Visiting Niagara Falls: Everything You Need to Know

February 18, 2019

Everyone should experience the wonder of Niagara Falls at least once in their life!

But, between crossing the border into another country and deciding which activities to do, visiting Niagara Falls requires a bit of advanced planning.

Niagara Falls refers to the three different waterfalls which reside on the border of Ontario and New York. Many tourists make the mistake of believing Niagara Falls is a single waterfall.

When visiting Niagara Falls, you’ll have the opportunity to see Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls. Horseshoe Falls is the largest of the three and about 90% of the Niagara River runs over this waterfall.

The history of the falls dates back to the early 1600s, with several European eyewitness accounts and documentation. Due to the falls’ immense beauty and hydropower capabilities, it became a top tourist destination and source of reliable energy.

Overlook of Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls from Canadian side

When to Visit Niagara Falls

No matter when you decide to visit Niagara Falls, you will get wet thanks to the sheer power of the falls. With this in mind, many tourists prefer to see Niagara Falls in the summer when the temperatures are warmer. That said, this peak season leads to incredible crowding of the falls and activities, as well as higher hotel and rental car rates.

If you don’t mind being a little chilly, consider visiting Niagara Falls in the spring or fall. You’ll experience fewer crowds as school is still in session and most visitors would rather stay dry. Or, if you’re a true adventurer, check out Niagara Falls in the winter for jaw-dropping icicles.

American vs. Canadian Side

A common concern with visiting Niagara Falls is determining which side of the border to experience. Both sides of the falls boast a variety of activities, views, and attractions.

Most would agree the Canadian side offers far better views of the falls, while the American side is home to Niagara Falls State Park.

Fortunately, you can visit both sides of the border in a single day via Rainbow Bridge. This bridge connects the two countries and visitors can cross by foot or by car. If you plan to walk over the bridge, you will pay a $1.00 fee when leaving Canada. Those driving over the bridge will pay $3.75 U.S. or $4.75 CAD round-trip.

If you are using a rental car, be sure to double check the rental company’s policy about crossing the border with their vehicle. Violating such a policy could result in an unexpected fine.

If you have the time, I recommend fitting both sides of the border into your trip. Or, if you’re spending the weekend, visit a country per day!

View of niagara falls with snow and ice surrounding

Niagara Falls Activities

There’s far more to do than see the falls from a far away viewpoint. While exploring Niagara Falls, check out these attractions and activities.

Canadian Side

Over on the Canadian side of the border, you’ll not only have fantastic views of the falls, but also an abundance of things to do during your visit.

Hornblower Cruises
When visiting Niagara Falls, you have to go on a boat tour operated by Hornblower Cruises. On these boat tours, you’ll get up close and personal with the Niagara River, American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls for unbelievable views. And yes, you will get wet! But don’t worry, they provide free ponchos.

Niagara Skywheel
Take a ride on Canada’s largest observation wheel, just down the road at Clifton Hill.

Skylon Tower
Skylon Tower offers indoor and outdoor observation opportunities for those looking to get a different view of the falls. Inside, you’ll find a multitude of shopping, dining, and entertainment options, too.

WildPlay MistRider Zipline to the Falls
Feel the wind beneath your wings… err, arms… as you soar down the falls on a zipline!

Journey Behind the Falls
Get an intriguing look at the falls from below and behind them! This 30-45 minute journey is best visited during warmer seasons such as the spring and summer.

Niagara Falls Fireworks
At select times throughout the year, you can watch Niagara Falls light up with a remarkable fireworks display.

Other activities include Niagara’s Fury and helicopter tours. There are also plenty of free things to do just a few minutes beyond Niagara Falls.

American side of Niagara falls, NY, USA. Tourists enjoying beautiful view to Niagara Falls during hot sunny summer day.American Side

On the American side of Niagara Falls, you’ll find Niagara Falls State Park. This year-round park offers a multitude of walking trails, viewpoints, and other activities to enjoy, such as:

Cave of Winds
The Cave of Winds is by far one of the most popular Niagara Falls activities. Ideal for those who enjoy a bit of adventure, this tour brings you right into the Niagara Gorge and within feet of Bridal Veil Falls’ crashing water.

Discovery Center & Hiking Trails
While visiting Niagara Falls on the American side, make a trip to the Discovery Center where you’ll find interactive exhibits about the falls and park. Several hiking trails also begin from the Niagara Gorge Trailhead Center located here.

Maid of the Mist
Travel to the basin of Horseshoe Falls on this exhilarating boat tour. Prepare to get soaked!

Observation Tower
Those who want an unobstructed view of the falls should head to the Observation Tower. This is the only spot for a complete panoramic view of all three waterfalls.

Other popular attractions at Niagara Falls State Park in New York include the Aquarium, fireworks display and nighttime illuminations, and Adventure Theater.

What to Wear and Bring

While you’ll dress according to the day’s weather forecast, it’s important to also bring layers.

If you do a boat tour or experiences such as the Cave of Winds, you’ll get soaking wet. It’s inevitable!

Wearing layers, along with comfortable and sturdy walking shoes, will help you feel a bit more comfortable during these adventures.

Additionally, be sure to bring:

  • A valid ID
  • Your passport, if you plan to cross the border
  • Credit and debit cards
  • Cash
  • A camera/phone
  • An extra poncho, if you own one
  • A backpack/purse/daypack

Remember, several of the attractions available while visiting Niagara Falls involve a lot of water. If there’s something that cannot get wet, such as a camera or device, leave it in either your car or hotel room or don’t bring it to the falls.

Parking at Niagara Falls

No matter which country you decide to visit, you’ll have a variety of parking options to choose from.

In New York, the state park offers several parking lots including:

  • Prospect Point - 332 Prospect St. Niagara Falls, NY 14303
  • Goat Island - 24 Buffalo Avenue, Niagara Falls, NY 14303
  • Near Three Sister Islands - 24 Buffalo Avenue, Niagara Falls, NY 14303
  • Niagara Discovery Center

The fee to park is $10 per vehicle, per day. It is also suggested that guests approach the state park from Rt. 62/Niagara Falls Blvd. using I-290 or I-190 to avoid tourist traffic.

Over in Canada, you’ll also have numerous places to park. Prepare to pay to park, unless you park at a nearby hotel or get lucky and find a free lot. Recommended parking lots include:

  • The Clifton Hill Lot - 4960 Clifton Hill
  • Skylon Tower parking lots - 5200 Robinson St.
  • Niagara Falls Lots - Seasonal and Year Round
  • Dufferin Islands lots - Requires a bit of a walk to the falls

If you’re fine with walking, drive around the general area until you find a free or affordable lot.

Is Visiting Niagara Falls on Your Travel List?

Whether you’re going for the day or making a trip part of your weekend in Toronto, visiting Niagara Falls is a bucket list item for every traveler!

Have you been to the falls? Tell us about your visit or share your Niagara Falls travel tips below!

  1. Arindrajit Mukherjee says:

    I intend to see Niagara falls having a tourist visa of USA. Can I see the falls from Canada side without a Canadian visa

  2. Me and my wife plan to visit Buffalo, NY in July 2022. My question is we both have valid Texas drivers licenses, do we need to get a passport just to visit the Canada side to see Niagara Falls? or is there a day pass or something required. Joe

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