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The Ultimate Niagara Falls Trip Planning Guide

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Niagara Falls can be described as many things. It is a legendary tourist attraction, an awe-inspiring natural wonder, and most notably, a must-see for any bucket list. The falls tend to become any visitor’s favorite destination instantly, and after your trip, we have no doubt it will be one of yours. Here is the ultimate Niagara Falls trip planning guide to help you out!

Niagara Falls Trip Planning Guide

The majestic (and massive) falls have captured the imagination and attention of thousands, so it’s a no-brainer for any cross-country trip in North America and Canada.

The falls themselves and the surrounding areas genuinely feel like a different world. Epic views, breathtaking sights, and unforgettable attractions make Niagara Falls unique.

Whether you’re looking for a more outdoor and rustic naturist escape on the US side of the falls or an amusement park-style vacation on the Canadian side, Niagara Falls won’t disappoint.

So, shall we plan your ultimate Niagara Falls trip?

Niagara Falls Trip Planning | The Ultimate Guide

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A Brief History of Niagara Falls

Before planning any adventure, it’s always important to know as much as possible about your destination. And with history and origin like Niagara Falls, there is a lot to know. 

Here’s a quick crash course on the interesting history of your next dream vacation – Niagara Falls, Canada & US.

Niagara Falls and boat cruise
Niagara Falls

It is estimated that roughly 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age, during a massive melt-off and the extreme flow of water caused by this, the falls we know today came into existence. 

And since then, the interest and fascination with the falls have only grown. Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother celebrated his honeymoon at the falls about 200 years ago, and Charles Dickens wrote in 1842 how the falls stunned him into silence.

Essential Niagara Falls Trip Info

Planning your trip to Niagara Falls will take some careful consideration. Factors such as the time of year, the forecasted weather patterns, and travel requirements are just some things you need to know. 

Here’s our breakdown of the whens, wheres, and how-tos make visiting Niagara Falls convenient, enjoyable, and most importantly unforgettable.

The Border Crossing at Niagara Falls

Composed of several large waterfalls on the Niagara River, the Niagara Falls span across the eastern coast of the United States and Canada. What makes the falls unique is that they sit right on the border of these two countries.

The American side of Niagara Falls during sunrise
The American side of Niagara Falls during sunrise

If you choose to visit both sides, you will be crossing international borders so remember to check your visa requirements as border control is strict.

Now separated by the border between the USA and Canada, the largest of the three, the Horseshoe Falls, is situated on Canadian soil. The other two, the Bridal Veil and American Falls, are on American soil.

American Falls is the second-largest of the three waterfalls that together are known as Niagara Falls on the Niagara River along the Canada U.S. border.
American Falls is the second-largest of the three waterfalls that together are known as Niagara Falls on the Niagara River along the Canada U.S. border.

With the distinct geographical history and elements of the falls, you can choose to visit them from either country or, even better yet, plan a trip to include both. Visiting the American side of the falls and crossing into Canada if you’re a US national will require no visa. 

If you are a non-US citizen you will need the appropriate Canadian eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization Visa). For all your visa questions, iVisa offers the perfect tool.

When to Visit Niagara Falls

Deciding on the best time to visit the falls and their surrounding areas can make or break your trip. And, as with any other natural attraction, tourist influx during certain months also affects your experience.

A quick online search will tell you that the summer months in the region are ideal for any planned trip. For Niagara Falls, this means June, July, and August. The reasoning behind this is the result of higher day-to-day temperatures.

Water flowing in Niagara Falls, Canada in the summer
Water flowing in Niagara Falls, Canada in the summer

Although higher temperatures sound great, we are on the fence about this as the mists and breeze from the falls will make you doubt the actual temperatures most of the time.

What the summer months do, however, is cause a massive wave of tourists flogging the falls and the surrounding attractions, towns, and accommodation.

The falls are immensely popular, that’s for sure, but overcrowding everywhere you go can ruin a good vacation.

Niagara falls in the winter
Niagara Falls Winter Guide

Winter is from November through to the end of February. Heavy snowfall occurs during December and can continue into January. The falls, in a sense, ‘slow’ down and might even freeze over in the extreme cold. Although this is also a beautiful sight to behold, many attractions at the falls shut down.

We recommend you plan your trip for the shoulder few months. These fall in Spring (March, April, and May) and Autumn (September and October). Temperatures are excellent, usually mid-to-high during the days and comfortable at night.

Prices are reasonable for accommodation, restaurants, entertainment venues, and attractions due to fewer tourists. 

How to Get to Niagara Falls

Traveling to Niagara Falls can be done in a variety of ways. Most visitors opt to fly to one of the airports near the falls. On the Canadian side, this is Toronto Pearson International Airport, which is about an hour’s drive from the falls. 

The Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, photo taken from above on the Canadian side
The Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, photo taken from above on the Canadian side

If you choose to fly on the American side, you’ll head for Buffalo Niagara International Airport, which is in Buffalo and about a 30-to-40-minute drive from the falls.

Niagara Falls also has its own train station with commuter and travel lines coming in from Toronto, New York, and several other cities. To make your trip more exciting we recommend spending at least one day in Toronto.

Once at the falls, it’s worth renting a car from the many car rental agencies around to make getting around as easy as possible and for added freedom.

But, with cab services in the area and short walking distances between most things (on either side of the falls), renting a car isn’t a necessity.

Read: Road trips from Toronto Ontario

Exploring Niagara Falls

Any trip to Niagara Falls will be unforgettable, and that’s a fact. Regardless of which side of the falls you visit, you’re in for a good time and a great adventure. Both the Canadian and American sides have their own unique charm and highlights.

The main focal point of your trip is the falls themselves, and while both sides more than meet any expectation you could have, each is distinct and worth a visit. 

Explore from Canada: Niagara Falls Activities

On the Canadian side sits the largest of the falls – the Horseshoe Falls. Being the largest of the three falls, it’s a breathtaking scene, and seeing the falls for the first time will remain in your memory forever. 

Experience Niagara Falls, Canada

The Canadian Niagara Falls experience is quite different than on the US side for several reasons. On this side of the falls, you can expect a more urbanized approach to the adventure, with a number of amusement park-style attractions close to the falls. 

The falls remain the highlight, but what sets the Canadian side apart is its focus on tourism and tourist attractions. This translates into various sightseeing options, different accommodation types, classic streetside cafes, high-end restaurants, and more.

Top Attractions

Treating yourself to some entertaining attractions on the Canadian side of the falls is a must. From Toronto, you can choose from a number of sightseeing tours, unique attractions aimed at family fun, or adventures specifically for you and your significant other.

The Niagara's Horseshoe Falls in its stark, Winter garb. this image shows the power and majesty of this natural wonder. The image was shot from the Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.
The Niagara’s Horseshoe Falls in its stark, Winter garb. this image shows the power and majesty of this natural wonder. The image was shot from the Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

There are some exceptional options when it comes to attractions. 

Niagara Falls Private Sightseeing Tour

If you’re looking for a scenic and private tour of the area and Niagara Falls, this private sightseeing tour comes top-rated. It boasts the best coverage of the area meaning you’ll get the most out of your trip.

Falls by Day and Night

For a full-day tour of Niagara Falls, Falls by Day and Night stands out amongst others as it is aimed at giving you a proper experience of everything the falls have to offer. It also includes dinner served after the tour ends.

Skylon Lunch Tour

Another great option that pays homage to the setup of the Canadian side of Niagara Falls is the Canada helicopter, boat ride, and Skylon lunch tour. It’s an excellent choice to get in as much of the falls and the city as you can.

Maid of the Mist Boat Tour

The top pick for seeing the falls in all their beauty would have to be the royal Canadian tour and Maid of the Mist boat ride. This is a five-hour day trip that takes you up close to the falls for an exceptional view and feel of the falls.

Niagara Falls and boat full of people on the river in mist major Canadian American landmark
Niagara falls and a boat full of people

Where to Stay in Niagara Falls Trip Planning Guide

As far as accommodation choices go, the Canadian side of Niagara Falls is a treasure trove of amazing places. The towering heights of the Hilton Niagara Falls or the Marriott Fallsview Hotel & Spa in Fallsview offer stunning views of the falls in a deluxe hotel setting.

Or, choose a more boutique accommodation option, the Old Stone Inn Boutique Hotel, which is only a few minutes from the falls. The Redwood Bed and Breakfast is also an excellent option for a more intimate experience.  

And if you’re bringing the whole family, we recommend the Great Wolf Lodge Waterpark Resort. It has several family suites and an indoor and outdoor waterpark – perfect for some excitement away from the falls.

Explore from the United States: Niagara Falls State Park

The remaining two falls that makeup Niagara Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls, and the American Falls, sit on the border between New York State and Canada. Although not as large as the Horseshoe falls, these two are both equally as beautiful.

Experience Niagara Falls, USA

Where the Canadian side of Niagara Falls fulfills the need for urban tourism, the side of the falls in the US showcases a totally different perspective.

Niagara Falls USA at sunrise
This is a view of Niagara Falls USA at sunrise.

Visiting Niagara Falls on the US side means you’ll get in touch with nature a bit more than you would on the Canadian side. 

Both falls on the US side sit within Niagara Falls New York State Park, making for a more rustic and outdoorsy experience. It’s perfect for nature lovers and those wanting a scenic escape from city life.

The best part is you will get amazing views of the falls and some peace and serenity at the same time.

Top Attractions

Just as impressive as the Canadian side of the falls, on the US side, you’ll find some super attractions as well. 

Boat Cruise and Cave of the Winds Tour

To get you close to the falls and for a mesmerizing tour, we recommend the USA boat and cave tour. A trip to the Cave of the Winds, which is a series of platforms that lead right to the base of Bridal Veil Falls, is a must.

Niagara Falls USA: Ferry Maid of the Mist and Rainbow Bridge
Niagara Falls USA: Ferry Maid of the Mist and Rainbow Bridge

Guided Falls Walking Tour

With its layout and terrain, the US side of the falls has the advantage of once-in-a-lifetime walking tours as well, our top pick being the guided walking tour of the falls. 

Maid of the Mist Tour

Another excellent choice is the Maid of the Mist and Adventure Walking Tour, which combines both a memorable boat trip and an exciting walk around the falls.

Wine Tasting & Vineyard Tour

And if you’re looking for a little bit of relaxation and fun, try the half-day winery tour that features wine tastings at the State Parks vineyards and an optional lunch. Including this in your Niagara Falls trip offers the perfect blend of countryside and waterfront fun.

Where to Stay

Now we must admit, although the US side of the falls focuses more on nature, the accommodation on offer covers every potential type you might want. First, for a luxurious and entertaining hotel choice, we recommend the Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino.

Other luxurious hotel options include The Hampton Inn Niagara Falls, which offers a variety of room types including suites. Or The Giacomo in downtown Niagara Falls is the perfect blend of luxury and urban accommodation.

Travel Guide Tips for Your Niagara Falls Vacation

Niagara Falls Toronto
Niagara Falls Toronto

Here’s our insider’s list of top Niagara Falls vacation travel tips.

  • To get the most out of Niagara Falls, we definitely recommend planning your trip for a couple of days. By doing so, you can visit both sides of the falls, and the convenience of the Rainbow Bridge helps with that. 
  • When heading out on any of the tours of the falls, remember one thing, you will get wet. The best tip for this is to instead leave everything that can get damaged by water at your hotel or have a waterproof bag for your items.
  • There are many world-class restaurants at the falls featuring cuisine from all around the world. Plan your trip to include some of these.

Final Thoughts – Is Niagara Falls Worth a Visit?

In short, yes, Niagara Falls is without a doubt worth any traveler’s visit. Not only are the falls majestic and out of this world to see in person, but the entire region (on both sides of the border) also stuns and excites.

So if you haven’t already planned your trip to Niagara Falls, best get to it, and with this guide by your side, it will be a trip you’ll never forget.

Pin: Niagara Falls Canada & USA trip planning guide

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