Niagara Falls is one of the world's biggest and most spectacular waterfalls, with millions of tourists visiting the region every year to witness Lake Erie's dramatic plummet into Lake Ontario. Famous figures from Charles Dickens to Nikola Tesla loved the area, and it's become a honeymoon hub over the years, dubbed Viagra Falls by some.
You can view Niagara Falls from the U.S. or Canada. Each side has something to offer, but if you're short on time, there's one side most people prefer.
There are two cities named Niagara Falls. One is on the Canadian side of the border in the province of Ontario, and the other is in the state of New York. Niagara Falls straddles the border and comprises three waterfalls: Horseshoe, American, and Bridal Veil. Technically, it's Horseshoe Falls that extends across both countries.
If you have a passport, you can cross from the U.S. to Canada via Rainbow Bridge. Proof of vaccination may be required, and disposable face masks are for sale if you need one.
You can take a boat ride in the Niagara Gorge and get close to the roaring foot of the Falls regardless of which side you're on. It's an awesome experience, but you can expect to get drenched. The boat that departs from the U.S. side is called The Maid of the Mist. From the Canadian side, you can take a Hornblower Niagara City Cruise.
You'll find numerous American franchises on the Canadian side, and the Queen Street District provides options beyond fast food. There's definitely more variety in Canada, but it comes at a heftier price, though if you're spending American dollars, you might notice a savings.
On the American side, you won't go hungry. There are crêperies, gastropubs, and cuisines from various parts of the world.
There's no debate here. The Canadian side has famously stunning views, which may be why it's the side most often associated with Niagara Falls. It's postcard-perfect because you can see all three waterfalls and the curving horseshoe effect they create. The Skylon Tower also affords visitors a birds-eye view of the Falls.
The American side affords you proximity and a view of the Falls in profile at Terrapin Point on Goat Island.
The Canadian side is a veritable entertainment mecca that might not be to everyone's taste. At dusk, the neon lights may even remind you of Vegas. There's an indoor water park, no shortage of haunted houses, high-rise casinos, and family-friendly amusements galore.
The U.S. side also offers opportunities to gamble and shop, but the atmosphere is noticeably different and less commercialized.
The Cave of the Winds tour is a must-do activity for your itinerary.
The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center is a new and impressive museum about the area's importance in the abolitionist movement. There's also the free Niagara Power Vista attraction for STEM enthusiasts and casual holidaymakers alike.
The Canadian side has Fallsview hotels that treat guests to breathtaking vistas. This fact counts heavily in the Great White North's favor.
But there are charming B&Bs on both sides. Be sure to do your research and read reviews because budget accommodation standards can vary, and you don't want to be in for any nasty surprises.
The Niagara Falls Illumination Board has been dazzling visitors since 1925. At night, there's a fabulous energy-efficient light show on the Canadian side of the Falls. If you're planning an overnight trip to Niagara Falls, it's more convenient to see the full effect of this spectacle if you're staying in Canada.
Both sides have amazing trails, but the American side wins this category. The Canadian side of Niagara Falls focuses on being a wholly manufactured playground.
On the U.S. side, Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the country. And Niagara Gorge is exuberantly green with the help of mist from the mighty torrent. A recent park expansion opened the space next to the Niagara River to recreational walkers and cyclists, and Whirlpool State Park with its rapids is worth visiting.
The American side is not as hectic as downtown Niagara Falls in Ontario. If nature is a big factor for you, you may prefer staying where it's quieter and less crowded.
The Canadian side is a little safer and cleaner than some areas of upstate New York, and if you head out to Niagara-on-the-Lake, it's an altogether different vibe to the garish ambiance of Clifton Hill and its surroundings. The American side has access to vineyards too.
If we had to choose, the Canadian side wins our clash of the cascades. The view of the Falls is jaw-dropping and contributes to the higher visitor numbers and concentration of amenities. It's perfect for a short day trip.
But if you're going on a Falls-centric vacation, you should make a point to explore both sides. The U.S. has unique access to the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls and a number of worthwhile attractions.