In 1860, thousands watched as Charles Blondin walked a tightrope across Niagara Falls for the third time. Midway, he paused to cook an omelette on a portable grill, and then had a marksman shoot a hole through his hat from the Maid of the Mist boat, fifty metres below. As attested by Blondin – and the innumerable lunatics and publicity seekers who have gone over the Falls in every craft imaginable – the Falls simply can’t be beat as a theatrical setting. Yet, in truth, the stupendous first impression doesn’t last long and to prevent the thirteen million visitors who arrive each year from getting bored by the sight of a load of water crashing over a 52m cliff, the Niagarans have ensured that the Falls can be seen from every angle imaginable – from boats, viewing towers, helicopters, cable cars and even tunnels in the rock face behind the cascade. The tunnels and the boats are the most exciting, with the entrance to the former right next to the Falls at Table Rock House and the latter leaving from the foot of the cliff at the end of Clifton Hill, 1100m downriver. Both give a real sense of the extraordinary force of the waterfall, a perpetual white-crested thundering pile-up that had Mahler bawling “At last, fortissimo” over the din. After the Falls themselves, be sure to allow enough time to explore the Niagara River along either the Niagara Parkway road or the Niagara River Recreation Trail, an easy-to-follow jogging and cycle path. Both road and trail stretch the length of the Niagara River from Fort Erie, 32km upstream from the Falls, to Niagara-on-the-Lake.
A day is more than enough time to see the Falls and its immediate surroundings, but if you do decide to spend the night hereabouts, quaint Niagara-on-the-Lake, 26km downstream beside Lake Ontario, is a much better option than the crassly commercialized town of Niagara Falls itself. That said, Niagara-on-the-Lake gets very crowded in high season, so try to book at least a couple of days in advance.