There are a couple of destinations around the world that are much likely on everybody’s bucket list. And for sure the giant Niagara Falls belong to this list. In fact, it’s estimated that around 12 million people from around the world visit the Falls every year.
Even though I was expecting I had to share the place with a likely heavy crowd (especially in peak season) which definitely is not one of my favourites, when I booked a trip to Toronto, it was clear I had to include a visit to the nearby Niagara Falls.
Fun fact: More than 3,000 tons of water cascade over the Niagara Falls every second.
But how best to experience the world famous Niagara Falls?
Well, there are lots of different ways to explore Niagara Falls and the nearby surroundings.
Before I dive into the various activities, there is one important thing to consider when you visit Niagara Falls though.
Niagara Falls are located right at the Canadian-US border. In fact, one part of the Falls, the Bridal Vail Falls and the America Falls are on the US side whilst the larger Horseshoe Falls are located in Ontario, Canada.
Thus you can visit Niagara Falls approaching either from the US or Canada. It is also possible to cross the border via the Rainbow Bridge to see the Falls from various points. However, you will need to have your passport with you since there are border controls.
The activities and considerations below are based on what you can do on the Canadian site of the Niagara Falls, as we did not cross over to the US.
How to get to Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls are about an hour and a half from Toronto. Which means you can make the Falls an easy day trip. Indeed, there are many tour operators offering day trips to the Falls starting off in Toronto.
However, if you want to visit my recommendation would be to spend at least a night in the area to get the opportunity to explore not only the Falls but also the surrounding area.
Likely your best option to get to the Niagara Falls from the Canadian site is by car. This will allow you to roam around the Niagara Peninsular and explore both the Falls and the wider area.
There are however other options to reach Niagara Falls if you do not want to drive.
VIA Rail operates direct trains from Toronto (and New York and Cleveland in the US) once a day with a train returning in the evening.
In addition, Go Transit operates direct train connections during the summer season running on weekends and bank holidays. They also co-operate with Niagara Parks offering tour packages. Meanwhile, regular daily connections run via a route including train and bus services (meaning you have to transfer between train and bus with trains running from Toronto to Burlington from where you have to take a bus).
Finally, Megabus.com also runs a bus service connecting Toronto to Niagara Falls with several daily connections.
How to get around at Niagara Falls to see all attractions when you do not have a car
In case you chose to travel to Niagara Falls with public transport, getting around the Falls to explore all the various attractions is actually easy.
There are various bus lines operated by Niagara Parks (the WeGo buses) that will get you around the Falls major attractions and connects you to the main tourist accommodations in the area.
Check out their website for routes, schedules and pricing.
Where to stay in Niagara Falls
Being a tourist hot spot catering to some 12 million visitors each year, there is no shortage of hotels around the Niagara Falls.
If you decide to stay close by, I definitely recommend to pick a hotel that offers views of the Falls. Locations like the Marriott, the Crown Plaza or Embassy Suites.
However, hotels within the boundaries of Niagara Falls and most notably those offering direct views of the Falls itself can be quite busy and demand high prices especially during peak season.
I would highly recommend considering to pick a hotel at nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake, a small town within the Niagara wine country just about 15 minutes from the Falls. There are plenty of accommodation opportunities there as well and whilst it means not having a direct view of the Falls from your room you also don’t have to put up with the crowds all day round and you are still close to all the surrounding attractions.
7 exciting ways to experience Niagara Falls
Your starting point visiting Niagara Falls will most certainly be walking along the huge promenade spanning all the way from the city to the Horseshoe Falls. There are various viewpoints from where you can see both the American and Canadian Falls.
Then there is off course the boat cruise that brings you close to the pouring water (and will get you pretty wet as well).
Operating from the Canadian site, is the Hornblower Catamaran whilst there is also a boat (the Maid of the Mist) starting from the US side.
Both boat tours will actually follow the same routes and cruise along the Great Gorge, the American and Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls, so there is no difference in what you will experience from either side of the border.
The so called ‘journey behind the falls‘ will get you into the tunnels behind the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. It’s a self-guided tour that will bring you about 45 metres(150 feet)into the rocks below the rim of the Gorge. From there, you will get right behind a wall of water falling about 13 stories deep. And here too you should be prepared to get pretty wet again!
The latest addition to the many ways to experience the falls is the zipline. It runs parallel to Niagara river and the American Falls; thus you are heading down with the Horseshoe falls in full view.
If you are into hiking, head further outside Niagara Falls along Niagara Gorge. There the White Water Walk will lead you along a path close to the rapids of Niagara River.
Continue along the Gorge and you will reach the Niagara whirlpool. There you will find the historic Whirlpool Aero Car, an antique cable car that takes visitors over the whirlpool section and the so called Class 6 white-water rapids of the Niagara River. The journey offers breathtaking views of the wild water below and actually has you crossing the border to the US several times – even though the start and end of the cable car is located in Canada.
However, the most magical way to see the Falls perhaps are a helicopter tour. Starting from Victoria Avenue, you will first flying over part of the Niagara Parks area, than follow the Niagara River passing over the Whirlpool area and Rainbow Bridge. The last section will then lead you passed the American Falls and lastly the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.
Have you been to Niagara Falls yet? Let me know about your experiences.