Falling for the Famous Canadian-American Cascades
Feathers and steel, snow and ice. It's the contract of the unstoppable surge of rushing water and the great plumes of mist that wins your heart at Niagara Falls. Niagara is not one waterfall but three cascades (Horseshoe Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and American Falls) that straddle the international border between Ontario, Canada, and the state of New York. Thousands of visitors come to ogle the spectacle every day, attracted by the force of the river's current and the magical mist.
If you and your kids want to join the admiring throng, think through the timing of your trip. Niagara Falls is a very different place with each passing seasons.
When to Visit Niagara
As is true of so many parks and attractions, summer is peak season in Niagara Falls. Temperatures are pleasant, with an average of 71.3 degrees F in July and 69.5 degrees F in August, and the park sets off fireworks every Friday and Saturday during this period. Prices are also highest in July and August.
You can still catch good weather if you visit in June or in September. June's average temperature is 68.8 degrees F, while in September it's around 61.7 degrees F. In June, you'll still be in shorts and T-shirts, but you might want to dress in layers in September. The benefits of shoulder-season travel are considerable: lighter crowds and more for your money.
You can take your family to see the falls from New York only if you don't want to bother with passports. But you'll need passports if you want to see Niagara from the Canadian side.
Many say that the views are more exciting from the Canadian side, where the grandest of the cascades, the powerful Horseshoe Falls, plunges into the romantic Maid of the Mist Pool. Most families want to walk out to Table Rock, poised just yards from the drop off, to get the best views. You'll have to get there early if you want your kids to get a spot.
On the other hand, you can get closer to the cascade on the American side. Because of this, New Yorker residents like to say, "In Canada you can see the Falls but in New York you can feel the Falls."
You can drive your car from New York into Canada, but parking near the Falls is super difficult. It's easier to get around on bikes or public buses. One option is to park and take the hop-on-hop-off Niagara shuttle. Shuttles serve downtown Niagara Falls, among other locations.
From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.