Travel Guide to Niagara Falls

Updated on Mar 18, 2024 | Canada eTA

Majestic Niagara Falls is considered to be the eighth wonder of the world by many. Even though the falls are not exceptionally high, the insane amount of water that flows over them makes it among the most powerful waterfalls in North America.

Along the border of Canada and the United States of America lies a city named for a series of towering waterfalls. The city constitutes an 11-kilometre-long valley carved out thousands of years ago by the mighty Niagara River which is known as the Niagara Gorge that separates Canada and the United States.

At the southern end of the gorge lies the famous and majestic Niagara Fall which is considered to be the eighth wonder of the world by many. Even though the falls are not exceptionally high, the insane amount of water that flows over them makes them among the most powerful waterfalls in North America they captivate the travel enthusiasts who flock here from all the corners of the Earth just to admire the awe-inspiring beauty of the falls and witness nature at its fiercest and most beautiful.

Situated on the Niagara River between Ontario, Canada, and New York State, Niagara Falls comprises three separate waterfalls that come together to form the largest waterfall in the world. The 164-foot Horseshoe Falls, also known as the Canadian Falls, lies on the Canadian side while the other two, the Bridal Veil Falls and the American Falls, lie on the American side.

The entirety of the Niagara Falls attractions offers a variety of activities for all kinds of travellers with different interests and makes for photography gold. From helicopter rides to boat cruises, from amazing places to eat to witnessing the delightful light shows, visiting Niagara Falls is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity that’s not to be missed. Have you already started imagining yourself standing on a viewing platform above Niagara Falls, witnessing the visual treat of the waters of the Niagara River crashing down while the sunlight creates a rainbow in the water? But why restrict yourself to only imagining when you can witness this beautiful sight with your own eyes!? And if you are confused about how to go about it, we have put together information for you to consider while planning your vacation. These tips will help you decide which side of Niagara Falls to visit, the best places for you to stay and eat at, the best time to visit the falls, and also the logistics of how to get to the falls.

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Where is Niagara Falls located?

Niagara Falls Waterfalls is situated at the southern end of Niagara Gorge between the province of Ontario, in Canada, and New York along the Niagara River, which flows between the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. The largest of the three, Horseshoe Falls, is situated on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, between Goat Island and Table Rock. American Falls on the American side of Niagara Falls lies far left of the Horseshoe Falls, within the United States nestled between Prospect Point and Luna Island. The smallest falls, The Bridal Veil, is also on the US side, separated from American Falls by Luna Island, and from Horseshoe Falls by Goat Island. The closest city to Niagara Falls from the United States is Buffalo, New York State, at around 20 miles. Visitors from Canada can start from Toronto which is approximately 90 miles away.

Why visit Niagara Falls?

If you love waterfalls then you will love Niagara Falls, renowned for its exceptional width, power and beauty. Niagara Falls is composed of three waterfalls, the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls, which combine to produce the largest water flow rate of any waterfall in the world. The falls create an epic visual owing to the misty fog created due to the high speed at which the river falls.

Horseshoe Falls is the most famous and the largest of all the three waterfalls and is named after its signature horseshoe shape. The Bridal Veil Falls, although the smallest, is beautiful and looks like a ‘bridal veil’. The American Falls is ‘W’ in shape and lights up in multi-colours every evening. The Niagara Region is renowned for its award-winning wines; including the unique ice wine, therefore one can find dozens of wineries with tasting rooms amidst acres of gorgeous vineyards on both sides.

Niagara Falls has been a classic honeymoon destination as witnessing the stunning waterfalls and then strolling through the ice wine vineyards with your soulmate is truly romantic. Couples and families can also enjoy the lush landscape at the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens. If you are a golf enthusiast, then you would be happy to know that the stunning landscape of the Niagara area is home to some of Canada’s best golf courses. Several souvenir shops create a memorable experience for visitors. It is safe to say that this stunning display of nature is a sight that one should experience at least once in their life.

Things to consider before the trip

Heading off to Niagara Falls is an exciting thought; however, there are a few important things that should be taken into consideration to have a fruitful experience at the falls. As already mentioned, you can visit Niagara Falls from the United States and Canada. It is difficult to say whether one side of the Falls is better in comparison to the other. The Canadian side of the Niagara Falls offers the best view of the waterfalls; however, it is a highly commercialized experience and causes the visitors to spend more. The convenience with regards to accommodation, food options and other entertainment makes it more appealing. The American side provides a more organic experience of the spectacular natural areas. The Canadian side has a better angle for witnessing the Horseshoe Falls while the American side provides an up-close view of the American Falls.

Visitors of Canadian or American nationality can easily cross the border to visit the waterfalls from both sides; all that is required is a passport or a driver's license as identity proof. However, visitors who do not have Canadian or American nationality will have to obtain a visa for both countries to visit both sides of the Niagara Falls. In case you wish to visit only one side, a visa for that country would be enough.

Main Attractions of Niagara Falls

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Helicopter Ride, Canada

Visitors from Canada can take advantage of the several Helicopter ride opportunities available to provide a unique and spectacular experience of soaring above the turbulent waterfalls. Apart from the bird’s eye view of the Niagara Falls, the flight also provides the visitors with a thrilling view of Niagara’s other natural and man-made wonders such as Queen Victoria Park, Skylon Tower and all of Toronto, thereby creating an unforgettable memory.

Journey Behind the Falls, Canada

Journey Behind the Falls is one of the top Niagara Falls attractions at the base of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls that provides the behind the scenes view of the mighty Niagara Falls. It takes you behind the Horseshoe Falls and then starts with an elevator ride that descends around 125 feet through bedrock to the underground tunnels onto an observation deck that overlooks the magic of experiencing the Horseshoe Falls from behind the cascading waters.

White Water Walk, Canada

At White Water Walk, you can marvel at the relentless power and beauty of nature. You can take an elevator to the base of the Niagara Gorge where you can walk along a boardwalk adjacent to the mighty rapids of the Niagara River and experience the thrill of being at the edge of the River. This Niagara Falls attraction provides a breathtaking view of the Niagara Falls and the Whirlpool below.

Niagara Parks Botanical Garden and Butterfly Conservatory, Canada

If you wish to take a break from the roar of the thunderous Niagara Falls, then visiting the lush overflowing gardens and award-winning landscapes at the Botanical Garden and Butterfly Conservatory is the perfect idea. This place is gorgeous with the vibrant seasonal blooms along the peaceful walking trails displaying one of Canada’s finest tree collections. During summers, guided horse and carriage tours are available to explore the 100 acres of this picturesque garden. The gardens are also home to the Butterfly Conservatory, which features thousands of exotic butterflies that flutter among brightly coloured flowers.

Maid of the Mist, United States

Maid of the Mist is a sightseeing boat tour of Niagara Falls which provides a ferry ride along the Niagara Gorge into the Canadian waters to provide a spectacular view of the waterfalls. The journey starts at the Observation Tower where recyclable rain gear is provided free of cost as getting a dunk under the falls is the most exciting part of the attraction. The boat ferries past the base of the American Falls, onto the base of magnificent Horseshoe Falls, offering fantastic views along the way.

Cave of the Winds, United States

Cave of the Winds is a series of wooden platforms and walkways that lead you to the base of Bridal Veil Falls. An elevator ride would take you around 175 feet deep down to the awe-inspiring Niagara Gorge and once you exit the elevator cave you can walk over a series of wooden walkways to the famous Bridal Veil Falls, which is also referred to as ‘Hurricane Deck’ due to the storm-like conditions. The rushing waters loom above you, so you should be prepared to get soaked and also carry your poncho and shoes with good traction to walk on slippery paths.

Old Fort Niagara, United States

If you are a history buff then you can visit one of the most historical Niagara Falls attractions located in Youngstown, where the Niagara River flows into Lake Ontario. Built by the French Empire in the 17th century, this fortification is one of the oldest continuously occupied military sites in North America. Visitors can explore the gunpowder rooms, army barracks, and centuries-old cannons to understand the history of this old and magnificent fort that served as a strategic vantage point for militaries over four centuries. It also provides a splendid view of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario in Canada.

Niagara Falls Light Show

Every evening as the sun goes down; Niagara Falls's night time attractions come alive as the three waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls are transformed into an incredible, colourful water and light masterpiece. The glowing waters elevate the beauty of the mighty falls during the nightly light show. Hundreds of LED lights housed in different locations across the Niagara Gorge create an array of colours along with the famous fireworks display, offering a breathtaking view. Niagara Falls is also illuminated during holidays and significant occasions.

When is the best time to visit Niagara Falls?

Even though Niagara Falls is definitely beautiful at any time of the year, the summer months between June to August are considered to be the best time to visit Niagara Falls. However, it is better to pick a season depending on the kind of activities you wish to indulge in and the attractions you wish to see. Summer is peak season, all the tourist attractions remain open in the summer months but it is also the most crowded time to visit and it can be extremely hot. But with the mists and breezes from Niagara Falls, the air feels cooler and can make you feel good on a hot day. An additional benefit of visiting during the summer is that you can take advantage of the Discover Niagara Shuttle, which is free of cost and operational only during summer months, as it would make travelling between Niagara Falls attractions easier.

Visiting during the spring season is also great as you can see some of the tourist attractions and get a cheaper price for a hotel. The places are not as crowded as during the summer months. You can also enjoy the lush greenery and colourful blooms at the Botanical Gardens. Because Canada is regarded as the Great White North, it is understandable that winter sees below-freezing temperatures which cause several attractions, such as Maid of the Mist boat tours to shut down.

Where to stay in Niagara Falls?

To enjoy the beautiful lighting and fireworks in the evening, it is advised to spend at least one night in Niagara Falls. Visitors would be able to find a plethora of options for hotels for every budget in Niagara Falls. The hotels are however expensive during peak season, i.e. summer so it is advised to make bookings in advance. The Canadian side offers accommodation options, from luxury hotels to camping getaways to suit every need. The Marriott is renowned for its stunning view of Niagara Falls and fantastic service. Embassy Suites offers good accommodation facilities along with spectacular views. Originally built as a restaurant and tourist attraction, The Tower Hotel is now converted into a hotel which also offers a close-up view of the Falls. Courtyard by Marriott Niagara FallsandTravelodge at the Falls are some popular budget hotels in Niagara Falls, Canada. The Hilton Fallsview Hotel and Suites is a hotel situated between the American and Canadian Falls offering a unique view of both the Falls. On the American side, there are hotels such as Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino, Hyatt Place Niagara Falls, Red Coach Inn, etc. which offer beautifully furnished rooms along with great restaurants. Holiday Inn Niagara Falls and Wyndham Garden at Niagara Falls are good options for budget travellers.

Where to eat in Niagara Falls?

Just like any other large tourist destination, you will find plenty of restaurants, from elegant dining to family-style Niagara restaurants and casual pubs, clustered in Clifton Hill which is the tourist part of Niagara Falls. The Canadian side was known for chain restaurants that served fast food, however, now the local chefs have taken over and provide food made using ingredients harvested from farms and orchards in Ontario. AG Inspired Cuisine is a hidden gem and one of the city’s best in terms of creative cooking and providing regional wines. Weinkeller Niagara Falls Restaurant and Wineries, and Tide & Vine Oyster House are also popular for the usage of local ingredients, seafood, and local wines. Niagara Brewing Company is a huge pub that offers a range of beers along with snacks and sliders. On the New York side, there are restaurants such as Top of the Falls Restaurant, Third Street Eatery & Pub, and Red Coach Inn Restaurants, popular for local flavours, upscale pub fare and quaint atmosphere along with cozy meals.

The Best Activities to Do in Niagara Falls

Here is a list of the best things to do in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada:

  • Sail on a Niagara Hornblower Cruise for a closer view of the Great Falls.
  • Visit Niagara Falls State Park, which is Canada's oldest national park.
  • Learn about the history of Niagara Falls at Niagara Fury. It gives visitors a chance to learn about the Ice Age, glaciers and more.
  • Climb the stairs on Niagara's Hornblower Funicular to reach the hills.
  • Enjoy the WildPlay Mist Rider zipline, one of the most fun sports activities at Niagara Falls.
  • After a fun trip to Niagara Falls, Treat your taste buds at the Riverside Courtyard where you can experience a variety of delicious food and drinks.
  • Enjoy an exciting and unforgettable experience on a jet boat to explore the lower part of the Niagara River.
  • Take a "Behind the Falls" tour of Niagara Falls and enjoy the sound of the falls.
  • Enjoy a hike through Devil's Hole State Park. The park's hiking trails are the best in Canada.
  • Immerse yourself in the amazing nature at the White Water Walk Tour.
  • Enjoy freshly baked and delicious treats at DiCamillo's Bakery, a signature Niagara Falls location.
  • Make your Niagara Falls experience a splendid one and enjoy a variety of water sports such as kayaking, canoeing and exploring the Niagara River.

Niagara Falls is a small, pleasant city in Ontario, Canada, which lies on the bank of the Niagara River. Learn more about Ontario at Must See Places in Ontario.

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