Ah, Niagara Falls… It’s hard to find a person who hasn’t put a visit here on their bucket list. And rightfully so. It’s one of those unique places in the world so impressive, it knocks you off your feet. Quite literally, if you take a boat ride and feel the force of the water rushing all around you.
Safe to say it wasn’t our first time visiting. As a true Ontario girl, Niagara has always been the go-to stop for anything: from family trips to outings with friends during college.
Our recent trip was all about showcasing the sights and stops that make Niagara Falls a place worth our repeated visits. Something that leaves you with more than just a picture of you in a bright yellow raincoat. So, grab a friend, a date or your entire family and hop along on this Niagara Falls travel guide outlining all goodies.
How to get there
First time visiting the Falls? Not every reader might know that Niagara Falls is split between two countries. The water creates a natural border between the state of New York, USA and Canada’s Ontario.
The Canadian part is home to the famous curved Horseshoe Falls. You can see the American Falls not far to its left and the USA’s smaller Bridal Veils Falls in between. We love the views from the Canadian side, where you get great angles of every highlight. Here, you can walk in a tunnel underneath the waterfall and, above ground, feel like you can stretch out your arm and touch the Horseshoe Falls. Well, almost.
For this reason, we aim on getting you to the Canadian part. Easiest is to fly into Toronto Pearson International Airport. From here, it’s a mere 125 kilometres (78 miles) or an hour and a half drive with ample parking.
The GO Train offers daily train service, as does VIA Rail, making a roundtrip in one day possible. (That being said, why miss out on all the fun of an overnight stay!)
Coming in from the United States? There is a direct bus connection from Buffalo (NY) and train service from NYC and Cleveland. Transport by car is possible with border crossings via one of the three nearby bridges. Bet you don’t see that every day.
Best is to check out the latest news on Niagara’s official website for all details and updates.
Where to stay
Getting the right hotel is a key part of your Niagara Falls stay. Why? Because where else in the world can you wake up overlooking one of nature’s biggest wonders.
Hence our stay at the Sheraton Fallsview, where the room looked straight at the magnificent falls. The rooms here are hard to beat, as it’s the only hotel in Niagara Falls to offer Fallsview balconies as a guestroom feature.
Fallsview recently underwent a massive $50 million renovation, completed in July 2021. It has an indoor walkway taking you straight to the casino, the indoor waterpark and endless other attractions like a top-rated spa. Moreover, it’s steps away from every highlight in town.
When staying here, don’t forget to head up for cocktails at their Rooftop Pool & Bar. Or simply stay in bed when the firework show starts and lounge the night away.
What to do
Check out the scenes at Whirlpool Aero Car
Highlight. Of. The. Day. Imagine world-class views mixed with the cutest cable car dipped in bright colours.
Hop on the Whirlpool Aero Car for mind-blowing views of the Niagara Whirlpool in all its force and the river’s whitewater rapids. Talk about a photo op. This historical cable car is operational since 1916, yet it’s incredibly sturdy and a smooth ride. The trip lasts around ten minutes.
Fun fact: you cross the international border between the United States and Canada a whopping four times while riding the Whirlpool Aero Car. Even though the ride departs and ends at different points on the Canadian side, you cross the border lines because of how the river is shaped.
Address: 3850 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara Falls, ON L2E 3E8, Canada
Visit the Botanical Garden and Butterfly Conservatory
Get some rest at the Botanical Garden, which has been around since 1936. It’s home to a whopping 99 acres (40 hectares) of picture-perfect gardens, razor-sharp hedges and ample benches to reenact your version of a Jane Austen novel. A trip here is always different: flowers vary each season, making the gardens never look quite the same.
The best thing: admission is completely free. They’re open from dawn till dusk, every day of the year, at just a ten-minute drive north of Niagara Falls.
Still not done with your dose of Zen? Smart move. Head on over to the Butterfly Conservatory, located inside the Botanical Gardens. It’s one of the largest in North America, with over 2.000 butterflies and more than 180 meters of pathway and tranquillity.
We loved the contrast of the Conservatory’s lush waterfalls with its tropical vibes. It’s so close to the roaring beasts that are the Niagara Falls – and you get to see both in one day.
Address: 2565 Niagara Parkway, Niagara Falls, ON L2E 2S7, Canada
Go explore on a Snap eBike
There’s so much to see in Niagara Falls and so little time to waste on walking at a snail’s pace like we do. Rent an e-bike and hop from one sight to the next in a more fun way.
Turns out, Niagara Falls is an ideal cycling spot, regardless of your experience level. There are tons of bike trails and self-guided tours around and everything you’ll want to explore is close to each other. Along the bicycle route, you’ll find everything you need – from fix it stations to washrooms to station where you can fill your water bottle.
Where to begin? Start at the falls and head over to Niagara River Recreation Trail with endless miles of stunning views, parallel to the river. You’ll cross the Whirlpool and finish in the old town charm that is Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Address: 4239 Park St, Niagara Falls, ON L2E 2P2, Canada
Mix nature and history at the White Water Walk
The White Water Walk is best known as one of the highlights in the area, where you can do a self-guided walk along the river to explore the rapids from a close distance. But there’s much more history to the area than that.
Perhaps you’ve heard some of the stories about wild adventurers, daring to face the falls in a barrel. Interesting details are to be found at the plaques all over the White Water Walk. What you might not be aware of, is it being one of the final destinations of the Underground Railroad.
The Underground Railroad was a system of routes leading enslaved people to freedom from the US into Canada. Ten of thousands of people have dared this route during their escape. This includes Harriet Tubman, who first crossed into Canada here on a suspension bridge in 1856. Plaques are to be found all around the White Water Walk and form an added value to your visit.
Journey further into history at Landcape of Nations
Want a great way to learn more about indigenous people, and the history and culture of Niagara Falls? Then this is the place to be.
It’s a living memorial dedicated to the contributions and sacrifices made by Six Nations and Native Allies on Queenston Heights and throughout the war of 1812. The Battle at Queenston Heights was as good as lost until the arrival of First Nations warriors, who helped turn the American soldier back.
The monument is one stop of a tour starting September 2021, called Indigenous History in Niagara Falls. The park itself is also stunning: a beautiful spot among the trees.
Address: 14184 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0, Canada
Zipline over some of the world’s best views
Imagine being able to fly. Now imagine which part of the world is most impressive to fly over. Chances are you were thinking about Niagara Falls.
Ziplining will surely give you a taste of that. Head over to WildPlay Zipline to the Falls for a dose of adrenaline. You’ll soar through the air at over 70 kilometres per hour (40+ mph), starting from the edge of the Niagara River gorge to the observation landing.
It’s best to make a reservation and/or head there early. You can go a second round for just 10 dollars.
Address: 5920 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara Falls, ON L2E 6X8, Canada
Fun at night: the Niagara SkyWheel
Can’t get enough of the views? Same. Good thing Canada’s largest observation wheel is located here. And it’s a stunner after dark.
At 53 meters (175 feet) high, you get amazing views in every direction. Check out the skyline, the rivers and try checking off every landmark on your list. The Horseshoe Falls and American Falls at this height can’t be overlooked.
A ride lasts around 8 to 12 minutes, and we recommend going at night for its cool vibes.
Address: 4960 Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls, ON L2G 3N4, Canada
Goof around at Dinosaur Adventure Golf
Done exploring the SkyWheel? Hop on over to its neighbour: a gigantic miniature golf course.
While fun for kids, its late-night opening hours make it a quirky activity for adults too. Nothing like jungle sounds and getting competitive next to fifty dinosaur statues to put you in a good mood.
The highlight, you ask? Their steaming 50-foot high ‘active’ volcano. Note that the golf course is outdoors and open daily during the season, weather permitted.
Address: 4952 Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls, ON L2G 3N4, Canada
Be wowed by the Niagara Falls Illumination
What a way to end each day. You can’t visit Niagara Falls at night and not see the Falls Illumination.
This light show starts daily year-round around dusk and continues regularly throughout most of the night. There are even Illumination cruises, but the best views are found at Table Rock, from Queen Victory Park or simply from your Fallsview hotel room.
There are special ‘Inspired by Nature’ shows several times on the half hour, representing a sunrise, sunset, rainbow and even aurora borealis. Significant dates (of which there are many) prompt short shows in special colours. Check out the website for special dates and starting times during your visit.
Where to eat
Niagara Brewing Company
New in town: a craft brewery to get your fix of some unique brews.
Beer Master Rick Neheli has been at the craft beer scene since the ‘80s and it shows. They’re always busing creating new beers with locally sourced ingredients. And they know perfectly well what kind of food we need while day drinking. Think pretzels, bratwurst and some juicy chicken wings.
Ask the staff for tips on what pairs best and which seasonal beers they currently have on tap.
Address: 4915-A Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls, ON L2G 3N5, Canada
Massimo’s Italian Fallsview Restaurant
Now, THIS is dining with a view. Imagine a candle-lit dinner after dark, with a beautifully lit up waterfall to your side. Now we know why Niagara Falls is the top honeymoon destination in the world.
The fact that Massimo’s is Ontario’s #1 Italian restaurant is a nice bonus too. It’s known for fine dining, yet with a pleasant vibe. You can tell by their level of service and quality of food – it won’t disappoint.
Top tip: try a little wine tasting before dinner.
Address: 5875 Falls Ave level a, Niagara Falls, ON L2G 3K7, Canada
Naturally, packing for Niagara is all about what type of thrill you’re aiming for during your visit. But in a general sense, here are some items that are best not to forget.
- Comfortable clothing: while hikes aren’t too strenuous, some wind and mist will get you.
- (Waterproof) walking shoes for most activities.
- Waterproof camera (or something to protect your gear). This mostly goes if you take a Maid of the Mist boat ride or walk underneath the falls.
- Clothes that dry quickly.
- A simple raincoat: also available on every corner.
Good to know: drone photography is not permitted around Niagara Falls. But hey, who needs a drone when your hotel room essentially has a birds-eye view, like the one we had at the Sheraton Fallsview.