Visiting Niagara Falls means that you are experiencing the largest waterfalls in North America. They were the first designated State Park in the US, when they were given the designation in 1885. Three separate falls make up Niagara Falls – Horseshoe Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and the American Falls. Niagara Falls draws around 33 million visitors a year and is especially busy during the warmer months. In the early 1900s, Niagara Falls became known as the Honeymoon capital of the world. If you are planning a honeymoon at the falls, the tourism office will give you a certificate signed by the Niagara Falls Mayor as a souvenir!
The Canadian side offers a better view of Niagara Falls
A rivalry over which side offers the best views is real, though many believe that the Canadian side offers superior views of the falls. This is because when you are on the Canadian side you look directly over at the section called the US falls, which are stunning. That being said, if the line is long to cross the bridge over to Canada, there is plenty to enjoy from the US side. You can still catch the Maid of the Mist, a boat that takes you up close and personal to the falls! We took the boat ride prior to our most recent visit to Niagara Falls. Also, you are a lot closer to the falls on the US side and you’re able to really feel the power of all that water gushing through the falls.
There is also Goat Island, no actual goats live on this island, sorry folks! The island is wedged between the Horseshoe and American Falls. You can get surprisingly close to the water and rapids while enjoying beautiful views. Finally, the Cave of the Winds is on the US side. Here you can venture down to explore the base of the Bridal Veil falls via a series of boardwalks. Expect to get wet despite the plastic ponchos and sandals included in your admission price!
One last tip for the visiting Niagara Falls on the US side. Alex spent the first 8 years of his life living in Niagara Falls on the US side. While the area has seen better days due to many local businesses along Main Street closing, a childhood favorite remains Di Camillo Bakery. Be sure to stop by this bakery to pick up some treats! It’s a wonderful bakery to pick up fresh bread, pies, donuts, pizza, tomato pie and other pastries. Alex’s favorite childhood treat was their brownie.
Drive or Walk Across the Rainbow Bridge
When crossing from either side, be sure you have all the appropriate documentation you need both for entering and returning. The toll for a pedestrian crossing is $1 from the Canadian side and for cars $3.75USD. The views from the bridge are beautiful, so consider crossing by foot. The length of the bridge is 950 feet, so it is a manageable walk for many.
Visit the Skylon Tower Observation Deck…
The Skylon Tower, at 71 stories high, offers incredible views over the entire Niagara area, including Niagara Falls, the Niagara River, Goat Island and Grand Island. In the other direction, you can even see the downtown Toronto skyline across Lake Ontario. It is absolutely worth visiting the Skylon Tower for the stunning views. The observation deck not only offers great views over Niagara Falls, but on clear day you can also see downtown Toronto across Lake Ontario in the opposite direction.
But pass on their Restaurants
There are two restaurants at the top of Skylon Tower. One has a 360-degree revolving dining room. The other is a buffet. If you eat at either restaurant you get free admission to the observation deck. We were recently visiting Niagara Falls for Canadian Thanksgiving and thought it would be fun to have a holiday meal with amazing views. Unfortunately, while the restaurant serving the buffet can offer patrons stunning views. But this is only if you’re fortunate to get a good table, like we were, and the food is subpar. Reviews for both restaurants are not very good and as the observation deck only costs $13.95 Canadian, so you’re better off eating elsewhere and just paying the observation deck fee. Alex has childhood memories of eating at the revolving dining room on Skylon Tower so that’s the reason we dined atop the tower for Canadian Thanksgiving.
Light show over Niagara Falls
When visiting Niagara Falls, from the Canadian side you can view the fireworks show occurring on select nights throughout the year. Be sure to check the schedule. But every night of the year the falls light up with beautiful colored lights that switch from solid colors to rainbow and various patterns. It is a mesmerizing sight to take in!
Hydro Power: Tesla vs Edison
For the history buffs, there is a rich history of hydro power in the area. In 1895, Nikola Tesla built the world’s first hydroelectric power plant at Niagara Falls, harnessing the amazing power of the falls. Thomas Edison and Tesla had been engaged in a war of the currents and Tesla won. Tesler’s system, the alternating current (better known as AC) is what we use today. Edison had proposed the direct current system, which was less efficient. There was also doubt that Edison’s system could transmit power over long distances. A monument to Nikola Tesla on Goat Island pays tribute to his life.
Niagara on the Lake
A beautiful 30-minute drive from the Canadian side of the falls is the charming small town of Niagara on the Lake, which sits on Lake Ontario. Queen Street is lined with lovely small businesses to browse through or grab a coffee or hot apple cider at Victoria Teas and Coffees. The Angel Inn has a delicious selection of meals on their menu in a cozy pub. You can even book a room at the Inn, which is centrally located. Be sure to also take a walk along lovely Lake Ontario.
Where to Stay in Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls offers a lot of accommodation options from luxury to budget. Many of the luxury options have views overlooking the falls. Here are a few great choices on both the American and Canadian sides. To cross the border between the United States and Canada you need a passport or an enhanced photo ID.
Niagara Falls, Canada
Several hotels in Niagara Falls, Canada, offer rooms with great views overlooking the falls. The Niagara Falls Marriott is one of them, with the conveniences that come with staying at a Marriott. The hotel is also very close to the Falls lookouts and attractions.
Kings Inn Near the Falls is a great budget choice to stay in Niagara Falls, Canada. We do not recommend for a Honeymoon in Niagara Falls! Accommodation is pretty basic but the rooms are clean and include mini-fridges and air conditioning and heating units you can control in your room. Parking is free and Niagara Falls is only around a 15-minute walk from the hotel. Kings Inn is the closest you can stay to Niagara Falls without paying for parking.
Niagara Falls, USA
The Giacomo also offers rooms with beautiful views from the US side and rooms are modern in this boutique hotel located close to the falls and attractions in the US.
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Writing by Alex Kallimanis
Photography by Bell Kallimanis