Last year I traveled around Canada (mostly Ontario and Quebec) for several weeks, and after visiting with family in Toronto I decided to go to Niagara Falls.
Niagara Falls could refer to a few different things. First it could refer to the waterfalls themselves. Yes, there is more than one waterfall at Niagara Falls. Who knew? (Well, I didn’t until I went there).
Niagara Falls can also refer to the cities of Niagara Falls, and since Niagara Falls is on the Canada/US border, there are two Niagara Falls. There is the city of Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada (approximate population 82,000) and the city of Niagara Falls in New York, US (approximate population 51,000 people). I think it is worthwhile to see both Niagara Falls in Canada and the US. You can cross the border by vehicle, but yawn. If you can, you should walk across the border via the pedestrian crossing at The Rainbow Bridge. Why?
- It’s a legal border crossing, and you can walk from one country to another…maybe I’m just a travel nerd, but I thought that was so cool.
- There is a sign halfway across the bridge that indicates the international border between Canada and the US. While you still have to go through customs, it’s fun to think you can be in two countries at once (one foot in Canada and one in the US).
- Chances are your border crossing experience will be quicker than the vehicle traffic beside you (although no guarantees on this).
- You can get some great photos while you’re on the bridge (just don’t take photos at Customs).
It is important to remember this is an international border crossing. Be sure to have your passport on you (and any other documentation you may need). Be prepared to declare what you’re bringing/taking out with you, give polite, but short to the point answers when customs officers ask you questions, and follow the posted signs during the crossing. There is a 50 cent toll (payable in US or Canadian coins) when crossing from the Canadian side to the US side.
As a Canadian even I sometimes get the idea in my head that Canada is the natural untamed, wonderland…and that is definitely true in many cases, but Niagara Falls was quite different. The Canadian side, well mainly around the Clifton Hills area, has a lot of cheesy tourist attractions like a Ripley’s Believe It or Not, several Haunted Houses, a midway, and more. That was a bit surprising to me, because I assumed that aside from staying at a new hotel by Niagara Falls that there would just be the waterfalls, and that would be it. Not so. There are a lot of tourist attractions on the Canadian side, but I was content to wander around and take some photos.
If you go across on the Rainbow Bridge when you get to the US side the first place you end up at Niagara Falls State Park, which is the oldest state park in the US. The state park isn’t what I could call calm and quiet, it was quite busy with people when I was there, but it’s still a park and a very nice one at that. There are several tourist attractions on the US side, “Visitor Centers” that are just souvenir shops, but that’s fine. I liked seeing a different view of the falls on the US side (mainly of the American and Bridal Veils Falls), because you can see the falls from closer up.
I did a very budget trip to Niagara Falls, and didn’t do any of the attractions or falls experiences, like Maid of the Mist or Cave of the Winds while I was there. My budget had dictated otherwise, but if I went back, and I do think it would be fun to see Niagara Falls again. I’d probably do an attraction or two, and maybe even indulge in some cheesy fun at Clifton Hills. For now my, 24 hours in Niagara Falls walking across the border, snapping some photos and seeing these impressive natural wonders from different views is an experience I won’t forget.