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Boat Ride Under Niagara Falls (Maid of the Mist Niagara Falls)

One of the best ways to see Niagara Falls up close and personal is on a boat tour.

The Maid of the Mist, departing from Niagara Falls State Park (NY, USA), will take you right up to the center of the Horseshoe Falls to experience the full power and noise of Niagara Falls as it hits the riverbed.

How long is the Maid of the Mist boat ride?

The Maid of the Mist boat ride takes about 20 minutes from when the boat leaves the dock to when it arrives back at the dock.

The total time you will spend waiting for tickets and to board the boat is about 15-20 minutes, depending on how long the lines are, of course. Although, even with long lines, they do keep things moving along, so the wait should never be outrageously long.

Add this in, and the optional walk to the crow’s nest, plus some time for viewing the panorama from the top of the observation deck, and you should allocate at least an hour to an hour and a half for the whole Maid of the Mist experience.

The Canadian counterpart, Voyage to the Falls by Niagara City Cruises, offers a similar experience minus the observation tower. For this boat ride, you should plan on the experience taking just under an hour, even though the boat ride is only 20 minutes.

How much does it cost to go on a boat under Niagara Falls?

The Maid of the Mist boat tour in Niagara Falls, NY, costs $28.25 per adult ticket and $16.50 for children ages 6-12. Children 5 and under ride free.

You can purchase tickets in advance online, but this really offers no real advantage. There is no pricing discount for online purchases, and you don’t reserve a time slot by buying ahead—the boat boards straight from the ticket line (where you can show your prepurchased tickets) on a first come, first served basis.

The Niagara City Cruises Voyage to the Falls is priced in Canadian dollars, which, depending on the exchange rate, can be more expensive or similarly priced to the Maid of the Mist tour.

Adult tickets cost CAD $32.75, and children ages 3-12 cost CAD $22.75. Children 2 and under ride free. Unlike the Maid of the Mist online purchases, you can reserve tickets online for a specific time slot. If you do buy tickets ahead, make sure you arrive ahead to allow time for boarding.

The most cost-effective boat tour for our crew with several young children under the age of 6 is the Maid of the Mist. It also worked well for us not to have a specific time slot to worry about making.

How do you get down to the Maid of the Mist?

The Maid of the Mist ticket counter is in Niagara Falls State Park, NY, near Prospect Point. The closest parking lot in the park is Lot #1. However, this lot is first to fill up, and if it’s full, you’re best off to head straight for parking on Goat Island in Lot #2.

From there, you can walk back across the pedestrian bridge, or take the trolley back to Prospect Point to the Maid of the Mist ticketing area.

Once you’ve purchased your ticket, you simply follow the directions up to the Observation Deck, where you get on the elevators down to the river level. (You can also buy tickets just for the Observation Deck and elevators).

Once you exit the elevators, you will be directed to the boat dock, where you turn in your tickets and receive your poncho for the boat ride.

Is Maid of the Mist worth it?

The Maid of the Mist boat tour is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience that you and the kids will never forget. To my way of thinking, that definitely makes the expense worth it.

There really is no other way to see or experience the falls from the very center of the curving arc of the Horseshoe Falls. To have your complete field of vision and all your senses filled with pounding spraying water is something you won’t soon forget.

The wet spray on your face, the whipping wind, and the immense thundering noise – it’s sensory overload – in the best way possible!

You also get to pass by the American Falls as you head up the river to the Horseshoe Falls, and feel the spray and hear the roar of that giant fall of water as well.

You could get closer and wetter with the Cave of the Winds tour at the American Falls, and at the Journey Behind the Falls tour on the Canadian side, but the boat tour offers you up close, spray-in-your-face views of both falls on one tour.

What is better, Journey Behind the Falls or Maid of the Mist?

Maid of the Mist is a boat tour that takes you down front and center to the middle of the Horseshoe Falls. The Journey Behind the Falls (on the Canadian side) takes you down next to the base of the Horseshoe Falls (it doesn’t actually take you behind the falls).

Both experiences are larger than life, a thrilling way to feel the power and splendor of Niagara Falls from the base level where the water hits the rocks.

If you can find room in the budget, they’re both worth doing, as they offer different ways to experience the power of the water.

If you have to choose, though, consider these things:

  • The Journey Behind the Falls takes you to one main viewing point while the Maid of the Mist takes you along a route where you experience multiple views of both the Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls.
  • The Maid of the Mist is a quick 20-minute boat ride, while you could theoretically take longer and linger more at the view on the Journey Behind the Falls.
  • The Maid of the Mist is in the US, while the Journey Behind the Falls is in Canada. Your location and passport situation may make the decision for you.

How wet do you get on Maid of the Mist?

If you wear the plastic poncho that is complimentary with your ticket purchase, you can manage not to get completely soaked on your Maid of the Mist boat ride, although coming out completely dry is unlikely.

The Maid of the Mist boat goes right up into the center of the horseshoe shape of the Horseshoe Falls. Here in the center of the spray plume, you will get buffeted by strong winds and powerful misting spray.

As you cruise past the American Falls as well, you’ll feel the wind and spray coming from that direction.

Your face, presumably not covered with the poncho hood, will get the wettest. Mmm, taste that river water!

With your hood up (if you can manage to keep it on with all the wind blowing), your hair and clothes can manage to stay mostly dry.

On our most recent trip, I was holding two small children by the hand and unable to tighten the strings around the poncho hood, so I did get quite a bit of water through the neck of the poncho onto my shirt, so my shirt was quite wet when we got off.

If I hadn’t been holding little ones by the hand, I probably would have stayed quite a bit drier.

Even standing at the railing on the port (left) side of the boat (closest to the American Falls), my feet didn’t get that wet to speak of, and the poncho was long enough to mostly cover my pants, so my pants didn’t get wet either.

Kids are given child-sized ponchos, which fit the older ones, but was much too big for the 3-year-old. Regardless, the kids were able to keep their hoods up and didn’t get their clothes wet at all. I think they were a little disappointed, to be honest. The only thing wet on them was the hair around the edges of the face.

The 2-year-old in the backpack carrier also had a baby-sized poncho on, and with her hood up, only her legs got a little wet. The backpack, however, was quite soggy.

Do your feet get wet on Maid of the Mist?

You are likely to have wet or at least slightly damp feet after a ride on the Maid of the Mist, although you may manage to escape with dry feet, as I did.

On my last trip on the Maid of the Mist boat tour, my feet did not get wet at all. I came wearing water-friendly sandals in preparation to have wet feet, but left with dry feet after all. My pants legs were completely dry as well.

However, my husband (who was next to me on the boat the whole time) left with slightly damp feet and pant legs. I’m not sure how he managed to get wet when I didn’t, except that my pants legs were perhaps more covered by the length of the poncho.

If you’re going on the Maid of the Mist tour during colder weather, I would recommend rain boots or waterproof shoes. Otherwise, sandals that can stand to get wet are the best choice.

If you do wear sneakers or other shoes that are going to be uncomfortable to walk around in wet, bring a change of socks and shoes for after the boat ride.

Do you get a poncho at Maid of the Mist?

The Maid of the Mist boat tour ticket includes a complimentary recyclable plastic poncho. At the end of the boat ride, you have the option of returning your poncho for recycling, or you can choose to keep it as a souvenir.

Kids are given child-sized ponchos, and baby/toddler-sized ponchos are also available.

Traditionally, the Maid of the Mist ponchos are blue, while the Canadian Voyage to the Falls boat tour ponchos are red. However, on special events or remembrance days, either attraction may hand out ponchos of a different color.

Where is the best place to be on Maid of the Mist?

The best position to try to grab a spot on the Maid of the Mist boat is on the left side (port) of the upper deck, facing the dock. Toward the front is better if you want to be in the thickest part of the mist.

There are several reasons to aim for the left side of the boat.

This side faces the American Falls as you cruise up the river. On the left side of the boat, you get the full view and feel the spray from the American Falls.

When you’re in the center of the Horseshoe Falls arc, you’ll feel the spray from pretty much any position on the top deck, but the impact is fullest towards the front of the boat.

Once the boat turns around to go back down the river toward the dock, the left side of the boat is now facing the Canadian gorge wall, but the boat stops for a 360-degree spin to again show the left side of the boat the full view of the American Falls.

So on the left side, you get a great view of the American side on the way up the river and also on the way back down.

Also, once the boat docks, the gangway is lowered on the left side, allowing you to be first in line to disembark.

Is it safe to bring kids on Maid of the Mist?

We took 5 kids under the age of 10 (ages 21 months, 3, 5, 7, and 9) on the Maid of the Mist. At no point in time did I feel it was unsafe or risky for them. So yes, I would consider this a safe experience to bring kids.

There are a few things to bear in mind. Toddlers who like to climb and explore may be best off restrained during the voyage. Our youngest, almost 2, was in a backpack carrier to prevent her from trying to climb railings or wiggle out of my arms. Aside from the carrier getting wet, this approach worked well.

Kids with sensory sensitivity may not like the noise and wind or the slight rocking motion of the boat. You know your kids best and whether they may react negatively to this type of stimuli.

The 7-year-old was a bit nervous beforehand, thinking that it looked scary, and just wasn’t sure what to expect. However, once we were on the boat, and she saw the railings to hold onto, she changed her mind and decided it wasn’t scary at all, just fun and exciting.

How many people does the Maid of the Mist boat hold?

The Maid of the Mist boat can safely carry up to 300 passengers.

On any given day, most rides are unlikely to be at full capacity, meaning you won’t necessarily be packed onboard like sardines.

In peak season, the boat rides tend to be fullest earlier in the day, from about 9 am to about 2 pm. If you’re hoping for a less-crowded boat, you may do better to wait until after 2 or 3 to head to the ticket line.

The last boat ride time of the day changes throughout the spring, summer, and fall seasons, so check the final departure time to be sure you don’t miss it.