Anticipating a light mist – after all the name of the boat is The Maid of the Mist – I was shocked to get a spray in the face from the falls that would have drenched me from head to foot if I hadn’t been wearing the provided slicker. I thought those were just for show. They are absolutely not. You’re gonna wanna wear that thing.
The first thing on our to-do list when we began planning a few days in Niagara Falls was a cruise on the world famous Maid of the Mist. Honestly, we didn’t know much about the cruise except that it got right up close to the falls and that sounded pretty good to us.
It was honestly one of the coolest things we have done in our travels. Seeing the falls from a distance, with the thunder of the water roaring over the edge, is incredible but seeing it up close is…incomparable.
Because the water freezes – sometimes completely – they remove the boats on October 24 and don’t open again until the next spring, so we were lucky to be there early in October. They do close about 5 or 6 (check the online schedule) so don’t wait too late in the afternoon to get there. You can’t buy tickets online but it’s easy to purchase them there.
There’s big crowds of people but everything is very well organized and moves right along, filling one boat and leaving just as another one approaches. Boats leave about every 15 minutes and the docks are located about 1/4 mile from the Rainbow Bridge, which connects the American and Canadian sides of Niagara Falls. You can actually take the Maid of the Mist cruise from the American or Canadian side of the falls and they are offered by the same tour provider so its the exact same experience.
After you buy your ticket, go up to the observation tower, which gives you a great view of the falls and some wonderful photo opps.
You can also pop into the gift shop (you knew there was a gift shop) before or after your cruise to pick up some trinkets.
Then, head down the path to the dock.
There is actually another observation area that you can access by climbing up approximately 4,091 stairs but you are going to get wet up there, so wait until after your cruise when you have your slicker on. I’m giving you this information from one of the employees, not from personal experience because hey 4,091 stairs. We made it about half way up before we realized that we had seen quite enough, thankyouverymuch.
You can also get a lot closer to the falls by going to the Cave of the Winds. Also a lot of walking, although there is an elevator to get up and down.
As soon as you get on the boat, try to make your way to a railing but good luck with this since everyone else seems to have the same idea. You can actually see perfectly fine from anywhere on the boat, but unless you want the back of people’s heads in your pictures, you need to get by the railings. And, at some point, you’ll have to just tuck your camera away because the air is so full of a heavy mist.
The air is filled with the roar of the falls and sea birds dip and weave through the mist, unfazed by the whirlpools and the pounding water. The water is full of fish – mostly salmon, according to our captain, and you can actually see them leaping out of the water.
The falls become more and more magnificent the closer you get to them. The Canadian side – Horseshoe Falls – is actually a little more impressive than the American side with the American Falls and Bridal Falls, but they are all pretty impressive. The water is a deep, icy looking green that reminded us of the water around the glaciers in Alaska. The closer you get to the falls, the wetter it gets and you will be really glad you have on that slicker.
Truly, truly an amazing experience. Here’s a video I found that shows you exactly what it’s like.
The cruise actually doesn’t take very long but it’s truly incredible to see the falls that close. You just can’t appreciate their magnificence from looking at them from up on the rim.
If you go to Niagara Falls, you really have to go on the Maid of the Mist. It was an experience like nothing else we have done.
You will be really glad you did it as well.
Full disclosure: Our cruise on the Maid of the Mist were provided by the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation , but, as always, I will share my honest opinion about any travel experiences I have.