Niagara Falls is a fun-filled family vacation spot and only an hour's drive from our home but for some reason we haven't been there for several years. Emma has no recollection of having seen the Falls and she has never been on The Maid of the Mist boat tour so we decided this past long weekend to take a day trip to Niagara Falls. We got a bit of a late start and had to detour because of a highway closure so it was late morning before we arrived and parked. It was a beautiful sunny day and the views of the Falls were spectacular as we walked the length of the Falls area to get to the loading docks for The Maid of the Mist. It was brutally hot so the spray coming off the Falls was actually quite refreshing.
We even met a Mountie while we were walking by the Falls (how quintessentially Canadian is that?).
The highlight of the day though was The Maid of the Mist boat tour. The Maid of the Mist boats sail right into the basin of the 170ft high Horseshoe Falls where passengers hear the deafening roar as millions of gallons of water thunder over the falls and the spray soaks everybody on-board. The first Maid of the Mist tour boat started taking sightseers up close to the falls in 1848, however the modern fleet was launched in 1955-56 with two boats that could carry 101 passengers each. Today Maid of the Mist VI and VII carry up to 600 passengers each as they "explore the roar" from May through October each year. Prices are $16.50 per adult, $10.10 for children 6-12 and children 5 and under are free. Visitors who have more time and want to sample everything can purchase a Niagara Falls Adventure Pass which includes The Maid of the Mist, Journey Behind the Falls, the White Water Walk, and Niagara's Fury (a 4D movie).
This is what it looks like when The Maid of the Mist heads into the basin of churning water at the base of Horseshoe Falls.
Doesn't look like the boat stands a chance, does it?
Emma wasn't deterred by what we observed walking toward the docks so we bought our tickets and lined up with the rest of the crowd of adventure seekers. The bright blue rain ponchos which are distributed before passengers board the boat are a good indication of what lies ahead.
The boat pulls away from the pier and, in what seems just a matter of minutes, The Maid of the Mist nears the thundering falls. The approach to Horseshoe Falls is breathtaking as the roar of the water drowns out all other noise except nearby passengers squealing from the soaking that they are getting from the "spray" from the falls.
Definitely a soaker but fortunately a steaming hot day means everyone dries very quickly.
Our day in Niagara passed far too quickly. We spent the balance of the afternoon at the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory and then stopped in the village of Niagara-on-the-Lake on the way home to have some COWS ice cream. There are so many attractions in the Niagara area that families could easily spend several days without getting bored. The official website for Niagara Falls Tourism is a great resource for more information about the many activities for families in and around Niagara Falls.
(Update: After more than century of ferrying tourists to the base of Horseshoe Falls, Maid of the Mist will no longer operate on the Canadian side. The Government of Ontario ordered Niagara Parks Commission to open the tour boats to competitive bidding and a 30 year contract was awarded to Hornblower Canada which will start operating tour boats in the spring of 2014. The Maid of the Mist will continue to operate tours on the American side of Niagara Falls.)
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