Niagara Falls is the collective name given to a group of three spectacular waterfalls at the southern end of Niagara Forge, between the Canadian province of Ontario and the US state of New York. It is located on the Niagara River which drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario.1
I was able to visit the Canadian side on July 2019, and it is indeed an awesome beauty of nature.
The largest of the three waterfalls is Horseshoe Falls, or Canadian Falls. It is the most powerful waterfall in North America, as measured by flow rate, and drops an average of 57 meters (188 feet) into the Lower Niagara River. It straddles the international border between Canada and the USA.
The smaller American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls lie entirely within the USA. Bridal Falls are separated from Horseshoe Falls by Goat Island, and from the American Falls by Luna Island.
For interesting trivia about Niagara Falls, visit a related post: NOW YOU KNOW: NIAGARA FALLS
By the way, it does not cost anything to see Niagara Falls. It is open 24 hours, seven days a week, year round. However, park attractions are seasonal and have their own schedules. For more information, visit www.niagarafallsstatepark.com.
Niagara Falls is located in a public place and you can take all the pictures and videos you want along the pedestrian walkway at the brink of the falls. However, if you so desire, you can enjoy any of the following with the corresponding fees:
1. Clifton Hill parking lot – If you want to enjoy the different attractions of Clifton Hill before or after visiting the falls, then why not park here? The area can accommodate 700 vehicles, with two entrances and three exits, as well as easy access to Clifton Hill (see a related post), Niagara Falls, and Hornblower Cruise (for your cruise along the falls, Canadian side). Parking fee is about CAD10 (about PHP390).
2. Hornblower Niagara Cruises– Are you game enough to ride a state-of-the-art 700-passenger catamaran or a 150-passenger jet-boat available for private functions called the Hornblower Guardian? Either vessel will take you as close as possible to the three falls.
All boarding is located at the Hornblower Lower Landing in the Great Gorge and entrance is at 5920 River Road (Niagara Parkway).
Hornblower Niagara Cruises is located on the Niagara Parkway, at the north end of Queen Victoria Park, close to the Rainbow Bridge and Oakes Garden Theatre, at the foot of the Clifton Hill tourist area.
Visit www.niagaraparks.com for more details, prices, packages, and discounts. To give you an idea about prices, adults (13+) with funicular – CAD28.95 (PHP1,135), children (5-12 years old) – CAD18.95 (PHP743), and 4-years old and under are free.
3. Journey Behind the Falls – Why not go under the Horseshoe Falls to feel its thunderous vibrations and to experience what it feels to be behind the falls? You only need to descend 125 feet and explore 130-year-old tunnels through the bedrock.
The observation deck at the foot of this 13-storey-tall wonder will leave you breathless (and a bit wet too). But what the heck! Viewing portals were cut straight through the rock for your once-in-a-lifetime view of one-fifth of the world’s fresh water, crashing down in front of you!
An added treat from June 28 till September 1, 2019 is the night experience of the Journey Behind the Falls, with all the lights and fireworks. You can also have exclusive after-hours access at the base of the Horseshoe Falls and be fascinated by its illumination and fireworks!
4. Helicopter ride – A family vacation in Niagara Falls Canada would be so memorable if you take the grand helicopter tour, costing a little more than CAD$100 (PHP3,920) each for a maximum of 7 passengers per 12-minute trip. Ask for family and group rates. The ride offers a taped commentary available in 12 languages. Helicopters have large panoramic-view windows, ideal for unlimited and spectacular photos and videos. Flights depart daily from 9am till sunset, weather permitting. I visited https://www.niagarahelicopters.com/our-classic-tour
5. Aside from taking the expensive helicopter tour, there are two tall structures you can also visit to appreciate the grandeur of the Falls, Canada side:
a. The observation deck of Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls, Ontario – This offers the highest view of the Horseshoe Falls (Ontario) and American Falls (New York), as well as the Toronto Tower in the opposite direction, from the Canadian side of the Niagara River, a 360-degree view.Skylon Tower at night, Niagara Falls, Ontario, own work of Ingelbert Lievaart II, 30 August 2005. See: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ilievaart-falls0805_7584smaller.jpg
The Skylon Tower was constructed by Pigott Construction of Hamilton, Ontario, on May 1964 at a cost of US$7 million, and opened on October 6, 1965. It stands at 160 meters (520 feet) from street level and 236 meters (775 feet) from the bottom of the falls.
The Skylon Tower, different perspectives
It has 3 outside mounted “Yellow Bug” elevators which can carry passengers to the top of the tower in 52 seconds. An observation deck sits at the tower’s summit. Its colorful lights at night in recent years is also a sight to behold!
If you just want to go up the top and visit the observation deck, you will pay CAD16.24 (PHP637) for adults (13+) and CAD10.44 (PHP410) for children (4-12 years old); kids under 4 years of age are free. Special discounts may be offered for online tickets like CAD14.50 (PHP569) for adults and CAD8.50 (PHP333) for children. Be updated, visit: https://store.skylon.com/
You can enjoy lunch or dinner in its two restaurants at the top, and you can then have complimentary entry to the tower and observation deck – the lower Revolving Dining Room that seats 276 people and revolves once every hour (so be sure to reserve a table window side), and the upper Summit Suite Buffet. Or try the fast food restaurants at the base of the tower, and stroll through the large amusement arcade and gift shops.
Visit the revolving Dining Room’s website for its menu. Prices are subject to H.S.T.1, and a 3% Attractions and Promotions Fee. Gratuities are left to the discretion of guests. For a complimentary elevation, a main course must be purchased, and the minimum charge per guest is CAD43 (PHP1,686). Anyway, if you do not go for such food, the breathtaking view of the Falls and surrounding areas will be worth it! It is open for lunch (11:30am-3pm), early dinner (4:30-5pm), and dinner (5pm onwards); savor the sunset and the awesome 360-degree view! Watch out for seasonal price changes and special offers at https://www.skylon.com/skylon-tower-menu/dinner/
For the Summit Suite Buffet menu, visit https://www.skylon.com/niagara-falls-dining/summit-suite-buffet/, the cost is CAD44.95 (PHP1,762) for adults and CAD17.95 (PHP703) for children. There are the special pricing for early bird (5-5:30pm) with reservations – CAD39.95 (PHP1,566) for adults and CAD15.95 (PHP625) for children.
b. The 175-foot (53.3 meter) ferris wheel called Niagara SkyWheel, is located in the middle of Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls, and opened on June 17, 2006, at a cost of US$10 million.
Its 42 Swiss-manufactured, fully enclosed passenger cars can carry 9 people each, heated in the winter, and air-conditioned in the warmer months. It is open all year, from 9:00 am – 1:00 am, giving passengers wonderful views of the Niagara River and the Horseshoe Falls and American Falls.
SkyWheel, Cliftton Hill, Niagara Falls, Ontario – different perspectives, July 2019
Adults (12 years and above) need to pay CAD12.99 (PHP510) and kids 3-12 years old, CAD6.99 (PHP274). Savor every minute of the 12-15 minute long ride! Get updates from https://www.cliftonhill.com/tickets/individual-ticket-prices
The information was obtained from the following Wikipedia pages: Niagara Falls, Ontario2; Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls3; Skylon Tower4, as well as the websites – https://www.niagaraparks.com/visit-niagara-parks/plan-your-visit/niagara-falls-geology-facts-figures/, and www.cliftonhill.com
I purposely converted CAD to PHP for the benefit of my Filipino readers, at an exchange rate of 1:30.2, rounding off PHP figures.
Here are a few tips for tourists, especially seniors, who plan to visit Niagara Falls:
1. Be prepared to walk all day. It was good that at 63-years old, I walk 4-5 km almost daily with my husband. However, we still got so tired with all the walking from the parking lot, around and along Clifton Hill, all the way almost to the end of the pedestrian walkway along the Canadian side of the falls, then back to Clifton Hill and the parking lot!
The map above was obtained from the brochure of CitySightseeing Niagara. Visit www.citysightseeingniagara.com
You might ask, is Niagara Falls Canada accessible? Absolutely! You have the following options, on a first-come first-serve basis: (a) some Niagara Falls hotels have their own wheelchairs and scooters available for guests so better inquire at the time of your booking to ensure that one will be available for you upon arrival and for use for the Falls; (b) a few Niagara Parks Canada attractions and other establishments offer free wheelchair rentals like: Table Rock Welcome Centre which has 8 wheelchairs available for rent with a credit card imprint or other form of acceptable identification, Marineland (in the Aquarium Dome building adjacent to the right of the admission area), Floral Showhouse, Butterfly Conservatory, RentMe Niagara Falls offers mobility equipment rentals (wheelchairs, power wheelchairs and walkers) with same day delivery, Motion Specialities (located in St. Catherines, about 20 minutes away from Niagara Falls, which offers accessibility rentals but please book in advance, for pickup or delivery for a fee), Pharmashield Dispensary and Queen Street Pharmacy (just book at least one week in advance; delivery is available), and eSkoot Niagara (which provides mobility scooter rentals, with delivery and pickup from your Niagara accommodation for a fee only from March 31-November 1, 2019).
If you visit during winter months, inquire if wheelchairs can be taken outside their building locations.
#ExploreNiagara! Visit this website for related information on accessibility: https://www.niagarafallstourism.com/plan/accessibility/
2. Bring water because you need to hydrate yourself. Besides, bottled water is expensive there. You can also bring snacks, if desired. But do try the surrounding dining outlets, stalls and bars with your companions.
3. Bring CAD cash and/or your credit card. Going to Niagara falls is free but of course, you need to eat somewhere, proceed to Clifton Hill (see a related post) or nearby attractions, or buy souvenir items.
4. Fully charge your cellphones, GoPro, and power banks to get all the photos and videos you want.
5. Travel light and bring only essential items for your walk.
6. I recommend that you spend at least an overnight stay in the Niagara Falls area to see more of the falls and enjoy other activities nearby like gaming, wine tasting, and shopping in outlets and souvenir shops.
7. It is fascinating that daylight goes on till around 9:00 pm during summer. Experience Niagara Falls at night, i.e.,10 pm onwards during summertime, and witness its nightly illuminations and fireworks!
8. Bring your whole family. There is something somewhere for every age. In fact, make this a memorable bonding time for the whole family!
9. Definitely, do not go on a weekend during summertime to avoid the influx of so many tourists!
Now for my short, but very memorable, visit to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. We arrived before lunch, parked in the very spacious Clifton Hill parking lot.
We came from a long drive from Scarborough and shopped at nearby Niagara outlet shops, so we decided to dine at the Niagara Brewing Company for a quick bite and tasted their beer samplers. As expected, the place was full. We were ushered to a wooden table in the patio. We ordered Chicken Wings and Chicken Fingers; both were tasty and served at the right temperature. We enjoyed them with fries as well as samples of 8 brews. The rest rooms were clean and well supplied.
We then walked along the main road, going towards the falls. Not much to say since I did not enter any attraction, just took pictures of whatever we saw, due to the limited time we could stay. See a related post for my comments regarding Clifton Hill.
Our mistake, if you can call it, is that we visited the Niagara Falls area on a Sunday during summertime so the place was teeming with tourists. The elevated border of the pedestrian walkway, as well as the walkway itself, was crammed with tourists who seemed to stay so long and/or endlessly walk in various directions. More than once, I needed to ask for space to be able to take videos and photos.
The lines for the Voyage to the Falls (Hornblower Cruises on the Canadian side) and the Journey Behind the Falls (which takes about 45 minutes) were so long that my group opted to skip these adventures.
Hornblower Voyage to the Falls dock and boat, July 2019
The Hornblower nearing the Horseshoe Falls, July 2019
The helicopter tour was expensive. The seniors in the group were tired walking around so we also did not go to the Skylon Tower either. Surrounding restaurants were full and food/refreshment stalls also have long lines but we somehow found an ice cream stall.
We left around 9pm (but there was still daylight, can you believe that?) so we were not able to see Niagara by night, which we were told was a sight to see! Perhaps, this is one reason to return to this place and stay longer to visit the casinos and other surrounding attractions.
Now that I have seen the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, I am more keen on seeing it from the American side. Perhaps, someday soon. For those who have seen both sides, pray tell which is more beautiful and tell me why, will you?
We paid for our Niagara Falls visit and all comments are personal, based on my July 2019 experience.
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1The harmonized sales tax (HST) is a consumption tax in Canada. It is used in provinces where both the federal goods and services tax (GST) and the regional provincial sales tax (PST) have been combined into a single value added sales tax. This tax is in effect in five of the ten Canadian provinces: New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Prince Edward Island. The HST is 13% in Ontario.5 & 6
2“Niagara Falls, Ontario,” accessed August 6, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naiagara_Falls,_Ontario
3“Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls,“ accessed August 6, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clifton_Hill,)Niagara_Falls
4“Skylon Tower,“ accessed August 6, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skylon_Tower