The tour can be enjoyed from the New York side of the falls in the United States or from Ontario (Canada), and the trip can be done by hiring an organized tour of up to three days or simply by purchasing tickets for twenty minutes of breathtaking views of the most famous waterfalls in the world.
Visit Niagara Falls on an organized tour on the Maid of the Mist
There is so much to see in Niagara Falls, it can be difficult to plan a trip on your own; therefore, an organized tour becomes the best option.
One of the advantages of guided tours is that you won't have to worry about anything, as lodging and transfers are usually included, along with many meals and sightseeing. Add to this the fact that the Niagara Falls park tour includes experiences such as tickets to Cave of the Winds or the Maid of the Mist boat ride, and you've got yourself a package deal.
There are guided tours to suit different tastes and budgets, from basic backpacker tours to 5-star luxury and all-inclusive guided tours. Ideally, you should book tours in advance, as they tend to be quite crowded:
- Day Trip: Visit Niagara Falls from New York and board the Maid of the Mist or Cave of the Winds.
- Two-day tour: This option includes one hotel night with breakfast near Niagara Falls National Park.
- Three-day tour: In addition to the Maid of Mist trip, you can visit the 1000 Islands National Park.
What is it like to ride the Maid of the Mist?
Get ready to get wet: the Maid of the Mist practically plunges you under the falls and many say it's one of the most fantastic ways to experience the splendor of Niagara Falls. In fact, it's one of the best things to do in the region.
After purchasing tickets, an elevator takes passengers to the pier. Passengers are given a plastic poncho to keep them from getting completely soaked, but you'll get soaked anyway, so don't hesitate and find a spot by the railings for the best (and wettest) views.
As you approach the falls, look downstream to the 50+ meter high walls of the Niagara Gorge, sculpted over hundreds of thousands of years as the waterfall eroded the rock. Gradually the sound of the water will turn to thunder and you will also hear the screams of amazement of the passengers as if it were an amusement park attraction.
Important points about this cruise
- Each boat can hold up to 600 people and is quite a crowded experience, so it is not recommended for the more claustrophobic.
- Before boarding you will see staff ready to guide you and also some toilets before the boarding queue that you can take advantage of.
- While the memories that will be created on this trip will last a lifetime, the experience itself lasts 20 minutes at most.
- When you get on board you will see that some passengers run to choose the best seats, which are the ones on the top floor to have the best view.
What do other tourists say about the Maid of the Mist cruise?
Recent visitors say you can't leave Niagara Falls without taking a ride on the Maid of the Mist. Aside from the incredible views, tourists were also pleased with the length of the ride (20 minutes) and the modest ticket price. If you have traveled to New York and don't want to miss this natural gem, I recommend booking a Niagara tour in advance.
Ride the Maid of the Mist boat to visit Niagara Falls on your own
Tickets for the Maid of Mist are sold directly from 9 A.M. at the port inside Niagara Falls State Park. There are several pre-sales available directly on their official website, but these sell out quickly and are only available seasonally.
The advantage of these tickets is that they do not have a specific date, but you have to wait in line anyway, even if you have ordered tickets in advance as you need to exchange your purchase receipt for the tickets themselves.
Maid of the Mist boat tour dates and times
Maid of the Mist tours run from April to October each year, depending on weather conditions. Boats can be boarded from the U.S. side of the falls, every 15 minutes during peak season.
Maid of the Mist Boat Ticket Prices
Depending on the season, tickets for the Maid of the Mist can cost up to 25 euros for adults and up to 12 euros for children 6 to 12 years old. Children under 5 are free, but there must be a minimum of 1 adult present for every 4 children.
How to find the Maid of the Mist boat stop inside the park
The Maid of the Mist boat dock is located on the Lower Niagara River at the site of the former Schoellkopf Power Station in Niagara Falls.
- From the Niagara Falls State Park visitor parking lot you will only have to walk just over 300 yards to reach the harbor where the Maid of the Mist docks.
- You need to face east, looking for the Niagara Adventure Theatre which faces the falls.
- Then, past the Niagara Falls Fireworks Observation Point, you will see the location of the ports.
Tips to keep in mind when visiting Niagara Falls aboard the Maid of the Mist
- Don't do it on a hot weekend. Lines can last up to two hours and the high summer temperatures can ruin the experience.
- If you go on a holiday weekend and it's very hot, it's best to wait until later in the day when there are fewer people in line.
- Bring water and an umbrella. I would suggest a small umbrella that you can fold up and put in your purse or backpack. They let you bring things like that, although you can confirm it on their website.
- If your physical condition allows, I recommend climbing the steps up to the side of the falls. You will get wet, but the views are AMAZING.
- Watch out for the kids! I'm not kidding. There are some potentially dangerous places where a person could get hurt. Be aware of your surroundings and hold your children's little hands tightly or secure them in the stroller.
- Carry a waterproof camera if you have one handy or, if not, be careful not to get your cell phone too wet.
The best parking spots in Niagara Falls
Entry is through Niagara Falls State Park, you'll be greeted with banners from various businesses directing you to their own private parking lots. Try the state park parking lots first ; they are cheaper and closer to the falls.
At Prospect Point there is a parking lot open year-round. There are also two parking lots on nearby Goat Island. The entrance fee for vehicles is €6 to €9, depending on the season. Parking is free if you have the annual state park passport.
If the day is nice and you want to enjoy a picnic in the area, there is room to do so if you come well prepared. This can also be a good way to save money.
What I will see during the cruise
The Maid of the Mist tour has been a favorite attraction at Niagara Falls State Park for over 150 years. The ride will take you through the rushing waters of the falls and the massive rock formations:
- The tour begins at the Observation Tower, where visitors receive a souvenir rain poncho and board the double-decker Maid of the Mist tour boat.
- From there, the boat passes the base of the American Falls and arrives at the Horseshoe Falls basin.
- The majestic view of Niagara Falls is the main attraction of this tour, which cannot be done justice with words alone.
- You can choose to stand on the deck or stay on the boat to enjoy the view of the waterfall.
- The highlight of the trip is when the captain drives to the center of the waterfall as far as the weather conditions make it possible, giving the tourist an enviable and unrepeatable view.
- The trip ends by returning back to the U.S. side at Niagara Falls State Park.
Maid of the Mist from the U.S. side and from Canada
A similar boat trip is offered on the Canadian side: the Hornblower Niagara Cruises. The major difference between the Maid of the Mist and the Hornblower is the story behind it. Although the Hornblower has been around for more than 35 years, it has only been offering Niagara River cruises since 2014. The route that both boats follow is the same, with the only difference being that the Hornblower also offers night cruises, complete with lighting and fireworks.
You can combine both tours, but if you have to choose, location is the best way to decide when debating between the Maid of the Mist and the Hornblower:
- If you find yourself staying on the U.S. side of Niagara Falls, choose the Maid of the Mist.
- If you're on the Canadian side, choose the Hornblower Niagara Cruises, which is basically the Canadian Maid of the Mist.
Hornblower Niagara Cruises tickets for adults cost around €20, and the adventure pass, which includes the trip behind the falls, the whitewater ride and the 4D Niagara Fury experience, costs around €28. This pass also includes a two-day transportation pass for the WEGO transportation system and coupons for Niagara Parks restaurants and stores.
The price difference for cruises may be greater if you have children. The Maid of the Mist is free for children 5 and under accompanied by an adult, while the Hornblower only lets children 2 and under board for free. It's a minor detail, but, if you have several children, the difference can make a big difference.
Difference in dates and duration
They also differ in itineraries: The Hornblower runs its daytime cruises from April 1 through November 30, weather permitting, while the Maid of the Mist ends its season in early November.
These cruises last 40 minutes and sell out quickly, so it's wise to purchase tickets early. The evening cruise is more expensive than the daytime cruises because it is longer, but it is one of the most romantic experiences your trip to Niagara Falls can offer.
- Maid of the Mist
- Operation: April to October
- Ticket Price Adult: Around 22 Euros
- Children Free: Up to 5 years old.
- Starting Point: Niagara Falls State Park (USA)
- Hornblower Niagara Cruises
- Operation: April 1 to November 30
- Ticket Price Adult: Around 22 Euros
- Children Free: Up to 2 years old.
- Departure Point: Niagara Parkway (Canada)
Is it worth riding the Maid of the Mist boat to see Niagara Falls?
There are so many things to do in Niagara Falls in the United States that it can be difficult to take it all in, but if you have limited time (say, a weekend getaway), it pays to opt for a short list of things you can't miss. And definitely riding the Maid of the Mist is one of the experiences you can't miss.
We don't usually like to recommend activities where you have to wait in long lines, but this cruise is definitely worth your time and money. Anyway, check out the best time to make the most of your visit to Niagara Falls.
Being able to see the falls from river level is already a great experience, but getting into the heart of this mighty waterfall, hearing the roar and feeling the force of the water crashing around you is simply spectacular.