No matter how many times I visit, I am always blown away by the power and beauty of Niagara Falls. While it may not be considered one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the world, I firmly believe that no other waterfall compares. Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls found between the Canadian and American border: Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls… Of course, you can probably guess which of the waterfalls is my favourite! Below is a local’s guide to Niagara Falls, my personal thoughts and opinions of all the best things to do in the area!
Before heading to Niagara, it’s important to know the area is very commercialised. The Falls attract many tourists each year; therefore the immediate area is filled with hotels, restaurants, casinos and littered with arcades, fun museums and rides.
I like to work my way backwards, starting at Clifton Hill (or as my family refers to it, Tacky Town), a road located within walking distance of the Falls. Here you will find a range of activities, including dinosaur adventure golf, a wax museum, the Rainforest Café, Niagara SkyWheel, an arcade and an indoor waterpark.
I would personally recommend the Ripley’s museum and Niagara SkyWheel to start your day, along with a BeaverTail (a traditional Canadian treat). If you’re interested in a few of the arcades or museums, it would be worth your while to have a look at the Clifton Hills Fun Pass, but don’t let it take up your whole day!
From Clifton Hills, you’ll see the American Falls. Be prepared, the first time you see these waterfalls will take your breath away – actually, every time you see Niagara Falls, it will continue to take your breath away. It’s one of the few places you could visit in each season and still find beautiful. If you’re able to stay until nighttime, the Falls are lit up in different colours, and certain nights of summer or on public holidays, fireworks light up the sky over the Falls!
It’s a bit of a walk from the American Falls to Horseshoe Falls, but you’ll be too taken with the views to notice. Upon arrival, the Horseshoe Falls have been known to give off a light mist, which is very welcoming in the summer heat. When glancing back at the other waterfalls, you’ll be able to see a rainbow or two!
I’ve been lucky enough to visit at least once a year, and living within the Niagara area, it’s never been more than an hours drive away. Since I had been living abroad in recent years, my mum and I would make a whole day out of visiting the Falls for just us two, each time I returned home. (See September 2016, April 2017 and September 2017 below!)
One time, we accidentally wore matching outfits and then made a point to photobombing everyone else who dressed similarly to us…
At an extra cost, there are still more activities you can do involving the Falls. Maybe you noticed a boat or two in some of the photos? Did you catch the zip-line? Wonder why there were a bunch of different coloured ponchos and wet looking people? Not only can you view Niagara Falls, but you can experience them on a whole different level – inside, behind and above!
The Hornblower: If you want to experience Niagara Falls at eye level, this is the best way to do it. Both Canada and America offer a boat ride experience that takes you to see each of the three waterfalls, close up and personal. The Hornblower is found on the Canadian side, where they give you bright red ponchos, whereas Maid of the Mist is on the American side, where you receive a blue poncho. The cost of a single ticket is dependant on the type of ride you want.
The most popular ride is in the daytime, but you can also go when the Falls are lit at night and for special occasions (like Canada Day or NYE). As silly as it may look, you’re going to want to wear that poncho almost immediately – I promise you will get wet! Once the boat takes off, you will be blown away by the view, especially when practically inside Horseshoe Falls. I would highly recommend this experience, especially on a hot day. The Hornblower runs throughout the summer season, and I would recommend checking opening dates if visiting in spring/autumn.
Journey Behind the Falls: This experience begins inside Table Rock Centre, opposite Horseshoe Falls, and is only available in Canada. Open all year round, JBTF beings in a hallway, which offers a comprehensive historic timeline of Niagara Falls. Leading towards an elevator, you learn of the time an observation area fell, when the Falls froze over and visits from historic figures (such as former Presidents and the British Royal Family). Once inside the elevator, you descend 125 feet and explore through 130-year old tunnels of bedrock.
When the tunnel forks, I suggest starting with the right-hand side. It’s a long walk in the dark and cold, but it leads to two exciting viewpoints cut straight through the rock: here you will see one-fifth of the world’s fresh water crashing down straight in front of you. It’s powerful and mesmerising, but stand back or you’ll get soaked!
The left tunnel leads back outside, but this time you’ll find yourself on ground level with the Falls. Here you will feel the power behind Horseshoe Falls, where you can practically see behind them as the water flows down river!
When you’re done with all the Falls activities, there are plenty of places to dine and relax. My day will always end at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. Their tropical vibe will make you feel like you’re on the beach, and of course, they play the famous song the place is named for! I recommend trying their margaritas while sat at the bar, you wont regret it.
When you’ve had your fill of food and drink, Casino Niagara is right across the street. Don’t forget, you must be 19 years of age or older to enter (the legal age changes in Canada, depending on the province). My mum and I will usually play for an hour, before checking out the shops located in the same building. Our favourite shop, is Pepper Palace, which sells hot sauce exclusively. Personally, I don’t like hot sauce, but my mom, uncle and step-dad practically drink it. Pepper Palace will give you a giggle at all their product names and even offers samples, for those who dare to try!
If you manage to fit all of this into one day, you will be exhausted! The only other place I would like to recommend in the Niagara Falls area, is the Butterfly Conservatory. With over 2000 species inside, you will find beauty in every corner on the self-guided tour of the building. Of course, there are still more activities you could take part in, including shows, whirlpool cars, gardens and local wine tours!
And just to throw in some trivia, here are 5 fun facts about Niagara Falls:
- Around 13 million people visit each year
- At the current rate of erosion, it could disappear in around 50,000 years
- It is not one of the 7 Wonders of the World OR 7 Natural Wonders of the World
- The Horseshoe Falls were filmed for use in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
- It is one of the world’s most popular honeymoon destinations
I’m sure it’s obvious, but Niagara Falls is my favourite place in the world… Hopefully this helps you when planning your own trip! Feel free to send us a message or comment if you have any questions about my recommendations. Enjoy!