Don’t Just See The Falls– Soak them in!
A formidable beauty and epic source of sustainable energy, Niagara Falls marks a natural boundary between Canada and the United States: one that offers far more excitement than your average border control office. Its three powerful cascades lash down over 30 million liters of water per minute– volumes matched only by the comparable numbers of global visitors who flock to the Falls each year. While the area’s busy viewing platforms are scenic and numerous, they can risk reducing this force of nature to a distant roar and souvenir photograph. As we highlight in our guide to the top 10 things to see and do in Niagara, there is no better way to put its staggering power and 50-meter drops into perspective than by hopping aboard a boat. Read on to learn about the 3 best Niagara Falls boat tours to book on your next trip– and for our tips on how to stay high, dry and happy.
Ontario’s Hornblower Niagara Cruises
The most popular boat tour allowing you to explore the Falls on the Ontario side, Hornblower Niagara Cruises has garnered rave reviews and is the official, family-friendly tour provider along the Canadian stretch of the Niagara River. With a capacity to seat over 500 people on any given trip, sibling vessels ‘Wonder’ and ‘Thunder’ are best known for servicing the exciting daytime adventure known as Voyage to the Falls.
Easily spotted from dry land by their red rain gear, lively energy and awestruck expressions, tour passengers set direct sail into the misty Great Gorge, where they are confronted by the full force of Niagara Falls.The duration of this tour is about 20 minutes.
Before dusk, enjoy what’s known as the “Full mist” experience; at or after twilight, you’ll switch to what’s known as the “light mist” experience.
When do Hornblower Cruises Run– & Where to Book Tickets?
Running from early May to December 2nd, the Voyage to the Falls tour typically runs between 8.30 am-8.30 pm, with departures every 15 minutes.
From September onward, Hornblower opening times are highly variable due to fading daylight hours. For up-to-date scheduling details, tickets and packages, visit this page. You can buy tickets onsite, but we always recommend booking ahead to save time and stress.
Night Cruises With Hornblower
Hornblower cruises also offer special nighttime boat tours around the Falls. Keep scrolling for more details toward the end of this article.
Consider the Adventure Pass
Please also note that Hornblower Niagara Cruises’ tours can be enjoyed as part of the Niagara Falls Adventure Pass. You can read all about it in our dedicated piece on whether this special travel card is worth buying.
New York’s Maid of the Mist
For visitors on the U.S side who want a taste of what Niagara Falls has to offer, Maid of the Mist boat tours deliver a memorable and immersive encounter with North America’s most impressive waterfalls.
From its humble origins as a 1846 cargo operator, Maid of the Mist has long been a legend. Its original, iconic steamboat vessel endured through the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, fires and natural disasters. The company has operated boat tours for tourists for some 150 years, and there are now two modern vessels in the fleet, Maid of the Mist VI and VII. Each has a capacity to accommodate up to 600 passengers.
Maid of the Mist tours are comfortable and cater to all ages. Tours last approximately 20 minutes from start to finish. The itinerary offers exclusive views of the American, Bridal and Horseshoe cascades, with tickets available on-site or online during the operating season.
By Saffron Blaze /CC BY-SA 3.0
The Stuff of Legends
This boat tour has long attracted a roster of celebrities. Famous tour guests include former American President Theodore Roosevelt, Princess Diana and Marilyn Monroe. Monroe in fact starred in the 1953 film Niagara; director Henry Hathaway once suggested that the iconic actress had a lot in common with the waterfall as “a raging torrent of emotion”. The quip then appeared as a tagline on the promotional poster for the film.
When Do Maid of the Mist Tours Run?
Running from mid-April to early September, Maid of the Mist tours first embark at 9.00 am and run regularly throughout the day until 5.00 pm or later. With the 2019 schedule due to be published in January, hopeful explorers should keep an eye on the website for pricing and timetable updates.
Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours
Less about the Horseshoe and more about the horsepower: If you’re craving a boat tour with an extra kick of adrenaline, this one might be just the ticket.
Wet Jet and Jet Dome (dry) trips by Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours are perfect for visitors who prefer taking in the Niagara River scenery while enjoying high speeds and thrills. With boarding zones in Canada’s Niagara-on-the-Lake and in Lewiston on the US side, these tours host groups of 40 people, and are all navigated by experienced guides who supply doses of local history, geography and, of course, adrenaline!
Read related: Why Ziplining Through Niagara Falls Might Be For You
Prior to embarking, all eligible passengers are required to go through some important safety procedures. While tourists in poor health are generally discouraged from boarding, children under the age of sixteen require a parent/guardian present and pregnant women are not permitted to board.
What’s Included in the Tour?
Preferring to leave an element of surprise to these tours, Whirlpool Jet spokespeople refrained from sharing a detailed itinerary with us, but ensure that passengers are in for a bumpy and exciting ride. White water rafting options are also available for more intrepid explorers. For full details of services and ticket packages, click here.
In Love with The Falls? Here’s How to Get Romantic
With one of its cascades named after a wedding veil, Niagara’s naturally romantic. Its sweeping views and misty ambience make it a magical destination for the lovestruck. Little wonder then that it has served as a choice proposal spot for many couples over the decades.
Fans of the Emmy-Winning TV series The Office might recall that the show’s leading sweetheart protagonists celebrated their marriage aboard the lower deck of Maid of the Mist. For those who are romantically inclined, it is well worth venturing toward the crashing cascades on one of the aforementioned tours with a loved one. It’s always an exhilarating shared experience.
Both Canadian and American sides of Niagara Falls offer unique wedding packages to help make upcoming marriages truly memorable. Also see our guide to honeymoons in Niagara for many more romance-filled ways to enjoy the area together.
A Romantic Evening on the Hornblower, Anyone?
Meanwhile, Hornblower Niagara Cruises offers evening Falls Fireworks Cruisesfor a softer, more laid-back perspective of The Falls after dark. The hour-long tour includes on-board beverages, tinted light displays and dazzling fireworks.
Read related: Celebrating New Years Eve in Niagara Falls
As you might imagine, this tour is in high demand, and passengers are strongly advised to book their tickets in advance. Scheduled nightly between mid-June and early September, the sparks fly most weekends until the season reaches a halt in early October.If you’re ready for a spectacular evening show, visit this page at the official website to book.
Prepare For Your Cruise: Some Lessons for Land-Lovers
When embarking on a boat tour, make sure to be prepared with the proper equipment. This will ensure you stay high, dry and comfortable. Here’s how:
- Closed-toe footwear with decent grip is a must on damp decks and a change of shoes is welcome indeed, in case your pair gets soaked during the tour.
- For young passengers who are less steady on their feet, prams and strollers must be stored on dry land before setting sail, while elevators and spacious communal areas ensure that large tour boats are accessible to diverse ages and mobility levels.
- The staff and crew on your selected tour will likely supply you with a waterproof rain poncho as a complimentary part of the experience; as drenched passengers will testify, this is not just for decoration!
- No matter the season, breathable, fast-drying fabrics are ideal and loose valuables should be avoided as they can be easily dislodged in windswept conditions.
- During the Fall and Winter, it’s important to keep warm onboard with coats, layered clothing and cozy accessories. Waterproof gloves may be the best way to keep hands comfortable and protected from icy winds off the Falls during your voyage.
- In the Spring and Summer, extra layers are still advised as temperatures can remain chilly on the water. Flip-flops are not recommended.
Ready? All Aboard!
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