Image: Onasill - Bill Badzo, Flickr
Niagara Falls: The breathtaking beauty of the waterfalls straddling New York and Ontario has caused the two neighboring countries to jostle over their ownership since the start of time. But as geography would have it, the answer is simple and shared somewhat equally between the two.
This is embodied no better than the two tour companies ferrying tourists on the Niagara River: Maid of the Mist, if you’re coming from the United States, and Hornblower from Canada. Vitally, you will see views of the falls (American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls) no matter which you choose.
But there are differences between the two experiences (other than just the color of the ponchos - blue for one, red for the other), which may make you choose one over the other. (Yes, even if that means changing the side of the falls you’re on - we’re only talking a six-minute drive over the Rainbow Bridge between the two, after all!). So, buckle up and enjoy the ride!
If longevity and prominence are important to you, Maid of the Mist boat tours - in operation since 1846 - will win every time. Princess Diana with her two boys, Marilyn Monroe, Katy Perry and One Direction have all experienced it!
The California-based Hornblower, however, only started operating the rides from the Canadian side in 2014.
Type of rides
Having said that, while the Maid of the Mist boat rides operates between 9.00 am - 6 pm (extending slightly later until 8 pm on weekends and in the height of summer), Hornblower offers two different types: A 20-minute day tour that operates daily from 8.30 am until dusk and a 40-minute fireworks cruise on selected nights - complete with a complimentary snack, music and drinks from the bar. (They used to offer a further two tours - a 20-minute nighttime cruise and a 40-minute, slower-paced Illumination Falls cruise, which they seem to have discontinued.)
Hornblower offers timed entry tickets, whereas, on Maid of the Mist, it’s a first come, first served basis, which can be a pro or con, depending on your schedule. Sometimes a bit of flexibility can be handy, after all!
Maid of the Mist operates between May and early November, while Hornblower starts in April and runs through to the end of November, weather permitting.
Hornblower wins again for this one, offering seating, bathrooms and enclosed viewing areas for those who don’t want to get wet, while Maid of the Mist is wheelchair accessible but offers no other seating. Again, if it's the authenticity of the 1846 boat ride you’re after, this won’t bother you; otherwise, you may prefer to choose Hornblower.
Maid of the Mist comes back swinging in this category - especially if you’ve got young children. That’s because while the adult tickets are pretty similar in cost, Maid of the Mist counts any children under five as free, whereas on Hornblower, you have to pay for any infant over two.
One thing’s for sure: No matter which you choose, it’s sure to make a splash!