Niagara Falls vacation guide

Niagara Falls is a fantastic place to take a summer trip. Even though this is the busiest time of the year, you will be able to take full advantage of the water based attractions in the sunny, warm weather. Seeing one of the largest falls in the world is definitely an awe-inspiring experience. I was able to make 2 trips over to the falls in the recent years, however, I would love to explore the area more and take a trip to the Canadian side. From what I’ve heard, the Canadian side supposedly is more fun as there are more attractions and even better views of the falls from various hotels, restaurants, and overlooks. Nevertheless, a Niagara Falls vacation is a still a wonderful experience for US tourists as well.

Up close view of Niagara Falls

Either side you decide to stay on, amazing views, endless photo opportunities, and great attractions will lead to a memorable vacation. Surprisingly, these spectacular falls do not earn a place on the the “Seven Wonders of the World ranking,” although they are considered worthy of a spot by many travel experts.  Because of the immense popularity & beauty, Niagara Falls is often referred to as an “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

The Three Waterfalls that make up Niagara

Niagara Falls is actually the collective name of 3 falls: The Horseshoe Falls in Canada, and the American and Bridal Veil Falls in New York. The American Falls reach a height of about 180 feet (due to the rocks at the base) and a width of 830 feet. The Horseshoe Falls are approximately 173 feet high with a width of around 2200 feet. Bridal Veil stands about 80 feet with a width of around 50 ft.

Read more about the Falls

Niagara Falls scenery - Maid of Mist
The Maid of the Mist boat tour is a great summer activity to incorporate into your trip!

There are plenty of activities and attractions in the area. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to take the Maid of the Mist tour which is supposed to be amazing – maybe next time! For now, here are a few that I would put on any must-do list!

5 Fun Things to do at Niagara Falls

Here are my ideas on the best Niagara Falls attractions for first time visitors. Of course there are many more things to do, however, this list should give you an idea of where to start! While pricey helicopter tours are available, there are many free and low cost ways to take in the beauty of one of the country’s grandest natural wonders!

1. Cave of the Winds

I had so much fun getting up close with the falls at this awesome attraction. This fun experience is the best way to get an up close glimpse of the falls. First, you will put on a special poncho and sandals (which you get to keep as a souvenir). Next, you go 170+ feet down an elevator. You will then get to walk across wooden walkways along the Niagara River to Hurricane Deck, which takes you within a few feet of the falls! This was an incredible experience! You can’t get any closer to the falls then this! Note that you will get drenched, but it’s worth it! Read more about my experience.

cave of winds wooden walkway blog

2. Visit Niagara Falls State Park

The oldest state park in the US is the perfect place for photography. There are plenty of scenic overlooks to take great pictures. Binoculars for getting an up close look at the falls are scattered about in different scenic locations. Various activities in the area include: hiking, attractions like Cave of the Winds and Maid of the Mist, trolley rides, and more!

Rainbow over the waters at Niagara Falls

3. See the illumination show

Every night, the falls are illuminated in a rainbow of spectacular colors. What an incredible sight! This was even more fun than seeing the falls during the day! The show runs nightly, with times varying throughout the year. Check out the schedule.

Illumination show in Niagara Falls

4. Visit the Seneca Falls Casino

Seneca Falls was just a short walk away from our hotel, which made it the perfect stop for nightly entertainment. The highlight for me was the beautiful spa, where I received a deep tissue massage. What a gorgeous spa – just relaxing in the facilities is almost as nice as the massage! In addition to traditional casino amenities, you will also find live entertainment, shopping, and a great “Thunder Falls” buffet!

Seneca Casino in Niagara Falls, NY

5. Eat dinner at the Hard Rock Niagara

Although a bit smaller than other locations, we still had a blast at this tourist hotspot. At Hard Rock, you will enjoy a great menu, great memorabilia, and great music! The perfect before/after choice for those heading over to Seneca Falls. Try the twisted mac and cheese – it’s comfort food at its’ finest!

Hard Rock Cafe Niagara Falls

Tips for a great Niagara vacation!

*Bring with a waterproof camera/waterproof phone pouch for the Cave of the Winds attraction.
*A spring trip will guarantee less crowds and cheaper hotel rates.
*Tours are popular and sell out frequently. Avoid weekends and holidays. Buy tickets in advance online.
*Apply for a passport several months in advance (if you don’t already have one) – you will need it to visit the Canadian side.

Top 5 Things to do on my next visit

1. A helicopter ride over the falls – This looks like an amazing experience! I can’t imagine a better view of the falls than soaring above in a guided helicopter tour. We were so tempted to take a ride on our last visit, but had to skip out due to time constraints.

2. Maid of the Mist – This boat tour often rates as the best attraction in the Falls area. Rides can be enjoy from either the American or Canadian side. I imagine this is a great way to get up close with the falls and also learn a little bit more back history on the Falls.

3. Niagara Sky Wheel – Located on the Canada side, this 175 foot high Ferris Wheel, treats spectators to a fabulous view of the Niagara River, and both the Horseshoe and American Falls. Even better, the enclosed cars are heated in the winter and air conditioned in the summer months! Can’t wait to try this out on my next visit!

4. White Water Walk – This attraction on the Canadian side allows you to walk across a boardwalk, looking below at Class 6 rapids. This seems like it would be a unique opportunity to witness the true powers of the water!

5. Hiking in Niagara Glen – I love hiking, so what could be better than a hike with spectacular waterfall scenery? The 2.5 mile trail along the Niagara River Whirlpool is a magnificent trek with only 200 foot elevation gain.

Key Addresses:

Cave of the Winds: Goat Island Niagara Falls, NY 14303
Niagara Falls State Park: 24 Buffalo Ave. Niagara Falls, NY 14303
Seneca Falls Casino: 310 4th Street Niagara Falls, NY 14303
Hard Rock Cafe: 303 Prospect Street Niagara Falls, NY 14303
Rainbow Air, Inc. Helicopter Tours: 454 Main Street Niagara Falls, NY 14301
Maid of the Mist: 151 Buffalo Ave. Niagara Falls, NY 14303
Niagara Sky Wheel: 4946 Niagara Pkwy Niagara Falls, ON L2E 628, Canada
White Water Walk: Niagara Pkwy Niagara Falls, ON L0S 1J0, Canada
Niagara Glen Nature Center: 3050 Niagara Pkwy Niagara Falls, ON, Canada

For information on parking options, visiting the following website: Niagara Falls State Park Parking Lots