Although cynics have had a field day with Niagara Falls (most memorably, Oscar Wilde called it "the second major disappointment of American married life"), most visitors are truly impressed. The falls are actually three cataracts: the American and Bridal Veil Falls in New York State, and the Horseshoe Falls in Ontario. In terms of sheer volume of water—more than 700,000 gallons per second in summer—Niagara is unsurpassed in North America.
On the Canadian side, you can get a far view of the American Falls and a close-up of the Horseshoe Falls. You can also park your car for the day in any of several lots and hop onto one of the WEGO buses, which run continuously to all the sights along the river. If you want to get close to the foot of the falls, the Maid of the Mist boat takes you near enough to get soaked in the spray.
After experiencing the falls from the Canadian side, you can walk or drive across Rainbow Bridge to the U.S. side. On the American side you can
park in the lot on Goat Island near the American Falls and walk along the path beside the Niagara River, which becomes more and more turbulent as it approaches the big drop-off of just over 200 feet.
The amusement parks and tacky souvenir shops that surround the falls attest to the area's history as a major tourist attraction. Most of the gaudiness is contained on Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls' Times Square. Despite these garish efforts to attract visitors, the landscaped grounds immediately bordering the falls are lovely and the beauty of the falls remains untouched.
One reason to spend the night here is to admire the falls illumination, which takes place every night of the year, from dusk until at least 10 pm (as late as 1 am during the summer). Even the most contemptuous observer will be mesmerized as the falls change from red to purple to blue to green to white, and finally all the colors of the rainbow in harmony.