The sight and sound, and often the wet feel as well, of Niagara Falls are unique experiences. Many visitors also enjoy experiencing the Falls and learning about its history from a dry and comfortable seat in the Niagara Adventure Theater at Niagara Falls State Park in New York. Niagara Falls State Park was America’s first state park, established in 1885, and is today the center of the visitor experience on the American side of the Falls.
The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the pioneering landscape architect who planned Manhattan’s Central Park and is widely created with creating the concept of a public park as it is experienced today in countless American cities and towns. In addition to walks and hiking trails, many vantage points to view the Falls, several restaurants including the noted Top of the Falls with spectacular Falls views through floor-to-ceiling windows and the Aquarium of Niagara, the park features the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, a visitor center with a rock-climbing wall, interactive exhibits and a 180-degree multi-screen theater.
The Niagara Adventure Theater is one of the most popular visitor destinations on the American side of the Falls, chiefly on account of Legends of Adventure, the Niagara Falls movie. The film is shown on a 45-foot-high screen in an IMAX Theater, with the thunderous sound of the Falls delivered at natural high volume through digital Dolby surround sound. The 30-minute movie is shown throughout the day in a 314-seat auditorium, and can be experienced through headphones in Spanish, French, German. Mandarin Chinese, Japanese and Korean as well as in English. The film traces the advance and retreat of the glaciers in ages past, and the formation of the Niagara River Gorge and development of the American and Canadian Falls over the past 12,000 or so years.
In addition to natural history, the story of the Falls and the Niagara Falls experience are the story and experience of people, and these stories and experiences play an important part in Legends of Adventure, too. The tale begins with the Native Americans who lived on both sides of the Niagara River and formed the Iroquois-speaking Neutral Nations confederation. The legend of the Maid of the Mist, an Iroquois maiden sent over the Falls as a sacrifice to the Thunder God who was rescued by the god’s sons and lived with them behind the Falls, appearing to the people through the mist at a time of crisis and thereafter protecting them, is told in the film as well as the stories of explorers who found the Falls and pioneers who settled the Niagara region.
The role of the leaders of the American and Canadian cities of Niagara Falls in building boats and bridges to traverse the river is related, as well as the development over a century and a half of the most powerful lighting system in the world to illuminate the Falls spectacularly each night. Another kind of traverse of the Falls is also covered, the stories of the daredevils who walked on tightropes over the gorge orbraved the Falls in barrels, as well as the tale ofthe boy who went over the Falls by accident and survived.
The power of the Falls can be seen and heard and also felt during the presentation, but another kind of power is part of the story of Niagara Falls, too. Men have attempted to harness the enormous energy of the Falls since the 18th century, and for much of the 20th century Niagara Falls was the greatest hydroelectric power facility in the Western world. The efforts to protect the Falls and preserve the natural wonders of the area are a part of the story as well, and the adventure includes the establishment of the Niagara Falls State Park, its Canadian counterpart on the Ontario side and the efforts over the years to control erosion and slow the natural retreat of the Falls.
Legends of Adventure is presented in the Niagara Adventure Theater at the State Park, which is located at Prospect Point in downtown Niagara Falls, New York. The Theater is adjacent to the Maid of the Mist boat dock, and parking is available in the adjacent Lot number 1. Showings are every 45 minutes from mid-March until New Year’s Eve, usually between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. but starting a little later (10:15 a.m.) and finishing a little earlier (4:15 p.m.) in the winter. Admission is US$12 for adults and US$8 for children 6 to 12.
This can be combined with other Niagara Falls attractions and unlimited rides on the Niagara Falls Scenic Trolley with the Niagara Falls USA Discovery Pass, which is US$38 for adults and US$31 for youths. The Pass includes admission to the Niagara Aquarium, tour of the Cave of the Winds, Niagara Gorge Discovery Center and the Maid of the Mist boat excursion around and under the Falls. Discounts and combinations are also available for tour and school groups. The Niagara movie at America’s oldest state park is an exhilarating IMAX experience, and an exciting addition to any visit to the Falls.