Experience the Cave of the Winds at Niagara Falls
Sitting on the border between the New York state in the United States of America and Ontario, Canada, the exhilaration of witnessing 75,000 gallons of water rushing over the side of Niagara Falls every second, is a thrill of a lifetime. Up close, the sound is almost deafening.
Did you know this is only 10% of the total water flow from the Falls? The amazing thing is that people can actually experience this power first hand at the Cave of the Winds, on the United States side of Niagara Falls.
As a child, I remember a relative vacationing at Niagara Falls. I can’t remember which relative it was, but I remember them bringing me a souvenir. It was a little red plastic television, about two inches wide, with a little white button on the bottom, and a tiny peephole in the back. Looking through the viewfinder, I could see a changing collage of scenes from the falls, each time I pressed the button.
Although I grew up in NY, I didn’t actually visit the Falls until I was a teenager. The first time I went was with my family, as a side trip, while looking for colleges. It left such an impression on me that some years later I chose it as a spot to elope with my first husband. However, it rained so we ended up getting married under a bridge with a bunch of strangers as guests! I have since been back twice with my own family because this natural wonder is something that I just had to share with them.
What is Cave of the Winds?
Niagara Falls is divided between the U.S. and Canada. While the Canadian side of Niagara Falls has its own hotels and attractions, the Cave of the Winds is a viewing area alongside the U.S side of the Falls. From here, participants can witness the wonder of the American Falls up close. Interestingly, it is not a cave at all. It originally got its name from a rock overhang back in the 1800s. The overhang has since collapsed, but the viewpoint kept its name. I didn’t realize this until I visited again a few years ago.
To reach the Cave of the Winds we had to cross over to Goat Island. We took the pedestrian footbridge, which crosses the rapids from the main Niagara Falls Park. The footbridge leads to a 2 mile long paved road around Goat Island, where there are beautiful views of the Falls. The park was actually designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the designer of Central Park in NYC.
We had bought combo tickets which included the Cave of the Winds, the Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls Aquarium, and a local history museum. However, a la carte tickets for Cave of the Winds can only be purchased in person on Goat Island.
The experience starts in the World Changed Here Pavillion. Here we learned the history of the Falls and how Nikola Tesla used the power of the falls to create alternating current. These facts are interesting by themselves, but then it was time for the real adventure.
The anticipation built as we waited in line. In preparation, we were given a pair of sandals and a yellow rain poncho. We brought along a plastic bag for our shoes, knowing we would get wet. Once we were outfitted in our stylish rain gear, we descended 175 feet into the Niagara Gorge. Don’t worry, this descent is in an elevator, not a free-fall drop. The elevator took us down to the base of the Niagara River, between the American and Canadian Falls.
Once out of the elevator, the deafening roar of tons of water crashing down from the Bridal Falls into the river was even louder than from above. We felt the tropical-storm-force winds created by the overwhelming power of the falls, along with the icy mist on our faces. A kaleidoscope of rainbows, born from glistening water droplets filtering the sun’s rays, hit our eyes. Anyone experiencing this will know immediately why this is a bucket list destination.
From the base of the falls, we climbed a series of steps to the top of the falls. Along the way, we were able to stop at numerous platforms, great for family photo ops. If I didn’t already believe in a God, I would have left believing in some form of a higher being, whether only science itself, as the creator of this amazing wonder.
Once we reached the top, we grabbed a quick bite to eat before moving on to our next attraction.
Cave of the Winds is located in Niagara Falls State Park, which is recognized as the oldest state park in the USA. There’s an abundance of places to explore in the Niagara region. The park, located in the City of Niagara Falls, in Niagara County, contains the American Falls, the Bridal Falls, and part of the Horseshoe Falls, which continues over to Canada. You will find this amazing wonder in the northwestern part of New York state, just north of Buffalo.
The best time to experience the Cave of the Winds is May through to October before temperatures dip into the freezing realm. You can still take abbreviated tours after October, but many of the redwood platforms are removed each fall to prevent damage from ice build-up. The World Changed Here Pavillion is open all year, but let’s face it, the main reason to go is to actually witness the falls. I recommend summer when temperatures are in the 70s (around 20°C).
This is a walking tour with plenty of platforms to step onto for photo ops and to just take in the awe of the Falls. A piece of advice: make sure to use the sandals and ponchos that are provided. YOU WILL GET WET! While the sandals may not be very fashionable, they are sturdy. Once used, they are yours to keep. My family wore them the rest of the day, they were so comfortable. My son and I used ours after returning home to go canoeing.
If you are planning to do other sights such as the Maid of the Mist, I recommend doing the Cave of the Winds first. Then wear the sandals all day. While the Maid of the Mist boat ride provides rain ponchos, they don’t provide sandals. And your feet will get wet. These sandals also provide traction on slippery surfaces.
While the Maid of the Mist is a popular attraction, I don’t recommend it for anyone who gets seasick. During the ride, the boat goes directly into the choppy water created by the careening falls. On the other hand, The Cave of the Winds is a self-paced tour on land. Just watch your footing. It is slippery.
About the Author
Donna Emperador writes for Explore the Road with Donnamarie, a lifestyle blog focusing on travel, food, and creative cocktails. Donna believes in bringing people together by traveling and learning about different cultures while sharing good food and cocktails. Originally from New York, she has lived in South Florida for over 20 years and enjoys spending time exploring the road to find unique places to share with readers.
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