Visiting Niagara Falls should be on everyone’s bucket list! It’s a great location to visit two countries in one stop and explore one of America’s most gorgeous waterfalls. The parks themselves are free and you can gaze at one of nature’s wonders any time of the year! (Winter takes on a different ambiance).
Here are six tips that will help you make the most out of your own trip to Niagara Falls.
1. Weekdays are the best time to visit!
Your best bet for avoiding the crowds is visiting between Tuesday through Thursday. Weekends have the heaviest crowds. Holidays can also be a nightmare and may often be standing room only at the rails. You will find yourself having 30-seconds to view the Falls before being elbowed out of the way.
When traveling by car, review the border crossings status. This is especially true for the Rainbow Bridge. This can save you hours (!) sitting in traffic waiting to cross from one country to another. Be sure to have your documentation ready to go. You can also cross by foot across the Rainbow Bridge, but you will still need your passport or other documentation.
2. For the best view, day or night, stay on the Canadian Side.
Yes, it’s a hassle to go through the process of getting a passport, but it’s worth it. Why?
- Better view of the Falls. You can get a panoramic view versus from viewing from the side or from behind.
- Closer walk from most hotel rooms (also, views from those!). Stay at one of the hotels near Fallsview Boulevard and it can be as easy as a 10-minute walk if you use the incline.
- It’s safer. The city of Niagara Falls, Ontario is safer than the New York city bearing the same name, especially at night.
- The Canadian city of Niagara Falls has also gone through a lot of work cleaning up the area, upgrading the building exteriors, and planting tulips and other beautiful plants. It’s not the same city that I first visited in 1998. It still has its tacky, tourist parts but you can avoid that by visiting just the Falls and its surrounding attractions.
- The fireworks! It’s a better view. You can see them with the American Falls in the background versus seeing the fireworks with skyrises.
3. Viewing the Falls is free! (Parking can vary…)
Queen Victoria Park in Niagara Falls, Ontario, is the main area for viewing Niagara Falls. It stretches from the end of Horseshoe Falls all the way to the Oakes Garden Theatre. The theatre is near Rainbow Bridge where you can walk across to the American side, getting an excellent view of the falls as you walk across (bring your passport and $1).
Visit the U.S. side and spend an hour or two at the Niagara Falls State Park. This will give you a different viewpoint of the Falls as well, from the back and from the side. It’s the oldest park in the United States and has some spectacular scenery.
4. Get Wet!
On the American side, visit the Cave of the Winds and take the Maid of the Mist ride. There are additional tours you can take as well, such as helicopter tours. Visit the Niagara Falls State Park website to buy tickets.
Personal tip: you can visit the Niagara’s Fury 4D exhibit, but for the price, I would stick with the Journey Behind the Falls. The experience will get you even wetter than the movie and you will learn the same history. Also, if you are prone to migraines, the flashing lights in the exhibit may trigger one.
5. Food can get expensive, so get creative.
Like with most cities that focus heavily on tourism, eating in Niagara Falls can be expensive! There are restaurants in the area that have lower-priced meals rather than a $37-dollar hamburger. Here are a few suggestions that won’t break your budget.
- Swiss chalet
- The Flying Saucer
- Zappi’s Pizza
- Chuck’s Roadhouse
- Easy Street Sandwiches and Treats
- Betty’s Restaurant
- Tim Hortons
- Queen’s Coach
One of the best places that I found for cheaper food was the food court at the new Fallsview Casino. It’s more like a casino within a shopping mall, so all ages are allowed in this area. They have a variety of food vendors from Burger King to a Chipotle-type food area to the Canadian-chain Tim Hortons. You can sit in the food court area and eat or venture out to the overlook that has an excellent view of the Falls. (The renewable energy geek in me was interested in the solar-powered water fountain.) It’s also an easy walk from most locations and hotels near the Falls.
6. Stay for the Fireworks!
During the summer months and other parts of the years, you can watch the fireworks over the brink of Niagara Falls. They are launched from the Canadian side, directly across from the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. You can see the fireworks from either side! The nighttime illumination of the Falls is also spectacular.
View Fireworks Schedule
Bonus Tip: Visit Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario!
If you have some extra time, visit Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. It’s an old town that features 19th-century buildings, an old fort, and multiple wineries. Many of the wines that you can sample in Niagara Falls, Ontario, come from this region. It’s a beautiful town to meander through if you wish to step outside of the typical tourist town.