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New York Niagara Falls

The cascades at Niagara Falls haven’t changed in centuries, but the cities built up around them continue to evolve and expand with new visitor experiences. The American side of the U.S.-Canadian destination boasts a variety of new attractions and improvements.


Seeing the Falls

Niagara Falls State Park was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park in New York City. Within the 400-acre park, Maid of the Mist now boards exclusively from the American side. Visitors descend the 230-foot observation tower by high-speed elevator and before cruising to the base of Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Other park renovations have included sprucing up Goat Island, Three Sisters Island and Luna Island in keeping with Olmsted’s vision.

New last year, jet boats with Niagara Jet Adventures board at Youngstown. Boats take riders through Class V rapids and up to the Devil’s Hole whirlpool using 1,650 horsepower. Guides talk about Old Fort Niagara, the history of the Niagara River Gorge and Native American community, and harnessing the hydroelectricity of the falls. Riders can choose to sit on the back and get drenched, or stay dry inside.

Another way to experience the gorge is by taking the Niagara Belle paddleboat tour with Niagara Sunset Cruises. Departing from Lewiston Landing, the boat navigates up the Niagara River toward Lake Ontario — the opposite direction from the falls. Upscale dining, a dance floor and a full-service bar make for an enjoyable evening.

“The cruise is a calm experience, a nostalgic way to see the gorge,” said communications and community relations manager Michelle Blackley of the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation.

Projected to be completed this summer, the Aquarium of Niagara is renovating its first-floor aquatic alcoves. The new ocean alcove will include the relocated shark exhibit as well as interactive components that explore coral reefs using virtual reality. The fishery alcove will highlight different aspects of Lake Ontario and a 10,000-gallon tank containing indigenous fish. The conservation, education and research alcove’s five exhibits are also undergoing a facelift.

Construction on a 2,000-square-foot penguin exhibit will begin this fall.

“Our mission is to broaden the public’s awareness of aquatic ecosystems and educate the public to become better stewards of the natural environment,” said executive director Gay Molnar.


Flight of Five

Thirty minutes by motorcoach from Niagara Falls, the restoration of the Flight of Five locks on the Erie Canal is underway. The set of five 1860s-era canal locks acted as stairs up to and down from the Niagara Escarpment. There was once a twin set of five locks on the canal in Lockport. This series of locks raised and lowered boats traversing the canal to deal with the Niagara Escarpment’s 60-foot change in elevation; hence, the name “Flight of Five.”

Visitors can now see two restored locks near the top of the flight with the lock gates and balance beams used to open and close them. The locks were made of wood when the canal opened in 1825, but stone was added in the early 1840s. When the restoration is complete, the site will appear as it did in the Civil War era.

“It’s like seeing history come to life. And visitors enjoy interacting with the engineers as they’re working on the gates,” said Blackley.