Niagara Falls, Canada & the U.S.

Everything you need to know for your trip to the iconic Niagara Falls

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Year visited: Most recently 2023

Time of year: All seasons

Niagara Falls

You can visit Niagara Falls in both Canada and the United States. Being just across the river from each other, it’s easy to visit both sides.

Both sides of Niagara Falls have epic experiences that bring you close to the falls. I’ll compare both experiences and answer frequently asked questions to help you get the most out of your trip to this iconic site.

If you’re planning a trip to the area, check out my other article with all the top things to do in Niagara Falls (US & Canada!).

About Niagara Falls

There are actually 3 different waterfalls that make up “Niagara Falls.”

  • The Horseshoe Falls

  • The American Falls

  • The Bridal Veil Falls

The Horseshoe Falls

The Horseshoe Falls lit up at night (viewed from the Canadian side).

The largest and most famous are the Horseshoe Falls, the ones that go around in a half circle shape. You can stand next to these falls on both the US and the Canadian side, but you get the best view on the Canadian side.

  • Good to Know: These are the falls you will stand next to on the Journey Behind the Falls tour in Canada.

The American Falls

The American Falls, viewed from the Maid of the Mist.

Across the river from the Horseshoe Falls (on the American side) are the American Falls (clever name!).

You can stand next to these ones on the American side, but you can get a better view across the river on the Canadian side.

The Bridal Veil Falls

This is the smallest of the three waterfalls, but still loud and powerful when you’re standing right beneath it!

The Bridal Veil Falls are separated from the American Falls by just a small strip of land known as Luna Island. They are tall and thin, reminiscent of a bridal veil.

  • Good to Know: These are the falls you will stand next to on the Cave of the Winds tour in the US.

Niagara Falls Frequently Asked Questions:

What is Goat Island?

Goat Island is the area of land between the American Falls and the Horseshoe Falls. It is part of Niagara Falls State Park on the US side. The Cave of the Winds tour is located on Goat Island.

Goat Island has a lot of beautiful walking trails. There is also a footbridge that will connect you to Luna Island, the small bit of land that separates the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls.

Why is it called Goat Island?

As the story goes, John Stedman took his herd of goats over to the island in 1778 to protect them from wolves. Which was theoretically a great idea, until they died from the cold winter…

Can you zipline over Niagara Falls?

Yes, you can zipline over Niagara Falls (if you’re brave!) on the Canadian side.

Which side of Niagara Falls is better?

Well… that is the question, isn’t it?? I actually have a whole section as to whether the US or Canadian side of Niagara Falls is better, so let’s delve into that…

Which Side of Niagara Falls is Better?

The Canadian Side:

There is no doubt that the view is better on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

This is where you can get the iconic view of the Horseshoe Falls, as well as the best view of the American Falls from across the river.

Also, all the hotels with views of the falls, as well as ziplining over the falls are only offered on the Canadian side.

However, the Canadian side is much more touristy, with less nature and more neon lights. Niagara Falls, Ontario is a city, not a park.

The US Side:

The views are way better on the Canadian side, but that’s because you can stand across the river and see the waterfalls. But if you want to stand right up next to them, you’re better off on the US side.

You can get pretty close to the Horseshoe Falls at the Niagara Falls Viewpoint in Canada. But on the US side, you have multiple viewpoints where you can stand right next to all three falls.

You also can walk right out in front of the Bridal Veil Falls on the Cave of the Winds tour, while the Journey Behind the Falls takes you next to the Horseshoe Falls, but not in front of.

Also, all of the attractions on the US side are part of the Niagara Falls State Park. You can park at one parking lot, and easily walk along the trails to the other attractions, or pay once for parking (save your receipt), and drive to the other viewpoints/attractions. There are also nature trails and picnic spots in the state park on the US side.

The Verdict:

The view is better on the Canadian side, but you can stand closer and “feel the power” of Niagara Falls on the US side.

The Canadian side is a city, the US side is a park.

My advice would be to park at Niagara Falls State Park in the US and do the tours there. But walk across the Rainbow Bridge to get some good views from the Canadian side.

Unless it’s winter. The US side of Niagara Falls is pretty desolate in the winter. If it’s winter, I would visit the Canadian side, then walk across the bridge to see the view from the Maid of the Mist Observation Tower on the US side of Niagara Falls.

How to Get to Niagara Falls

What Airport to fly into for Niagara Falls:

The Canadian Side:

If you’re flying into Canada, you will want to fly into the Toronto Airport. This will be about an hour and a half drive from Niagara Falls. The Toronto Airport is a large airport with lots of eating and shopping options.

The US Side:

The best airport to fly into for Niagara Falls is the Buffalo Airport, which is only a half hour drive from the falls. There will also be a lot less traffic on this side of the falls, than if you come from Toronto.

However, this airport is a lot smaller than the Toronto Airport, so you will likely find cheaper tickets or more direct flights into Toronto.

How to Get to Niagara Falls from Toronto

You can rent a car at the Toronto Airport to drive about an hour and a half to Niagara Falls. In my experience, the drive from Toronto always seems to be busy, no matter what time of day you go.

If you don’t want to rent a car, you can get a shuttle from the airport to your hotel in Niagara Falls.

There are also trains and buses available from downtown Toronto to downtown Niagara Falls, that usually take about 2 hours. Here is more information for how to get to Niagara Falls from Toronto if you don’t want to drive.

Finally, for the easiest and most stress-free option, you can book a tour from Toronto.

How to Get to Niagara Falls from Buffalo

The drive from Buffalo to Niagara Falls State Park is only 30 minutes. There will also be a lot less traffic on this side, so it is a much easier drive than from Toronto. You can rent a car at the Buffalo airport to drive to the falls.

If you don’t want to drive, you can also get shuttle services and public transportation from the Buffalo airport to Niagara Falls State Park.

Niagara Falls is right on the border between the US and Canada:

Crossing the Border at Niagara Falls

Do you need a passport to cross the border at Niagara Falls?

Yes, you do need a passport to cross the US/Canada border at Niagara Falls.

Can you enter Canada with an enhanced driver’s license?

If you live in one of the states that offer enhanced driver’s licenses: New York, Vermont, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota or Washington, you can use that to cross the US/Canadian border, instead of a passport.

  • Good to Know: You can only use an enhanced license to walk, drive, or come in on a boat. You cannot use it to fly into Canada.

How long is the wait at the border?

The wait varies, but on average you will have to wait about 15 minutes to get through customs on the Rainbow Bridge.

  • More Info: This website has lots of information about crossing into Canada, tolls, travel documents, and up to date wait times.

Can you walk to Canada from Niagara Falls?

Yes, you can walk from the US side of the falls to the Canadian side, and vice versa.

There is a pedestrian walkway on the Rainbow Bridge between the US and Canada. You can also stop along the bridge and enjoy the view!

The entrance to the pedestrian walkway on the US side is just past the parking lot for the Maid of the Mist tour (parking lot 1).

  • Note: When you enter the US from the Rainbow Bridge, you will wait inside the entryway until one of the border patrol agents unlocks the door and lets you in.

The pedestrian entrance to the bridge is to the left of this sign, behind parking lot 1.

The pedestrian entry to the Rainbow Bridge, US side.

See a video of the walk across the Rainbow Bridge:

Is there a toll to walk across the Rainbow Bridge?

Yes, there is a $1 toll to cross the pedestrian walkway on the Rainbow Bridge. This toll is only collected one way, so you do not pay when you walk from the US to Canada. You do pay the $1 toll when you walk from Canada to the US.

The toll can be paid in US dollars or Canadian dollars.

Do you need your passport to walk across the Rainbow Bridge?

You do need your passport if you are going to cross into Canada. If you are from a state that allows enhanced driver’s licenses, you can use that instead. There is a guard at the entrance to the Rainbow Bridge, in case you have any questions before crossing.

Do you have to go through customs if you walk across the Rainbow Bridge?

Yes, you do have to go through customs, both to enter Canada and to come back to the US (or vice versa, depending on which direction you started from).

Can you walk across the Rainbow Bridge without going into Canada?

Yes, you can walk out on the Rainbow Bridge to get a good view of the falls, and then come back to the US without going (officially) to Canada. You do have to have your passport (or enhanced license) and go through customs to get back to the US though.

The pedestrian walkway, facing toward the US side.

The pedestrian walkway, facing toward the Canadian side.

The Niagara Falls Experience

Canadian Side:

The view of the Horseshoe Falls from the Table Rock Visitor Centre on the Canadian side.

Where to Park for Niagara Falls, Ontario

The easiest place to park for the Journey Behind the Falls tour and the main viewing point is in the Falls Parking Lot A, across from Table Rock Centre. This is the main visitor’s center right next to the Horseshoe Falls.

Cost is:

  • $20 for the whole day.

The Hornblower does not have its own parking lot. The closest parking lot would be the Clifton Hill Niagara Falls Parking Lot.

Cost during the season ranges from:

  • $13-20 for the day.

There is plenty of other parking available in the area around the falls, if you don’t mind walking. Most of them will require fees during the regular tourist season.

View of the American Falls (albeit frozen…) from Canada.

Journey Behind the Falls

Journey Behind the Falls will take you down an elevator to the tunnels behind the Horseshoe Falls, where you can appreciate the view from one of the two observation decks. The lower observation take takes you right to the bottom of the Horseshoe Falls.

  • You will definitely get wet on the observation decks!

  • You will receive a souvenir yellow poncho.

This attraction is open all year long, however the lower observation deck will be closed in the winter due to ice.

The Journey Behind the Falls observation deck next to the Horseshoe Falls.

The Hornblower

The Hornblower Boat tour is just like the boat ride on the US side of Niagara Falls, except instead of blue ponchos, you get red ones! The boat will take you right up beneath the Horseshoe Falls, and right past the American and Bridal Veil Falls.

The only downside is, the falls create so much mist, it can be hard to really see. But no matter what, riding a boat out beneath the falls is a must.

  • The Hornblower (run by Niagara City Cruises) runs late April/early May - October.

  • You will receive a souvenir red poncho.

The Hornblower approaching the Horseshoe Falls.

The Niagara Falls Experience

The U.S. side

View of the American Falls from the Maid of the Mist Observation Tower.

The US side of Niagara Falls is made up of the Niagara Falls State Park. Within the park you will find the Cave of the Winds, Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls viewpoints, trolley rides, hiking trails, a visitor center, restaurant, picnic tables, and restrooms.

  • Fun fact: Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the US!

Where to Park for Niagara Falls, NY

There are a couple of (very small) free parking lots located just as you first enter Niagara Falls State Park. You could park here and walk over to the falls if you can find a spot. It would be about a 15-30 min. walk.

The most convenient place to park is at the Niagara Falls State Park Visitor’s Center. They have three different parking lots.

  • Parking lot 1 - Maid of the Mist tour & Prospect Point

  • Parking lot 2 - Cave of the Winds tour & Terrapin Point (on Goat Island)

  • Parking lot 3 - on the far side of Goat Island

You used to be able to park for free during the off-season, but they have now installed year-round automated parking meters. However, it is only $5 to park in the off-season.

Cost is:

  • $10 per car Mon.-Thur.

  • $15 Fri.-Sun.

    • Note - These lots do fill up quickly during the summer months! You can usually find a spot right across the street from the state park, at the Niagara Center, but it will cost $25 for the day.

How to Get Around Niagara Falls

During the summer season, you can take the FREE Discover Niagara Shuttle to major tourist attractions and points of interest around Niagara Falls, and even to ride the Erie Canal in nearby Lockport.

If you don’t want to walk around Niagara Falls State Park (or if you just like fun facts and trolley rides), the Niagara Falls Scenic Trolley will take you around the park during the summer season and fill you in on all the inside information. 2024 cost is $3 per adult, $2 per child.


The best views of Niagara Falls on the US side are from the Maid of the Mist Observation Tower (pictured above). Be sure to stop and enjoy the view for a while after your boat ride (Note: the observation decks are open in the winter).

The other viewpoints on the US side are:

  • Prospect Point- Closest to the falls, side angle of American Falls, with Horseshoe Falls in the background.

  • Terrapin Point- View of the Horseshoe Falls (better views on Canadian side though!). This viewpoint may close in winter.

The view from Prospect Point. It’s pretty epic to stand next to, but not as good as the view on the Canadian side.

View of the Horseshoe Falls from Terrapin Point.

Cave of the Winds

The Cave of the Winds, unfortunately, is not an actual cave.

Is there a cave behind Niagara Falls? There was.

Can you go behind it? Not anymore.

In the late 1800’s & early 1900’s, the “Cave of the Winds” tour actually took visitors to the cave behind the Bridal Veil Falls. But due to a rock fall, the tour stopped going behind the falls, and instead re-routed to take visitors in front of the Bridal Veil Falls. The cave was fully destroyed by a large rock fall in 1954.

The current Cave of the Winds tour will take you out on a series of platforms in front of the Bridal Veil falls. It is an epic (and wet!) experience. You will definitely get wet, but how wet depends on how windy it is that particular day.

  • You no longer get sandals for this tour, so bring sturdy shoes that can get wet.

  • You will get a yellow poncho.

  • The Cave of the Winds tour is now open all year long.

The Cave of the Winds.

The Hurricane Deck on the Cave of the Winds tour.

The Maid of the Mist

You know, the one with the blue ponchos that Jim and Pam rode on for their wedding.

The Maid of the Mist is the iconic boat tour that takes you to the base of both the American & the Horseshoe Falls. It is fantastic on a hot summer day, and maybe a little bit less fun on a gray and rainy fourth grade field trip day.

But you can’t control the weather! So take your chances, because you really can’t visit Niagara Falls State Park and not ride the Maid of the Mist.

  • You do not get sandals for this tour, so bring shoes that can get wet.

  • You will receive a souvenir blue poncho.

  • The Maid of the Mist runs the end of April through the beginning of November.

Approaching the Horseshoe Falls from the Maid of the Mist.

Hiking at Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls State Park is more about the falls than the hiking trails, but there are some places for the hikers out there to escape the crowds and get some exercise.

Some of the most popular hiking trails at Niagara Falls State Park are the Devil’s Hole hiking trail and the Whirlpool Rapids hiking trail. There are also easy walking trails like the Niagara Scenic Parkway trail.

Other Views of Niagara Falls:

View of the Horseshoe Falls from the Rainbow Bridge (pedestrian access).

There are some places where you can get other views of Niagara Falls, most of which are a bird’s-eye view (and most of which are expensive!).

The Rainbow Bridge

As mentioned above, if you take the pedestrian walkway across the Rainbow Bridge, be sure to stop and get some photos from this unique vantage point!

Take a Helicopter Ride

There are several companies that offer helicopter rides over the falls.

In Canada:

In the US:

Skylon Tower & Restaurant

Located on the Canadian side of the falls, the Skylon Tower stands 775 ft. above the Niagara gorge. You can visit one of their two restaurants, or just buy a ticket to the observation deck and enjoy the view.

A Room with a View

There are several hotels that offer rooms with views of the falls (although these rooms cost extra of course!). Also, all of the hotels with falls views are found on the Canadian side.

Here are some of the best rated hotels/views.

Zipline Over the Falls

As mentioned earlier, you can zipline over Niagara Falls on the Canadian side!

Where to Eat in Niagara Falls

Tim Hortons (one of many) on Clifton Hill, Canadian side.

Tim Hortons

My first suggestion of where to eat is Tim Hortons… Because you can’t visit Canada and not go to Tim Hortons. In all honesty, there is nothing overly exciting about Tim Hortons, but it is a good place to get breakfast, lunch, or a quick cup of hot choccy.

Clifton Hill

If you’re looking for a Tim Hortons, or any other restaurant, and you’re in Niagara Falls, Ontario, look no further than Clifton Hill. This area right above the falls is full of restaurants, the smells of freshly baked waffle cones, and every tourist trap you can imagine.

Beware of the IHOP though. Even though the whole building is labeled IHOP, it’s only on the fourth floor. So if you’re looking for IHOP and you accidentally walk into an arcade… you’re in the right place.

The Tower Hotel

The Tower Hotel has several restaurants, including IHOP, with views out over the falls! I was planning to go to the IHOP here—some of my favorite, reasonably (I thought) priced food, with a good view!

However, after reading all the reviews, I’ve decided against it, as apparently, even though it is IHOP, it is priced for the view. In otherwords, outrageously high… So if you want to go for it, just know that you will be paying more than your average IHOP.

Skylon Tower

Another expensive restaurant with an amazing view over the falls is the Skylon Tower restaurant. You know, that one that you can see towering over everything else, with the revolving dining room so everyone gets a good view!

Top of the Falls Restaurant

Top of the Falls Restaurant is located near Terrapin Point on the US side of Niagara Falls. It is only opened during the regular tourist season (generally May-October).

Anchor Bar

Buffalo is the birthplace of the Buffalo Wing, and Anchor Bar is the restaurant that invented them! The Niagara Falls location is not the original, but you can still get your fill of wings (and other things!) here.

Pack a Picnic

There is no better spot to eat in the summer than just to have a picnic right by Niagara Falls! There are plenty of good picnic spots in the park on the US side. However, if you’re there in the winter, I would probably advise against this…

Where to Stay in Niagara Falls

There are so many places to stay near Niagara Falls! From Canada to Buffalo, and everywhere in between.

A Room with a View

First off, let me just reiterate the falls-view hotels listed above. Note that you can get a room without a view of the falls, for a much cheaper price. These hotels are all in Canada:

Red Coach Inn

The Red Coach Inn is a familiar site in Niagara Falls. The Tudor style hotel has been welcoming guests of the falls for a hundred years (including the entire Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin)! It is right on the edge of the state park, so you can easily walk from your hotel to the falls.

Double Tree by Hilton

The Double Tree by Hilton hotel is also just across from the state park, and easily within walking distance of the falls.

Comfort Inn “The Pointe”

The third hotel located along Niagara Falls scenic highway, and just across the street from the park is Comfort Inn “The Pointe.” You can’t get any closer to Niagara Falls than this affordable hotel.

Buffalo Marriott

If you would rather stay in Buffalo than Niagara Falls, I would suggest the Buffalo Marriott Harborcenter, just across from Canalside in Buffalo and within walking distance of many great restaurants and activities.

The Best Time of Year to Visit Niagara Falls

The frozen American Falls in early March.



Summer is the busiest time of year to visit Niagara Falls. You will have to get there early to get a good parking spot. You will also have to deal with lots of crowds.

But, you will most likely have the best weather. Nothing beats getting sprayed by the falls on a hot summer day.

Shoulder Season

April & May, September & October

The crowds will be less, but there will still be a lot of people. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding parking though.

The weather is tricky. You might get a really nice day, you might get snow. September is definitely your best bet for the weather.

I would go so far as to say that September is the best time to visit Niagara Falls. The crowds have thinned out, but the seasonal activities are still on, and you have the best chance of good weather besides the summer months.

Off season


The off-season at Niagara Falls is great, because you will hardly have to share your view with anyone.

You will have no trouble finding a parking spot, and you can either find free parking, or cheaper parking (Niagara Falls State Park is $5 in the off-season).

Some tours are open all year round, like the Cave of the Winds on the US side and the Journey Behind the Falls on the Canadian Side. However, the boat rides to the falls are closed for the season.

The Canadian side is definitely the better side of Niagara Falls in winter, because it is a city and there is a lot going on (and a lot of places to go inside and get warm!). The park and walking paths on the US side, while beautiful in the summer, are rather desolate during the winter.

The Festival of Lights


This is the exception to the off-season rule. You will have to pay for parking, and you will have trouble finding a parking spot. But the good news is, the bathrooms will be open!

If you come for the Festival of Lights, which is pretty magical, make sure to dress warm!

What to Watch Before Visting Niagara Falls

I always get more excited about going somewhere if I’ve seen it in a movie or TV show (or read about it) first, and Niagara Falls happens to be a popular filming location.

Here’s a whole list of movies that take place in Niagara Falls, but I have a few particular ones (some that were filmed there, and even some that weren’t!) I want to suggest:

The Office

Season 6, eps. 4 & 5

The one where (#spoiler) Jim & Pam get married!! They sneak off from their wedding, and have an absolutely fabulous time getting their wedding attire soaked on the Maid of the Mist.

The Three Stooges

Gents without Cents

“Ni-aaaaagra Falls. Sloooowly I turned…”

That’s all I know of the famous sketch. But every time I hear Niagara Falls mentioned (which is rather often), I go “Ni-aaaaagra Falls!”

Superman II

This is such a classic scene in movie history, that nobody even (really) minds how impossibly long it takes the kid to fall over Niagara Falls before Clark can secretly change his outfit and save the day.

This also happens to be the one completely random scene of Superman II (or Superman I) that I’ve ever even seen. I think I stopped flipping through the channels because I recognized Niagara Falls.

You definitely should plan a movie night with this classic film before visiting Niagara Falls!

Bruce Almighty

This classic Jim Carrey comedy was mostly filmed in a studio, but it takes place in Buffalo, NY, with an iconic scene on the Maid of the Mist boat in Niagara Falls.

Mystic Pizza

Wait…what? One of the things to do on a visit to Niagara Falls is to take a cruise down the Erie Canal at Lockport Locks. And one of the boats on their fleet actually used to be in the seaport in Mystic, CT.

AND it was actually featured in the movie Mystic Pizza!

So to fully appreciate your boat ride, you’ll have to watch the movie before you come visit.


You can see an actual “Bell Rocket Belt,” a jet pack made famous by the classic James Bond movie Thunderball, at the Niagara Aerospace Museum in Niagara Falls.

Any more questions?

Don’t hesitate to email me or comment below with any questions you may have about visiting Niagara Falls.

Looking for more ideas of things to do on your trip?

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