Living in Western New York, I sometimes forget that we have a natural world wonder basically in our backyard: Niagara Falls.
There are many ways to view the falls, like a simple hike through the park or a ride on the legendary Maid of the Mist, and some extreme ones like a helicopter ride over the falls to get a bird's eye view. But one of my favorites is Cave of the Winds, which falls somewhere in the middle of this range. At around $7, the experience is affordable, and depending on what time of the year you go, you can basically reach out and touch the falls.
Until recently, you could only get up close to the Bridal Veil Falls section of Niagara Falls in warmer months. This year, however, a newly built platform gives visitors the opportunity to get a close view of the falls in the colder months and take in the ice that's formed from the falling waters amid frigid temps.
Here's what it's like to visit Cave of the Winds in the winter.
Upon arrival, you'll purchase your tickets at the ticket counter before entering the museum. Inside, a waiting room has historical write-ups about the falls on display. You're then guided into the next area to watch a brief video about the history and the individuals involved in using the falls for energy.
From there, you're brought to a third room full of benches. Then, an elevator attendant comes and tell you it's time to head down through the caves.
You'll head down to the cave and walk through it. From there, a short path leads you to the falls. It's a short walk — it took us about five minutes.
Once you head down the elevator, you're guided through a stone tunnel that leads you out to a path. If you look left, you'll see Horseshoe Falls. If you look right, you'll follow the path to see Bridal Veil Falls.
The entrance to the Cave of the Winds is inside Niagara Falls State Park.
If you visit Cave of the Winds in warmer months, you can get so close that you need to wear a poncho to protect yourself from getting drenched. During the cooler months, the platforms are removed so they can be protected from wear and tear. But now, a new, permanent deck allows visitors access to views like the one below.
I'm an avid winter hiker and I've always loved seeing waterfalls of any kind in the winter more than in than the summer. The icicles, snow-covered trees, and frozen blue ice mounds make waterfalls that much more beautiful. If you can stand the cold, I highly recommend giving the winter experience a chance.