As part of my summer vacation, I spent some 24 hours in Niagara Falls, ON (means: on the Canadian side). Much more than the Falls themselves, this place is a touristic wonderland built all around the natural wonder. Here are some impressions and my view of visiting one of Canada’s key attractions.
Niagara Falls – Location and Areas
“The Niagara Falls” are in fact three waterfalls within the border zone between Ontario, Canada, and New York State, USA. Typically, you refer to the Canadian-side as Horseshoe Falls when you speak about the natural wonder, which is by far having the highest flow rate of water and is regarded to be the most beautiful one. On the US side, there is also the American Falls, which are quite popular, and the comparably tiny Bridal Veil Falls (also Luna Falls) nextby.
The city of Niagara Falls is also split into a Canadian and an US part. Though the Ontario part is definitely superior in that, both cities have a lot of entertainment around the natural beauty. We only stayed in the Ontario part, crossing the border is however easily possible (if you have the necessary ESTA or visa and a permit of your rental car company) via the Rainbow International Bridge (toll) or other connections.
Niagara Falls – Down at the Falls
Before looking at the touristic areas, the main attractions are of course the waterfalls themselves. From the US side, there is a tower, which you can access majorly to view both US Falls and take an elevator down to legendary Maid of the Mist boat to the Falls. Its counterpart on the Canadian side is the Hornblower – which you can easily identify by the red rain poncho passengers (the Maid of the Mist ones are dressed in blue). You will become really wet due to all the water mist (be careful with your electronic equipment like cameras as well – the tiny water drops may harm it). You access the Hornblower boarding zone through an elevator and a tunnel. Closer to the Falls, there is also the opportunity to take a Journey behind the Falls. A quite new way to reach that area is by zip-line, which feels to be quite popular as well. There is also an incline. On the top of the rocks, the beautiful Queen Victoria Park and just walking along enjoying the breathtaking views is definitely worth visiting (at least on a not-that crowded day). Regularly (which means: daily in summer time), there are night-time fireworks in the area as well – be early for a good view!
Niagara Falls – Clifton Hill
If you think about the touristic area and street fun, you think about Clifton Hill. Listing all attractions, which are aiming to reduce your tourist budget, would blow the volume of this posting. The one I most enjoyed is the Skywheel, which gives you a lovely view over all three falls and was also a quite long ride for the 12.99 CAD admission price (ride may be shorter in high peak times, I guess). Very popular destinations are also Ripley’s Believe it or not, which is located in a tilted skyscraper-alike building, one of the wax museums or the amazing Bird Kingdom, which I visited on my 2016 trip to the Under 19 Floorball World Championships. There are also a lot of ghost houses and adventure golf / indoor mini golf areas as well as amusement zones. One building complex also hosts an indoor water park and a casino.
There are also numerous dining options, starting from the lovely architectured Burger King and take aways to posh options. Clifton Hill is of course very fascinating in the evening, when most of the places are beautifully illuminated.
Niagara Falls – Fallsview Area
It is not too hard to assume where this Niagara Falls area’s name is coming from: located uphill from the Horseshoe Falls, the places around offer an amazing view of the Niagara Falls – at least if they are tall enough or in unblocked view. There are several tall hotel buildings (see below), the key entertainment is the Fallsview Casino as well as an IMAX. The key touristic attraction is the Skylon Tower, which may feel a bit outdated in its entrance area, but gave a great view over both falls. The trip up the 220 meter high tower is about 15 CAD – you may however decide to combine your visit with some food to have quite nice packages: we chose the buffet lunch in the tower, which has been absolutely nice (in contrast to some reviews we read before). The price, 34 CAD for lunch (drinks apart from coffee and tea not included), is a really nice deal if you deduct the admission. The service was absolutely nice and the total bill (85 CAD incl. tax) more than reasonable. You may run into travel groups, though, and dinner is a bit more pricey. One level below, there is a rotating dining room, in which you order from the menu.
Niagara Falls – Ticket Packages
Niagara Falls is never about saving money (though I have to say that there are really hardly any touristic rip-offs) – but if you plan your trip ahead and think about what you really need, you might get quite a decent value for money. One of the reasons is that there are coupon books almost anywhere which give you a small discount on practically all attractions.
If you really want to do a lot of attraction visits, you should not miss to think about ticket attraction packages. The most interesting packages are the ones offered by Niagara Parks: the likely most sold Classic option includes the Hornblower, the Journey behind the Falls, the White Water boardwalk access and the Niagara*s Fury movie show as well as two days of bus riding for 65 CAD (online price). You may also spend roughly 110 CAD to additionally have access to some of the other attractions nearby like the Whirlpool Areo Car or the Butterfly Conservatory.
For Clifton Hill, there is the Fun Pass, which includes the Skywheel, three adventure rides, adventure or mini golf and a wax museum for 30 CAD. You may also receive some tokens for the arcades around.
Niagara Falls – Where to Stay and Park
If you want to do it the posh way, there is no other option than going for the Fallsview hotels and reserving a Falls view room (be careful, some rooms may only give a view on the US Falls). Being posh however means that you easily spent 300 to 400 CAD for that experience, which may be especially breathtaking during the fireworks. On the other hand, Skywheel and Skylon give you great views as well for a minor investment – thus, we decided to skip our initial reservation and go for a Clifton Hill Place: we felt very happy with the Days Inn & Suites Centre Str (there are multiple outlets of that brand in the city, but this one has the best reviews): it is conveniently located with just a short walk to Clifton Hill and the Falls and the price was about a fourth of our original booking. Finally, you are out there in the city, being amazed by the falls or doing some of the distractions, that I really liked that option. If you are not too much into the nightlife, you might even go for one of the options in the region and just travel in to Niagara Falls for the day – most hotels charge you for parking anyway – and even much more than you pay on one of the numerous parking sites. Prices may however change during peak periods, which I assume to be July to September weekends.
Niagara Falls – Picture Gallery
Toronto 2018 – Gallery
A full gallery of pictures taken during my time in Toronto in July 2018 may be found here:
Postings about Canada
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Other Top Picks
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