Visiting Niagara Falls
I finally saw Niagara Falls for the first time. I admit that it was one of those sights I always wanted to see, but since it was almost too accesible, I never made it a priority. Luckily, some good friends of mine recently had a wedding in Buffalo, NY and I turned that wedding trip into a mini-vacation. (Check out my article all about making wedding trips into vacations. Trust me, if you are in your 20s or early 30s you NEED to read it.)
Whether you are starting out in the US or Canada, driving to Niagara Falls is pretty simple. Once you arrive, I highly recommend scoping out a $5 parking lot versus the $10+ lots that are only marginally closer to the actual falls. Once you park, it’s pretty much impossible to get lost because there will be about 5,222 signs pointing you in the right direction. You can also just follow the sound of 150,000 gallons of water rushing over the falls per second.
Once you find the falls, just soak them in. For free. The only thing you need to pay for is the optional Maid of the Mist boat ride, which I personally opted not to do. However, if you are really set on seeing the falls up close and personal, the prices per person are not too bad. You can get up-to-date pricing and scheduling info on the Maid of the Mist website.
Crossing the border
If you would like to see the falls from both sides of the Canadian and US border, you’ll need to bring a passport and some cash.
Once on either side of the Falls, you can either drive or walk across. I chose to walk.
Walking across an international border is one of those totally simple yet incredibly satisfying things that just makes me so happy. I realize that borders are mostly just lines on a map, but it is very cool to physically step over that border. Look how happy my friend Rachel and I were:
Unsurprisingly, crossing into Canada from the US was incredibly easy for me. It was almost comical. There was a single dude just chilling in this little border booth. He asked for my friend’s passport, which he barely glanced at, and then asked her where she was from, why she was going to Canada, etc. He didn’t even bother asking me any questions since I was with her.
Getting back into the US, however, was a more complicated process. First of all, if you purchase anything from the Duty Free shop, you will have to have an escort from the shop walk you and your purchases over to a border control building. At that building you will have to pay 50 cents into a turnstile in order to leave the country. They do have change machines, but I recommend having some quarters on hand because the lines for the change machines were out of control. There seemed to be mass chaos as people from all over the world, speaking a variety of languages, all tried to convert some sort of currency into two US quarters.
After you pay your 50 cent exit fee, you will have to go to another building where a border agent will buzz you in whenever they are ready for you. When I arrived, there were no less than 10 families crammed into a sort of make-shift waiting room as we all awaited the flash of the light and a loud buzz to signal that another person could enter the main building. The questioning process was much more in-depth than the quick chat I had with the Canadian border agent, but it was still more pleasant than many airport screenings I have experienced.
Enjoy the view
I admit, I wasn’t expecting too much from Niagara Falls. I had already seen Iguazú Falls in Argentina, which is exponentially larger than Niagara Falls. I’m ashamed to say that I let that experience make me feel a bit jaded and underwhelmed by the thought of Niagara Falls. Yes, the Iguazú Falls were incredible and huge, but that did not lessen the beauty of the Niagara Falls. I’m happy to say that I allowed myself some time to just watch the water flow without comparing one wonderful sight to another.