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:
- Where is Niagara Falls located?
- Why visit Niagara Falls?
- What to do in Niagara Falls? What are the Niagara Falls attractions?
- Best viewpoints of Niagara Falls
- Where to stay in Niagara Falls: Hotels in Niagara Falls
- How long to spend in Niagara Falls?
- Which side of Niagara Falls is best: American side or Canadian side?
- Is Niagara Falls a tourist trap? / Should you go to Niagara Falls?
- 1 day itinerary for Niagara Falls
- Where to eat in at Niagara Falls, Ontario and Niagara Falls, New York
- When is the best time to visit Niagara Falls?
- How to get to Niagara Falls; Do you need a car to visit Niagara Falls?
- What do you need to pack for Niagara Falls?
- Safety tips for Niagara Falls
- Do you need a tour to visit Niagara Falls?
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.
See Niagara Falls from both sides: American and Canadian!
Take the Maid of the Mist / Hornblower [Canadian side] or Cave of the Winds for a unique view of Niagara Falls.
Hornblower v. Maid of the Mist. Which one to choose? If you’re trying to decide whether to take the Hornblower or Maid of the Mist, note that the Hornblower boat goes from the Canadian side while Maid of the Mist departs from the New York side.
Both boats follow the same route although the Hornblower boats carry more passengers. (You can purchase both tickets in advance.)
Take a day trip from Niagara Falls to visit the adorable town of Niagara-on-the-Lake for the summer Shakespeare festival and its famous ice wine. You can taste ice wine (bring a designated driver!) in Canada’s wine capital. Ice wine is made by allowing the grapes to freeze on the vines, which makes the wine extra sweet–and very alcoholic. (You can take a day tour with ice wine tastings from the Canadian side, including a designated driver!)
See the Niagara Falls light show (at night). The schedule for the Falls Illuminationvaries throughout the year with the sunset, but if you’re taking a day trip, see if you can stick around for the magic of the lights!
For those with kids, add some of the many kid-friendly attractions in the area to your list. One of the main attractions is the Fallsview water park.
Niagara Falls has a lot to offer for adults as well. You’ll find plenty of clubs/bars (admittedly with lots of
Best viewpoints of Niagara Falls
- Goat Island on the New York side for the crazy over the edge view.
- Sheraton hotel if you’re into a cocktail with a view (Canadian side)
- Maid of the Mist boat / Hornblower [Canadian side] (requires fee)
- Cave of the Winds (requires fee)
- The Rainbow Bridge
- Journey Behind the Falls if you want the epic tunnel shot (requires fee)
- Footpath leaving up to Journey behind the walls (for the wider angle shot!)
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 hotels in Niagara Falls 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 cute and 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 Marriott on the Canadian side is the
You’ll find many reasonable hotels (some in historic buildings in Downtown Buffalo), funky neighborhoods (Elmwood
How long to spend at Niagara Falls?
One day is all you need to visit Niagara Falls. (It is the perfect day trip from Toronto.) If you want to visit the ice wineries, you’ll need an extra day. It’s possible to visit Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake in one day if you take a tour from Toronto!
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
If you’re day-tripping from within the US with a car, park your car (bring cash to pay for parking!) on the American side and walk across the Rainbow Bridge (the Canadian/American pedestrian border crossing) to the Canadian side, which has an epic view of the falls.
Driving across can be time-consuming depending on the line at the Peace Bridge (especially around rush hour), so check the wait ahead although I’ve always found the pedestrian bridge much faster.
Buy tickets for Maid of the Mist / Hornblower as buy a cheap poncho if you don’t have one. (You can take the boat from either side.)
Walk around Clifton Hill (15 minutes) past all the tourist traps to enjoy the view of Horseshoe Falls.
Enjoy the view and catch the illumination show if you’re there around sunset.
Head back to the American side to enjoy the overlook over the American falls from Goat Island (New York side), which allows you to look STRAIGHT down the falls.
Where to eat in at Niagara Falls, Ontario and Niagara Falls, New York
Food on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls
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!)
My local friend recommends visiting The Como Restaurant it is a classic Niagara Falls institution famous for Italian food. Be sure to try the garlic bread.
Otherwise, stop off at Dicamillo Bread in Niagara Falls for their bread and their cannolis, as recommended by my friend who spent a lot of her childhood in Niagara Falls.
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 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.
- Take a Greyhound from New York City to Niagara Falls (with a transfer in Buffalo). (10 hours)
- Ride a Megabus towards Buffalo (with taking a Greyhound/public bus to Niagara Falls (12 hours)
- Take an Amtrak train from Penn Station (New York City) to Niagara Falls direct. (10 hours)
- Fly from New York (LGA) to Buffalo (BUF). (5 hours)
What do you need to pack for Niagara Falls?
- Your passport card (for Americans) OR passport to visit the Canadian side (and vice versa)
- A fully charged camera and portable power bank for your phone
- A poncho and/or waterproof bag if you’re planning on going Maid of the Mist / Hornblower
- Your hotel reservations if you’re crossing the border as immigration officials often ask you how long you’ll be visiting and a hotel reservation can speed things up considerably
- Warm clothes in winter, especially a good winter jacket!
- Sneakers as the footpath can very slippery year-round, but especially so in winter.
- Picnic supplies if you’re on a budget
Safety tips for Niagara Falls
Do not dangle your camera or phone over the edge. I promise this will not end well. Hold your phone tight, especially in winter.
Be careful in Niagara Falls, especially the American side. I wish I was kidding, but it has one of the highest violent crime rates in the United States.
High crime is an issue primarily for residents, but still, be careful on the New York side of Niagara Falls. This includes not leaving your valuables visible in the car, which is a bad idea anywhere.
Don’t come hungry and/or broke. You’ll pay tourist prices and …well, it’s just best to eat before.
Wear sneakers as the footpaths near the falls can be very icy in winter or just slippery in summer.
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.
I agree with you. I have been and it wasn’t really my thing. I mean it was pretty but the American side has strip malls right near the falls. Kind of detracts from the beauty. But this guide is great and I will tell anyone going to check it out. So helpful!
This is the best guide to the falls I’ve seen in a long time! Love the info and photos.
This is an AWESOME guide! I like how you show both the American and Canadian side of Niagara Falls, giving suggestions for food and view points.
This is a great comprehensive guide and super helpful! I wouldn’t expect anything less from you, I always love your guides!! 🙂
The pictures are STUNNING! I have never been to Niagara Falls, but I hope to go one day. I knew that the falls crossed the borders, but I didn’t realize that there was a difference in the views/experience! Truly informative guide that I plan to save for when I am able to go on the trip. The ice wine sounds like something I would definitely enjoy doing 🙂
Your photos are amazing! I haven’t been to Niagara Falls yet but would love to go. The photo of the falls frozen over is so cool! Although I would definitely prefer to visit in summer 🙂
Ahhh back at it with the badass guides! I love this! I went to Niagara Falls once when I was young, but barely remember a thing. I’ve been teetering back and forth on whether or not to go again this summer since I’ll be on the East Coast, but I think this post sealed the deal… and it’ll most definitely come in handy. Thank you thank you thank you.
This is a really useful post! I’ve visited Niagara Falls but from the Canadian side only – it was a day trip from Toronto which included Niagara-on-the-Lake and a wine tasting, as well as plenty of time at the falls. Interesting to hear more about the American side which I only saw from the boat!
Yes, it’s a tourist trap, but you can tune that out (mostly) and the falls really are spectacular. Definitely worth the trip.
I have never been to The Niagara Falls but this seems a pretty informative guide for those who want to go. I would love to experience it at least once for myself.Thank you for sharing it!
Oh man, Nigara Falls has been on my bucket list for such a long time. I’m definitely thinking that the Canadian side is a lot more impressive than the US side. I’ve also wanted to visit Canada for equal amount of time, so this definitely needs to happen soon! Beautiful photos, and awesome in-depth useful post! Thank you 😀
Your photos of the falls are awesome! I’ve never been but would love to go see the falls and try to experience some of the mid-century kitsch that is still there. Buffalo NY is still on my list to visit as well. Great guide!
This guide is awesome! I think Niagara Falls is a fun place to visit every once in a while if you’re not too far away. I spent a couple of weeks in Buffalo a while ago, so my boyfriend met me there for the weekend since he’d never been before. We had a pretty good time even though a lot of the touristy stuff was closed for the winter. I would second the Smoke’s Poutinerie recommendation, as I’ve been obsessed with it since trying some of their offerings in Ottawa last year. There’s talk of them opening a location in Detroit soon, and I’m praying that the food gods make it happen so I can eat it all the time.
I wish I had read this guide before our first visit!! Niagara Falls was the first place my partner and I went to on our first ever travels together and is actually where we said we loved each other for the first time! As cheesy and busy as the Canadian side was in the height of summer, I actually loved spending the day doing the various activities around the falls and then the evenings sipping weird and wonderful cocktails and visiting the silly wax museums and mini golf course! 🙂
I find it so cool that two countries share the same landmark. I haven’t been to the Niagara falls but my grandmother has talked a lot about it. She visited it so many years ago. Your pictures bring life to her words.
This article is so fitting for me as I don’t live too far from the Canadian side and want to go this summer! So helpful 🙂 especially love the map. Nice touch!!
This is a great guide! I was so bummed when the Maid of the Mist left the Canadian side and they replaced it with the “hornblower” boat! I loved dawning the blue poncho and getting wet like Bruce Almighty! You need to try the Windows restaurant at the Sheraton! BEST beetroot soup in the world.
I found this post to be SO helpful as I will be at the falls in only a couple of days. I loved the tip about parking on the American side and walking over to the Canadian side. Eeeek – I’m so excited now! Thanks for sharing!
This is so timely and so useful! I’m planning a trip to Canada and I’ll be stopping in Toronto for a few days, and of course I will be visiting the falls. Bookmarking it! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Niagara Falls is amazing! I saw it 6 years ago from the Canadian side with my family in the peak summer holiday season. Though touristy, the falls and The Maid of the Mist boat tour really gets up close to the falls and really beautiful. This is one of those places that you have to see in person.
Well done! This post carries its title like a charm! This is more than a mouth full and all that one truly need to know in just one post! Thanks a lot!
Some of the hotels have shuttles from the buffalo airport to the Canadian side. We waited to rent a car when we got to the hotel.
That’s a helpful note to have Alexia! Great money saving tip 🙂
We recently went to the American side (April 25-28, 2019). I was shocked to see how dirty the city was. Trash just blew across the streets and no one seemed to care. I thought at least the hotel staff would clean up in front of their building but there was bags, napkins, and even a diaper rolling down the street. We stayed at the Sheraton and the Wyndam while in town. No wonder everyone says Canada is better, the American side is run down and looks like none of the tourist money is going back into it. Empty buildings, empty lots and a huge eye sore that use to be a large slide. Someone should take pride and put it back into making the American side a nice tourist attraction again. Next time my money will go to the Canadians.
Having gone to college in niagara falls over 40 years ago, i was shocked at the downtown niagara falls ny.
took our 5 year old grandkids to NF last year. The state park on the American side is beautiful. Much nicer than when i was in college. Picnic on three sisters island. But we stayed in Canada. Red coach inn on the NY side is probably the only place i would stay. In canada you can pick from a travelodge right on Clifton hill or a high class hotel. I would suggest if you are spending a full day in canada, purchase an all day bus pass. Lots of walking back and forth. And yes walk over the rainbow bridge. But also on the american side is the cave of the winds tour and an overview to see the falls. It is beautiful in summer and a crystal wonderland in the winter. Kids will want to do everything on clifton hill so be prepared.
Thank you for the write up. To the point and one of the most helpful write ups I’ve found on the Falls. We’re stopping at the Falls as part of a Canadian road trip and was wondering how much days we’ll need. I know there are a lot of other attractions other than the Falls and I found articles advocating for 2-3 days but based on your article it does seem like a full day is enough. We’ll spend the extra day or two at Thousand Islands or Mont Tremblant instead!
I have a group of about 30 Sr. adults visiting the falls in Oct. We will be staying in NYC a few days and taking the Amtrak to Niagara, NY. The train gets in about 4:30 p.m. We are staying at the Sheraton on the Falls, Canadian side. Will we have time to see and do anything on the American side before crossing into Canada? From reading, there’s not much to see, but what is not to be missed on the American side? We will have the entire next day and night to explore the Canadian side, and our flight doesn’t leave from Buffalo until 5:30 on the following (3rd) day. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, or if you could recommend a guide.
The Amtrak station is a bit of a walk from Goat Island and Cave of the Winds, but in theory, if you wanted to go, you could. I just think that it would be quite annoying to carry your luggage with you. The Lightshow can be seen from both sides and it’s nice at night.
I think that a day exploring Niagara Falls is more than enough and I’d recommend seeing if you can do a half day on Niagara-on-the-Lake with a private tour on the second (full) day after seeing the falls in the morning. Could be a fun excursion. Of the choices near Niagara Falls, that is usually what I recommend the most as it’s not as kitschy. Then, you have the rest of the last day for doing other activities around the falls and maybe visiting Buffalo.
Hope you all have a good time! I don’t have a specific guide in mind as I always went independently.
Thanks for the great guide! We’ll be visiting the Canada side in about a month so I’m obsessing over the itinerary. You mentioned an ice wine tour with designated driver for just $60. I know it’s been a few years since you wrote this, but what tour is that? The only ones I’m finding are pretty pricey.
Thank you for the great tip of bringing our lodging reservation with us to the border. We never would have thought of that.
Hi Dena, prices change, so apologies if they’re higher now! I still hope that you have a great time!
Hi! I will be in Buffalo this week. My husband and I are staying in downtown Buffalo, and want to spend a half day at Niagara Falls. From reading this guide, I am planning In is taking an Uber to Goat Island, then the Rainbow Bridge across to the Canadian side and catching that view. Is Uber pretty popular in the Buffalo/Niagara area? And when ordering the Uber, what should we choose as our NF “destination”? Any tips are much appreciated! This guide seem so helpful!
Yes, Uber is very popular. You can walk from Goat Island to the Rainbow Bridge pretty easily before walking across. I’d ask for Goat Island as your destination. The Uber might need to drop you off by the parking lot (not sure how close you can get to “Niagara Falls Parking Lot 2” with the uber, but worth a try), but that should get you close enough. Enjoy. 🙂
Thank-you for your thorough itinerary of Niagara Falls. I live an hour away from there. You’re right about Niagara On The Lake. It’s beautiful. I took a tour with Ghost Walks. The tour would take you around there and learned the history of the place. The tour was informative and entertaining. H