Formed more than 12,000 years ago, Niagara Falls is actually comprised of three waterfalls: American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls. The region is a popular destination for tourists, honeymooners, and some infamous daredevils as well. Visitors come to view the awe inspiring beauty and power of this natural wonder.
Recently, our family had the pleasure of visiting Niagara Falls. The area has so much to see and do that it can be a dizzying prospect to select activities. After a bit of research, we came up with an itinerary to best enjoy our two days in the area. Here are our tips for making your visit to Niagara Falls the best it can be.
Tips for an Enjoyable Family Trip to Niagara Falls
Stay on the Canadian Side
If you have passports, I recommend staying on the Canadian side of the falls. There is much more to do and a wider variety of lodging and dining choices. We stayed at the DoubleTree Fallsview Resort and Spa by Hilton. It’s a lovely hotel with great views within walking distance to the falls, but a bit set back from the busiest areas for better privacy and sleep. There are many lodging options so you are likely to find something that fits your budget.
Invest in a Niagara Falls Adventure Pass
If you want to do any of the activities other than a stroll along the river, you’ll want to book one of the Niagara Falls Adventure Passes. These passes provide one-time admission to a list of attractions along with two day access to the WEGO bus system, which connects most hotels with all of the tourist sites in the area.
The passes also provide bonus coupons for other experiences, dining and shopping. For our two days in the area, we booked the Classic Pass, which included the four top attractions of the area.
- Hornblower Niagara Cruise
- White Water Walk
- Journey Behind the Falls
- Niagara’s Fury
- Save up to 35% when compared with individual ticketing
- Scheduled visiting times allow you to skip the ticket lines
- Tickets are valid all season long
- Convenient lanyard covers all attractions (Hornblower Cruise is the exception, but your tickets will be stapled into your welcome packet.)
When you arrive at Niagara Falls Park, you can redeem your online tickets at any of the Welcome Centers. The staff will help you book times for each of the attractions on your Pass (except the Hornblower Cruise). Look for special “Online Purchaser” lines to speed up the check in process.
Take the First Hornblower Cruise of the Day
I recommend taking the first boat of the day. The Hornblower cruise is the one attraction that is not included with the timed ticketing service. On our first day, the line was down the block with a wait of over 3 hours. Check the boat schedule (at the boat desk or any of the Welcome Centers). It can change depending on the season, crowds and weather.
We were there about 8:15 for the 8:30 departure. Most tourists went straight to the top deck. If it’s not closed off yet, head to the front of the main deck. It’s less crowded and makes you feel even closer to the action.
Although the ride is only 20-25 minutes, you get to the falls fast so you spend a good deal of time in the mist. I wish we had windshield wipers for our glasses. We all LOVED it and wanted to go again.
White Water Walk
I thought walking along the rapids might be boring compared with the waterfalls, but it was quite spectacular. The water flows at nearly 30 miles an hour. The rapids are considered an impassible Class 6. It’s now illegal to even attempt to run these rapids. When folks tried, only 1 in 10 survived. Yikes!
A ¼ mile walk along a boardwalk next to the river takes in the spectacle of these rapids without the danger factor. That said, my daughter was still a little nervous when viewing areas got close to the edge of the water. You might even see some area wildlife. A curious ground hog was quick to say hello in search of a hand out when we were there.
I get motion sickness easily so the folks who run this 4D experience advised that I skip it. After my family did it, they thought I would have been OK. It’s an interesting look into the climactic and geologic events that created the falls. Surrounded by a 360 degree screen, the temperature drops, water bubbles and sprays while snow falls all around. Their is also a moving platform beneath your feet to add to the experience. The kids thought it could have been better, but they still thought it was cool.
Journey Behind the Falls
The “behind the falls” part is less impressive than it sounds. There is a main tunnel under the falls and two shorter tunnels where you can look “through” the falls at the end. The water is rushing by so quickly that it was hard to see anything. It looked like thick fog that made a lot more noise and sent splashes into the tunnel. My kids were not impressed.
This Journey Behind the Falls also includes two platforms right next to the falls. This was the impressive part. My kids stood as close to the falls and they could possibly get. My daughter, who was a bit afraid at the rapids, stood the closest. Drenched by the spray of the pounding water, she said, “I’m the Princess of the mist!.”
More TMOM tips to Improve Your Visit to Niagara Falls
See the falls at different times of the day
Each of the falls reveal themselves in different ways depending on the time of day and cloud coverage. The sun shining directly on Horseshoe Falls in the morning is fantastic. The American falls are better lit by about mid-day. Hopefully you get at least one sun break as you are sure to see rainbows through the spray of the falls. Both falls are lit up at night in a variety of colors.
Catch the Fireworks
Check the schedule for evening fireworks May-October. When we were there, they were Sunday, Wednesday and Friday nights. It’s a really great show, just as good at some 4th of July shows I’ve seen. Keep in mind that shows don’t begin until about 10pm during the summer months. This might be a bit late for the little ones.
Avoid Peak Months
If you can, avoid peak months like July, and early August. We were there in late August, which was less crowded as since many Canadian and American schools were back in session. It’s a great destination in the fall as well. Check out what TMOM had to say about her fall visit.
Take time to relax and enjoy the view
There are a number of vistas away from the crowds to relax and take in the views. Our favorite spot was a row of shady garden benches across from the American Falls.
Invest in one Falls view Dining Experience
There are many restaurants with views of the falls. We chose Queen Victoria Place Restaurant. It has a lovely outdoor seating area, which was perfect for sunset. The kids meals are very reasonably priced. The adult meals are a bit pricey, but our meals were delicious.
Have you visited Niagara Falls? If you have more tips to share, let us know in a comment.