This summer I wanted to prove my mom wrong and show her all Niagara Falls, New York had to offer. I visited Niagara Falls, Canada side when I was young and loved it. But I wanted to see Niagara Falls with a fresh perspective. I wanted to see Niagara from the New York/ American side of the falls. People always said the Canadian side is “more beautiful”, “there are more things to do in Niagara Falls, Canada”, etc. However, I was dead set on proving her wrong. I hope to show you that Niagara Falls, New York is a worthy destination, especially given the geopolitical climate.
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Is Niagara Falls better in US or Canada?
Niagara Falls is a natural wonder of the world, but many associate the falls with Canada. People say it is only worth visiting from the Canadian side. After my recent visit, to the United States side of the falls in New York, I can say you would be missing out if you didn’t see the American side.
There are many things to do in Niagara Falls, NY and the views are just as astounding. Before Covid 19 many would say it is only worth seeing the Canadian side of the falls. I would say they are wrong. After pulling up to an epic sunset while I walked along the Niagara rapids, I new my trip was worth it. My visit to the American side of Niagara Falls was only getting started.
Niagara Falls A Quick Rundown and History
Where is Niagara Falls located?
A short 20-minute ride north of Buffalo, New York and 90 minutes south of Toronto, Canada is Niagara Falls. The falls is shared by both the United States and Canada. Niagara Falls is located in-between two of the 5 great lakes connected by the Niagara River.
There are three parts of the falls at Niagara, including Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side, and American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls on the American side. Niagara Falls was created from thousands of years of erosion. When Niagara Falls was formed it was started 7 miles downstream.
Horseshoe Falls has a height of about 167 feet (51 m) and stretches over 2,700 feet (823 m) across at its crest; American Falls drops between 90 and 120 feet (27.5 to 36.5 m) and spans about 940 feet (286.5 m) at its crest; Bridal Veil Falls also has a drop of 90 to 120 feet but is only 45 feet (14 m) wide. Together, the average width of the entire falls is 3,950 feet (1,204 m).
Native Americans settled in the area around 1400 A.D. and French settlers named Niagara Falls after the native tribes that called themselves the Onguiaahra. French explorers turned that into “Niagara”.
Is the American Side of the Falls Worth Seeing?
Without a doubt, the American side is not only worth seeing, but it is just as nice! From the Niagara Falls State Park attraction you can see the horseshoe falls, Bridal Falls, as well as the Niagara rapids before it comes tumbling over the edge. Historically, many people thought the Canadian side is more beautiful due to the rust belt history on the New York side.
However, things have changed and the Niagara Falls, New York has undergone a renaissance. Now a beautiful entrance to Niagara Falls State Park leads you to multiple parks, viewpoints, and bike paths that take you as far as Whirlpool State Park, Devil’s Den State Park, and Fort Niagara State Park overlooking Lake Ontario.
Differences between the American Side versus the Canadian Side of Niagara Falls
What is the biggest difference between the American and Canadian Side? The views. However, in my opinion I don’t think one view is any less inspiring than the other. Yet, if you want the panoramic views of all three falls without having to pay extra for it, the Canada side has the best panorama.
From the USA side of Niagara Falls, visitors can get the best view from the Observation Tower (Sun-Thurs: 8:30 a.m. – 7 p.m., Fri & Sat: 8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.). Also, the American side of the falls allows you to get up close and personal with the American Falls at the Cave of the Winds. Here you can feel the strength of the falls from below.
Here are just some of the things you can do on the American and Canadian Side of the Falls. But for now, us Americans should be happy we have access to Niagara Falls, New York since at the time if writing this we still aren’t allowed into Canada.
What to do on NY side of Niagara Falls?
Niagara Falls the American Side
There are many things to do on the New York side of Niagara Falls that you can also do on the Canadian side. So, while we still are not allowed into Canada as Americans, you won’t be missing out. For instance, both sides offer certain attractions that are a must and allow you to fully experience the Niagara Falls region, including The Maid of the Mist Tour, Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours, and hiking to the Whirlpool Rapids from both sides of the Niagara River (will go into more detail later).
Whether you want to get the panoramic views of the American Falls and Horseshoe Falls at the Observation Tower, or you want feel the mist of the falls by heading on a 30 minute ride with Maid of the Mist there are many ways to unique experiences in Niagara Falls, New York.
How long should I spend at Niagara Falls?
If you are only visiting the New York side of Niagara Falls I would suggest 2 nights and 3 days to do all the activities in this guide. If you would like to add a night to explore Buffalo, New York I would stay 3 nights and 4 days.
What is the best time of year to visit Niagara Falls?
Don’t forget I am a Florida girl so I am always going to say the summer! However anytime from May to October would offer the best weather to experience all of the activities like hiking, biking, and getting wet at Niagara Falls.
Best View points of Niagara Falls, New York
Here is a list of the best viewpoints of the inspiring Niagara Falls.
- Observation Tower with a dizzying spectacular view that will leave you breathless. (American Side)
- Terrapin Point on Goat Island for some cool shots with Horseshoe Falls. (American Side)
- For the Adventurer take Rainbow Air Inc. Helicopter Tours.
- View the roaring rapids of the Niagara River from Three Sisters Island.
- Luna Island makes for some beautiful photos at this viewing point above the Cave of the Winds. Here expect to see rainbows!
- Maid of the Mist is perfect for those wanting to get as close to the Canadian side as you can from the American side. It brings you right up to the basin of the Horseshoe Falls and along the American Falls.
What to do in Niagara Falls region in New York?
Niagara Falls Maid of The Mist Tour
Every 30 minutes set off on a ferry that will bring you into the mist of Niagara Falls and be prepared to get soaked! Well if you are like me and love getting wet especially on a hot summer day. However, if you want to stay as close to dry as possible they do provide a nice poncho souvenir. Get there early if you don’t want to wait in a line since admission is first-come, first-serve.
Viator offers a great tour that includes a tour of the American Side of the Falls as well as your admission to the Maid of the Mist. Check it out here.
Pricing: Adult Ticket $22.25 Child Ticket (6–12 years) $13.00, 5 and Under FREE
- July 6 – September 4
10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
(Monday – Thursday)
- 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
(Friday – Sunday)
- Labor Day Weekend
September 5 – September 6
9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
- September 7
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
- September 8 – November 8
10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (daily)
Cave of the Winds
While its’ namesake is long gone after it collapsed in 1954, this is your opportunity to get up close and personal with Bridal Veil Falls, and the American Falls! Here you can take an elevator down 175 feet to the Niagara Gorge where you will be able to even stand on decks like the “Hurricane Deck”. Here you will feel the force of Niagara Falls, hence the name Hurricane.
Get to the front of the line quicker with a walking tour and a speedy entrance to the Cave of the Winds with this Viator tour.
Pricing: Adult $19, Child $16, Child 5 and under free, Education $11
Hours: Sun-Fri: 10:00 AM – *5:20 PM, Sat: 9:00 AM – *7:20 PM
Hop on Hop Off Trolley
A great way to get around all the attractions in the Niagara Falls region on the American side is the Hop On Hop Off Trolley. There is also a Discover Niagara Shuttle (currently only running on weekends during season and Covid) that takes you from Niagara Falls, NY all the way to Old Fort Niagara.
Niagara Falls State Park
A given, but given the time you should explore all this state park has to offer. The state park has a variety of viewpoints of Niagara Fall, attractions, bike trails, and hiking trails that make for a pleasant visit.
Lewiston, New York
Historic Lewiston is in between Old Fort Niagara and Niagara Falls, New York, and is a quaint town with a vibrant culture. Not only does it have some of the best food in Western New York, it also is chalk full of history! This is where the Americans tried to invade Canada in the War of 1812 and the area has ties to the Underground Railroad. Check out the Orange Cat Coffeeshop if you want to warm up after a wild ride on the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tour!
Whirlpool Jet boat Tours
Located on both the American and Canadian side of the Niagara River this is one heart-racing adventure down some of the largest rapids in the world! Head to Lewiston, New York for the ride of a lifetime on the bluest water you have ever seen in a river! Be prepared to get wet. This tour company was doing the most to make sure guests were safe and stayed CDC complaint. The epitome of how a company should be in tourism making sure its guests were safe during COVID.
Whirlpool State Park
The best thing about the American side of the falls are all the state parks that offer great outdoor activities. Whirlpool State Park offers biking trails, scenic overlooks, and stairs that take you all the way down to the Whirlpools and rapids. There are picnic facilities and a playground. When I hiked down, I saw people fishing and relaxing with a picnic in the sun. The Whirlpool Rapids Trail is definitely worth the 2-hour hike and is a loop trail.
The Whirlpool Aero car can be seen here and is actually on the Canadian side, but is also a sweet ride to get an aerial view of the whirlpools.
Devil’s Den State Park
This state park also offers some great views of the Niagara rapids and hiking trails to wander.
Fort Niagara State Park
Fort Niagara is great for a relaxing day off of Lake Ontario. Whether you visit the Old Fort Niagara a Registered National Historic Landmark and New York State Historic Site or you want to just relax at the HUGE pool while taking in the vista of Lake Ontario while you soak in the rays it is definitely worth a stop on your American Niagara Falls itinerary.
- Swimming/Slide/Wading Pool
- $3 for adults (age 13 and up)
- $1.50 Children 6-12
- Children 5 and under Free
- Vehicle Entrance Fee
- $8 per vehicle *pool additional
- Jan – June: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
- July – August: 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
- September – December: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
- Last admission 30 minutes prior to closing.
- Pool Hours: 7/2/2020 – 9/7/2020, 11:15 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.* last entry is at 5:30
Why visit Niagara Falls, New York?
Niagara Falls, New York is less touristy in my opinion because more people in the past have stayed on the Canadian side. However, there are plenty of restaurants, activities, and things to do in Niagara Falls, New York to keep busy. However, I feel like there were less distractions allowing for the main attraction Niagara Falls to really shine. While there is a wax museum, a Casino, and nearby Buffalo, New York to keep you busy. I found two nights and three days plenty to explore the Niagara Falls USA region.
Niagara Falls, New York is also a perfect place to stay if you are looking to get some great hikes in, cycling, and really appreciate the outdoors. The Canadian side is far more built up and this offers some of the best hiking trails along the gorge, the river, and the rapids. Check out some of the hikes that the Niagara Falls USA tourism board recommends here.
Old Falls Street offers great outdoor and free programming. Check out their site for updates, but if it is happening it is a great spot for family friendly entertainment. 2020 season may not have happened this year, but hopefully it will occur in 2021.
Where to eat in Niagara Falls, New York?
Top of the Falls restaurant is the spot for dinner right as the sun is about to set. It offers the best view in Niagara Falls, New York and is actually on the property of the Niagara Falls State Park.
The Griffon Gastropub is in Lewiston, NY and Niagara Falls, NY offering amazing buffalo wings, American Gastropub delicacies, and has the bomb dot come mac and cheese!
Where to stay in Niagara Falls, New York?
I stayed at the Doubletree Hilton right in the middle of the Niagara Falls State Park. I was literally a 2-minute walk to the Niagara River, and 5 minutes away from some of the rapids! There is an indoor pool as well. If gambling is your thing you can also see the Casino from the hotel. The lobby was beautiful and offered a great onsite restaurant if you are in the mood to just relax at the hotel after exploring Niagara Falls.
Other honorable mentions:
Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino (Adults Only) Perfect if you want a little more entertainment after exploring nature and Niagara Falls State Park.
Fancy something a bit more luxurious?
The Giacomo, Ascend Hotel Collection is a historic luxury boutique hotel and is only an 8-minute walk to the falls! Definitely a romantic feel to this spot.
A Quaint Inn more your taste?
Red Coach Inn is the place for you. Each room has character and it is still very close to attractions, such as Maid of the Mist. So you can change after getting soaked!
Drum roll, please…. So which side of the falls should you visit?
Of course if you are able to visit both sides, however I wrote this to say 100 percent if you can only see Niagara Falls, New York since everyone has different circumstances, definitely DO IT!
This is a perfect stop to add to your itinerary road tripping through New York, and you should also check out my review of the Inn at Taughannock with things to do around the Finger Lakes Region.