The falls at Niagara are not just pretty, they’re staggering. The sound is deafening; the misty winds are fierce; and the entire park brims with natural wonders. Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in America, and 3,160 tons of water gush over the crest of its falls every second. Guides are full of crazy stories about people toppling over the falls in barrels, and hikes around the area can bring encounters with towering trees and unusual birds.
Before You Go: Need-to-know info
Languages: English and French
Flight time: 1.5 hours from New York City; 5 hours from LA; 1.5 hours from Chicago
Getting around: rental car, taxi, shuttle bus and trolley
When to Go: Niagara Falls at its best
Best weather: Mid-May to mid-September, when average high temps range from 69 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
Best prices: January to March
What to Do:
Crashing waters: The entire park is beautiful, but face it — you’ll want to go for the falls. To get a closer look at North America’s most powerful waterfall (and a nice rush of adrenaline), ride out on one of the famous Maid of the Mist cruises. Once you’re aboard the great ship, and dressed up in your souvenir yellow poncho, you’ll get to experience the billowing torrents and fantastic rock formations firsthand. Afterward, take an elevator 175 feet down into Niagara Gorge to touch the falls at the Cave of the Winds. You’re almost guaranteed to see rainbows by day, and the falls are illuminated by colorful lights in the evening.
Hikes: The park has a superb system of trails, where you can explore the falls and surrounding area by foot. Try the rim path to the Whirlpool Rapids: Parts of the hike are along the water’s edge at the bottom of the ravine, and you’ll have great views of the gorge’s gorgeous rock layers.