Two Countries, One Destination
June 2020 | By Alexa Wheeler | 6 minute read
Imagine standing on top of 1/5 of the world’s fresh water supply, hearing the roar of 600 gallons per second, while taking in the beauty of one of the world’s natural wonders and simultaneously looking across the way at another country.
Sound far-fetched? Luckily, it’s not! Located in northwest New York State straddling the Canadian border, Niagara Falls is the perfect domestic destination for Americans and Canadians alike. And, no matter which side you visit (it’s recommended to visit both if possible), you won’t be disappointed.
THE AMERICAN SIDE
The American side of Niagara Falls often gets overlooked and underrated. But, given that the actual Falls are on the American side, nowhere else in the world can get you closer. Consider exploring Niagara from the American side first to fully experience the sheer power of the Falls, followed by a trip to the Canadian side to appreciate its size and majestic beauty.
For the easiest access to the American side of Niagara Falls, fly into Buffalo, New York. From there, rent a car from the airport and explore. (Pro tip: Car rentals are typically inexpensive in the area as long as your pick-up and drop off locations are the same.)
If you fly into Buffalo in the evening, it’s recommended to stay at a hotel near the airport and get started on your adventure in the morning. If you arrive mid-day, consider exploring Buffalo for the remainder of your first day as the lines at Niagara Falls will already be long.
What to Do at Niagara Falls
You’ll want to arrive at Niagara Falls as soon as it opens to try and beat the lines. And, if possible, try to purchase tickets beforehand so you don’t miss out on any of your preferred activities. On the American side, these main attractions are recommended:
- Observation Deck
- Maid of the Mist
- Cave of the Winds
But, do make sure to allow for spare time as the park on the American side offers several walking trails with exceptional lookout points.
Where to Visit in the Area
Whether you explore the surrounding area before or after your trip to Niagara Falls, there’s plenty to do nearby. Consider spending a day in Buffalo and exploring Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Darwin Martin House, and Anchor Bar on Main Street, home to the original Buffalo Chicken Wing. You could also take a 1.5-hour drive to Rochester, New York, spend a day relaxing at a public beach on Lake Ontario or Lake Erie, or explore the beautiful countryside of the Niagara Wine Trail, USA.
THE CANADIAN SIDE
If getting up close and personal with 600 gallons of rushing water per minute isn’t the adrenaline rush you’re looking for, the Canadian side of Niagara Falls will be more your speed. Tourists flock to the Canadian side of Niagara, and it’s easy to understand why once you experience its full view of the entire Falls (typically with a rainbow in sight) and beautifully landscaped Falls-side pathway.
For the easiest access to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, fly into Toronto, Ontario. You can also rent a car from the airport there and then begin your trip. If you don’t feel like driving, consider other scenic options such as the GO train or bus, or the VIA Rail train. There are plenty of transportation modes available, including tour operators offering small-group private tours around the Niagara region.
What to Do at Niagara Falls
If you’ve already experienced the rush of the Falls from the American side, it’s recommended to spend lunch on the Canadian side (Queen Victoria Place restaurant offers Fall-side views and casual dining in a historic setting), then let your meal settle with a nice pathway stroll. But, if you’re experiencing the Falls fully from the Canadian side, these main attractions are recommended:
- Journey Behind the Falls
- Hornblower Niagara Cruises
- Skylon Tower
And, if you want an outdoor bird’s eye view of the Falls and aren’t afraid of heights, you can also soar from a 220-feet high vantage point for more than 2,000 feet on the WildPlay Zipline. Take flight if you dare!
Where to Visit in the Area
If you have the time, you should consider exploring Toronto – the capital of the province of Ontario, Canada’s largest city, and the fourth largest city in North America. But the true gem of Canada’s Niagara region is Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Niagara-on-the-Lake sits just 30 minutes north of Niagara Falls on the shore of Lake Ontario. This quintessential town boasts 19th century buildings, a picturesque old town and waterfront, and a wine country that has taken a backseat to its neighbor, Niagara Falls. Although underappreciated, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a destination that should be on everyone’s radar. Home to rolling vineyards with chateaus, iconic ice wine, and more than 20 wineries in a five-mile radius (with nearly 100 wineries in the entire Niagara region), Niagara-on-the-Lake is the perfect relaxing getaway that rivals California – but without the crowds.
For the perfect four-day trip to Niagara Falls, here is a “tried and tested” itinerary:
- Arrive to Buffalo, New York in the evening.
- Rent a car from the airport and stay at a hotel nearby.
- Embark on your Niagara Falls adventure early in the morning.
- Visit the American side: Start with the Observation Deck followed by a Maid of the Mist boat ride and the Cave of the Winds (it’s recommended to book your tickets in advance). End your time on the American side with a stroll through the surrounding park.
- Next, head to the Canadian side for lunch and a scenic stroll along the Falls-side pathway.
- Then, drive north to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Enjoy an afternoon drive around town stopping along the lake or at a winery (most of the downtown shops will be closed by this point).
- Finally, end your adventurous day with a quaint dinner in downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake.
- Recommended hotel: Woodbourne Inn
- Recommended dinner: Treadwell Cuisine
- Start your day off with breakfast at your hotel (especially if you stay at Woodbourne Inn).
- Then, spend your day exploring Niagara-on-the-Lake’s wineries.
- Recommended wineries: Inniskillin (for ice wine), Ravine Vineyard, and Two Sisters Vineyards
- Recommended lunch: Ravine Vineyard Winery Restaurant (request to eat outside if weather permits)
- Recommended dinner: Kitchen 76 at Two Sisters Vineyards (request to eat on the patio if weather permits)
- Pro Tip: If visiting in the summer, consider not exploring Niagara-on-the-Lake’s wineries on a Saturday, as many wineries close early for weddings.
- Enjoy breakfast at your hotel in the morning.
- Then, drive back across the border to catch your flight home from the Buffalo, New York airport.
Note: If you’re starting your trip on the Canadian side, or if you can’t visit both the American and Canadian sides, this itinerary can easily be adjusted.
Whether you’re looking for an adventure or simply needing a relaxing weekend getaway, Niagara Falls and its surrounding area is the perfect North American vacation. Get soaked, sip on wine, explore two countries, and take in the beauty of one of the world’s natural wonders – all within one iconic destination that attracts visitors from around the world.