For as long as Niagara Falls has been known to man, there has been an inexplicable desire to either explore the falls in a new way, or experience the rush of going over the falls. From unprotected falls, to barrels, to tightropes and beyond, the falls have seen beyond their fair share of daredevils and deaths. And, over the years, the Niagara Falls zone has seen an uptick in “extreme” tourism, helicopters to zip lines to hiking trails through the gorge, and trips behind the falls. For those wishing to head above the falls and have a unique and “extreme” experience, the Whirlpool Aerocar is a 101 year old attraction with a near perfect safety record.
What the Whirlpool Aerocar is is a red-and-yellow metal antique cable car (the “aerocar”) that is suspended some two hundred and fifty feet above the Niagara River, and the Niagara Whirlpool by six interlocking steel cables. These six cables start on the Canadian side of the Niagara Gorge, and span a distance of 1,770 feet over to the American side of the gorge. The aerocar is powered by a motor, and travels at around 4 miles per hour. This fantastic contraption was the brainchild - and the design of Spanish engineer, Leonardo Torres Quevedo, and it opened in 1916. Since then, the aerocar has been traveling between the United States and Canada on a daily basis during the summer months, and is the only aerocar in existence in the world.
Directions/Cost. The Whirlpool Aerocar is part of the Niagara Parks zone on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, and is located at 3850 Niagara Parkway, L2E 3E8, Ontario, roughly six kilometers to the North of Table Rock, which is the main visitor center on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. As parking is difficult in the Niagara Falls Region during the summer months when the attraction is open, my advice to potential visitors planning on visiting more than one location in the area would be to park once, and take the WEGO Bus from location to location. This is the approach I used for my day in Niagara Falls, and it worked just fine; with respect to travel time from Table Rock to the Whirlpool Aerocar (on the Green line of the WEGO Bus), it was approximately fifteen minutes one-way. As of 2017, it costs $14.55 CD for adults (13+) to ride the aerocar; and $9.45 CD for children 6-12 to ride the aerocar. Children under the age of five are free, but still require a ticket. The aerocar ride can also be purchased as part of a larger adventure pass to the region, which may also provide a price break depending on what one is doing. While it is special, the aerocar is only open during the summer months, from 10am through 5pm.
Review/Tips. While every attraction in the Niagara Parks region is popular, the aerocar is slightly less popular, in that it is father out of the main zone where Niagara Falls is readily apparent. What this means is that unlike other attractions, one does not need to book in advance, or have a set time to ride the aerocar, as there is always plenty of walk-up availability. As well, with a thirty-five (35) passenger capacity, if there is a line, it moves quite fast, as the aerocar’s full traverse only takes slightly over ten minutes. When I was there, I was able to get off the bus, get tickets, and be on the aerocar within 20 minutes - a shorter time than waiting in line to get ice cream near Table Rock! On boarding the aerocar, one has their choice of being on the left or right side, or in the middle. While this may seem like a quandary - which side has the better view, it is really a decision that does not need to be made, in that the operator has the ride participants switch sides on the American side of the border before the Aerocar heads back. This unique step allows everyone to get a view of everything.
In terms of the ride, the usual disclaimers apply here: if you are scared of heights, or steel cables, or small spaces, or do not like being in close proximity with thirty-five people in an open cable car hung from a cable, this is not the attraction for you. Having said that, even if you have some trepidation, the ride on the aerocar is quite smooth, and for those with some (but not total fear), there is a middle area between the left and right viewing platforms that does not rotate spots and allows one an added sense of security. Irrespective of where one boards the aerocar, at any point along the ride, one will see the Niagara Whirlpool, a spot where the Niagara River reaches a bend, and forms a swirling whirlpool. The churning white foam of this spot, along with the beautiful blue water is really a sight to behold. To me, one of the other unique things about the aerocar ride was that it was one of the few places on earth where you can ride back and forth a long a border (in this case, the Canadian-United States border) and not need to stop for customs. While this may seem obvious as the car doesn’t officially stop on American soil, its still a neat statistic. My only complaint about the aerocar was that at slightly over ten minutes, the experience feels like it ends too soon. But, having said that, the experience is a great add-on to visiting the Niagara Gorge zone along the Canadian side, and one that I would highly recommend for visitors as a unique steampunk type experience that incorporates one-of-a-kind risk with the security of total safety.