I am sure I could have created a list three times this long for one of North America’s most recognizable locations, but five is enough to hit the highlights. So without further ado, here are five things to love about Niagara Falls!
1. The Falls
The falls themselves are – of course – the star attraction. Whether you’re checking out the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side or the Bridal Falls / American Falls tandem on the American side, there is more than enough waterfall goodness to enjoy.
The crest of the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian Side
The best views are on the Canadian side, where you can see most of the Horseshoe Falls as well as across to the falls on the US side, but the American view is nothing to sneeze at:
I never tire of the view, even when turning away from the falls…
On the American side there’s a great set of switchback stairways just to the left of the falls. It looks like something you’d shoot in Asia rather than upstate New York…
2. Double the Falls, Double the Attractions, Double the Fun
One unique aspect of Niagara Falls is that it straddles the border between Canada and the United States, so you get two different takes on how to showcase a world class natural attraction. If you have your passport handy you can even walk across the Rainbow Bridge from Canada to the US and vice versa. Or, if you find yourself tired halfway across you can stop, check out the falls from the middle of the bridge and then head back. No one will judge you, except your fitness trainer, who likely isn’t on vacation with you; which is a good thing when you’re at the hotel buffet in the morning – after all, what happens on vacation, stays on vacation. Unless of course you gain fifteen pounds during your trip, in which case what happens on vacation stays with you until you work it off again.
If you do visit the New York side of the falls, you’ll be trekking into Niagara Falls State Park, where they offer miles of hiking trails, picnic tables, exhibits, fishing, concession stands, and more. It feels more like a self-contained park than on the Canadian side, where you literally walk right up to the rail and take in the falls without entering a formal park area.
The Americans do it well, and although the views aren’t as good as on the Canadian side, the park is great and the staff is pretty good. You can also access the Maid of the Mist and a number of other attractions there.
Not only do you get different waterfalls on each side of the border, you also increase your odds for shopping, with heaps of outlet malls on either side. Dig casinos? On the Canadian side you can gamble your face off at the upscale Fallsview Casino or just down the road at Casino Niagara. If you’re partial to spending your time in New York then Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino might be more your speed. I’ve been to all of them and am partial to Fallsview – they also have an excellent buffet – but that’s just me.
Two versions of Niagara Falls also means double the opportunity for kitschy goodness, which brings us very logically to our next point…
3. Kitschy and Tacky with a Side of Cheese
If you don’t like tacky and cheesy tourist attractions you won’t enjoy the towns of Niagara Falls, Ontario or Niagara Falls, New York. Both are built around the idea that “if we have a world class natural wonder to showcase, building wax museums, ferris wheels, and cheesy theme restaurants is a must”.
The king of kitsch in this area is undoubtedly Clifton Hill (Canadian side). Clifton Hill is just one short street within spitting distance of the falls, but it’s loaded with tourist attractions, plastic mascots, neon signs, and theme restaurants. It’s reminescent of places like Reno or Atlantic City.
The MGM Studios building and other attractions on Clifton Hill (Ontario side of Niagara Falls)
If lions and frogs aren’t you’re thing you can always opt for gorillas ripping down buildings at the Ripley’s building.
The ferris wheel – officially known as the “Sky Wheel” – can be seen for miles around, and is one of my favourite attractions in the area. Not that I’ve ever ridden it, I just think it kind of defines the Niagara skyline.
If you like your ferris wheels with a side of Rock N’ Bowling, Niagara Falls, Ontario has you covered.
And did I mention there’s a blue moose?
4. Niagara Falls is a Ball in All Four Seasons
Summer in Niagara Falls is great – the weather is perfect, if a bit humid, but the mist from the falls help to cool you down a bit. The downside to visiting in the summer is the crowds. Spring and fall are perfect as the crowds are lighter and you have easier access to the prime viewing spots. In fall the leaves are changing colours and it’s absolutely beautiful for miles around.
The one season that surprises me about Niagara Falls is how beautiful it is in the winter. If it’s a cold winter (last year – 2015 – is a great example) you’ll catch some freezing around the falls and it makes for some stunning formations. Of course, it’s cold enough to freeze off uncovered limbs in very short order if you’re not paying attention, but that’s a small price to pay for such unique views.
It was -30 C for days before the falls froze like this last year.
It was gorgeous, but saying it was “cold” is to totally ignore much more appropriate phrases like “biting”, “harsh”, and “ready to move to Hawaii and never look back”. Even so, I’m thrilled I toughed it out. It was like living on another planet, and well worth the effort.
5. Location, location, location
Niagara Falls is one of those natural wonders that brings people in from all over the world. Unlike some other global attractions, Niagara Falls is easy to get to and is in close proximity to airports, cities, and other attractions. You can be in Niagara Falls from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport in just over an hour. Niagara Falls has its own airport, and it’s not far from Buffalo or Hamilton should you decide to fly in to either of those areas instead. When you’re in Niagara Falls you’re near some quaint little towns like Niagara-On-The-Lake and some absolutely killer hiking and nature areas around Hamilton and Southern Ontario.
Being close to Toronto, Niagara Falls makes for a perfect one-two punch if you’re visiting. I live near Toronto and it’s one of my favourite cities in the world. Home of the Blue Jays, the Raptors, the Argonauts, and (okay, I’ll reluctantly mention) the Maple Leafs. Toronto also boasts the CN Tower. Yonge and Dundas Square, a killer music scene, and more Thai restaurants than you can shake a hockey stick at. Toronto’s a great city, and being about an hour and a half from Niagara Falls makes it a no brainer to visit both.
So there you go! 5 things to love about Niagara Falls. Of course, there could have been more – what do you love about Niagara Falls? If you haven’t been there, what are you most looking forward to? Please comment below – cheers!