How to get the full experience of Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls consists of three different falls. The American Falls, the Horseshoe Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The falls are located at the border between the US and Canada. Some parts are best experienced from the US side of it and some from the Canadian side.

You can observe the falls from overlooks, take a boat ride up close, literally feel the extreme power by visiting Cave of the Winds or see Niagara from the air. It’s pretty in daytime but also special after dusk in combination with colorful lightshows and beautiful fireworks.

And some Niagara Falls hotels offer fallsview which even enables you to see the magnificent falls from your own hotel room. Continue reading to find out how to get the full Niagara experience.

Misty Niagara Falls
The adoreable Niagara Falls.

The three waterfalls that are Niagara Falls

The three falls that Niagara Falls consists of are the American Falls, the Horseshoe Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The group of waterfalls is located at the southern end of Niagara Gorge.

As much as six million cubic feet (168,000 m3) of water passes through the falls every minute. Horseshoe Falls is the largest part of the group and has the highest flow rate of all waterfalls in North America. It straddles the border of the US and Canada. The American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls are entirely located on the US side of the border.

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In the picture below the three falls appear. From left you firstly have the American Falls on the US side. Also on the US side, Bridal Veil Falls is second from the left. It’s separated from the American Falls only by the tiny Luna Island. Horseshoe Falls is the waterfall furthest to the right in the picture. It crosses the international border and is separated from Bridal Veil Falls by Goat Island.

And that’s it. A group of three beautiful waterfalls that goes under the name Niagara Falls!

Niagara Falls
From the left the American Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls and the Horseshoe Falls.

Things to do to fully appreciate the magnificence of Niagara Falls

There are several good ways to experience the Niagara Falls. You can see the falls from the overlooks, take a boat tour to get really close, even literally feel the extreme power of the falls by entering Cave of the Winds or see it from the bird perspective with a helicopter or plane tour. And after dusk you can enjoy colorful lightshows and beautiful fireworks.

See the falls from the overlooks

To just see the waterfalls is an experience itself. You get the best view from the Canadian side of the border at Table Rock Welcome Centre. It’s very close to the thundering water that rushes over the brink of the Horseshoe Falls. And this gem is totally free to do!

Niagara Falls overlook
Niagara Falls overlook.

Take a boat tour

The perspective you get when you see Niagara Falls from the duck perspective, from the water surface, is hard to beat. From the boat you look up on the masses of water that thunders over the brink and down into Niagara Gorge. The boat even takes you close enough for you to feel the mist that is created by the water masses.

To take part in a boat tour can choose to either take a boat ride from the US side or from the Canadian side of the border. In the US the boat ride is called Maid of the Mist and in Canada it’s Hornblower Niagara Cruises. Both offer the same experiences, with the main difference that they depart from different sides of the gorge.

Please note that the boat rides don’t run during the colder months of the year. Typically the tours run from some time in April to some time in October. Check with Maid of the Mist or Hornblower Niagara Cruises for exact dates.

Niagara Falls Canada and USA
The US with Maid of the Mist is to the left and Canada with Hornblower to the right.

Visit Cave of the Winds

You get to walk very close to the falls, closer than you ever imagined, when you visit Cave of the Winds at Niagara Falls on the US side. Put your poncho on and take the elevator down to Niagara George. Here you walk on wooden walkways until you reach the so called Hurricane Deck. There you only are a few feet away from the mighty Niagara Falls. Even though you just are at the edge of the falls you can feel how powerful it is.

Cave of the Winds
Cave of the Winds and Bridal Veil Falls.

Please note that the full attraction just like the boat tours only is open during the warmer months of the year. During the colder months of the year the wooden walkways and the Hurricane Deck are closed. Check the offical website of Cave of the Winds for exact opening dates and hours.

Cave of the Winds
The poncho you get will probably not save you from getting wet in Cave of the Winds.

See the falls from the air

The last option for you is to take a helicopter ride or a tour by plane over Niagara Falls. That way you stay dry while getting an amazing perspective over not only the falls but also the surrounding area.

Niagara Falls from the air
View over the falls from the air.

Light shows and fireworks

Dusk doesn’t mean that you can no longer appreciate the falls. Because each and every evening Niagara Falls is transformed to a multi-coloured water and light masterpiece. Lights work with hundreds of LED lights across the Niagara Gorge creates a breathtaking experience not to be missed.

And Canada’s longest running fireworks series is the one in Niagara Falls. The fireworks are set off from within the Niagara Gorge. Shows are available throughout the year with shows more frequent in the summer than in the winter.

Both light shows and fireworks are great Niagara traditions. They are good ways to enjoy the falls after dark.

Light shows seen from hotel room
The light show at the falls.

Which side to stay on when you visit Niagara Falls

So which side should you stay on when you visit Niagara Falls?

The Horseshoe Falls is best seen from the Canadian side. So if you’re after the best access and the best view over the Horseshoe Falls that’s where you should stay.

Some hotels also offer fallsview. To get that great fallsview from your hotel room you definitely need to stay on the Canadian side of the falls.

Niagara Falls as seen from the Canadian side
The Horseshoe Falls as seen from the Canadian side.

Best time to visit the falls

Niagara Falls is a nice place to visit any month of the year. Each season has its advantages. But summer is the most popular time to visit.

Summer

June to August means peak season at the falls. The popularity of Niagara Falls during this period means more people and higher rates for hotels. If you just think weather wise, this is undoubtedly the best time to visit. Temperatures in the region 75-80° F (24-27° C) are to be expected. Also, all attractions are open during this period.

Autumn

From September to November the temperature starts to plummet. You could be lucky with very nice days in October. However, late October could mean very chilly temperatures and even snow. October is also when attractions such at the boat tours and Cave of the Winds close for the season. On the upside the trees at the falls are very beautiful when they show their fall colors.

Winter

With low season from December to February comes low hotel prices. And Niagara Falls is beautiful every season of the year. But let’s not forget that it is freezing during this period of the year and blizzards are not uncommon. However, your hotel room is there to warm you up when you get back from a day out in the cold. Expect a beautiful visit but not as much time in the outdoors as in the summer.

Spring

From March to May you can expect Niagara Falls to go from cold to comfortable. March is much like November in the way that it’s still too cold for the boat tours and Cave of the Winds. It’s not until sometimes in April that they open up for the season. In May you see daily temperatures in the high 60s (20° C).

The falls during winter
The winter shows a different side of the falls.

Which hotels offer the best fallsview in Niagara Falls?

Several hotels on the Canadian side offer rooms with fallsview. It’s icing on the cake to be able to relax in the comfort of your own hotel room with the unique view of the falls. But which hotels in Niagara Falls offer the best fallsview?

There are many great hotels to make your stay both comfortable and beautiful. The hotels that offer fallsview in Niagara Falls from north to south are:

  • Crowne Plaza
  • Sheraton on the Falls Hotel
  • Hilton Niagara Falls/Fallsview Hotel & Suites
  • Four Points by Sheraton
  • The Oakes Hotel 
  • The Tower Hotel
  • Embassy Suites
  • Marriott Niagara Falls Hotel Fallsview & Spa
  • Radisson Hotel & Suites Fallsview Niagara Falls
  • Marriott on the Falls

You find the hotels on the map below.

Click + to zoom or expand the map in the top right corner.

The hotels offer different views with different distances and different angles.

But the closest hotels to the falls are Oakes Hotel, Tower Hotel, Embassy Suites and Marriott Niagara Falls Hotel Fallsview & Spa. Here you get unobstructed views from the first row.

Read more: The best Niagara Falls fallsview hotels >>

The mist from the falls touches the window
It feels like the mist from the falls touches your window at Marriott Niagara Falls Hotel Fallsview & Spa.

So which Niagara Falls hotel should you stay at?

It has been concluded that all the fallsview hotels offer somewhat different views over the falls. They offer views from different angles and distances. However, of the hotels with fallsview Oakes Hotel, Tower Hotel, Embassy Suites and Marriott Niagara Falls Hotel Fallsview & Spa are located closest to the falls.

But maybe fallsview isn’t important to you. In that case you should consider other places to stay as the fallsview often comes with a premium price. There are hotels for most budgets in Niagara Falls.

Select your dates and search for your hotel on the map below, or press the search button to get all the hotels in Niagara Falls listed.

Booking.com

Getting around in Niagara Falls

Some hotels offer shuttle service but walking is the primary method of transport within Niagara Falls. Queen Victoria Park is the area that ties the town and the falls together. That’s from where you can board a Canadian boat tour and access Table Rock Visitor Centre. And this is also from where many choose to watch the fireworks.

But close to the Horseshoe Falls hotels you find Niagara Parks Incline Railway. The railway is available for a small fee and it’s a good option if you want easier access to the falls from your hotel. Then you don’t need to walk from your Horshoe Falls hotel down to Queen Victoria Park to reach Table Rock Visitor Centre.

Other places to visit in the area

Niagara-on-the-Lake is often mentioned as one of the prettiest small towns in North America. Here the pace is low and the scale small. That makes a great relaxing complement to a trip to Niagara Falls.

A highlight in Niagara-on-the-Lake is the well-preserved 19th century buildings in Victorian style with impeccable gardens and pretty tree-lined streets.

But this small town has so much more to offer than just good looks. Niagara-on-the-Lake origins back to 1781 and was once the first capital city of the region Upper Canada. During the war of 1812 important events took place here. Visit Fort George for a good dose of history.

And if you like wine you have really hit jackpot. The climate here is ideal for grape growing, and the town is literally surrounded by vineyards and wineries.

Niagara-on-the-Lake
Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Read more: American road trip from Niagara Falls to the white beaches of Florida >>


FAQ

What time of the year is Niagara Falls open? The falls are open 24 hours a day every day of the year. In other words it’s always open. However, some attractions such as boat tours and Cave of the Winds close during the colder months of the year.

Is it free to visit the falls of Niagara? Yes, to view and be amazed by the falls is completely free. And that includes the light shows and the fireworks. There is no entrance fee. But other possible ways to experience the falls such as by a boat tour, Cave of the Winds or tour by helicopter or flight will come with additional costs.

Which fallsview hotels have the best view of the falls? The hotels located closest to the falls are Oakes Hotel, Tower Hotel, Embassy Suites and Marriott Niagara Falls Hotel Fallsview & Spa.

Are there any beaches near Niagara Falls? Both Lake Ontario and Lake Erie have several beaches to choose from. A popular beach to go to from the falls is Lakeside Park Beach in St. Catharines. Another one is Crystal Beach in Fort Erie.

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