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Niagara Falls New York vs Canada – Things to Do on Each Side of the Falls

Niagara Falls New York vs Canada – Things to Do on Each Side of the Falls

One of the seven natural wonders of the world, Niagara Falls is likely on the bucket list of most families. Regardless of whether you spend time exploring Niagara Falls from Niagara Falls NY or Niagara Falls, Ontario it’s still incredibly impressive.

But families planning a visit to Niagara Falls might wonder: Is it better to explore Niagara Falls New York vs Canada or the other way around?

We wondered that ourselves. So we put Trekaroo writers and contributors to work to determine the best vantage point for viewing this amazing natural wonder! Here’s everything you need to know about choosing where to see Niagara Falls.

Niagara Falls New York vs. Canada

Getting to Niagara Falls

niagara falls New York vs Canada

The four westernmost Great Lakes feed into the Niagara River before heading over the falls and eventually into Lake Ontario. The falls drop a crazy amount of water- 681,750 gallons per second flowing over Horseshoe Falls to be precise. Falling at speeds of 32 feet per second and creating 2,509 tons of force, visiting Niagara Falls is an experience your family won’t ever forget.

From the United States side, getting to Niagara Falls NY is a breeze. Buffalo, NY is only 19 miles from Niagara Falls State Park. From the Canadian side, getting there is a bit trickier. The closest big city is Toronto, 85 miles away from the Falls. If you are planning on spending time in Toronto, check out our picks for the Top 10 Things to do in Toronto with kids

Renting a car and driving this distance is pretty simple. Many families from the Canadian side choose to take tour buses that pick you up and drop you back off at your hotel.

My family LOVED our tour with King Tours in Toronto. They picked us up and returned us directly to our hotel room; we explored the Falls, visited nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake, and even went wine tasting. The kids made friends on the bus and mom and dad loved not having to drive back in Toronto traffic. Check out King Tours when making your tour reservation.

Winner – Niagara Falls New York. Getting to and from the Falls is much quicker on the US side, plus, you can squeeze in a visit to Fort Niagara- a 300-year-old US fort.

Niagara Falls New York vs Canada- Boat Ride to the Falls

Which side of Niagara falls is better to visit
Niagara City Cruises Boat Tour by Katie Bodell

No matter which side of the border you are on, boat tours are offered that take families to all three falls (Horseshoe, American and Bridal Veil). This experience is one that can’t be missed! There is nothing like feeling the “mist” of the water encompassing everything all around you. It is a family-travel memory I will honestly never forget.

Niagara City Cruises operates on the Canadian side while Maid of the Mist has been offering tours on the American side since the 1800s. Both tours include ponchos.

Tours are 20 minutes long and both tours operate seasonally (typically April-November). Niagara City Cruises typically extends its season through the end of November. Prices are similar, and both operators offer similar package deals.

Winner –  Niagara Falls Ontario, Canada. Niagara City Cruises offers the only nighttime tours of the Falls. (yay water fireworks!)

Here is a guide to visiting Niagara Falls Canada in winter.

Niagara Falls New York vs. Canada- Best View of the Falls and How to Walk There!

NIagara Falls American Side
Photo by Bigstock/janstarstud

Both the US and Canadian sides of the Falls offer a Journey Behind the Falls walking tour, an additional option for those looking to get up close to the falls. Both also feature spectacular views of the falls up close. The panoramic views on each tour are very similar, with rock cutouts behind Horseshoe Falls and observation decks to view from water level (and get soaked upon!).

The US boasts another tour, Cave of the Winds, which oddly enough doesn’t go through any caves. This walking tour takes families down 175 feet to the “Hurricane Deck” next to Bridal Veil Falls. This tour is the closest (and wettest) you’ll get to the Falls on foot. They even provide souvenir sandals so your shoes don’t get soaked!

Winner – Niagara Falls, New York. Cave of the Winds is an experience all in itself.

Ready to explore more of New York? Check out our picks for the Top 10 Things to do in New York State with Kids.

Other Things to Do in Niagara Falls New York vs Canada

Photo by Bigstock/Maxbur

Although most visitors to the area come for the boat and walking tours, there are quite a few other things to do while visiting the Falls.

Things to Do in Nature Niagara Falls, NY

Niagara Falls USA

On the New York side, exploring the Falls is all about nature. As part of Niagara Falls State Park, one of the oldest state parks in the US, families can explore the history of the region while discovering the waterfalls themselves.

The Niagara Gorge Discovery Center teaches kids about the geology of the region, including fossils and formations. Kids will love the rock climbing wall and hands-on displays. Marked hikes throughout the park take families past the ruins of the first hydroelectric station, as well as the opportunity to scramble over boulders.

The Adventure Theater, located in the state park visitor center, screens showings of “Niagara: Miracles, Myths & Magic,” showcasing the history of the Falls. The Niagara Aquarium boasts more than 1500 aquatic animals!

Things to Do in Niagara Falls, Canada

Niagara Canada

The Canadian side of Niagara Falls, situated in the city of Clifton Hill, is all about adventure. Adrenaline junkies won’t want to miss attractions including WildPlay’s Niagara Falls Zipline to the Falls, a 2,200 foot zipline past the American Falls to the base of Horseshoe Falls.

They also shouldn’t skip the WildPlay Whirlpool Adventure Course suspended above views of the Niagara River. The White Water Walk showcases the power of the water as you tour the river on boardwalks that showcase the Whirlpool Rapids. The Whirlpool Aero Car, which is over 100 years old, suspends families over the Whirlpool rapids in antique style.

Additional Canadian-side attractions include the Butterfly Conservatory, Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, the Floral Clock, Niagara’s Fury– a  360-degree 4D theatre that showcases the power and history of the Falls, golf, hiking in the nature center, observation tower, and of course, the casinos. Read details of all the Canadian side offerings in our Guide to Visiting Niagara Falls with kids

Winner – Niagara Falls, Canada for the sheer number of attraction options.

Restaurants & Shopping in Niagara Falls

Skylon Tower
Skylon Tower

Both sides of Niagara Falls offer a variety of restaurants and shopping opportunities. On the Canadian side, visitors will find fast food restaurants, family-friendly chains (like the Hard Rock and Rainforest Cafe), casinos, buffets, and lots of souvenir shopping.

The water’s edge along the New York side is actually a state park. The US side feels quite a bit more natural than its neighbor. Just outside the park grounds in the US sits a wealth of restaurants and shopping opportunities. (Another Hard Rock Cafe sits on the American side should you really need to get a pin or t-shirt!)

Want to get fancy? Book a reservation at a restaurant with views of the Falls. The Canadian side boasts a slew of them, including the rotating views at Skylon Tower which sits 775 feet above the Falls. The Keg Steakhouse & Bar, Table Rock House Restaurant, and Morton’s Grille are also good options.

Winner – Niagara Falls New York. Although we like the options on the Canadian side, we love the natural focus in the US; there are still plenty of restaurants and options for shopping and snacking, but you won’t feel like you are in a tourist trap.

Hotels Near Niagara Falls

On the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, there are plenty of options for families. From kid-friendly resorts like Trekaroo family-favorite Great Wolf Lodge to Oakes Hotel Overlooking the Falls with impressive views, there is a wide variety of hotel options near the falls and right in the action. If you do choose the Great Wolf Lodge, we have a great article filled with Great Wolf Lodge tips.

The hotel options on the US side of the falls are a bit less plentiful but still diverse. Options include favorite chains like Holiday Inn, DoubleTree by Hilton, Sheraton and Comfort Inn.

Check rates on Niagara Falls hotelsBest Rates Guaranteed.

Niagara Falls Bundled Discounts

The Canadian side of Niagara Falls offers bundled discounts to explore the attractions and activities. 

The Niagara Falls Adventure Pass offers three bundles, depending on the activities you hope to do. All passes include WeGo bus passes; visitors can then select attractions based on their interests including nature, classic tours, and plus, which allows admission to nearly everything.

Winner – Niagara Falls Canada. We like that Canada gives us options on what we want to see and experience. Niagara Falls, New York no longer offers bundled discount passes.

Related: Explore our guide to visiting Niagara Falls with your family.

Tips on Crossing the Border at Niagara Falls

NIagara Falls Canada is accessed by a bridge
Photo by Bigstock/p.lange

If you still can’t decide which side of the falls to see, you could always see both. There are a few options for crossing the border:

Driving across the border: You can drive across the border at Rainbow Bridge, Whirlpool Bridge (Nexus only), and Lewiston Queenston Bridge.

Trekaroo Tip: Single parents will need a certified letter with permission to cross the border without both parents. If you are caravanning, be sure your kids are in your own vehicle at the border.

Walking across the border: You can also walk or bike across the border on the Rainbow Bridge, a fun option if you don’t want to wait in a line of cars. The same passport rules apply.

Katie Bodell