Let's be honest, one of the biggest things to do when you visit Niagara Falls is go on a Niagara Falls boat tour. It's the first thing I booked when we planned our trip- even before I booked our hotel.
And it didn't disappoint. Here's everything we learnt about Niagara falls boat rides- and how to pick the best one for you!
Best Niagara Falls boat tour
There are two different companies offering exactly the same trip. The only difference is which country they operate from.
Maid of the Mist
Maid of the Mist is the American boat tour to Niagara- and leaves from the American side. This was the first Niagara Falls boat trip available- and it's still going strong.
Hornblower Niagara Falls
Hornblower Cruises is the Canadian version of Maid in the Mist. It's a totally separate company, operating from the Canadian side.
Hornblower vs Maid of the Mist?
Both boat tours do the same trip- up past the American Falls to the Horseshoe Falls, where the boat goes into the mist of the Horseshoe Falls. We've watched both tours and they are pretty much identical, so our advice to to choose whichever tour runs from your side of the falls.
We went with Hornblower Niagara Falls Cruises, as we were based on the Canadian side.
Hornblower Voyage to the Falls Boat Cruise price
2019 prices: $28.95/ adult (13+) CAD, $18.95/ child, Children under 5 go free
Maid of the Mist prices
2019 prices: $19.25/adult, $11.20/child. Children under 5 go free
All pricing for both boat cruises includes a free poncho; Maid of the Mist ones are blue, Hornblower ones are red.
In high season (May-Sept), the boat tours run between 8.30am and 8.30pm. Times are subject to weather and change.
Does Hornblower operate all year round?
No. The Voyage to the Falls boat tour runs from Mid-May until end of November, weather permitting. Full details can be found here.
Opening dates for Maid of the Mist
The Maid of the Mist runs similar opening dates at the Hornblower Niagara Falls Boat Tour. Full details can be found here
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What is the Hornblower Niagara cruise?
Good question! The Hornblower Voyage to the Falls boat tour is a cruise along the Niagara River, past the American Falls and up into Horseshoe Falls. You can experience the sheer power of the waterfalls and you WILL get wet (unless you opt to do the cruise after sunset, in which case the ferry doesn't go into the spray so far.
How long does Hornblower Niagara cruise take?
About 20 minutes. I was really amazed how long we stayed inside the spray of the Horseshoe Falls for- much longer than I expected. It was incredible to experience that power.
Hornblower wait times
Buy your tickets in advance, then take your scan code (on your email) straight to the entrance. This saved us about a 25 minute queue for tickets.
Once through the gate, it was about a 15 minute wait to get onto the ferry.
Ferrys run between 20-30 minutes and take
Do you get wet on a Niagara Falls Boat tour?
Yes, but you don't have to. We chose to stand on the top deck, in the middle. We had our ponchos on, but honestly we still got soaked, especially our legs and feet. The wind from the water lifted up the ponchos, so everything from hips down was soaked.
However, you can stand downstairs and inside on both the Hornblower boats and the Maid of the Mist boat tours, so you don't HAVE to get wet. But you won't get the same experience of the power of nature either.
Can I use a camera on the Niagara Falls cruise?
Sure you can. Couple of things to remember:
- Don't drop it over the side- a wrist strap is invaluable, especially with a lot of people jostling for a view
- You won't be able to set up a tripod, unless you go REALLY early and get a boat which is only half full. Even then, the boat is moving, so a tripod may not be much use
- It will probably get wet! We recommend this instead of ruining your camera!
Hornblower Niagara funicular
There is a funicular to get from the street level to the river on the Canadian side. Buy your tickets in advance and a trip in the funicular is included.
Alternatively, there are escalators down and up again.
Hornblower Niagara cruises parking
There are several parking options in Niagara Falls. The closest to the Hornblower boat tour is either the public parking behind the waterpark, or parking near the Skylon Tower.
Hornblower Fireworks cruise
It's possible to go on the Hornblower boat during the evening fireworks (happens at 10pm every evening.) This boat cruise does NOT do into the mist at Horseshoe.
Some frequent questions about Niagara Falls Boat Tours:
Is there a Maid of the Mist on the Canadian side?
Yes, but it's not called Maid of the Mist and it's a different company.
What is the Maid of the Mist called now?
Still called Maid of the Mist and it runs solely from the American side. The Canadian Voyage to the Falls boat tour is called Hornblower.
Did Maid of the Mist become Hornblower?
Nope. Two totally different companies.
Is it the Niagara Falls Boat tour worth it?
Absolutely. We're not normally ones for over-touristy stuff, but this cruise is definitely worth your time and money. Being able to see the falls from river level is cool enough, but to actually go into the mist, hear the roar and feel the force of the water crashing around you is just spectacular.
If you only go to Niagara Falls for one day, and only do one thing, do this.