The Maid of the Mist: Up Close and Personal With Niagara Falls
Whether you are visiting Niagara Falls from out of state or just around the corner, one of the attractions on everybody’s Must Do list is an adventure on the Maid of the Mist! For more than 150 years, visitors from all over the world have been taking this 30 minute excursion to the base of the falls. Experiencing the power of the falls up-close and personal will be one of the memories you and your kids share forever!
There has been plenty written about the thrill of the ride, the majesty of the falls and the sheer adventure urging you to “explore the roar”. And, yes, it’s all true! Seeing the falls from the various vantage points is a glorious site, but feeling the rush of the wind buffeting you as you are drenched by the spray all around you is something that words can’t begin to describe. You might be saying to yourself, “Hmm…all this thrilling adventure…I’m not sure my kids are up for it.” Or, “It’s such a tourist trap, I’m not sure I want to deal with it.” Well, don’t cross it off your list! KidsOutAndAbout has information, tips and suggestions to make it a fun experience for everybody in your family!
No matter which attraction you visit on any trip, some advice worth taking is to either arrive early or closer to the end of the day, and this holds true with the Maid of the Mist as well. Lines can get long with tour groups and field trippers, but if everyone in your family knows ahead of time what might happen, you’ll find that everyone’s patience remains intact.
Tickets for the Maid of the Mist are included in the Niagara Falls USA Discovery Pass or you can purchase them separately at the Ticket Booth located near the Visitors Center, at the base of the Observation Tower. Your tickets include the $1 admission to the Observation Tower and the chic blue ponchos you’ll be happy to be wearing when you’re under the falls!
I’ve mentioned the potential for long lines, but the good news is that they move quickly. There are actually two Maid of the Mist boats taking visitors to the falls and they have large capacities. One employee told me that they can hold 450 people! But don’t worry! I noticed that the workers were creating a balance between keeping the lines moving without packing visitors onto the boat like sardines.
Don’t forget your sunscreen! Although I suspect that at some points during the day the line to get on the Maid of the Mist is shaded by the canyon walls, when we were there it was nothing but blinding sun.
Once you are given your ponchos, the excitement of the trip will tempt you to put them on right away. Don’t Do It! The ponchos are plastic and will make you incredibly hot. Instead, wait until you are either on board the Maid of the Mist or when you are sure you’ll be taking the next boat.
Your experience depends, in part, on what part of the ship you stand. If you want the maximum exposure to the falls, stand on the top deck towards the front. But really, you’ll get drenched anywhere up top. For those who want to get close, but not that close, steer your family towards the interior of the bottom deck. This area is the most sheltered and will temper the elemental feeling. When we were in line I watched Moms with babies in front carriers get off the ship after their trip to the falls. Everybody looked dry and happy - I'm not sure how they managed it, though!
A reasonable way to gauge your kids’ reactions is to reflect on how they behave when put in the shower. If showering is the norm, then they’ll probably be fine on the top deck. If they are still young enough to find showers traumatic – you’d be better off down below. To be sure, the falls experience is more wild than a shower, but I think it’s the relentless water to their faces that has the potential to bother kids the most.
Speaking of relentless water to faces… If you have contact lens wearers in your family plan on either wearing sunglasses or cinching the hood of your poncho over your eyes (don’t worry, it’s transparent). We were on the top deck at the front and my contacts would have been washed out if I hadn’t been wearing my sunglasses!
Although the water looks rough and scary closer to the falls, it’s not a turbulent experience. One of my kids has periodic issues with motion sickness and she wasn’t bothered at all. One thing you might want to tell your kids before you get to the falls is that the Maid of the Mist spends several minutes close to the falls. Thanks to some people joking around us, my kids were convinced that we were either hung up on a rock or that the captain was too new and inexperienced to get us back to the dock. Seriously – they thought we were doomed.
The Maid of the Mist is wheel chair accessible, but strollers are not allowed.
In order to take pictures, make sure you have a waterproof camera! If your regular camera doesn't include this feature, you can purchase a disposable one.
A trip on the Maid of the Mist really is something that you must do if you are planning a visit to Niagara Falls. Trust me, when you mention to people that you visited Niagara Falls, the first thing they will ask you is “Did you go on the Maid of the Mist?? Isn’t it amazing!!??” And I’m sure your answer will be, “Yes! It was fantastic!!”
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Helena Robin ...is President and CEO of the Robin family. She coordinates and executes all family operations including (but not limited to) communications, transportation, management, catering, maintenance, troubleshooting, and cultural development. Her Executive Team comprises a Husband/Creator of Chaos and three unpaid interns.