Visiting Niagara Falls: Which Side to Choose? American vs. Canadian Side

From family vacations to romantic honeymoons, Niagara Falls has been a classic North American destination for decades. What began as a breathtaking view has grown into much more; a tourism oasis, naturalist’s dream, and thrill-seeker’s paradise. If you’re deciding between which Niagara Falls side is better to visit or stay in, here’s a breakdown of the things to do while visiting Niagara Falls in New York, versus Niagara Falls in Canada.

Visiting Niagara Falls in New York (American Side)

Niagara Falls USA sits in Western Upstate New York. Just 20 miles from the popular city of Buffalo, N.Y. Here, you’ll see Niagara Falls from the top looking down, or to the side (see the photos above). Spend a little extra cash, and get a little more up close and personal in Niagara Falls State Park on a paid excursion such as a boat cruise. Overall, this side of the falls is relatively quieter and seems to attract less tourism. Thus, the American Niagara Falls in New York connects more with nature than the Canadian side. 

Niagara Falls Things to Do on the New York Side (USA)

When visiting Niagara Falls (USA), you must visit Niagara Falls State Park. Prospect Point Park and Goat Island together make up this State Park. You can view the falls from these locations; or, pay to take an elevator down to the bottom of Bridal Veil Falls on the Cave of the Winds excursion. Once at the bottom, peer off a lookout deck and view the Falls from below; then, board the Maid of the Mist boat ride.

Maid of the Mist Boat Ride

A popular excursion from both the American and Canadian sides

A Niagara Falls “must-see”, Maid of the Mist boat tours take you right up to the bottom of the amazing Horseshoe Falls. You will be given a special poncho to cover your personal belongings. Enjoy the boat ride and the spectacular views. As you approach, you will begin to feel the mist coming off of the falls; as you get closer, this mist will turn to drenching rain. Your captain will take you back out- after a lot of laughter! If you do plan to take photos, be sure to have waterproofing accessories on hand for your camera. 

Outdoor Things to Do in Niagara Falls (American Side)

There are plenty of places to hike and enjoy nature in Niagara Falls State Park. Take a short walk to Goat Island, located just 4 minutes from Cave of the Winds. Here you can embark on a 2.3 miles scenic walk through lush vegetation. The path is paved and wheelchair accessible, and dogs are allowed as well. Then, cross one of three historic bridges to the Three Sisters Islands, and view the rapids rushing to the Falls. 

Niagara Scenic Parkway Trail, or the Robert Moses Recreation Trail, is another great place to hike, offering 4 miles of spectacular views. Overall, you won’t have to look far to find fabulous hiking, running, and biking trails throughout Niagara Falls New York.

Other Bucket List Things to Do Niagara Falls New York

Niagara Falls has much to offer in addition to sightseeing and recreation! Take flight on a helicopter ride, or visit the Niagara Falls Aquarium. See the Falls in a unique way by riding the Niagara Scenic Trolley, or enjoying the thrill of the Whirlpool Jetboat. Remember, expect a longer wait time on weekends and especially during holidays. 

Dine at a Restaurant With Epic Views (USA side)

No doubt, after a long day of sightseeing, you’ll have an appetite! For viewing Niagara Falls while you dine, eat at Top of the Falls. Though temporarily closed due to Covid-19, Top of the Falls is the only restaurant on the American side that overlooks the Falls. Enjoy the special atmosphere and classic American dishes. 

Another great spot is Bella Vista Restaurante, located right on the river. Enjoy patio dining in an outdoor atmosphere while dining on delicious Italian faire

Niagara Falls at Night- American Spectacular! 

Before you fall asleep, be sure to catch a fireworks show over Niagara Falls! These explosive shows take place only during select months of the year, so be sure to check the schedule before your next trip. 

Niagara Falls Hotels in New York: Where to Stay?

Finally, you’ll need a place to sleep. The best neighborhood to stay in Niagara Falls New York is the downtown area as it is within walking distance to most attractions. However, if you’re looking for a less crowded area, you can easily stay in the suburban regions which are just a few minute’s driving from the main attractions and far less expensive.

Of the several places to stay in Niagara Falls, New York the most famous is the 26-story Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino, the county’s only AAA four-diamond award-winning hotel. Also, check out the Holiday Inn- Niagara Falls in the scenic downtown area. There are many hotels to choose from, as well as cozy beds and breakfasts, like The Butler

Visiting Niagara Falls in Ontario (Canadian Side)

While the American side of Niagara Falls is less developed, the Canadian side is more urban and glamorous. In Canada, you’ll experience the best views of all of the falls, from seeing the macro-view of the American side as well as the astonishing Horseshoe Falls. 

Please note: You’ll be visiting another country, so remember to pack your passport. Although most places on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls accept American dollars, you may incur foreign exchange fees if your use a credit card. On the plus side, your currency will have a stronger purchasing power in Canada than in the U.S.A. because the U.S. dollar is worth more than the Canadian dollar.

Niagara Falls Things to Do on the Ontario Side (Canada)

To view the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, visitors typically gather in Queen Victoria Park. Many walkways wind along the river from the Canadian Falls to the Rainbow Bridge, which connects the U.S. and Canada. 

Table Rock Visitor Centre serves as your gateway to experiencing the Canadian Falls. From the Centre, you can experience:

  • Journey Behind the Falls, where guests descend to a short tunnel that leads to observation decks and portals behind the falls, 
  • Niagara’s Fury, a 4D, 360 degree multi-sensory theatre experience,
  • Table Rock House Restaurant and Table Rock Market
  • Table Rock Shop, a locally sourced shopping destination.

Just one block from Horseshoe Falls lies Clifton Hill, the Street of Fun. Here, you’ll find the Niagara Skywheel, Niagara Speedway, and more. The area is a great spot for families especially, but couples love it too. 

Want to experience Niagara Falls from up high? Remember to visit the Skylon Tower Observation Deck to experience the Falls from a soaring 775 feet above Niagara Falls. You can also do helicopter rides on this side of the falls. In addition, Niagara Falls Canada offers the Whirlpool Aerocar, a suspended cable car that drives visitors out and above the natural whirlpool formed in the river below. 

After all those thrills, Niagara Falls has some tamer experiences as well. The Butterfly Conservatory and Botanical Gardens are a great place to stroll with children or a loved one.  

Don’t forget about the two Niagara Falls casinos on the Canada side; Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara. These two destinations give the entire area a “Vegas-like” feel- full of life and glamor!

Niagara Falls Outdoor Things to Do (Canadian Side)

Niagara Gorge & Queen Victoria Park

While Niagara Falls New York has more outdoor/hiking than glitz, Niagara Falls in Canada has its fair share of walking paths as well.  For instance, follow 2.5 miles of stairways deep into the Niagara Gorge at Niagara Glen. You’ll get to see interesting prehistoric geological formations, and view the Niagara River Whirlpool. Additionally, don’t forget to simply explore all the paths surrounding Queen Victoria Park. You’ll love the historic sites and differing views of the Falls. 

Yoga Under the Waterfall at Namaste Niagara Yoga

Get private access to an up-close corner of Niagara Falls. For $60 you can book a 45-minute outdoor yoga session followed by brunch in one of the local Queenston Heights and Whirlpool Restaurants. The perfect way to start your morning: healing your body + connecting to nature.

Food & Wine in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

In addition to Table Rock House Restaurant and Table Rock Market, keep these restaurants in mind for a night out! Enjoy the fabulous view at the Watermark restaurant at the Hilton Fallsview. Patrons can see both Falls while they dine. Another night, try the Keg restaurant at the Embassy Suites. This restaurant is even closer to the Falls. Both of these restaurants are very upscale and are truly an experience. There is also a revolving restaurant at the top of the Skylon Tower, offering its own unique views.

Looking for something a little more rural? Head 20 minutes north of Niagara Falls to Inniskillin Winery. Enjoy tastings, tours, and special events throughout the year.  

Where to Stay in Niagara Falls: Hotels in Canada

During your visit to Niagara Falls in Canada, the most popular place for families to stay is at one of the Fallsview Hotels. These include the Embassy Suites, Marriott Fallsview, The Hilton, and Sheraton of the Falls. The Marriott Fallsview is very upscale, while the Hilton has the best views of the Falls. If you plan on hitting the nightlife and activities surrounding the Falls, the Sheraton is the place for you, as it is in the best location for getting around.

For something more laid back consider one of the many beds and breakfasts and boutique hotels in the region.

And of course, don’t forget the Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara. These, as all hotels do, have certain Covid-19 restrictions. So, be sure to call in or check the Niagara Falls casino website for updated information. 

Illuminations: Niagara Falls at Night

As you view the Falls from your hotel room at night, you’ll be amazed at the light show Niagara Falls puts on. From sunset to around midnight, Canada illuminates the Falls in an array of colors. The colors change throughout the evening, so you’ll be mesmerized by the beautiful and changing view.

From the Niagara Falls casinos to Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls Canada hardly goes to sleep. If you enjoy the nightlife, you’ll love the festive feel of the neighborhood during your stay. During warmer months, you can experience different art festivals in the area as well. 

Visiting Niagara Falls: Safe Travel Practices

While traveling to Niagara Falls, be sure to follow healthy travel practices like washing your hands regularly, wearing a mask, and keeping a safe distance from others.  Due to Covid-19, borders may be closed, making it impossible to visit both sides of Niagara Falls. Other changes may be in effect as well, so, be sure to research your sightseeing destinations before arriving. Official websites will provide the latest updates on local policies and the status of local businesses.

Please keep your safety and the safety of others in mind at all times. When you are comfortable traveling, please do so mindfully and respecting the local regulations.

And finally, consider booking a hotel with free cancellation options in the case that you may need to change your travel plans at the last minute.

Which Side Are You On? Canadian or American?

So- American or Canadian Niagara Falls? Why not both? But if you have to choose one, it depends on what you like most! If you love the hustle and bustle of city excitement, Niagara Falls Canada is the place for you. If you enjoy a slower pace and want to experience trails and more, visit Niagara Falls in New York. However, a quick trip across the Rainbow Bridge will transport you between countries; so, take the time to grab a passport and experience both! Niagara Falls has something for everyone.

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