Ultimate Guide to Niagara Falls in Canada

Ultimate Guide to Niagara Falls in Canada

Ultimate Guide to Niagara Falls in Canada

This is a guide to Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada. I am American and live in New York state, but after a lot of research as well as talking to people, it became clear to visit Niagara Falls in Canada and not New York. Why? The views are just that much better, and the main, big waterfall, Horseshoe Falls, has a better viewing and experience point from Canada.

About Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is one of the most popular tourist destinations in North America and is located on the Niagara River, which flows along the New York and Canadian border between Lake Ontario and Lake Eerie. There are three waterfalls – the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls – in the New York and Canadian sides. When you see them up close and personal they really are a mighty force of Mother Nature not to be reckoned with. It’s not the height which makes them so impressive (they’re not the tallest in the world), but rather the sheer waterflow. The three waterfalls combined have the highest flow rate of any waterfall in North America, and Horseshoe Falls alone is the most powerful waterfall on the continent.

Naturally, tourists flock to Niagara Falls to see it in all its glory – the key word, however, being tourists. Niagara Falls, no matter which country you’re in, is very, very touristy. I have to throw this out from the beginning as a heads up. But seeing as I have lived in New England almost my entire life and had never visited, I decided that while my kids were still young we would finally make a trip. I was resistant for a long time, as I hate crowds and Disney-type tourism, but figured I have to see Niagara Falls at some point, and it would make for a fun, quick family get-away.

View of the American Falls at Niagara Falls

Having said that (which I’m sure comes as no surprise), despite all the tourists, we did manage to have a good trip. First off, it was fun driving up to Niagara Falls. We combined both trips – the way up and the way down – with visits to state parks, including Watkins Glen State Park and Letchworth State Park (posts coming soon). Once we arrived to Niagara Falls in New York we had to cross the border, which was a lot of fun for the kids – going into a new country, showing our passports, etc.

This is how it works. There are a few bridges that connect the countries. One well-known one is Rainbow Bridge. This is where one of the immigration check points is. Be prepared with passports and hotel confirmation, and if a family with one missing spouse, you need a letter from spouse giving kids permission to cross the boarder. When we went – a Wednesday around 3:00 p.m. – there was hardly a line to enter immigration and we coasted on through. But lines can be very long, particularly on weekends.

View of Niagara Falls from the Sheraton on the Falls in Canada

We drove straight to our Hotel, the Sheraton on the Falls. The hotel has pros and cons but I would say mainly pros as it’s centrally located and has amazing views of the Falls from its hotel bar, spa and rooftop. The lobby is a bit crazy – a lot crazy – with all sorts of touristy stores, restaurants, ice cream shops, you name it, and all very crowded. It was a bit overwhelming when we first arrived. But as I soon came to realize, this is just what visiting Niagara Falls is – lots of crowds, with a Disney-esque type vibe. Some people may disagree – especially if you were to stay in a charming b & b on the outskirts of town – but we wanted central. And with central, you’re going to get the masses of tourists, chain restaurants and high prices. As soon as I accepted this fact, we moved on and had a great time. Niagara Falls, after all, is a lot of fun for the kids.

Things to do in Niagara Falls in Canada

Take in the view

Rainbow over Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls

The first thing I would recommend is to simply just walk up to the viewing area of the Falls and take in the view. There is a path that runs from the American and Bridal Veil Falls to the Horseshoe Falls. Honestly, if you’re short on time and have 1 day or are passing through, this is what you want to do. Here you will get all the dramatic views of Niagara Falls you see in the magazines, and you can see all three of them from this path and viewing points. Walk along the path for different perspectives – this is where you will want to snap all your photos. Approaching Horseshoe Falls from this path is pretty amazing and it was when we were in front of Horseshoe that I realized what all the fuss is about. Horseshoe Falls is magnificent, often with rainbows forming over its drop, and a misty sky from the sheer force of the fall.

Take a Ride on the Hornblower Cruise

Approaching Horseshoe Falls on the Hornblower Cruise

This was the highlight of our trip – if you want to get up close and personal with Niagara Falls and all its fury, you must take the Hornblower Niagara Cruise! Make sure to book your tickets in advance online, and then arrive 10-15 minutes before departure. You will receive a poncho, which is very key – we also brought our own rain jackets and doubled up which helped to stay dry.

View of the Hornblower Cruise at Horseshoe Falls

The Hornblower boat takes you to the American and Bridal Veil Falls and then right into the wrath of Horseshoe Falls. Approaching Horseshoe by boat was awesome. As you get closer and closer, the water gets choppier, the air mistier, in general the atmosphere feels like you’re entering the eye of the storm. Just look at the photo! We were able to snag spots right in front of the boat, which was key, so make sure to arrive early enough.

Experience Journey Behind the Falls

Journey Behind the Falls at Niagara Falls

This is a unique experience to have in Niagara Falls if you want to see the Horseshoe Falls from a completely different perspective – down below. Journey Behind the Falls takes you 125 feet down through the bedrock (you take an elevator) to 130 year-old tunnels. You are given a poncho and once at the bottom you follow the tunnel to the Lower Observation Deck, where instead of looking down at the thunderous fall, you’re looking up! Through the tunnels there are interesting factoids along the walls, like the story of the boy who accidentally went overboard on his tube and miraculously survived. This is a popular attraction so make sure to book your tickets in advance.

Take the Kids to Clifton Hill

Clifton Hill at Niagara Falls in Ontario

Clifton Hill is a part of Niagara Falls that is like Vegas meets Disney meets Six Flags and I only include it here because kids love it. It is stimulation overload and too much for my taste, but a very popular thing to do in Niagara Falls. Take a ride on the Niagara Skywheel, Niagara’s ferris wheel, go on one of the many rides, play in the arcades, get treats in the ice cream and chocolate shops or dine out at one of the many chain restaurants.

Take a Day Trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake

Wine tasting in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Canada

If you have the time, this adorable and picturesque town is a must visit! It is also in the heart of Canada’s wine region – ice wine that is. Ice wine is the process of letting grapes freeze on the vines before turning them into extra sweet and alcoholic wine. We visited three wineries and all made us feel like we were in the Napa of Canada. This is one of Canada’s most prized spots – you can read more about it in my dedicated post here.

And that’s my ultimate guide to Niagara Falls in Canada. If you have anything to add, please do so in the comments below.

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Things to do in Niagara Falls Canada

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42 Comments

  1. October 26, 2018 / 6:36 am

    Your pictures are amazing! I can only imagine what an exciting family adventure it must have been. The touristy vibe is indeed part of the game for this kind of destinations. Your pictures clearly prove that it’s neglectable, especially compared to the overwhelming scenery you get to see (and feel on the boat). Thanks for the inspiration! #FarawayFiles

    • October 31, 2018 / 9:28 am

      Thanks so much Sarah! I agree, once you can get past the tourists and enjoy the scenery it’s pretty spectacular!

  2. November 7, 2018 / 11:36 pm

    I had a trip planned to visit Niagara Falls when we were visiting New York, but unfortunately the tour was full and we didn’t have a chance to visit. I have pinned your post for future reference in case we have that opportunity again.

    • November 14, 2018 / 11:30 am

      I’m sorry the trip didn’t work out – so hard to do it all in a place like New York. But thanks for saving the post should you ever make it some day!

  3. November 8, 2018 / 6:28 am

    I feel as though you’ve written this post for people like me, Corey. I really hate crowds and over touristy places and still have to be convinced to go anywhere near Disney anything but there are some places that you just HAVE to see and clearly Niagara Falls is one of them. That boat trip looks incredible. It’s amazing to see that photo of the massive falls and the tiny boat in front of it. Wow. Love that you found a cute town to visit while you were there too. #FarawayFiles

    • November 14, 2018 / 11:34 am

      Thanks Clare! I’ve always gotten the sense that we are similar travelers and would make good travel partners. Maybe we can make a FF trip happen some day, wouldn’t that be fun?!

  4. November 8, 2018 / 7:03 am

    Wow I can’t believe how close that boat got to the falls, that must have been an amazing experience. Its a shame its got to Disney like and busy, but considering what a sight it is, I guess that was always going to happen. Like you say, you just have to accept that part. I have never been and it is definitely on my bucket list and I have pinned this as its such a useful guide #farawayflies

    • November 14, 2018 / 11:54 am

      Thanks so much Helen! Yes, with any mass touristy place there’s going to be the upside and the downside I suppose..

  5. November 8, 2018 / 9:14 am

    Great pics Corey! Some touristy places are packed for a reason, there’s no doubting the Falls are amazing. Niagara is great for people who can’t afford the more inaccessible and expensive to reach wonders of nature. #farawayfiles

    • November 14, 2018 / 11:36 am

      That’s a great way of putting it, Annabel. We actually cancelled a trip to Portugal which was supposed to happen during this trip (long story) and I chose Niagara bc it was easy to get to and cost-effective..so I hear you.

  6. November 8, 2018 / 1:52 pm

    Niagara looks absolutely stunning and you have captured it perfectly with you photos. The energy and power in the falls looks so exciting. I can see why the Hornblower cruise was such a highlight! #FarawayFiles

    • November 14, 2018 / 11:37 am

      Thanks Kate! The Hornblower was amazing, highly recommend!

  7. November 8, 2018 / 2:52 pm

    Clifton Hill was way too much for me too! I regret not knowing that I should have gotten out of town, long time ago, much wiser now 😀 #farawayfiles

    • November 14, 2018 / 11:37 am

      Ugh Clifton Hill! Crazy place!!

  8. November 8, 2018 / 3:35 pm

    I’ve never been to Niagra Falls, but it looks beautiful, which is why I suppose so many people want to visit. I don’t love huge crowds or when places feel cheesy, but I do love Disneyland. #farawayfiles

    • November 14, 2018 / 11:53 am

      I know you do, Hilary, and I get it! This was a mix of Disney, Vegas and Six Flags so it was really over the top.

  9. November 8, 2018 / 5:02 pm

    I was in Niagara in February this year and had a fantastic time. It was freezing, but it was lots of fun, and there weren’t many people. It’s nice to see what it looks like when everything’s green and thawed out though! #FarawayFiles

    • November 14, 2018 / 11:38 am

      Must have been freezing!! On the flip side you didn’t have all the crowds so that’s a MAJOR bonus!

  10. November 9, 2018 / 4:14 am

    I want to go on the Hornblower cruise and wear the poncho 🙂
    #farawayfiles

    • November 14, 2018 / 11:38 am

      Haha! It was the best part of the Falls!

  11. megan - truly madly kids
    November 9, 2018 / 7:39 am

    I agree with you on the Disney-type tourism, so it’s good to hear that despite all that you had a good trip. it is unbelievably spectacular, though! #farawayfiles

    • November 14, 2018 / 11:52 am

      Yes, in the end, it was 100% worth the trip!

  12. November 9, 2018 / 7:49 am

    I loved visiting Niagara. We actually decided it would be a good idea to go from the Canada side to the US side to see sunset from the other side. After getting questioned by US border security for hours for our suspicious behaviour we finally arrived when it was pitch black! Great day though, Clifton Hill was …. interesting.

    • November 14, 2018 / 11:40 am

      OMG! That stinks!! Now I’m curious about your suspicious behavior, ha.

  13. November 9, 2018 / 2:39 pm

    We did this trip before kids – def need to do it with the family. My son is studying NY State and learning all about niagara falls!

    • November 14, 2018 / 11:41 am

      Aah then it’s the perfect year to go, Harmony! I will say it’s so great for kids. My girls loved it.

  14. Rhonda
    November 10, 2018 / 4:37 am

    Those are amazing photos of the different views you see from around the falls. I was at the falls almost twenty years ago and wish I had taken the cruise to get close to the falls.

    • November 14, 2018 / 11:51 am

      Thanks Rhonda – if you ever go back I def recommend the Hornblower cruise!

  15. November 10, 2018 / 6:54 am

    Beautiful photos. I have been wanting to see Niagara Falls for so long. I had planned a trip , but had to be cancelled . Would so love to go there. This post comes in such a good time, and reminded me of visiting Niagara. Thank you so much for this post. #farawayfiles

    • November 14, 2018 / 11:42 am

      I hope you make it there some day, Ushasita!

  16. November 10, 2018 / 7:51 am

    This is really ineteresting. I had no idea the waterfalls were so ‘disney’!! I can see why you weren’t deterred though they look amazing. The Hornblower boat looks incredible and something I would defiantly want to do What a unique way to see such a vast volume of water. #FarawayFiles

    • November 14, 2018 / 11:50 am

      Thanks Angela- the Falls themselves aren’t Disney, but much of the attractions surrounding them. I had no idea either. But I suppose with any mass attraction you have to take the good with the bad!

  17. November 10, 2018 / 9:09 am

    We visited Niagara about 8 years ago and I went there knowing it would be touristy, but didn’t quite expect the Vegas meets Disney vibe, so I was a little surprised. Nonetheless, it is an incredible sight, and one definitely to be seen. We did the boat trip as well, I think you just have to embrace it all. #farawayfiles

    • November 14, 2018 / 11:43 am

      I totally agree, Janis. Just accept the craziness and enjoy!

  18. November 11, 2018 / 5:47 pm

    Niagra Falls has to be experienced and I’ve no doubt we will go one day. These are some great tips. Like you, I hate mass tourism but it’s usually for good reason. Thanks for hosting #farawayfiles

    • November 14, 2018 / 11:44 am

      Agree – touristy places are crowded for a reason. Thanks Elizabeth!

  19. It sounds like we share a dislike for mass tourism and Disney-like attractions, but just like you, I would push that aside and go tomorrow to Niagara Falls if I could! Fabulous photos of the falls, and the tour through tunnels, etc. sounds so exciting!
    #FarawayFiles

    • November 14, 2018 / 11:45 am

      Thanks Annette! They’ve done a really good job at providing unique experiences so there’s much to do besides just looking at the Falls. Despite the crowds it was a fun family trip!

    • November 14, 2018 / 11:46 am

      Clifton Hill gave me a panic attack haha. The rest, doable!

  20. November 14, 2018 / 4:15 am

    A number of people have mentioned to me as well that the best place to experience the Niagara Falls is from Canada. I understand how you feel – I, too, dislike Disney-esque type of tourism but Niagara Falls is a must-visit in spite of the massive (and sometimes, crazy) crowds 🙂 #FarawayFiles

    • November 14, 2018 / 11:47 am

      That’s right, Kat. Touristy places are crowded for a reason so we just have to suck it up!

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