Niagara Falls Vacation

Ben Pastore
Niagara Falls Lookout
Niagara Falls

Considered one of the world's premier waterfalls, Niagara Falls is a popular destination for Americans, Canadians and water fall lovers everywhere. You'll need to do a little homework about the falls and the region to make the most of your trip, but learning where to stay, what to see, and how to get there is a lot easier than going over the falls in a barrel.

Niagara Falls Travel

It is highly probable that most American visitors - whether arriving by car, air or rail - will pass through the city of Buffalo, New York. Flights to Buffalo Niagara International Airport are available through most major air carriers, and both the American and Canadian sides of the falls are serviced by Amtrak for anyone who wishes to travel by land.

Airport shuttles, taxis and rental vehicles abound, and private transfers from either Buffalo or Toronto are an attractive option for tourists who'd like to arrive in a little more style.

Once there, many attractions can be reached on foot. For visitors with less stamina, a short taxi ride will take you where you want to go. Basically, this means that a rental car, while handy, is not necessary.

Crossing the U.S.A and Canada Border

The issue of entry requirements needs to be addressed since this natural wonder straddles Canada and the United States.

  • U.S. citizens will be asked to present a passport to cross the border between the American and Canadian sides of the falls. That same passport is also needed to get back into the U.S.
  • If you are traveling with minor children, they too must have proof of citizenship such as a birth certificate, passport, etc. If children are traveling without a parent, it is strongly recommended that they carry a letter signed by both parents which grants permission for the trip.

Even if you and your entire party are thoroughly documented, be advised that the wait times for crossing the border can vary. The Canada Border Services Agency's website is a helpful resource for real-time updates on border crossing wait times.

Hotel Accommodations

There's no shortage of accommodations in Niagara Falls, regardless of which side of the border you're inclined to sleep. Consider how close you want to be to the falls, the type of view you hope to have, and that little issue of the money exchange rate, which - unlike the falls - can move both up and down depending on the day. For some great views, try the Embassy Suites Niagara Falls Hotel, Canada or the Sheraton on the Falls Hotel which is also on the Canadian side.

Things to Do in Niagara Falls

As an established tourism hub, there's plenty to do and see even if you couldn't care less about the waterfalls. There are water parks, golf courses, museums, and even a charming wine region. Whether you're into shopping or thrill seeking, opportunities abound.

Visiting the Falls

Of course, the falls are the main attraction. They are actually divided into three distinct sections which include the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls on the U.S. side and the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side.

Maid of the Mist
Maid of the Mist
  • To get up close to the falls, visit Goat Island for access to the Cave of the Winds where a series of walkways lead visitors to the base of Bridal Veil Falls.
  • Consider a bout tour for a unique perspective. Since 1846, the famed Maid of the Mist has been taking travelers out on boat rides to observe the spectacle from below. Getting soaked by the spray and deafened by the thunderous sound is all part of the fun and is likely to be the highlight of your trip.

Outdoor Activities

Niagara Gorge Trail
Niagara Gorge Trail

The natural setting in Niagara beckons to be explored. Fortunately, it is easy to heed the call of nature by exploring natural trails, parks or even a round of golf. The Niagara wine region is a great place to sample nature's bounty and experience the beauty of the wider Niagara region.

Nightlife

You won't have a problem finding a party on either side of the falls when the sun goes down. There is a range of night clubs for dancing the night away as well as three casinos for tourists who like taking their chances. Just remember that if you wake up to the sound of roaring in your ears, it's just the falls and not the remnants of last night's festivities.

Family Activities

Aquarium of Niagara
Aquarium of Niagara

Whether indoors or out, Niagara Falls has plenty for the family to do together. For an educational look at the falls and its region, try the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center for nature trails, local and natural history, and a rock-climbing wall. You can explore below the waterline at the Aquarium of Niagara and enjoy water-based fun at the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark all year round.

Museums

To get a sense of the region's history and vibe, check out one of the many museums which cater to a variety of tastes. For historical background, try the Niagara Falls History Museum, which boasts exhibits that detail the region's role in the War of 1812. For those with more esoteric tastes, have a ball hobnobbing with (wax) celebrities at Ripley's Believe it or Not!/Louis Tussaud's Waxworks.

Have It Both Ways

Niagara Falls is a great example of a place that has to be experienced in person to be fully appreciated. Regardless which side of the border you stay on, plan to explore both. Gravity knows no exchange rate, and neither does wonder and amazement.

Niagara Falls Vacation