There are many attractions in this world that leave us speechless and Niagara Falls is definitely among those to achieve that! For this reason, after a brief mention of this great waterfall on my 2-week epic road trip around Canada, I want to share with you the best highlights, tours and things to do in Niagara Falls, Canada!
Keep reading to find out how to visit this awesome attraction both as part of an organized tour group and if you organize it yourself and the best attractions and things to do there!
In this post you will learn about the awesome things to do in Niagara Falls (Canada and USA), but I will also give you many practical tips such as how to get there, where to stay, where to park your car, and much more.
Get ready to find out everything you need to know about one of the best vacation destinations in Canada and the U.S.! Here are the best things to do in Niagara Falls for the best experience:
- 1.1. Best things to do in Niagara Falls
- 2. Things to do in Niagara Falls – broken down by type of travelers
- 3. Organized tours to Niagara Falls
- 4. How to get to Niagara Falls by yourself
- 5. Attractions Passes in Niagara Falls
- BONUS: How to find good, cheap parking near Niagara Falls
- Practical info about Niagara Falls
1.1. Best things to do in Niagara Falls
NOTE: Please read my detailed instructions below in this post on how to get to the falls by yourself if you don’t want to go with any of the tours below.
As I told you, there is really a great variety of attractions and things to do in Niagara Falls whether you are traveling as a couple, with kids, alone or with a group of friends – everyone will easily find activities to do there for at least a couple of days.
Let me tell you more about the coolest things to do in Niagara Falls:
1.1 Niagara Falls Boat Tour
There’s pretty much no difference, just that one boat departs from the USA side, the other one from the Canadian part.
Let me briefly tell you about both of them:
Maid of the Mist – from the American side
The Maid of the Mist that docks on the American side has been functioning since 1846, back when it was the best way to cross from one side to the other, before they opened the bridge across the river. After that, the boat was only used for tourist activities.
PRO TIP: I recommend getting tickets in advance because the line is going to be loooong.
Hornblower – from the Canadian side
Hornblower boat tour
The Hornblower departs from the Canadian part and has been running tours along the three waterfalls since 2014.
Just like for Maid-of-the-Mist, you will receive a raincoat for the trip so you don’t become soaked. The classic ride during daytime takes up to 20 minutes, while the Sunset Cruise and Illumination Cruise are almost 40 minutes long.
Hornblower also offers an evening Fireworks Cruise, which is simply magical!
PRICE: 30.50 CAD (US$22) + tax
I recommend getting tickets in advance online as well and you will understand why once you arrive there and realize that there are huge queues at the ticket booth!
All in all, it does not matter which boat tours you choose since they work pretty much the same way – you will receive a raincoat in order not to get completely soaked.
I also recommend trying to protect your phone and/or camera using a waterproof case as it might malfunction because of the thousands of water drops from the falls! I am talking from experience here – I once “killed” a pretty expensive lens like this because we got too close to a waterfall in New Zealand, so learn from my mistakes! 🙂
PRO TIP: I recommend being among the first ones to board onto the boat; this way you will be able to see the waterfall not from behind the backs of the other tourists, but from the first row!
1.2 Journey behind the Falls
The “Journey Behind the Falls” is an unguided tour organized by Niagara Parks only available on the Canadian Side, near Horseshoe Falls. The 30-minute walk starts 38 meters under the falls where you will go along some 130-year-old tunnels found in the bedrock; you will get a feeling of Horseshoe Falls before you even see it!
I was honestly fascinated with the power of the water, as you could sense it through the tunnels’ vibrations! Once you reach the observation deck you will be left breathless because these viewing portals cut through the rock so you will see a unique view of the waterfall’s magnificence! The tour takes from 30 to 45 minutes (but I was there for more than an hour).
PRICE: $15 CAD / US$11
1.3 Niagara Falls grand helicopter tour
Just the idea of a helicopter ride should get your adventure spirit on alert! The ride will take you above it all and you will enjoy what birds can see every single day!
The regular tours include watching the falls at eye level while walking on the street, getting up on the Skylon Tower to see it from above, or navigating near the falls to feel their power. But this unique helicopter ride lets you see it from a unique perspective and it gives you the chance to get some of those envy-inducing pictures you see online!
I really recommend this tour if you have the budget for it; you will have an unforgettable experience! This Niagara Falls Helicopter ride is offered in English, French and Chinese and, in order to book it, you need a group of minimum 2 and maximum 6 people.
PRICE: $190 CAD (US$142)
Here are some more attractions and activities that you can do at the waterfalls:
- Boat ride – Hornblower or Maid of the Mist
- Journey Behind the falls – you’ll walk behind the waterfall and see it from a unique angle
- Helicopter tour
- Niagara Falls Zip Line – you’ll slide down on a rope above the waterfalls
- Whirlpool Jetboat – high-speed boat ride
- Whirlpool AeroCar – cable car that takes you above Niagara Whirlpool
- Great Canadian Midway – indoor entertainment center
- Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour
- Niagara USA Trolley Tour
- Guided Kayaking – kayaking tour on the US side
- Shopping Outlet Tour – for all travelers interested in shopping experiences
- Niagara USA – Wine Tour – you’ll be taken to some awesome wineries in Niagara County
- Niagara Falls Golf Club – yep, you can even play some golf there!
2. Things to do in Niagara Falls – broken down by type of travelers
In know, I know, the variety of tours and things to do in Niagara Falls is overwhelming, but no worries, I made my extensive research and here are all the tours in and around Niagara falls, sorted by type and preference:
3.1. Things to do in Niagara Falls for families
If you are traveling with kids or the whole family, below are the most popular attractions that I recommend taking, your kids will love it!
- Niagara Butterfly conservatory – a beautiful butterfly house
- Niagara Botanical Gardens – 99 acres of gorgeous gardens
- Niagara Adventure Theater – an auditorium where you can see films
- Illuminations – at the end of the day, they light up the Falls and it is stunning. At first I thought it would spoil the impression, but it was actually really pretty!
- Scenic Trolley – a cute bus that will take you around Niagara Falls Park and its top attractions
- Fallsview Indoor Waterpark – they have 16 slides, a wave pool, and a 1000 gallon tipping bucket.
3.2. Things to do in Niagara Falls for couples
Here are some romantic Niagara Falls activities you might enjoy as a couple:
- Take a 40-minute Fireworks Night Cruise along the illuminated waterfall cascades and the stunning fireworks display, soaking up the amazing views with no crowd!
- Go for an adventure and zipline over the falls
- For a romantic trip, go for this Airflight Tour Niagara which is then followed by visiting a winery and chocolate factory
- Lunch Fiesta Wine Tour – a 6-hour tour where you will visit four of the best wineries in the Ontario region and you will also see the wine-making process. To top off this amazing and delicious wine route, lunch is included in Niagara-on-the-Lake
3. Organized tours to Niagara Falls
There are two ways of going to Niagara Falls, either from the USA or from Canada: by yourself or with an organized tour that will take care of transportation. Luckily for you, I have information and advice about each of these two options below:
3.1. Organized tours from New York City
Here are some great tours for you if you do not want to organize the transportation and accommodation on your own:
Here is a curious fact to begin with: each year about 13 million tourists visit the Falls of which 8.4 million are from Canada (67.1%) and 3.2 million are from the United States – that’s 24.5%! Crazy right?
Out of this percentage, most of them use Buffalo and New York City as their initial point for travel because they are conveniently close to Niagara Falls and also ideal for a shopping spree.
NOTE: You can arrive to the Falls in about 30 minutes (31 km) if you start from Buffalo, and in almost 7 hours by driving from NYC (658 km).
1. Full-day bus tours from New York
You can purchase the tour here online and forget about any ticket lines or where to leave your car once you arrive; just sit back and enjoy!
The tour starts very early in the morning with a snack stop so nobody gets hungry. After seeing the falls and riding the boat, you will head out for an enjoyable lunch and some souvenir shopping.
DURATION: 19 hours
PRICE: US$235 per person
2. Two-Day Falls and Shopping trip from New York City
If a day tour sounds like too much hustle, I recommend staying for 2 days at the Falls, so you will be able to fully immerse into the atmosphere and enjoy the views with no rush!
The beauty of a 2 day-trip is that you will be able to see the falls while the sun sets with an illumination show and the next day you can enjoy them first-hand on a boat ride!
DURATION: 2 days
PRICE: US$320 to US$330
3.2. Organized tours from Toronto to Niagara Falls
If you, like me, are traveling from Toronto, nothing can be easier! There are many private and group tours that depart daily from Toronto.
The road trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls takes 1h and 40 minutes, but I highly recommend choosing a tour that would also stop by Niagara-on-the-Lake – a charming town right before the Falls!
1. One-day bus tour with wine tasting
Join a one-day sightseeing Tour and you won’t need to worry about driving – just board the bus and enjoy the ride.
This tour not only includes transportation to Niagara Falls and a ride on the Hornblower Boat Cruise, but you will also stop on the way for some yummy wine tasting!
DURATION: 8 hours
PRICE: $148 CAD (US$111) per person
2. One-day bus tour with Niagara-on-the-Lake
A perfect way to tick Niagara Falls from your bucket list is to join this scenic tour departing from Toronto. Your local driver and guide will share their knowledge along the way to keep you informed about the best scenic stops.
Part of the journey also includes about an hour of exploration at Niagara on the Lake, a very picturesque town on the way to your final destination.
DURATION: 9 hours
PRICE: $109 CAD (US$81) per person
4. How to get to Niagara Falls by yourself
If you like driving and you actually have more fun doing and planning this trip on your own, I suggest you go for a rented car and visit the falls yourself!
If you need more information about driving around Canada, I am sharing my own experience with you in this post about my 2-week road trip starting in Toronto and going by Niagara Falls.
Below I’ve made a very detailed description on how to arrive to the Falls by yourself using different means of transportation from both the USA and Canada:
- Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF) is 40 km from the Falls. From there, you can choose between renting a car, getting a taxi or getting a bus to Niagara Falls. The Shuttle Service leaves every hour, costs $36 USD/person one-way and drops off at any hotel no more than 2 miles from the Falls. A taxi ride can cost $85 USD for up to 5 passengers in the vehicle. Shuttle and taxis are found at Crosswalk 3.
- Arriving at Niagara Falls International Airport (IAG) on the American side is a short 15 minute drive to the waterfalls.
- The quickest option of flights to Niagara Falls is with FlyGTA. You can book a flight ticket that takes 12 minutes, cost $99 CAD and takes you to Niagara District Airport (YCM), which is the closest airport. Feel free to see which is the most convenient flight for you here.
- The Lester B Pearson International Airport (YYZ) in Toronto is 130 km from the Falls. From the Toronto airport to Niagara Falls, you can take the local train, airport shuttles or buses to get to Toronto and then to Niagara.
- Driving from New York: The fastest route to get from New York City is about 656 km long, which might take you about 6 hours and 35 minutes, more or less.
- Driving from Buffalo, NY: It will take you a fast 30-minute drive to get to Horseshoe Falls from Buffalo. If you then want to go over to the Canadian part, you will need to cross the Rainbow Bridge which can be about 20 minutes, give or take.
- Driving from Toronto, Canada: From Toronto it’s a 130 km drive that takes about 1.5 hours. I have done this route myself and you can read more about it here.
PRO TIP: By the way, parking options around the waterfalls are quite overpriced, but I will tell you about a secret spot where the price is the lowest in the Bonus section so use the tip! 🙂
Crossing the border between the USA and Canada:
If you want to cross the Canada – US border while on your own road trip or just want to admire the waterfalls through a tour, you need to present your passport with a proper visa or permission to enter.
You can cross the border by taking the Lewiston Queenston, Rainbow, and Peace Bridges. In each case, the average traffic time is no more than 40 minutes either way. The bridge toll for Pedestrians is $1 USD and for every kind of vehicle it can be from $3.75 USD to $5 USD, depending on which way you are going.
NOTE: When crossing as pedestrians, children under 5 years old and baby carriages are not charged any bridge toll fee.
- From Buffalo, NY: You will only have to take a 30-minute trip on Busbud towards Niagara Falls; the price is $7 USD.
- From NYC: Greyhound bus service offers a 9.5 hour-long ride and the ticket prices start at $62 USD. You will have comfy seats, individual power outlets and Wi-Fi. The earliest departure is at 5 AM and 10 PM is the latest.
- Second option from NYC: BusBud – although the tickets are about $51 USD, the seats are not as comfortable and the entire trip takes almost 18 hours.
- Greyhound bus services take you from Niagara Falls Bus Terminal and Downtown Toronto; the price is $15 USD on average and the ride takes almost 2 hours.
- Megabus has a route from Toronto Coach Terminal to Niagara Falls. The ride is 1 hour and 50 minutes; the price is $16 USD or less. The bus to Niagara Falls leaves every hour.
- From Toronto, Union Station: ViaRail train gets you to Niagara Falls in less than 2 hours for a price of US$18. Once you get off at Niagara Falls Train Station (which is near the Whirlpool Aero Car and Bridge) you are 4 km from the Falls and 2 blocks from downtown.
- From Toronto, Union Station: The Season Go Train departs from Toronto’s Union Station and stops at Niagara Falls VIA Station; the price is $35 USD per person.
- From NYC, Penn Station: Amtrak train will get you to Niagara Falls, NY in 9 hours. There are three direct trips each day and the price is about $100 USD per person.
5. Attractions Passes in Niagara Falls
Of course, I could not let you go before explaining a bit about the best passes and deals for Niagara Falls that will save you from the struggle of deciding which attractions to visit! Here’s how to save some money while visiting Niagara Falls:
- Niagara Falls Adventure Pass Classic gives you 2 days to enjoy lots of entertainment options: the Journey Beyond the Falls, White Water Walk, an interactive Niagara’s Fury 4D show, and the Hornblower Niagara Cruises’ Voyage. This is a great deal for a Niagara Falls Pass if you have enough time to spend there and you’re interested in seeing it all. After my calculations, you will save approximately US$5 if you purchase this pass instead of getting tickets for the 4 attractions individually.
PRICE: US$48 (online) / YOU SAVE: $5 USD
- Clifton Hill Fun Pass is dedicated exclusively to fun rides such as Zombie Attack, Wild West Coaster, Movieland Wax Museum, but also Niagara Skywheel. Clifton Hill pass is only valid for a single use per attraction but can be used throughout one year from the day of purchase.
- Niagara Falls Wonderpass gives you a pass for the Journey Behind the Falls, the Butterfly Conservatory, and the Floral Showcase. This pass has a great deal if you buy it online!
PRICE: US$74 USD or only US$21 USD if you buy it online! / YOU SAVE: US$53
BONUS: How to find good, cheap parking near Niagara Falls
The biggest issue of renting your car is: where to park? Keep in mind that when you arrive at Niagara Falls there will be many parking lots in sight, but please remember that the ones closest to the falls are the most rip-off ones.
During our trip, we found a good parking for $8 CAD per day, while a “normal” price everywhere was $5 CAD an hour!
Please click on this link and it will take you to Google Maps to show you the coordinates of our parking; it was a 4-5 min walk from the Falls, so not far at all!
If you are going to park on the side of the American Falls, you will find four available parking lots. Parking Lot #1 and #2 charge $10 USD per car, per day, while parking Lot #3 and Lot #4 have a fee of $8 USD per car per day. You can check out more details on how to find them here. On that link you will find a downloadable map document of the area where the parking lots’ location is marked.
PRO TIP: If you are driving from the USA, make sure to park your car on the USA side and walk across the bridge. Crossing the border by car would be much more time consuming, trust me! The line at the Peace Bridge can be very long so it makes sense to leave your car on the American side – unless you are continuing further to Canada, of course!
Practical info about Niagara Falls
Here are some important practical tips such as where to eat, where to stay, when to visit, how to get there and what to do in Niagara Falls. Enjoy!
How much does it cost to visit Niagara Falls?
It is actually absolutely free to see the falls (you will just need to pay for parking, as there are no free parking spots around). But as a bare minimum, I would also recommend taking the Hornblower tour for US$22 ($30 CAD) and the Journey Behind The Falls for US$11 ($15 CAD).
So, all together, the price is US$33 ($45 CAD) + taxes.
The parking situation will always be a tough thing around the Falls, but I found this great spot which I share with you called “Parking Area B, All Day Parking” on the Canadian part. It is fairly big and is a 5-minute walk to reach the waterfalls, with a price of $8 CAD per day!
As for the American side, there are more options for parking lots and their all-day fee is also US$10. For more details on all the other parking lot locations click here.
When should I visit Niagara falls?
The ideal time to visit Niagara is mostly up to you and your weather preferences. Some people say that summer (June through August) is the best and peak season throughout the year.
September and May could also be great months for checking out the waterfalls because the weather should still be fine (no one can guarantee it though!) and there are way less crowds! For example I have visited in mid-September and it was great!
Note that the following attractions from the Park – Maid of the Mist and Cave of the Winds – are only seasonally open and are closed between November 4th and last days of May due to low temperatures. The rest of the park is open year round.
NOTE: To answer your questions about the low temperatures, you might want to be careful when walking around if there is too much ice. But don’t worry, the waterfalls won’t be frozen!
Which side of Niagara Falls is more beautiful – Canadian or American?
Even if I haven’t been to the US side yet, I’ve seen the pictures and the lookout pretty close, as it was right in front of me. It was pretty clear that the Canadian part has a better angle of the waterfall itself!
A more objective reason as to why the best panoramic views are on the Canadian part is that the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are located in Niagara Falls, NY. Meanwhile, the biggest cascade, Horseshoe Falls, is located in Ontario, on the Western bank of the Niagara River.
If you can only see Niagara Parks from the US side, do not be sad! Just take the boat excursion I mentioned above. Technically, the boat goes through the canadian waters and the angle is perfect from there, so you are not missing on anything!
Where to stay near Niagara Falls
I definitely recommend choosing something within walking distance from the waterfall, so you can park your car at your hotel/apartment and then simply walk to the waterfalls!
This is my selection of Niagara Falls hotels that I compiled for you based on great reviews, their proximity to the Falls and your traveling budget:
Niagara Falls American Side
Luxury & Mid-range (US$110 and more):
Red Coach Inn overlooks Niagara River and is a 1-minute walk from the American Falls. Thinking of taking the boat excursion? You’d be less than 1 kilometer away from it! The Giacomo, an Ascend Hotel Collection Member is a luxury boutique hotel and resort very close to the falls and Niagara River as well.
Budget (US$55 – US$110):
Comfort Inn & Suites is one of the best Niagara Falls hotels in the USA, located only a 30-minute drive from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and is located next to the waterfalls. Hyatt Place is another budget-friendly option near the attraction, Niagara River, Fallsview Casino, Skylon Tower and shopping centers.
Niagara Falls Canada Side
Luxury (US$160 and up):
These are the top luxury options of Niagara Falls Canada hotels: Niagara Gorgeview Inn is a 4-bedroom holiday home built in 1912 that is perfect for big groups. Redwood Bed and Breakfast is a beautiful Victorian-style bed and breakfast in Niagara Falls that overlooks the Niagara Gorge. It is close to the Butterfly Conservatory, Niagara Skywheel, Skylon Tower, Fallsview Casino, Clifton Hill and many other attraction options in Niagara Falls Canada.
Mid-range (US$55 – US$160):
Vittoria Hotel & Suites is only minutes away from the Horseshoe Falls and offers guests assistance for the surrounding Niagara Falls attractions. Serene Niagara Inn is a great choice if you do not have a car because it is less than 2 kilometers from Greyhound Canada and it’s also close to Clifton Hill.
Budget ($55 USD or less):
Howard Johnson by the Falls is in the center of the Clifton Hill tourist area and is only an 8-minute walk from the Niagara Waterfall. Days by Wyndham Centre St. By the Falls is a 3-star hotel with spacious and comfy rooms, conveniently located near a currency exchanger.
Will I need a car to visit Niagara Falls?
I personally think that at least half of my Canada experience was so great thanks to having all the freedom to go where I wanted with our rented car!
Since the roads in Canada are a pure pleasure to drive and there are lots of amazing views, that is an experience which I highly recommend! You can read more details about car hire in Canada in my article about 8 Things to Know When Renting a Car in Canada.
If you don’t want to stress over searching for a parking lot or driving around a city you probably are not familiar with, you can choose to travel with a taxi, bus or train.
Should I take a tour or can I visit it by myself?
A tour is not required if you don’t want to! As I mentioned above, you can organize your trip by yourself, just like I did. However, in some cases it is actually cheaper to go with a tour if you take into consideration the price you will pay for the gas, car rental, food and accommodation there.
I suggest you have a look at the previously mentioned group tours so you can choose the specific attractions you are interested in visiting or activities you want to take part in.
Niagara Waterfall is an extraordinary show and attraction by itself if you’re a nature lover, but having the chance to experience them and move around by a bridge, boat, or the sky gives a different touch of amazingness to the visit!
In this article I have shared with you not only some great tips on where to go, how to get to the Falls, what roads to follow, and what to pack, but I also gave you a full list of the activities that are offered near Niagara Waterfalls, broken down by the type of visitors and the listed prices for each!
I hope you liked these tips and details on activities for your next Niagara Falls vacation and I hope I helped you plan the ideal itinerary for your next trip! I wish you a great experience at Niagara!
If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know in the comments below and I am more than happy to answer.
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