Niagara Falls: Free admission and other things you may not know about this tourist spot

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. – Unless one counts the mist that sometimes appears as a ground hugging cloud and other times as pulsing bursts of steam, you hear Niagara Falls before you see them. This is unavoidable. More than 3,100 tons – about 758,000 gallons – of water, plunge over the falls every second producing a rhythmic roar that is both felt and heard.

Here are a few facts you may not have known about the tourist spot:

Niagara Falls are actually three falls. Horseshoe, or Canadian, Falls are the uppermost waterfalls and are divided by the United States border with Canada. American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls  are on the U.S. side of the river just downstream from Horseshoe Falls.  The American and Bridal Veil Falls are separated by Luna Island, which serves as an observation deck. The American/Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls are separated by Goat Island.

Many visitors are unaware that Niagara Falls is actually a state park – and it’s the nation’s oldest one. Niagara Falls State Park was established in 1885 as Niagara Reservation. The state park property includes about 400 acres, more than a quarter of which are underwater. 

There is no general admission fee for the park, which is clean, safe and well kept, is always open (365 days a year; 24 hours a day).Visitors can walk over and look at the falls for free, However, there is a charge for popular attractions like the Maid of the Mist boat tour, Cave of the Winds, Aquarium of Niagara, Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, Niagara Adventure Theater and the park trolley. (Note that due to COVID-19-induced capacity restrictions and high demand, many of these attractions sell out early in the day, so plan accordingly if you need to buy tickets.)

You can walk to downtown from the park. The city of Niagara Falls, which has a population of nearly 50,000, flanks the park property. The falls and most park attractions are within walking distance of an active and energetic downtown.

The Niagara Falls honeymoon trend started with celebs like Aaron Burr’s daughter and Napoleon’s brother. Theodosia Burr Alston, made famous in this century by the musical “Hamilton,” honeymooned here in 1081 with her new husband, future South Carolina Gov. Joseph  Alston. Three years later, Jérome Bonaparte (the younger brother of the French emperor and the Prince Harry of his day), vacationed here with his American bride after their 1804 wedding, putting Niagara Falls on the map as a honeymoon spot. 

The falls were formed about 12,000 years ago at the close of the last Ice Age. This makes them relatively young, geologically speaking. They begin about seven miles downriver from their current location, near present-day Lewiston, New York. 

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