There are so many videos and images of the Niagara Falls online that most people already feel quite familiar with the site. Visiting them, however, is an experience of a lifetime. Many destinations nowadays seem to be overrated, but the falls definitely don’t belong on that list. I ended up there during my Work and Travel summer in college.
Work and Travel in the USA
It’s been ten years since my trip to the US, and the memories of the experience I had are still so vivid that I felt urged to already put them in writing. I’m still grateful to my friend, who influenced me to sign up for the Work and Travel student program, thanks to which I was able to explore part of the US – from Miami to the South, all the way up North to the Niagara Falls. I believe every student should do that at least once during their college years. True, you get to work really hard at a job that sometimes looks meaningless, but the money you get will be enough to make some journeys, which will stay with you forever.
Planning the trip
Once I completed the procedure and got my employment contract and flight ticket, I knew I would visit the falls. I had to be patient, because traveling usually happens at the end of the program, right before the return. During the summer I made quite a lot of friends, so in the late August, with a bunch of them, I rented a car and set to drive all the way from Richmond, Virginia to upstate New York.
The 1000-mile drive to the Niagara Falls
Among the four of us, only two had a driving license, so we took turns behind the wheel. We stopped in Washington DC, got lost in Philadelphia, cause we accidentally entered the city instead of passing it by, toured New York city and finally reached the Niagara Falls. All of this with paper maps, cause phones back then had no GPS navigation system. We drove for more than a 1000 miles forth and back with just one night in a hostel – the rest of the sleep we got was in the car.
The Niagara Falls: thunders and rainbows
Once we stepped out of the car at the Niagara Falls, we realized why the whole effort was completely worth it. Back in Europe we can hardly see, or hear, anything of that scale. Approaching the edge of the plaza, we merged with the crowds of tourists taking those famous photos I’ve mentioned. The view is truly spectacular. Although the waterfalls are not very high – no more than sixty meters – their width and the amount of water make them outstanding.
Activities at the Falls
There’s nothing much to be careful about at the location – it is accessible and safe. Of course, as any other major tourist destination, it is desperately crowded. So, if you are OK to sacrifice a few hours of sleep, go early in the morning. Bring with you everything waterproof. While you are standing on the plaza you have nothing to worry about, but if you decide to take the boat ride in the base of the Falls, then you will surely be showered. Going all the way there and not taking the ride would be the greatest mistake you will make during your vacation.
What to do
There are plenty of activities at the Niagara State Park. Depending on your tastes and company, you can choose from:
Watching a history movie at the Visitors Center. I haven’t done it personally because I don’t like to spend time on movies during traveling, but fans of documentaries will probably enjoy it. I also heard about interactive displays that children find particularly amusing.
Visiting the aquarium. Another one I missed due to lack of time, but definitely worth it. A rich collection of aquatic animals that you can’t see in a regular zoo.
Walking to the Cave of Winds.
Riding the boat to the base of the Falls. If I ever return to the area, I will absolutely do this again! This is what I call ‘experiencing the falls’. The boat is called “Maid of the Mist” and makes you wonder why the mist, but once you are down at the base, you will see it makes perfect sense. The roaring water makes it impossible to hear each other talking, so you better observe the rainbows among the mist of spray as you go past the Bridal Veil and the Horseshoe Falls. This is when you need your waterproof camera the most.
Before you decide which activities to pick, check the combined tickets available – they can save you some extra expenses. Or, in case you don’t want to spend anything more, just stroll along the Niagara river to take some beautiful shots.