I read a bit about the Cave of the Winds before my trip to Niagara but I wasn’t sure what to expect. The name I thought seemed a little misleading because I knew there wasn’t a cave near Niagara Falls. And almost everywhere around the falls was windy. I didn’t get the excitement of the Cave of the Winds Niagara Falls.
When I was tight on time, I was tempted to cut it out of the itinerary, but I am glad I didn’t. Let me tell you more about our experience and why it is an attraction that you can not miss.
What is the Cave of the Winds?
The Cave of the Winds is the best way to get close to the falls on the American side. When we took the Hornblower cruise, I saw all the people wearing their yellow ponchos and realized that was the Cave of the Winds.
It’s not actually a cave but scaffolding that allows you to actually touch Niagara Falls! Back in the 1800s, there was a rock overhang (sort of creating a cave) that allowed people to stand under the Falls. This Cave collapsed in the early 1900s but the name stuck.
Note that the Cave of the Wind scaffolding takes you right to the base of the Bridal Falls, which is one of three main waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls: the Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls. Both the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls are in the US, while the Horseshoe Falls is in Canada. The American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls are separated by Luna Island. The Bridal Veil Falls are impressive but significantly smaller than the other falls.
Entering the Cave of the Winds
After picking up your ticket, join the queue to go to the Cave of the Winds. We went a little bit after it opened on Sunday so there wasn’t any line. First, you will go to the World Changed Here Pavilion, which is a new indoor multimedia experience that is open year-round. Inside you will learn how Nikola Tesla harnessed the power of the Falls to create alternating current and the history of the area.
Then, you will enter a portable building where they give you some water sandals to wear. This is the first clue that you will get wet. The shoes are not the most stylish water shoes I have seen, but it was nice to not have to worry about your own shoes getting wet. If you want, you can keep the water shoes as a souvenir. We took them home with us because you never know when you might need some.
They give you a plastic bag to put your shoes in. Unfortunately, you will have to carry your shoes in the bag through the Cave of the Winds – there are no lockers. Please keep this in mind. You will not have any place to store electronics that is waterproof.
Once you have changed shoes, you rejoin the line to wait for the elevator. The elevator takes you a good portion of the way down the gorge (175 ft!). You exit the elevator and walk through a tunnel to the front side of the falls. Here you will get your yellow poncho. After going to several attractions in Niagara, I feel qualified to judge the quality of ponchos and this one seemed the best.
We put ours on and tied them as tight as possible. Unless you want to get soaked, I would recommend wearing the ponchos (and putting them on asap because there are lots of birds by the Cave of the Winds).
Experiencing the Cave of the Winds
The Cave of the Winds is a self-guided attraction, so you can go through it as fast or as slow as you like. Of course, we took our time, so that we could get some pictures and video – luckily our GoPro is waterproof.
If you wanted you could walk through the scaffolding easily in 10 minutes, but I don’t think that would do justice to the attraction. I would allow 30 minutes to explore the wooden walkways plus additional time for the lines depending on when you go.
The first thing you will notice is that the views from the scaffolding are spectacular. We could see all the falls and also the boats. The second thing you will notice is how close you are to the falls and how intense the flow of even the smallest Niagara waterfall is. I think you get a better sense of this from the Cave of the Winds than any of the other attractions.
It is not long until you realize that water is cold. Your feet will be the first to feel it as there is a deck where the falls splash over the top. Russell had me stand there for a bit so he could video and I got a little more than my feet wet. The water was freezing but on a warm day like we had it felt refreshing.
The Cave of the Winds Hurricane Deck
Then it was onwards and upwards towards the climax of the Cave of the Winds, what they call the Hurricane Deck. I read that the weather conditions on the deck are equivalent to that of a tropical storm. As you approach the deck you can hear the screams from fellow travelers and you see the water just pounding the deck.
I went first. Going up the stairs was easy and I was on the platform before I knew it. Across from me, I could see the spray from the falls. I knew to experience it, I had to get closer. As I approached the falls I could feel the cold water and the intensity of the wind increasing. My poncho was keeping me dry for the most part except it was blowing up at the bottom and my pants got soaked. (One reason you need to think carefully when packing for Niagara Falls!)
It’s hard to describe the feeling of being right there by the falls. You are in awe by the power of it – and the Bridal Falls are the smallest ones – and also invigorated because you are so close to such a powerful force. Russell enjoyed it so much, he went back for seconds.
Then it was time to head back up. There was a short line for the elevator. We took off our ponchos and tried to gather ourselves while we waited.
Our Cave of the Winds Video
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the Cave of the Winds. It is hard to convey in words how impressive the Cave of the Winds, Niagara Falls is! Luckily our GoPro is waterproof. Check out our video so you can get a better sense of what it is like.
Visiting the Cave of the Winds in the Off-Season
The Cave of the Winds as we experienced it is only open during the summer. The weather conditions created by the falls are so intense that they have to rebuild the scaffolding each year. Don’t worry though, the attraction is still open all year, it just changes a bit depending on the time of year that you visit.
In the spring and fall, there is a shortened version of the Cave of the Winds tour, called the Cave of the Winds Gorge Walk. You get to see the falls and watch the construction of the wooden walkways. Admission for the Gorge Walk and the World Changed Here Pavilion is $12 for adults and $9 for children.
In the winter, you can take the elevator down and see the frozen Gorge up close. The World Changed Here Pavilion will also be open. Admission during the winter is only $7 for adults and $5 for children.
Is the Cave of the Winds Accessible?
While there is an elevator to take you down to the attraction, you would not be able to get the full experience without managing some steps. The only way to get to the Hurricane Deck is stairs, so if you can’t do stairs (i.e. wheelchair user), you might want to choose another attraction (i.e. Journey Behind the Falls).
As long as you can manage a few steps, you will be fine to visit the Cave of the Winds. There aren’t that many stairs throughout the attraction and there are plenty of opportunities to take breaks.
Cave of the Winds vs. Journey Behind the Falls
During our time in Niagara, we also went to the Journey Behind the Falls on the Canada side. It is a little like Cave of the Winds because you do get to go close to Niagara Falls – the Horseshoe Falls in fact. While I did enjoy the Journey Behind the Falls, if you only have time for one of these attractions, I would recommend the Cave of the Winds.
Even though the Cave of the Winds is by a smaller waterfall, the experience is more intense because you are able to get closer to the falls. On the Hurricane Deck, you are literally touching the falls, while on the observation deck at the Journey Behind the Falls you feel the mist and get a sense of the power of the waterfalls. You can read more reviews of Journey Behind the Falls on Tripadvisor here.
If you are choosing between the Journey Behind the Falls and the Cave of the Winds and use a wheelchair (or have issues with stairs), it might be better to go to the Journey Behind the Falls. Like the Cave of the Winds, they have elevators to bring you down to the tunnel which goes behind the Canadian Falls. There aren’t any stairs to get to the viewing portals behind the Falls or the upper observation deck. You would need to be able to do stairs to get to the lower observation deck but the view is similar to that from the upper deck. Those that cannot do stairs at the Cave of the Winds would not be able to get to the Hurricane Deck, which was the highlight of the attraction for me.
Additionally, since the wooden walkways of the Cave of the Winds are closed from approximately November to March, it might be better to just go to Journey of the Falls if you visit Niagara Falls during the winter.
Cave of the Winds Tickets
You can purchase timed-entry Cave of the Wind tickets in person the day you plan to visit or it is part of the Niagara Falls USA Discovery Pass, which can be purchased online. The Niagara Discovery Pass includes admission to the Maid of the Mist, Cave of the Winds, Aquarium of Niagara, Adventure Theater Niagara Falls and unlimited rides on the Scenic Trolley for one day.
If you plan on going to all those attractions, you will save compared to purchasing the attractions separately. Keep in mind this pass does not include attractions on the Canadian side, such as the Whirlpool Aero Car or the Journey Behind the Falls. Still, it’s the best way to get a Cave of the Winds discount.
If you decide not to buy the pass, adult tickets for the Cave of the Winds are $19 and children are $16 for the summer of 2019. Tickets prices for the Cave of the Winds Gorge Trip (shortened tour) are only $7 for adults and $5 for children. This also includes entrance to the World Changed Here Pavilion. The tickets are for timed entry and should be purchased early in the day.
The Cave of the Wind operating hours change based on the season and each year it varies slightly, so please confirm the schedule here before planning your trip.
Getting to the Cave of the Winds Niagara Falls
To get to the Cave of the Winds NY you need to be on the American side of Niagara Falls. If you are staying on the Canadian side of the falls, you can walk or drive across the Rainbow Bridge. It is about a 15-minute walk from there. You cross over the river leading to the American Falls and the Bridal Falls then you will see signs.
Check out my practical tips for visiting Niagara Falls for more helpful information to help you plan your trip.
Have you been to the Cave of the Winds or something similar? Would you like to experience the Hurricane Deck? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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