When you see Niagara Falls for the first time it is breathtaking but nothing is as amazing as seeing it up close while aboard the Maid of the Mist. The Maid of the Mist is located in New York State along the USA/Canadian border. It is about a 20 minute drive from Buffalo, New York. The Maid of the Mist is a family favorite that should be on everyone’s family travel bucket list.
I grew up in Buffalo, NY and a visit to Niagara Falls was a yearly tradition. Our really special occasions we would go on the Maid of the Mist. It always brings back great childhood memories and I was so excited to take my kids.
At the beginning of summer the Maid of the Mist was on top of my list of things I wanted to do. I felt my youngest (4 years old) was big enough to handle getting wet and standing on the boat. I was right! The kids were at a great age for this.
If you have younger children don’t let that discourage you. Many parents had toddlers and babies in carriers. You know your child best! The most challenging part for the younger kids, and all kids, is waiting in lines to get tickets and board the boat. We went the weekend of Canada Day and Fourth of July and the line was really long.
If you are planning a visit avoid the crowds and children of all ages will enjoy it. Arrive as early as possible to avoid waiting in lines to board and purchase tickets.
We arrived around 10:00am and the parking lot was full so we had to park a few blocks away. I would have liked to get there around 8:30am-9:00am and been on the first boat which leaves at 9:00am. We almost didn’t ride because we couldn’t find parking but eventually we did and decided to just go with it, lines and all!
The lines were long but they moved fairly quick. We waited about 40 minutes from tickets to boat. They work pretty efficiently. You start at the ticket line then move through to take the elevator to the docks. This is the only way to get to the boat.
Waiting on the bridge to the elevator can get hot. I packed snacks and water bottles for the kids. Also hats and sunscreen. If you don’t like heights this can be a little scary too. I don’t like heights and my son really doesn’t like them but we just stayed away from the edge and we were both okay.
Arrive early and you shouldn’t have to wait too long on the bridge. At the docks they give you your blue poncho and you get in line for the boat. They had two boats the day we were there. We waited until the boat arrived to put our ponchos on because they get hot fast!!
Once on the boat we found a place along the side. We walked to the opposite side of loading. Everyone runs to the front and I’m sure it is a great view but we were able to see everything from our spot. First it passes the American Falls. This was not on our side of the boat but we saw it on the way back. Then it gets really close to the Horseshoe Falls. The boat idles there for about 10 minutes. It’s awesome! This is where you get misted(or soaked!!) and you really feel the power of the falls.
The Maid of the Mist turns back and passes the American Falls and returns to the dock. It was so much fun!! The kids loved getting misted and seeing the falls up close. When you get off the boat you can recycle your ponchos or take them home.
As you exit the boat you wait in another line to take the elevator ride back up. This was kind of a mess because people didn’t really know where to go and the line was moving slow. There is also another section called the Lower Gorge that you can walk up to get close to the American Falls.
We did not do it because it was a dead end and we would of had to get back in line. On a not crowded day, maybe fall or early morning, I would have done it but today was not the day. The bathrooms were on the other side of this line too and really difficult to get to.
Make sure to use the bathrooms before you buy your tickets. It will be about 2 hours until you get to one again(on busy days). Bathrooms are behind the ticket booth building.
There were many attendants that can help you find them. Thank goodness for snacks during this wait! It was kind of a bummer after such a fun experience to funnel into another line.
Overall we all loved this experience. The lines were long but it was totally worth it! If I went again I would arrive early or in the off season. It is one of the wonders of the world and summer is the busy season so I expected crowds. The up close view of the falls is amazing and a must do for anyone visiting Niagara Falls.
Are you looking to plan a full day visiting Niagara Falls? Check out my Niagara Falls & Buffalo Day Trip.
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