As a kid growing up in New York during the 80′s, Superman II put Niagara Falls on the map for me. In the movie, a young boy climbing on the guard rail accidentally falls over the edge. Luckily, Superman is there to rescue him before he hits the raging waters below.
32 years later, I finally had the chance to go on a Niagara Falls Day Trip from Toronto to see North America’s largest waterfall, and the world’s most powerful.
I chose this particular tour because it was comprehensive, including roundtrip transportation with a guide, wine tasting, optional helicopter flight, buffet lunch, ride on the famous Maid of the Mist boat, and a short stop in Niagara-on-the-Lake at the end.
A few quick hours after departing Toronto by bus, we arrived at Caroline Cellars Winery, where we enjoyed a complimentary wine tasting, including a 2009 Riesling, a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, and a 2011 Vidal Icewine.
From the winery, we drove to the nearby heliport for our optional flights over the Falls. Several helicopters were operating in constant rotation, picking up and dropping off passengers of all ages.
Our tour group benefited from a special rate, just $104 per person for the ten minute ride.
The helicopter lifted myself and six others off the ground, and we began our ascent in the direction of Niagara Falls. An audio recording played interesting facts about the Falls through our headsets, but I was too excited to listen.
The quick trip over Niagara Gorge went smoothly, and within a few minutes we were circling all three waterfalls in a clockwise direction. As we came to Horseshoe Falls, so named for its shape, a rainbow appeared as if on cue. Under the white blanket of kicked-up water, there was a barely-visible Maid of the Mist boat.
When the flights were finished, we continued onward to Niagara Falls. The location of our buffet lunch was an unexpected surprise, the restaurant atop the Sheraton Hotel, offering us a perfect vantage point toward the American Falls, named for their location on the US side of the border.
After lunch, we walked down to the Maid of the Mist boat dock, where we were handed free plastic ponchos. The boat pulled away from the dock, and loaded with a hundred or more poncho-wearing passengers, began moving slowly toward Horseshoe Falls, passing American Falls, and the smaller Bridal Veil Falls along the way.
As the boat navigated into the center of the torrent, I moved toward the front of the upper deck, anxious to feel the full effect of the water crashing down. Enshrouded in a thick, wet mist, it was immediately apparent how the boat got its name.
Once we were sufficiently wet, the boat began its retreat to calmer waters, passing American Falls again on its way back to the dock.
We walked back to the bus for a short ride to a scenic lookout point along the Canadian edge of Horshoe Falls. It was here where I began having flashbacks to the scene in Superman II. All that stood between visitors and the water was a small metal fence, and a warning sign.
Staring out over the crescent-shaped waterfall, it was hard to believe anyone could survive a trip over it, whether in a barrel or unprotected, yet since 1901, there are more than a half dozen documented cases.
Our final stop of the day was Niagara-on-the-Lake, where one can do souvenir shopping, or simply go for a walk around the village. The guide recommended Cow’s ice cream shop for a sweet treat. Not being one to pass up a delicious dessert, I opted for a two-scoop cone with their artisanal chocolate and peanut butter ice creams.
On the ride back to Toronto, I reflected on the day’s tour. We’d seen Niagara Falls from all angles, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
-Photos and article by David Lee