niagara Falls.
Things to do near Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is renowned for not only its waterfalls but also its numerous tourist attractions, both at the falls themselves and in the surrounding area. When visitors have exhausted the possible ways to experience the waterfalls themselves, there are plenty of other attractions in the vicinity.
Jet Boat Tours to Niagara Whirlpool Rapids
For thrill-seekers visiting Niagara Falls, Whirlpool Jet Boats Tours are sure to get the adrenaline going. Departing downstream from the falls themselves, the 50mph jet boats transport passengers down Niagara Gorge towards Devils Hole.
Finally, the boats reach a 90-degree bend in the Niagara River, causing a giant whirlpool which spins with such ferocity it creates class-5 white water rapids. As the open-air jet boats are thrown around in 360-degree spins, the passengers onboard are guaranteed to get drenched, despite the waterproof splash suites provided.
For visitors wishing to experience the highlight of the whirlpool without the inconvenience of becoming soaked to the skin, the company also operates a covered Jet Dome Tour. To ensure passengers don’t miss out on the other sights of Niagara Gorge, the Jet Dome has hydraulic doors that remain open for most of the journey and only shut as the boat approaches the whirlpool.
Wet Jet Tours are available from both the Canadian and US banks of the river whilst the covered Jet Dome Tour only operates from the Canadian bank. Prices are $59 (CAD) per adult and $49 per child, with a discount available for groups of 10 or more.
Tourists wishing to view the spectacular whirlpool without experiencing the adrenaline of the jet boats are also catered for by the Whirlpool Aero Car. The antique cable car traverses the Niagara River offering spectacular views of the whirlpool and its rapids. Located at 3850 Niagara Parkway, north of the Horseshoe Falls, the 10 minute round trip costs $11.75 per adult.
Niagara Falls Skylon Tower and Skywheel
The Skylon Tower, situated in the Canadian town of Niagara Falls, offers visitors the rare opportunity of a bird’s eye view of the falls and the surrounding area. The 52-second ride up the tower onboard a “yellow bug” transports guests 775 feet upwards to the indoor and outdoor observation decks.
Many visitors flock to the Skylon Tower for superb views of the falls after dark. Water over the falls is reduced at night to power the giant colored lights used to illuminate the waterfalls and produce a spectacular light show. The restaurant located at the top of the tower offers guests the opportunity to dine above the falls. To ensure all tables receive a good view, the dining room revolves a full 360 degrees every hour.
Officially opened in 2006, the state of the art giant Ferris wheel is one of Niagara’s newest attractions. Situated in Clifton Hill, the 42 air-conditioned gondolas each carry 6 passengers, 53 meters into the air for spectacular views of Niagara Falls and the vicinity. The ride operates all year, both during the day and into the evening, and lasts approximately 10 minutes.
Niagara Falls for Children
Families are well catered for on both sides of the border. The Canadian side includes the Fallsview Waterpark. North American’s largest indoor waterpark contains 16 water slides, a giant wave pool, water cannons, and even a large water-tipping bucket. The waterpark is part of the Falls Avenue Entertainment Complex, located directly across from the American Falls.
The IMAX theatre is home to “The Falls Movie: Legends and Daredevils”, the spectacular film offers visitors the chance to experience life as a daredevil with the dramatic feeling of going over the falls. The theatre also includes the Daredevil Gallery featuring exhibits on various falls’ daredevils.
Children are also catered for on the US side of the river where the Aquarium of Niagara is open daily from 9 am to 5:30 pm and offers everything from penguins to sharks.
Niagara Falls Attractions
Whilst many of the annual 14 million visitors head to Niagara Falls simply to view the spectacular falls themselves, there are many more attractions available in the surrounding area. The town thrives on the tourist trade and works hard to ensure there is something for everyone.
With ferris wheels, boat trips, cable cars and water parks all within a couple of miles of one the world’s greatest tourist attractions, it’s unlikely any tourist could run out of things to do at Niagara.
Niagara Falls Daredevils
For reasons known only to themselves, people come to Niagara Falls to risk pain, long-term health, and personal well-being. These people come to Niagara Falls to…..get married. Yep, Niagara Falls weddings are big business, and so are the subsequent honeymoons. Niagara Falls calls itself the “Honeymoon Capital of the World,” and every couple who spend their honeymoon here gets a certificate signed by the mayor.
As nice as weddings can be, some people use Niagara Falls for thrills of another kind. For more than a hundred years, people have been going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, or other man-made devices. Many have survived to tell the tale, and some have not. Here are some notable efforts:
- Bobby Leach – In 1911, Leach went over the falls in a steel barrel and came away with a broken jaw and two broken kneecaps, but otherwise unharmed. Years later, he would die from gangrene after slipping on an orange peel.
- John “Super Dave” Munday – In 1985, the Canadian mechanic survived a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel and did it again in 1993. (Would you let this man work on your brakes?)
- Robert Overcracker – In 1995, Overcracker opted to jump off of his jet-ski, just as it cleared the edge of Horseshoe Falls, and use a parachute to slow his fall. The parachute didn’t open and his body was never found.
These brave and daring escapades may have varying results, but there is a lesson to be learned: Brides….after your wedding at Niagara Falls, be careful where you toss that bouquet.