The Ultimate Guide To Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls, an imposing waterfall & a true icon of must-see nature!
Niagara Falls, straddling the borders of the US and Canada, is a behemoth waterfall globally famed for its grandeur and considered one of the world’s natural wonders!
Niagara Falls, a name shared by a spectacular waterfall of the Niagara River and two cities in two different countries – Niagara Falls, New York, US and Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. The majestic Niagara Falls, situated on the Niagara River, which also serves as the international border between the US and Canada, can be experienced from the two cities of Niagara Falls, one located in Canada and one in the US, both named after the spectacular falls!
Niagara Falls was formed several thousand years ago by melting glaciers and water erosion. The fierce water flow continues to shape the waterfall by eroding the edges of the bedrock, moving the waterfall upstream every year by a few inches. The gushing water plunges down about 187 feet from the southern end of the Niagara George at a speed of 20 – 30 miles per hour, producing a roaring sound and mist, which is a sight to behold!
Niagara Falls is comprised of three individual waterfalls – (1) The Horseshoe Falls / Canadian Falls, the largest of the cascades’ located in Canada (2) The American Falls, which is the second-largest located in the US, and (3) The Bridal Veil Falls, the smallest of the three waterfalls, also located on the American side. The Canadian side boasts the massive Horseshoe Falls and offers panoramic views of all three cascades of Niagara Falls.
Unquestionably, the Canadian side offers the best views of Niagara Falls, but similar vistas can be experienced onboard the boat rides departing from the American side!
Many people visit both sides of Niagara Falls, the American and the Canadian side, which is indeed the best way to experience this incredible natural wonder! However, visiting Niagara Falls in Canada requires crossing the international border between the two countries, and proper immigration documents are required. This isn’t a big deal for American and Canadian citizens, but international tourists must have visas for both countries.
Here is my ultimate guide to Niagara Falls, featuring essential trip-planning information, things to do at Niagara Falls, nearby attractions, and recommendations on hotels and restaurants near Niagara Falls!
Planning Your Trip To Niagara Falls
Flying into Buffalo, New York, enjoying the waterfall tours in the daytime, and returning at night for the Niagara Falls Illumination & Fireworks is the best way to experience Niagara Falls!
Best Time To Visit Niagara Falls: Summer, June through August, with warm temperatures and access to all attractions, including boat rides and up-close waterfall encounters, is the idle time to visit Niagara Falls. However, summer is also the busiest season at Niagara Falls, and you may have to wait in long queues for the boat tours. If you don’t mind slightly cooler weather, visiting in spring and fall is a great option to beat the crowd at Niagara Falls. Winters are harsh at Niagara Falls and not the best time for outdoor activities, but the views of frozen waterfalls and snow-coated trees can be gratifying!
Time Required At Niagara Falls: While a couple of hours are sufficient to just see the Niagara Falls from the observation deck, I recommend spending an entire day and, if possible, staying overnight at Niagara Falls to experience the waterfall and other nearby attractions in the city. Overnight stay at Niagara Falls will allow you to experience the nightly Niagara Falls Illumination and Fireworks Display at the waterfalls. Many people visit Niagara Falls when visiting New York City, but though Niagara Falls is located in the state of New York, it’s pretty far from New York City. Located about 400 miles from New York City, Niagara Falls is not a day-trip destination, and I highly recommend staying overnight at Niagara Falls if you’re driving from New York City.
Getting To Niagara Falls: The best way to get to Niagara Falls is by flying into Buffalo Niagara International Airport, located pretty close to the waterfalls, and then driving to Niagara Falls. Alternatively, you could also take a train or a bus to get to Niagara Falls.
- Flight: The Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF), Buffalo, New York, about 25 miles from Niagara Falls, is the closest major international airport near Niagara Falls that’s served by all major airlines. The Niagara Falls International Airport (IAG), Niagara Falls, New York, is just 6 miles from Niagara Falls but has limited service.
- Train: The Niagara Falls Amtrak Station in Niagara Falls, located just 2 miles from Niagara Falls, connects several cities and states to the town of Niagara Falls and is the closest Amtrak station to the waterfalls.
- Bus: The closest Greyhound bus stop to Niagara Falls is located on Ellicott Street, Buffalo, New York, approximately 20 miles from Niagara Falls.
Parking & Shuttle Service At Niagara Falls: There’re four main parking lots at Niagara Falls – the Main Parking Lot near the Niagara Falls Visitor Center with easy access to Prospect Point observation deck and Maid of the Mist boat tour, two parking lots at Goat Island offering easy access to Cave of the Winds tour, and the forth parking lot at Niagara Gorge near Aquarium of Niagara. Though four parking lots might sound like a lot, it can be challenging to find parking at Niagara Falls during the peak seasons and weekends. The seasonal complimentary Niagara Shuttle Service is a great way to explore the city of Niagara Falls, including Niagara Falls, Aquarium of Niagara, Old Fort Niagara, and access to the Niagara Falls Train Station.
Tickets For Niagara Falls: There’re no tickets required for viewing Niagara Falls, but you would need to purchase tickets for the Maid of the Mist boat tour and Cave of the Winds waterfalls tour, which I highly recommend doing at Niagara Falls. The Cave of the Winds tickets can only be purchased onsite, but you could buy the tickets for the Maid of the Mist Boat Tour online at the Maid of the Mist website.
Lodging Near Niagara Falls: The hotels with the best views of Niagara Falls are all located on the Canadian side. However, in this post, I will review only the attraction and amenities on the American side, so here are my top picks for hotels near Niagara Falls in the US.
Dining Options At Niagara Falls: There’re quite a few dining options inside Niagara Falls State Park, including Top of the Falls Restaurant, which is a full-service restaurant, Prospect Point Cafe, Prospect Point Grill, and the Cave of the Winds Snack Bar. There are also a ton of other dining options in the city of Niagara Falls, and here’re some of my favorite places to dine in the city – The Buffet at Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino, La Galera Mexican Restaurant, Donatello’s for Pizza & sandwiches, and Zaika Indian Restaurant for authentic Indian fare.
Things To Do At Niagara Falls
Unquestionably, Niagara Falls takes center stage in the city of Niagara Falls. However, there’re a few other attractions in Niagara Falls that you could add to your itinerary based on the time you plan to spend at Niagara Falls.
If you’re pressed for time and just have a day at Niagara Falls, your best option is to stick to the Niagara Falls observation deck, the two spectacular waterfall tours, and return at night for the fireworks and the Waterfalls Illumination. Based on the time of the year you’re visiting, you may find long wait times and queues for the tours, so I would recommend first completing the waterfall tours if you plan to do so. If you find time after your tours or you’re spending a couple of days at Niagara Falls, I recommend using the Niagara Shuttle Service to explore the other attractions in the city of Niagara Falls.
Things To Do At Niagara Falls
- Prospect Point: Prospect Point is an observation deck that extends out into the Niagara River featuring panoramic views of all three cascades of Niagara Falls. This is also where you take the elevators down to the base to board the Maid of the Mist Boat Tour.
- Maid of the Mist: The most popular attraction of Niagara Falls, Maid of the Mist is a boat tour of Niagara Falls, featuring spectacular up-close views of the American Falls and Horseshoe Falls. The tour departs from the base of the Prospect Point observation deck, which can be reached using the elevators located on the top level of the observation deck. Once you board the double-decker boat and put on your poncho, it will take you on the best voyage of your life! If you’ve time for just one tour and have to select between Maid of the Mist and Cave of the Winds, I would recommend doing the Maid of the Mist Boat Tour. However, don’t get me wrong, both the tours are great, and if you have time, I recommend doing both.
- Cave of the Winds: The Cave of the Winds is a thrilling tour featuring an up-close encounter with Niagara Falls, where you’re just a few feet from the crashing Bridal Veil Falls! To get to the viewing platform, the Hurricane Deck, you would need to take an elevator down to the base, put on the souvenir sandals and ponchos, and then follow your guide through a wooden walkway to the observation deck. The roaring sound, the misty air, and the phenomenal up-close views of the crashing Bridal Veil Falls create a natural utopia!
- Niagara Falls Illumination & Fireworks: Every evening, several multi-colored lights illuminate Niagara Falls creating an unfathomably beautiful spectacle of light, water, and mist! To add to the experience, there’s a firework show every night at Niagara Falls. However, the schedule can change based on the weather conditions, but you can always find the current fireworks schedule online on the Niagara Falls State Park website.
Other Attractions Near Niagara Falls
If you find time after your Niagara Falls tours or you’re spending a couple of days in Niagara Falls, you could visit a few other prominent attractions in the city of Niagara Falls on the American side, including the Aquarium of Niagara, Old Fort Niagara, Castellani Art Museum, several wineries, Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls, and do jet boat tours offered by a couple of local boat tour companies. The seasonal hop-on-hop-off tour service provided by the Niagara Shuttle Service is an excellent way to explore the city of Niagara Falls.
If you’re an American citizen and/or have the required immigration documents to cross the international borders, you could head over to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. The Canadian side not only boasts the Horseshoe Falls, the largest of the cascades, but also features several other attractions, including the Skylon Tower observation deck, Niagara SkyWheel, Journey Behind the Falls Tour, Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, and several others.
Other New York Attractions & Related Posts
I hope you enjoyed reading the post, The Ultimate Guide To Niagara Falls, and I hope this will help you plan your trip to Niagara Falls. You can find other New York attractions in my New York Travel Guide.
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