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, a naturalist’s dream, and a 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.
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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.
1) Maid of the Mist Boat Ride from NY
A Niagara Falls “must-see” is the Maid of the Mist boat tour, which takes you right up to the bottom of the amazing Horseshoe Falls. You can book this tour for about $130 per person here. 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. Check their website for more info.
2) Go Hiking + Other Outdoors Activities
There are plenty of places to hike and enjoy nature in Niagara Falls State Park (USA side). 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.
Book your express pass to Cave of the Winds here to avoid the long lines!
3) Open Jet Boat Tour
This open jet boat tour takes you on a thrilling ride down the Niagara River. Revel in the white rapids while being safely led by a Coast Guard-certified captain. This tour leaves from Lewiston, New York. It is about 45 minutes and costs around $70. Book the tour here.
5) Go on a Helicopter Ride Above Niagara Falls from New York
Niagara Falls has much to offer in addition to sightseeing and recreation! Take flight on a helicopter ride from New York. This small-group tour is about $300 for two travelers and includes hotel pick-up. On this lifetime experience, you’ll see Niagara Falls from a different perspective as you fly over the iconic landmarks.
6) Dine at a Restaurant With Epic Views (USA side)
Another great spot is Bella Vista Ristorante, located right on the river. Here, you can enjoy patio dining in an outdoor atmosphere while dining on delicious Italian food.
Although this restaurant has terrible reviews, if you want to just stop for a coffee or beer to relax between activities, consider popping into Top of the Falls. It is the only restaurant on the American side that overlooks the Falls.
7) Fireworks: Niagara Falls at Night- American Spectacular!
Before you fall asleep, be sure to catch a light 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. You can book a packaged tour experience that includes hotel pick up, maid of the mist + cave of the winds admission, and ends with the illumination show. You get all the highlights of Niagara Falls, NY, in one prepackaged ticket.
8) Niagara Scenic Trolley
For a more physically accessible experience, consider this Niagara Falls Trolley Tour. This allows visitors to travel through the 400 acres of the Niagara Falls State Park without walking 75% of it. This packaged tour includes a trolley pass for the day, admission to Maid of the Mist, and Cave of the Winds.
9) Old Fort Niagara
Old Fort Niagara offers tours taking you back to the 1700s to learn about the colonizing history of this region. Back to when European invaders fought each other over who would take this land. Here, Native American, French, British and American soldiers lived and worked. In the summer months, you can see artillery firing demonstrations, and reenactments, join a guided tour, and see artisans’ work.
I recommend booking a guided tour of the fort online to avoid disappointment as they can sell out fast.
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 Canadian Side (Ontario)
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.
1) Visit the Table Rock Visitor Centre
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. This can sell out fast so make sure to book online before you go to avoid disappointment.
- 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.
2) Scenic Airplane Tour
Have you ever flown on a private plane? This 30-minute private flight takes you over the Niagara region. Learn the history of this area from above, and you see 12 historical and geological landmarkets. After you land, you are treated with chocolates and champagne. Rates begin at $130 per person. Not bad! [Book your tour here]
4) 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.
4) 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.
5) Winery Tour & Tasting
Looking for something a little more rural? Go on a tasting tour through Niagara’s finest wineries while enjoying the scenic countryside. If you want to visit a winery independently, head 20 minutes north of Niagara Falls to Inniskillin Winery. Enjoy tastings, tours, and special events throughout the year. [Book your tour here].
6) Goats & Yoga + Wine
For a more unusual wine-tasting experience, why not combine wine-tasting with goat yoga? You’ll enjoy 30 minutes of yoga, while goats play with you and snuggle up to you. Then, another 30 minutes where you snuggle and play with the goats. Followed by wine tasting. [Book the experience here]
7) Illuminations & Fireworks: Niagara Falls at Night (Canadian Side)
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.
On top of that, from May to October, there are fireworks every night at 10:00 PM at Queen Victoria Park.
A great way to see the lights is by taking a night tour, where you first enjoy a 3-course dinner at the Table Rock Restauarant before heading to the Illumination Tower where you’ll be able to control the lights that appear on the falls! You’ll also get to do the Voyage to the Falls cruise in the evening. This tour can sell out quickly so make sure to book online here before you head to the falls.
8) Helicopter Ride from the Canadian Side
You can also ride a helicopter from the Canadian side, and it’ll probably be cheaper because the USA dollar is stronger right now. This helicopter costs $127.87 and soars above the Niagara River, the Whirlpool Rapids and Skylon Tower. You’ll also see the three waterfalls (American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls). This flight is just 12 minutes, so it’s perfect for those with more limited time and budget. Book it here.
9) Skylon Tower Observation Deck
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. Book your tickets here, which include a flexible-date option, a glass elevator ride, and both observation decks.
10) Whirlpool Aero Car
Jump back in time for an adventurous and historic ride over the Niagara River. Niagara Falls Canada offers the Whirlpool Aero Car, a suspended cable car that drives visitors out and above the natural whirlpool formed in the river below. This has been a popular tourist attraction since the 1800s! It costs about $15 per person. [Book your ticket here]
11) Zipline to the Falls
12) Niagara SkyWheel
If you’re not afraid of height, consider this classic ferris wheel ride in an enclosed gondola. You can buy your tickets here for $12. The ride is 8 minutes and includes an audio guide.
13) Whirlpool Jet Boat Tour
This Whirlpool Jet Boat Tour is also available on the Canadian side. However, this one is partially enclosed so you can choose to get wet or stay dry. Regardless, you’ll be on a thrilling one hour ride in Class 5 rapids (depending on the weather). [Book the tour here]
14) Whirlpool Adventure Ropes Course
This tour includes aerial climbing, ziplining, jumping and swinging all in one! Feel like a kid again as you move through high suspended courses. The experience takes 1-3 hours (depending on how many things you want to do).
15) The Butterfly Conservatory + Botanical Gardens
After all those thrills, Niagara Falls has some tamer experiences as well. The Butterfly Conservatory and Botanical Gardens are a great place to stroll, especially with children or a loved one. If you love butterflies, book your tickets here.
16) Food & Wine in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
Here are the most unique places to eat in Niagara Falls, Canada:
- Table Rock House Restaurant
- Table Rock Market
- Watermark restaurant at the Hilton Fallsview
- Keg Restaurant at Embassy Suites
- Queen Victoria Place
- Queen Heights
You could also take part in a wine and food tasting tour to discover more about the local wineries and cuisine. Here are the most unique wine and food tasting tours:
- Niagara’s Decadent Icewine and Chocolate Tasting – Taste different types of wine made at this family-estate winery, paired with chocolate and aged cheddar. If you’d like to learn how the wine is made at this winery, book their Grape to Glass tour instead.
- Picnic Cheese and Charcuterie Board Wine Tasting Tour – Taste 4 different locally made, wines, whilst enjoying cheese, snacks, and a charcuterie board.
- Konzelmann Tasting Experience – Taste three 1-oz samples of VQA wines at the Konzelmann Estate Winery. You can choose from red, white, rosé, and even peach wine.
- Niagara Falls Walking Food Tour – Visit 4-6 local food outlets, and discover the local cuisine and learn about Canadian cuisine and its European influence.
17) Canadian Nightlife
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.
18) Explore the Local History & Heritage
Here are some historic places to visit in Niagara Falls, Ontario:
- Laura Secord Homestead – Canada’s most famous heroine, Laura Secord, hiked 32 kilometers to tell warn the British of an imminent American invasion.
- Mackenzie Printery – Historic letterpress museum
- McFarland House – Built in the 1800s as a military hospital for the War of 1812
- Old Fort Erie – About the war of 1812 + has some reenactment events.
Where to Stay in Niagara Falls: Hotels + Bed & Breakfasts
Places to Stay in Niagara, Ontario, 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.
Places in Niagara, New York, USA
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 of 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 minutes drive from the main attractions and are far less expensive.
- The Red Coach Inn – Historic Bed and Breakfast.
- The Butler House – Cute family-owned bed and breakfast.
- If you have a car and don’t mind staying a little farther from the downtown area, consider this beautiful home rental with a pool and incredible views!
- The most famous is the 26-story Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino, the county’s only AAA four-diamond award-winning hotel.
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 and more unique options, then Niagara Falls in Canada is the place for you. If you enjoy a slower pace and want to experience some easy flat trails, visit Niagara Falls in New York.
My opinion: Personally, if I had to pick a side, I’d go with the Canadian because there are way more things to do at a more budget-friendly price. However, a quick trip across the Rainbow Bridge will transport you between countries. So, I say you take the time to grab a passport and experience both!
Visiting Niagara Falls: SMART Travel Practices
While traveling to Niagara Falls, be sure to:
- Follow healthy travel practices like washing your hands regularly and keeping a safe distance from others. Who wants to get sick on vacation? Not me!
- Check any border restrictions.
- Bring your passport!
- Canadian businesses accept American dollars, but American businesses do not accept Canadian dollars. So convert wisely.