Niagara Falls is a popular destination in North America. Straddling the border between the United States and Canada, Niagara Falls has the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world, including the mighty Victoria Falls in Africa and Iguaza Falls in South America.
Not only can you tour the Falls by boat, helicopter, and your own two feet, but there are plenty of activities in the area to keep visitors busy for days. Sure, you could visit Niagara Falls in one quick, rushed day, but it is better experienced with a two day stay (or longer).
Niagara Falls is best visited from both the American side and the Canadian side. The American side has the best “get-up-close” to the Falls activities that require several hours of your time. The Canadian side has better views of the Falls with an assortment of non-Niagara Falls activities perfect for people of all ages.
In order to have the perfect visit to Niagara Falls, you should plan on visiting the United States and Canada.
As of June 2021, the border between the US and Canada is closed. Click here to find out if you can travel from the US to Canada.
48 Hours in Niagara Falls
Your visit to Niagara Falls starts on the American side. Enter the Niagara Falls State Park and park in Parking Lot 1 near the Visitor Center.
Purchase your tickets for the Maid of the Mist voyage. This is a twenty minute boat ride on the Niagara River. Get up close with all three waterfalls (American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls) and witness the awesome power of these waterfalls. Ponchos are provided but expect to get wet!
- Tours run every 15 minutes and last 20 minutes
- Ticket Prices: Adult $25.25 Child (6-12 years) $14.75 5 years & under are free
- Tour times cannot be reserved in advance
- Maid of the Mist runs from mid-May (tentative) to November 8 in 2020.
- For more information, or to purchase your tickets, visit the Maid of the Mist website.
After the journey on the Maid of the Mist, walk out to the Observation Tower for views of the Falls and Canada. You can also do this while you are waiting for your Maid of the Mist Voyage.
Next is the Cave of the Winds. The Cave of the Winds was one of our favorite things to do at Niagara Falls. To get to the Cave of the Winds, take the pedestrian bridge to Goat Island.
Visitors take an elevator down into Niagara Gorge, then walk along wooden boardwalks to Hurricane Deck. Why is it called Hurricane Deck? Because you are standing under Bridal Veil Falls…the winds and the mist blowing onto you makes it feel like you are caught in a tropical storm. You will get wet!!! It is a thrilling experience, especially for kids.
Visitors are provided with ponchos and special (ugly) sandals.
- Interesting Fact: every spring the boardwalks are rebuilt and in November they are dismantled.
- Ticket Prices: Adult $12 Child (6-12 years) $9 5 years & under are free
- If there is a long wait for tickets, it is worth it!
After Cave of the Winds, continue your journey on the American side. Walk up to Terrapin Point, a great spot to view Horseshoe Falls.
From here, you can dine at the Top of the Falls Restaurant and/or walk around Goat Island. Then it is time to walk back to your car and drive to Canada.
If you have the time, other activities on the American side include the Aquarium of Niagara, Niagara Gorge Discovery Center (gateway into short hikes around the Falls), and Niagara Adventure Theater (45 minute movie about Niagara Falls).
This concludes the tour of the American side of the Falls. Drive across the Rainbow Bridge to the Canada and check into your hotel.
The views of Niagara Falls from the Canadian side are stunning. Take a walk along the Falls. For those who want a bird’s eye view, go to the top of the Skylon Tower.
Have dinner and if you are traveling with kids, they may want to explore the family friendly area of Clifton Hill.
Tours of the USA Side of Niagara Falls
Start your day at Journey Behind the Falls. From two viewing decks you can look out from behind Horseshoe Falls. Again, ponchos are provided and expect to get wet. This is fun, but not quite as thrilling as Cave of the Winds.
Spend the remainder of the day exploring the area around Niagara Falls. Here are some of the best things to do:
Clifton Hill. This was a favorite of our kids. Putt-putt, the Niagara SkyWheel, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and the Great Canadian Midway are fun activities for families.
Take a Helicopter Ride over Niagara Falls. Prices are $160 CAD for adults and $99 CAD for children. Visit the Niagara Helicopters website for more information.
Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservancy. Walk through a rainforest setting, viewing over 2000 butterflies.
Niagara Glen Nature Areas. Hike along the Niagara River.
White Water Walk. This is a walk on a boardwalk along the Niagara River. Visitors get to see the awesome power of this river…Class 6 whirlpool rapids!
Where to Stay
All of these hotels are on the Canadian side.
Radisson Hotel and Suites Fallsview. This is the place to stay to get a view of the Falls at a budget price. Not all rooms have views of Niagara Falls, so this will need to be requested when you make your reservation.
Marriott Fallsview Hotel and Spa. Excellent views of the Falls and within walking distance of many sites on the Canadian side.
Sheraton on the Falls. Another hotel with views of the Falls. You will need to specifically request a Fallsview room. Having a high floor is ideal. This is where we stayed and we were very happy with it. We loved the views of the Falls and being able to walk to Clifton Hill in a matter of minutes.
Great Wolf Lodge. This is a more expensive option and does not have views of the Falls, but for families that love the Great Wolf Lodge, consider staying here.
When To Go
The best time to go is between the months of May and October. Weekends, especially holiday weekends, tend to be very busy. Several excursions, such as the Maid of the Mist and the Cave of the Winds, do not open until mid to late Spring, depending on the levels of ice in Niagara Falls.
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