Know Before You Go: Visiting Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is an awe-inspiring sight. Also known as the American Falls, the Canadian Falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls, Niagara Falls extends across the borders of the US and Canada. The power, speed, and sheer force of these waterfalls are nothing short of spectacular.
Today, both sides of the Falls offer a mix of tourist attractions and outdoor recreation apt for solo travelers, families, and groups alike. If you’re visiting for the first time, it’s helpful to know how to reach Niagara Falls, what you can do on either side, and when to visit.
Pack your passport
You might not need it, but you may want it.
Both the American and Canadian sides of Niagara Falls offer their share of fun, which means it’s entirely possible to remain on one side of the border and still have a fulfilling vacation.
Each side is home to an observation tower and parks with trails. The Canadian side is best for its panoramic views, while the American side is favored by those who want to get as close as possible to the falls.
Bringing your valid passport allows you to explore both sides of the Falls and experience each country’s unique attractions, vistas, and historical sites.
Getting there and around
Choose from private and public transportation options.
Niagara Falls International Airport and Buffalo Niagara International are the closest airports on the American side, and Hamilton International Airport and Toronto Pearson International Airport are the nearest on the Canadian side.
Visitors can rent a car or take a shuttle to Niagara Falls from any of the airports. Once there, a variety of city buses and taxis are an easy mode of transportation.
Many travelers also opt to walk or cycle the area thanks to accessible trails and a pedestrian/bike-friendly border crossing on the Rainbow Bridge.
Insider tip: Visitors can benefit from free trolley services on the New York side during the warmer months.
When to visit Niagara Falls
These waters don’t stop for snow, sun, or seasonal holidays.
Crowds flock to Niagara Falls during the summer months as the warm weather and misty breeze combine to keep you cool and comfortable outdoors.
Winter is the opposite, as chilly temperatures can make for an uncomfortable visit. But, if you don’t mind bundling up, you can admire the mist creating a crust of ice that makes the Falls appear frozen.
Fall and spring can be touch-and-go weather-wise, but the seasonal foliage changes make for fantastic photo backdrops. Year-round firework shows and colorful light shows make any nightfall at Niagara Falls magical, no matter the season.
What to pack and wear
Spoiler alert: You’ll probably get wet.
Packing should primarily reflect the season—bring layered, warm clothing in the winter months and breezy, light clothing in the summer months.
However, you should add a few evergreen items to your suitcase regardless of when you go. Comfortable clothing and reliable footwear are essential, even if you’re only meandering around town. Both sides are pedestrian-friendly, so you may walk more than expected (if only to snag that perfect photo).
Insider tip: You won’t regret packing waterproof or water-resistant clothing, especially if you’re visiting Maid of the Mist or Journey Behind the Falls.
What to see on the American side
The Maid awaits your arrival.
The Maid of the Mist tops the list of must-dos on New York’s side. This scenic boat tour takes you to the foot of the Falls and leaves you soaked with more than a smile.
The Cave of the Winds observation deck and wooden walkways let you take slippery steps right up to the Bridal Veil Falls. Free parking at the Schoellkopf Power Station leads right into the Niagara Gorge Trailhead, where you can gaze at the Falls from the water’s edge.
A visit to Niagara’s Wax Museum of History is also a must. Seneca Casino and the Aquarium of Niagara are indoor activities to add to your must-do list.
What to see on the Canadian side
See the falls from above and behind.
The Maid of the Mist might let you see Niagara Falls from below, but Canada’s side houses the only backdoor to the Horseshoe Falls. Journey Behind the Falls gets you up close and personal with the powerful, rushing water.
Queen Victoria Park is for walkers of all levels, offering easy paths and challenging trails. For a bird’s eye view of the area, take a ride on the Niagara SkyWheel at the popular tourist promenade, Clifton Hill.
For a special meal, dinner with a waterfall view awaits at the Skylon Tower revolving restaurant and observation deck. And for an indoor educational experience, visit the Niagara Falls History Museum.