“It’s just a waterfall. Why would you want to go there?”
When you’re planning a trip to Niagara Falls, there’s a good chance you’ll here that statement, or something like it. To those who have never been to the Falls, or have not visited in decades, the words “Niagara Falls” conjure up images of thundering waters and yellow-ponchoed tourists, and not much else.
The trouble is that these naysayers are mistaken. In fact, the sheer number of things to do and see in the Niagara Falls region often surprises visitors, who quickly realize that they simply did not plan a long enough visit. Even those who know about the area’s wealth of parks, museums, attractions, restaurants and adventures often struggle to fit everything in during their visits.
It doesn’t have to be that way. With a little planning and some insider tips, you can do much in just a few days in Niagara Falls and leave feeling like you’ve seen everything you wanted to. So when you’re planning your adventure, keep these points in mind.
Bring Your Passport
The Niagara Falls region straddles the international border between the U.S. and Canada. Both sides of the Falls offer a wealth of activities (check out this site for ideas) and as far as border crossings go, it’s not especially difficult. The catch is that visitors from both countries need to have proper documentation. Even if you don’t plan to cross the border, bring your passport. You never know, and having the right documentation handy gives you flexibility in your itinerary.
During the busy summer months, some of the most popular attractions (like the Maid of the Mist cruise tour) fill up quickly and there can be long lines and waits. Unless you want to spend a significant portion of your vacation waiting in line, plan ahead and make a schedule. Purchase tickets for your “must-do” activities before you leave home, and schedule times for your visit. Just be careful not to overschedule. You’re on vacation, not a forced march, so build in time for meals, bathroom breaks and a few moments to look out over the Falls and just take everything in.
Bringing a Change of Clothes
Here’s the thing about Niagara Falls: it’s wet. Sounds like a no-brainer, but many visitors are surprised by how damp the area surrounding the Falls really is. Depending on the wind speed and direction, the walkways surrounding the Falls might be shrouded in a fine mist, or it could feel like it’s raining from the spray. If you opt for an excursion like the Maid of the Mist, you will get wet, even if you wear the poncho that’s provided. Bring along a change of clothes so you can be dry and comfortable, as sitting in wet pants all day is not going to enhance your enjoyment of the trip.
Book a Hotel Package to Save Time and Money
The hotels surrounding Niagara Falls range from basic, no-frills accommodations to luxury five-star resorts. No mater your taste or budget, you can find a comfortable place to stay for a few days. But before you book the first hotel you find, explore some of the many package options available year around. Most hotels offer some type of package deal that includes lodging, meal credits, spa credits, casino credits or even tickets to popular attractions. Booking such a package can save you some cash over buying each piece separately, and enhance your trip by adding extras that you may not have otherwise thought of.
Head Off the Beaten Path
There are certain activities and attractions visitors should experience when visiting Niagara Falls: the Maid of the Mist, the Cave of the Winds, views from various vantage points. However, some of the most enjoyable experiences come from heading off the beaten path and away from the crowds. Take a walk along the White Water Walk, a boardwalk that follows the Niagara River above the Falls, to see the rapids. Drive a short distance from the Falls to explore some of the local wineries, pick fruit at one of the many nearby orchards, explore the Dufferin Islands or visit the Welland Canal locks to view an engineering marvel. These side trips offer a respite from the hustle and bustle of the area surrounding the Falls and the chance to see more of the beauty of the region.