The ultimate guide to visiting Niagara Falls, NY

  • Post last modified:October 6, 2021
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The powerful Niagara Falls is located at the border between the US and Canada. Some of the best things to do when visiting Niagara Falls include admiring the falls from the overlooks, taking an iconic boat tour and enjoying the nightly lightshows. The majestic waterfall is undoubtedly one of the greatest wonders of the world.

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Guide to visiting Niagara Falls

Misty Niagara Falls
The adoreable Niagara Falls.

What to expect when visiting Niagara Falls

The three falls that Niagara Falls consists of are the American Falls, the Horseshoe Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The beautiful 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. And the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls are entirely located on the US side of the border.

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.

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.

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

Best things to do to in Niagara Falls

There are several good ways to experience the Niagara Falls when visiting. Just to see the falls from the overlooks is spectacular but there’s much more you can do when visiting Niagara Falls. Here the best things to do when visiting Niagara Falls are listed.

See the falls from the overlooks

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

Niagara Falls overlook
Niagara Falls overlook.

Take a boat tour

To take a boat tour is one of the most appreciated and best things to do when visiting Niagara Falls. 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 tours even takes you close enough for you to feel the mist that is created by the water masses.

When visiting Niagara Falls you can take a boat ride from either 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 experience, with the main difference that they depart from different sides of the gorge.

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

Seasonal closure: The boat rides don’t run during the colder months of the year. Typically the tours run from April to October. Check with Maid of the Mist or Hornblower Niagara Cruises for exact dates.

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 and going to Cave of the Winds is one of the best things to do when visiting Niagara Falls.

Cave of the Winds
Cave of the Winds.

Seasonal closure: 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 Cave of the Winds opening dates and hours before visiting Niagara Falls.

See the falls from the air

Another more unique thing to do around Niagara Falls is to take a helicopter ride or a tour by plane over the 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 Niagara 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 when visiting.

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. And they are great ways to enjoy the falls after dark.

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

Best time to visit Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is a nice place to visit any month of the year. Each season has its advantages and the best time to visit Niagara Falls depends on what you’re after.

Visiting Niagara Falls in 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, summer is the best time to visit Niagara Falls. The summer temperatures tend to be in the comfortable region 75-80 °F (24-27 °C). Also, all attractions are open when visiting Niagara Falls during this period.

Cave of the Winds
Summer at Niagara Falls.

Visiting Niagara Falls in autumn

From September to November the temperature starts to plummet. You could be lucky with very nice days when visiting Niagara Falls 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 beautiful when they show their fall colors and with colder temperatures come smaller crowds.

Visiting Niagara Falls in winter

With low season from December to February comes low hotel prices when visiting Niagara Falls. 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 at Niagara Falls but not as much time in the outdoors as in the summer. Winter is the best time to visit Niagara Falls for cheap hotel rates and to beat the crowds.

Visiting Niagara Falls in 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 in April that they open up for the season. In May you see comfortable daily temperatures in the high 60°F (20 °C) region.

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

Getting around in 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 when visiting Niagara Falls.

Some hotels offer shuttle service to make it easier for you to get around in Niagara Falls. But walking is the primary method of transport at the falls. From the Horseshoe Falls hotels it takes roughly 20 minutes to walk down via Queen Victoria Park to Table Rock Visitor Centre.

Another option for getting around in Niagara Falls is to use Niagara Parks Incline Railway. It takes you from the Horseshoe Falls hotel area to the brink of the falls. The railway is available for a small fee and it’s a good option for getting around at Niagara Falls. With the Niagara incline railway you get easier access to the falls from your Horseshoe Falls hotel.

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 when visiting.

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 during daytime
Niagara Falls as seen from the Canadian side.

The hotels offering the best fallsview in Niagara Falls

There are several Niagara Falls fallsview hotels on the Canadian side of the falls. 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 when visiting Niagara 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

The Niagara Falls fallsview hotels offer contrasting views from different distances and angles. You find them marked out on the map below.

Where to stay when visiting

As concluded the fallsview options offer somewhat different views over the falls. They offer spectacular views from different angles and distances.

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

Use the booking tool below to find the perfect hotel for your visit to Niagara Falls. Browse the map for options in various areas, or click on the search button to get all hotels listed.

Booking.com

Other places to visit near Niagara Falls

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.

Visiting Niagara Falls FAQ

Here you find the answers to some frequently asked questions about visiting Niagara Falls.

What time of the year is Niagara Falls open?

The falls are open for visitors 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 visiting Niagara Falls free?

Yes, to view and be amazed by Niagara 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.

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.

When is the best time to go to Niagara Falls?

Niagara Falls is always beautiful to visit. The falls are open 24 hours a day every day of the year. However, some attractions such as boat tours and Cave of the Winds close during the colder months of the year. On the other hand crowds are much bigger in the summer than during the other seasons.

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