What to do in Niagara Falls (Canada and USA)

Niagara Falls makes for a great family getaway. I should know as I recently came back from a wonderful 2 day visit. The views alone will take your breath away and you have countless memorable experiences for every age group to enjoy.

The difficult part is deciding what side (American or Canadian) you should visit. And deciding which attractions to spend your hard-earned money on.   I am hoping to show you options and let you draw your own conclusions.

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Things to do on the Canadian side

Walk the promenade

Presumably the whole reason you are traveling to Niagara Falls is to see the mighty falls.  So don’t wait.  The first thing you want to do is walk down the promenade on the Canadian side and enjoy the view of all three waterfalls. The walk is free and you can certainly enjoy it more than once.  So make sure to see the view at different times so you can experience how the light changes. Sunrise and sunset are incredible here. And at night they light up the falls with different colored light. It is quite the site to see.

Get a room with a view

If you can afford it splurge and get a room with a view. The higher the floor the better. We stayed at Embassy Suites as I had Hilton points to use and I was very happy with the decision. We got a great room with a view of all three falls. The hotel also offered a great complimentary buffet breakfast (get there early to avoid the crowds and wait). Coupons for other attractions and restaurants in the area. And a nice wine reception each night with a free glass of wine.  And did I mention my room had a king bed and a door that divided it from where my children slept? Could not have been more perfect. Many other hotels in the area offer great views of Niagara Falls as well.

Savings Tip: A great tip for those staying at the Embassy Suites with a car. Parking is very expensive you can save some money by parking in the casino next door where it only cost $5 during the week and free with your players card. 

 

Take a cruise on the river

On the Canadian side your cruise will be the Hornblower Cruise. This is a great opportunity to see the falls from a different perspective.  Note that you will get wet despite the brightly colored red ponchos provided.

Savings tip –  If you are planning to cruise on Hornblower and see some of the other attractions on my list such as Journey Behind the falls and whirlpool aero car then I suggest you look into purchasing an adventure pass online in order to save up to 48% on admission costs. 

 

Journey behind the Falls

This is a behind the scenes view of the Horseshoe falls. After descending through bedrock and tunnels you can stand in the mist and get soaked while watching the water crash below.  If you don’t want to be wet and cold this experience is best during the warmer months. Click here for more information. A great way to see Niagara Falls in the warmer months.

Whirlpool aero car

This attraction takes you back in time. It dates back to 1913 and offers breathtaking views from above. A unique attraction in Niagara Falls.

White water walk

This is a seasonal attraction in Niagara Falls and it was closed when we were there. It is a scenic nature walk at the very edge of the water where you can observe the whirlpool rapids.

Butterfly conservatory

If you are a butterfly fan then this is the place to be. You will be enchanted at the site of over 2,000 colorful tropical butterflies.

Floral showcase

A lush paradise displaying collections of many varied plants and flowers such as orchids, succulents, roses and more. Enjoy the seasonal flowers while the flying birds around you sing you their songs.

Skylon tower

This is an iconic place to get areal views of the falls.  If you are not staying at a hotel with a falls view then you should consider a ride up Skylon Tower. The observation deck is 775 feet up and it takes only 52 seconds to get to the top.  If you are dinning in one of the 2 restaurants on site the ride to the top is free. This is just one of the many options for great views in Niagara Falls.

 

Clifton Hill

There is tons of entertainment in Clifton Hill like arcades, wax museums, haunted houses, mini golf, restaurants, and much more.  If you feel the need to pick one activity in this overpriced amusement park then select the Niagara Skywheel. I hear it offers memorable areal views of the Falls. It is usually open year round as it has both air conditioning and heat to ensure the comfort of all passengers. Unfortunately we were not able to experience it as it was down for maintenance.

Savings tip – if you plan on doing more than one attraction here then you should consider the Clifton Hill fun pass. Which includes 4 attractions at one price.  

Niagara on the lake

Going to Niagara on the Lake was a highlight for me. Situated on Lake Ontario this is a small historic town. It has quaint homes and shops and provides many options for lunch (although many are still overpriced). Don’t forget to walk down to Queen’s Royal Park which overlooks Lake Ontario.

A photo journey of this quaint town will be coming here soon.

 

Tasty tips: If you want to eat where the locals eat and do so for a good price then head over to Sand Trap Pub and Grill and for a good cup of coffee make a stop at Coffee Balzac’s

Wine tasting

I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that Niagara has a region dedicated to wineries. Driving through the area I could not help but think I was in the Canadian version of Napa Valley. You could spend days discovering the many wineries in the region and tasting the delicious wines it produces. But we did not have that luxury and with just a few hours at our disposal we chose Peller Estates and we were so happy we did.

You can read about my experience at Peller Estates here (coming soon).

The tour was fantastic and they catered to the entire family.  This means us adults got to taste 4 different wines including an ice wine inside of their ice room and the kids got grape juice. I promise my girls had as much fun as we did.

 

Zip lining 

The newest adventure in Niagara Falls is a Zip line that runs parallel to the American Falls. It is a thrilling way to experience the view of the Falls. You will soar across the sky for 2,200 feet and at speeds up to 70 mph along the Niagara river. You can click here for more information on Niagaras newest attraction.

Take a gamble

You can try your luck at either Fallsview Casino or at Casino Niagara. With slots, table games, poker, and tournaments there is plenty to try your luck with. And if gambling is not for you these establishments also offer plenty of other entertainment with shows, music and clubs galore.

Eat poutine

This is a typical Canadian dish and you simply must try it. It is made with French fries, cheese curds and gravy. Many versions of this traditional exist and you can add bacon, ground beef, vegetables and a variety of other toppings.

Savings tip: I ate mine at the Big Sizzle across the street from the Embassy Suites. Great place for a quick bite at good prices. Poutine is not all they have. The burgers and shakes were also great. You can see some more unbiased reviews on tripadvisor

 

What to see on the American Side

To get to the American side from Canada you will want to cross the Rainbow Bridge. You can drive across or walk across, just remember to bring your passport as you will have to show identification to cross the border.

Niagara Falls State park

Did you know that this is the oldest state park in the USA?  Also the park offers up close and personal views of the falls. Here you can witness the beauty of the falls and see and hear its power up close.

Prospect Point offers the closest views to the American Falls. And Goat Island (terrapin Point)  offers the closest views to Horseshoe Falls on the American side.

Cave of the winds

Cave of the winds is a natural cave behind the Bridal Veil Falls at Niagara Falls State Park. You can walk down into the Niagara gorge and view the falls from a different perspective. A wooden walkway takes you close up to the falls.

The walkway is taken down each fall and re-built every year opening back up in Spring. The attraction was still closed when we were there in early April as the final inspection needed to be done before reopening to the public.  So if this is something you want to do, and you are traveling in early Spring, make sure to check the opening dates for the season.

Savings tip: The US side has its own savings pass called Niagara Falls USA Discovery Pass consider purchasing this pass to save while visiting multiple attractions on the US side of the border.

Maid of the Mist 

This is the original boat ride into the mist of the falls. You can soak in the memories as you enjoy the views on this iconic boat ride. Yes you get wet, but you will look cool in your blue ponchos and get a view of Niagara Falls like no other.

Aquarium of Niagara

Always fun for the kids, this non-profit institution has a goal to integrate conservation and animal care with entertaining and educational exhibits on how to be mindful of our oceans and our world. To plan your visit click here

 

Remember seeing the falls is free you do not need to spend any money at all to enjoy their beauty.

Have you visited Niagara Falls? Which side did you prefer and what was your favorite activity? Leave me a comment below or lets get social on Instagram or Facebook.

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43 Comments

  1. Joella as always you write beautifully. I am so proud of you
    Both Cal and I visited over 50 years ago. At some point we will revisit using your recommendations as a guide
    Love you

    1. Lots of it is pretty commercialized but you can still do plenty of things to enjoy the true beauty of the area. I really think you would like the Niagara on the Lake area and the wineries.

  2. The 775 feet up journey takes less than a minute? Wow!The Clifton Hill also sounds like an awesome place to be. All the Niagara Falls pictures in your blog are quite incredible!

    1. Thank you Tania. If you like amusement park rides and haunted houses and such then you will enjoy Clifton Hill just remember to save money get the pass as it all can add up pretty quickly and get pretty expensive.

  3. Wow, so many good ideas here covering every angle! As someone who has never been to Niagara falls i have to admit it looks amazing. Been only to Victoria falls in Zambia so far. If I go I definitely book a room with the views!

    1. Nina – A room with a view is worth it in my opinion. The falls are great but honestly I don’t think they compare to Victoria falls. But I have not seen falls I don’t like so still I enjoyed them.

  4. Hey, Jo!

    It seems that the Niagara Falls are more alluring on the Canadian side. I love your tips and especially, those that save time and money!

    How soaked are we talking when you say wet? 🙂

    1. Hey Svet – you do get wet. Any place not covered by the poncho gets wet and some comes through the head area so for us women it is a pain for the hair style. In the summer it is not much of a deterrent as it is hot out anyway but when temperatures are low being wet can be a nusaince. So needless to say my girls decided against it and saved me the money.

  5. I haven’t been to Niagra Falls since I was a kid. Now that I’m a Dad, I’m looking forward to taking my kids there so they can experience the amazing sights. Thanks for sharing such great tips, especially the ones about saving money (ie: parking at casino instead of hotel). – Lee

    1. Lee – the kids will love it there is much to do that will appeal to them. Hope you get to take them soon

  6. I only saw Niagara once, on the Canadian side during winter. It was a brief stop. I would have liked to do the cruise or the white water walk. The latter sounds scary but amazing!

    1. Suzanne- It is much different during the winter. It has its own frozen beauty. Not everything is open then but still the falls are quite a site

  7. This is definitely one of the world’s must-sees when it comes to natural beauty and appreciating the power of mother nature. It’s really great how you took both perspectives (Canadian and U.S.) in creating this post. Love the photos and the information for both sides of the border. Thank you.

    1. Nicole – so glad you enjoyed the post. Most people tend to just see the Canadian side but the US side should not be discounted. They each have their own beauty and worth exploring.

    1. HI Stella – Its funny how that works we tend to travel to places that are far away and tend to neglect to visit those we have near by. The wine region is worth a visit for sure I think there are a few wineries on the NY side as well although we did not visit them. And of course the falls are always worth a visit

  8. The Niagara falls, a place to fall in love with for sure. The views have to be seen from all the views. It’s so great, the grandeur is to be admired, captured with eyes into the mind. Lovely post and stunning pictures.

    1. Hi Sandy, I am so glad you enjoyed the pictures. It is one of the aspects of travel I really enjoy doing and sharing with others. It is a work in progress but you know what they say practice makes perfect and I sure enjoy practicing.

  9. I had no idea you can take a cruise on the river. I’ve always only seen photos of people standing in front of the falls, so this is probably why I had no idea that the cruise was an option. Niagara Falls is definitely a must see and I need to go!

    1. I hear the cruise is so much fun. We did not get to do it as it was cold and my daughters did not want to get wet. But if I return in the summer one day I will be sure to do this.

  10. You have given detailed description of Nigara Falls and its nearby places. For me Tips u have mentioned here for saving money is wonderful. Parking at Casino in $5 is gr8 advice.

  11. Niagara falls is absolutely incredible and I have still not visited it :(. You have given a list of so many things to do that I was not aware of. Thanks for the great tips 🙂

    1. Your very welcome. It is definitely something everyone should do once in their life. Such beauty and so much fun.

  12. What a magical purple sky you managed to capture in your photos! I’ve only been on the Canadian side of the falls, but would love to visit the American side and check out the activities available. Maid of the Mist seems like a really cool experience if you don’t mind getting wet.

    1. Kim we were blessed with a spectacular sunset. The boat ride looked like fun but my kids did not want to get wet since it was cold out. So maybe next time.

  13. I have always wanted to visit here since I was younger and my Gran talked about it. I did not realise there was so much you could do here, including staying at a hotel with such a great view. Thanks for sharing so many savings tips too those will be really useful

  14. Great post of showing just how much there is to do besides the falls. I have been to the Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum in Gatlinburg, TN (sadly it was lost to the wildfire last year) as a kid but the building was no where near as interesting as this one. I love eating local when we travel and I would certainly try the poutine except I’m not so sure my doctor would approve.

    1. So sad about those fires in Gatlinburg. It is such a beautiful are that was devastated. The pouting was very good but it is a heart attack on a plate but it was soooo worth it – just don’t tell my doctor 🙂

  15. I’m shocked that there seems to be more things to do on the Canadian side than the American side! We’ve never been to visit (it just hasn’t been in the cards), but when we do, it sounds like the Canadian side is the way to go. That aero car looks like a fun way to see the falls, and we love wine AND zip lining! Thanks for the great info; we’re definitely saving this for later.

    1. Hi Anna – Yes the Canadian side is way more developed and commercialized. The American side is more natural and has the Huge National Park with pretty outdoor trails. They have a few other things you can do on the American side but Canada seems to have found the way to monetize this better. By the way the aero car won’t let you see the falls but the rapids, still cool but if you are looking for fall views that is not the way to see them.

  16. Wow, I didn’t know that there are really great and amazing things to do in Niagara falls. This is for the first time that I have read a blog about Niagara Falls. I like to do all these activities when I get the chance to visit Niagara Falls. Everything here is really exciting and fun. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  17. I am originally from Ontario, but have never been to Niagara Falls. Of course, being Canadian, I would have to go with visiting the Canadian side first. My husband’s grandmother loved Niagara on the Lake and I know it would be a favourite of mine if I ever get to visit. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Riley, So funny how we don’t visit places that are near to us. You should definitely go even if just for two days and a night. Wine country alone was well worth it and the falls are stunning.

  18. I first visited when I was a very young child (in the mid 1970s) and some of my earliest memories are snapshots of going behind the falls as well as looking down from the Canadian side. I went again more recently to the Canada side as part of a visit to the Niagara-on-the-Lake region (from a food and wine perspective) and was amazing to see it again. We did a helicopter flying tour over the falls which was just spectacular!

    1. Kavey I bet that helicopter tour was just incredible. I want to take one out to the Grand Canyon one day. The views from the top are always so grand.

  19. We loved our time in Niagara Falls too, albeit quite short. We got a room with an incredible view of the falls so I totally agree on the splurge there. You saw a whole lot more than we did in our 24 hours. I actually had no idea that it was in wine country. I love the idea of an ice wine in an ice room. Reminds me of the vodka rooms elsewhere in the country. Great write up.

    1. Hi Skye, I am pretty notorious to fitting quite a bit in my itineraries. Although this time I felt pretty relaxed and not rushed at all. Wine country was one of my favorite parts and I highly recommend it if you return.

  20. A very informative post Jo, loved reading about all the exciting things that you got up to! The falls look absolutely stunning but I can imagine they’re even more breath taking in real life I won’t be going to the butterfly sanctuary though…I’m not a fan of them haha!

    1. Pretty – you are right the falls are even better in person. So skip the butterflies and head to wine country instead. I think you would like Niagara on the Lake. With so many amazing wineries to chose from you are sure to find one that you like.

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