As a former Buffalo resident who has been to Niagara Falls more times than I can count, it was time to write a complete guide to Niagara Falls with tips for travelers visiting these epic waterfalls. Visiting Niagara Falls is a magical experience, especially for families, and it ranks high on many people’s bucket lists. Here you’ll find tips to help you decide which side of Niagara Falls to visit, where to eat in Niagara Falls, when is the best time to visit Niagara Falls, and logistics on how to get to Niagara Falls.
This guide includes a FREE Niagara Falls map that you can download offline with Google Maps at the end!
What is covered in this ultimate Niagara Falls guide:
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Where is Niagara Falls located?
It’s on the New York and Canadian border along the Niagara river, which flows between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie (two of the Great Lakes). It’s in the westernmost part of New York State, which is part of the East Coast. Niagara Falls to New York is about about 8 hours each way by car (without stopping) or about 10-12 hours with Megabus/public transit, so this is not a day trip from New York City. It is a nice stopover if you’re traveling from New York to Toronto. (Scroll to the bottom for a free map of Niagara Falls!)
Why visit Niagara Falls?
Niagara Falls is actually composed of three waterfalls although the most famous waterfall is Horseshoe Falls. The combination of flow rate and height make the falls epic to see in person. This does not include the loud roar of the waterfall. Niagara Falls is the perfect family getaway as there are lots of kid-friendly activities nearby and it will impress your kids (I promise!). It's a perfect day trip if you're traveling in between the United States and Canada.
What to do in Niagara Falls and day trips from Niagara Falls
You will see many things to do in Niagara Falls while reading online... and while in Niagara Falls. you'll find that Niagara Falls tourism is mostly unrelated to the falls. Just be aware of the tourist traps and kitsch.
Best viewpoints of Niagara Falls
How long to spend at Niagara Falls?
One day is all you need to visit Niagara Falls. (It is the perfect day trip from Buffalo or Toronto.) If you want to visit the ice wineries, you'll need an extra day.
Which side of Niagara Falls is best: American side or Canadian side?
Canadian side hands-down. The falls are magnificent, but you can only see the height/views of the falling water with a partial view...but the Canadian side of Niagara Falls gives you the epic view/feeling that made you want to visit. If you don't mind getting drenched in the midst (which gets more intense as you get closer to Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side), you’ll feel like you’re in a superhero movie.
Is Niagara Falls a tourist trip? Should you go to Niagara Falls?
YES, but it depends how much you love waterfalls. I’ve been to both sides many times, but honestly, I really do not like the American side and this is a sentiment I've heard from quite a few people.
One day itinerary for Niagara Falls
Where to eat in at Niagara Falls, Ontario and Niagara Falls, New York
Food on the Canadian side: Do you love TGIF’s? You’re in luck. If you can think of every single chain restaurant, ...it’s in Clifton Hill (the touristic part of Niagara Falls). I have heard that the new IHOP on the Canadian side has a nice view, but besides Antica Pizzeria, I’d recommend eating before as you’ll pay tourist prices for food that you could get almost anywhere. There are more options as you get further from the touristy areas, but if you’re on foot, you will be limited by your choices.
You can check off your Canadian bucket list by trying poutine, which is french fries made with cheese curds and gravy, at Smoke’s Poutinerie. (I know it sounds horrifying, but it is so delicious!) If you need a snack, visit the Canadian chain Tim Horton’s for some donuts and hot chocolate.
Food on the American side: Consider stopping by the Third Street Retreat for a cozy meal. Alternatively, you can picnic on Goat Island as well as eat at one of the cafes within Niagara Fall State Park.
If you have a car, stop off at Wegmans supermarket to stock up on picnic supplies or order a delicious handmade sub with special oil dressing. You can also get food to go from the buffet section OR the salad bar. It is truly the best supermarket in the area and it’s 24 hours with a fantastic selection of beer. (I love Wegmans!)
When is the best time to visit Niagara Falls?
Summer without question. Although you’ll have the crowds, it is very windy at Niagara Falls and the extra spray can feel really good on a hot day. In winter, you’ll just be ready to curl up with a hot chocolate away from the falls after snapping a photo, however if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the falls frozen over (which is a very rare occurrence). Niagara Falls’ average temperature in December is 21 degrees F / -6 C in December...so imagine getting sprayed with freezing cold water in addition to being blown around by heavy winds while standing in a blizzard. (That sums up my feelings about visiting in winter.)
How to get to Niagara Falls; Do you need a car to visit Niagara Falls?
If you’re staying in Niagara Falls just for 1-2 days, you don’t need a car.
The best airport for the United States to get to Niagara Falls is from Niagara Falls International Airport OR Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Fares are usually cheaper from the Buffalo AIrport. From the Canadian side, you’ll want to fly into Toronto International Airport.
If you fly into Buffalo Niagara International Airport, I strongly recommend renting a car. This area has public transit, but it is much easier to drive. If you use public transit to get to Niagara Falls from Buffalo Airport, you will spend a lot of money on a taxi OR spend two hours on a bus (take the 24 towards Downtown Buffalo then transfer by the Greyhound Station [Washington St & South Division St] to the 40 bus to Niagara Falls. (It’s $2 that you can pay on the bus although be sure to ask for a transfer!) Note that the bus only runs 5am to midnight, so if you come in late, you cannot take the bus.
From Niagara Falls International AIrport to Niagara Falls, it will take one hour ($2) on the 55 bus to reach the American side of the falls.
You can also take the train or Megabus to get from Toronto to Niagara Falls, which will take about two hours. It’s much easier with a car.
If you’re going from New York to Niagara Falls without a car, you have four options.
What do you need to pack for Niagara Falls?
Safety tips for Niagara Falls
Do you need a tour to visit Niagara Falls?
No, you do not need a tour for your trip to Niagara Falls, however it is not a “convenient” place to visit if you’re doing a larger US trip. Unless you’re passing through this area OR have it very high on your bucket list, it is a bit expensive to visit for one day. If you have limited time and this is high on your bucket list, it might be worth it to take a tour package to Niagara Falls .
Where to stay in Niagara Falls? Hotels in Niagara Falls
You’ll find a large assortment of hotels for every budget in Niagara Falls, but they are most expensive in peak season (summer). Prior to the advent of popularity of airplane travel among Americans, Niagara Falls was a major honeymoon destination, so you’ll still find some kitschy ‘50s motels in Niagara Falls, Ontario for those looking for cheap hotels in Niagara Falls. You’ll also find standard American hotels on both sides of the falls. The Marriot on the Canadian side is the well known hotel for its view of the falls.
If you’re interested in saving money, you can stay in nearby Buffalo (on the American side) after seeing the falls. You’ll find many reasonable hotels (some in historic buildings in Downtown Buffalo), funky neighborhoods (Elmwood Village and Allentown) , and many reasonable food options. This includes Duff’s if you want to try the best Buffalo wings in Buffalo! Similarly, you can stay in Lewiston on the Canadian side to save money if you have a car.
Download your free Niagara Falls map here!
Have you visited Niagara Falls? Anything I missed?
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Karen and Jacob. American expats and cat lovers from New York City and Kentucky who lived in Amsterdam.... Now in Paris!
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