Claudia enjoys traveling and bringing her travel tips to readers.
Growing up, I always wanted to see Niagara Falls. People I knew had gone there on their honeymoons, and I'd seen stories of daredevils trying all sorts ways to go over the falls. Frankly, it looked like loads of fun.
Last summer, I finally got the chance to go. We planned an intergenerational trip which included me, my mother, and my teen daughter. What a fun trip it turned out to be, and the falls did not disappoint. The memories we made will last a lifetime.
We live in the United States but wanted to see the falls from the Canadian side, so it took a bit more planning. I liked it so much that I definitely plan on going back to see some of the things I missed. Unfortunately, some things didn't go quite as expected, but I learned some valuable lessons from the mistakes that I made.
Hopefully, you can avoid some of these pitfalls too.
Niagra Falls' Canadian Side: Things You Need to Know Before Going
- To avoid paying fees, you'll want to to check your credit cards' policies before you go. Learn exactly what to ask and why below.
- Be sure to wear comfortable footwear.
- It's a mistake not to give yourself enough time to see everything. Below, you'll find a list of my favorite tourist traps and how much time you'll need to see them.
- The bus is the smartest way to get around, but be sure to get the discount card and a buss pass if you can!
- Check your phone settings beforehand to avoid extra fees, communication complications, and frustration. Scroll down for more information on international roaming charges.
Mistake 1: Not Checking Credit Card Policies
Look around in a store these days and almost everyone is using credit or debit cards instead of cash. When traveling, it's the easiest payment method around.
Before going to Canada, check with your credit card carrier to see if any types of fees will apply to purchases made there.
I pretty much only used my credit card while I was there, and boy was I surprised when I got my statement. On every single charge I made, there was a service fee. Had I checked beforehand, I would have used my other card which doesn't have a fee like that, or I would have used cash. It was very frustrating.
Mistake 2: Not Wearing Comfortable Footwear
This may be a no-brainer, but wear comfortable shoes. I was grateful I took a pair of tennis shoes because we walked and walked, and then walked some more. I didn't realize how hilly it was on the Canadian side (although I can't speak about the American side of the falls).
Your feet are going to feel it. Even if you take transportation around, you'll still be standing in lines, and there are places that cars and buses can't get close to.
Mistake 3: Not Staying Long Enough
We stayed two nights and really wish we had stayed one more. There are so many things to do in Niagara Falls on the Canadian side, and that extra day would have allowed us more time to venture outside of the city.
We did manage to go to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a few hours. If you are planning a trip to Niagara Falls, Ontario, plan a quick side trip to this lovely historic town. Many people told us to visit, and we fell in love. Niagara-on-the-Lake is only about half an hour outside of Niagara Falls, and it's like you are in another world. The flowers along the streets were beautiful and there were quaint shops and restaurants all over the place.
Mistake 4: Not Getting the Discount Card and Bus Pass
I saw ads for the discount card when I was planning our trip but, being stubborn, I figured we would just pick and choose a couple of trips.
Boy, was I wrong. Whenever we would book a trip, I would compare the price of the pass to what we paid and found that we would have saved a lot of money had we gotten the pass.
Get the Public Bus Pass
I realized, a day late, that a cheap public bus pass was the way to get around the city. For a set price we rode everywhere we needed to go. On our last day we just got on the bus and rode it like a sightseeing bus. By that time we were exhausted and it was nice to just sit and ride. I really wish I'd gotten the pass on our first day.
Mistake 5: Not Checking Your Phone Settings
I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but I'm not really good with my phone settings. If it weren't for my husband giving me pointers before we left, I would have been charged massive amounts of money for international roaming charges, and probably other charges that I don't even know about, while using my phone in Canada.
Before you go, make sure your phone settings are set up for when you enter the country.
Also, I'm not sure why, but my GPS didn't seem to work well in Canada. After we entered, we looked up directions for our destination town of Niagara-on-the-Lake (our first stop before we went to our hotel) and followed them. We ended up at a massive hockey stadium. We tried again and it just didn't work, so we ended up asking someone for directions.
My Favorite Tourist Traps in Niagara Falls, Canada
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Journey Behind the Falls
You get to go behind the falls. How cool is that?! The viewing platform is pretty much as close as one can get to the falls. The top photo was taken from that platform. I still can't believe how much water flows over the falls.
Horatio Hornblower (formerly "Maid of the Mist")
Everyone has heard of the "Maid of the Mist" but, according to our bus tour guide, Canada decided to change the name. It's the same boats, you just get a different colored poncho. You will get soaked (which is half the fun) and the views and roar of the falls are impressive. It also runs quickly despite the thousands of people riding.
This tower looks like it's been around a long time, but the views are incredible. You can walk around the top and have a nice buffet dinner. We were there at sunset.
Queen Victoria Park
Despite the hoards of people, this was a charming park along the falls and the flowers were spectacular. In fact the flowers all around Niagara Falls were spectacular. This park had a rose garden and lots of places to relax and enjoy the scenery. The best part is that it is free!
OK, so it's incredibly commercial and cheesy, but it's also lots of fun, especially if you have kids in tow. My teen and I had a fun evening while my mom stayed at the hotel.
Take the quiz!
© 2018 Claudia Mitchell
Mia Sidona on August 27, 2020:
The Maid of the Mist is the American counterpart of the Hornblower.
They are docked diagonally opposite each other and take the same route to both the American Falls and the Canadian (Horseshoe) Falls.
I went there last Fall and rode on the Maid of the Mist. It was awesome.
The Hornblower passed us on the way going in the opposite direction.
Go to the American side in the fall. It is less crowed and more enjoyable.
Justin on June 29, 2020:
I went there once at road the boat! but i warn you before you ride that get two raincoats!
Jen on June 07, 2020:
Good advice except you didn’t mention that by using American money (cash) the value is different Usually American money is worth more so be sure to check how much more or you could get ripped off
Karena on April 05, 2020:
I was born there, and I moved to Florida when I was 9. Check out Queenston heights park with Brocks monument, and Duffrin Island. Also the Glen is nice. I used to live across the street from Sandy Allen who was the tallest woman in the world then. She passed but used to work at Guinness headquarters in Niagara Falls
Claudia Mitchell (author) on March 29, 2020:
Next time we go we'll have to try out the Illumination tour. That sounds like fun! Thanks.
Erika on March 29, 2020:
Good tips! My family and I adore Niagara Falls, CA. We have taken multiple trips because each time there are so many things we still haven't done. We have plans to back this summer if the pandemic crisis clears up.
One thing to note: the boat cruise is Hornblower Niagara Cruises. Horatio Hornblower is a fictional character from a book series. If you have the chance, take the Illumination tour. You get to ride out at night when the falls are lit up like a rainbow.
This year we plan to stay at Jellystone for a different vibe, but I recommend staying on Clifton Hill. You get to experience the energy of the heart of the tourist area and you can walk to many of the places you're likely to want to see. That way you save on parking costs, which can add up. My favorite thing to do is just walk down and see the falls. Last year we took a day trip to Canada's Wonderland. If you're into amusement parks and rollercoasters (like my husband and kids) I recommend looking into that. I liked that they have Peanuts characters. (They are owned by the same company that owns Cedar Point here in Ohio.)
Nancy on February 21, 2020:
Thank you so much for the info. It is on my bucket list. Planning for this fall. Looking into both the US & Canada sides.. maybe both.
Wonderful tips & suggestions!
Jo on February 04, 2020:
We go to Niagara Falls, ON often(I live about 2 1/2 hrs South in the US). Your tips are spot on. One thing, however, when using cash, sometimes if something is, say $5 Canadian, and you give a $20 in American money, they will give you $15 Canadian back..with the exchange rate, you’re actually losing money every time like that. So we only use cards over there.
Dominique Cantin-Meaney from Montreal, Canada on January 05, 2020:
I haven't been to Niagara Falls, Ontario, since I was a teenager. I would definitely like to go back though.
Gerald on November 10, 2019:
Before you go to the falls, watch the 1953 movie "Niagara" starring Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotton. You will get an idea of how things looked back then.
Chuck on October 14, 2019:
The "Maid of the Mist" use to run boat tours from from both sides, but lost the contract to hornblower (California Company) a few years ago.
Umesh on October 05, 2019:
Thanks and nice informative post
Elly Kaye on September 19, 2019:
Do not miss the Butterfly Conservatory at the Botanical Gardens! We spent 2 hours there and it felt like 15 min!! Breathtakingly beautiful plants and flowers and thousands of butterflies flitting around you! Don’t forget your camera!!
judith on September 18, 2019:
thank you for this post!!!
Claudia Mitchell (author) on August 27, 2019:
Thanks for reading. That jetboat ride did look fun!
Pete and Sue Casey NZ on August 27, 2019:
We visited the Falls 6 weeks ago, and was amazed by them and the awesome place Niagara Falls (Canadian Side) was.
A must do, is the Whirlpool Jetboat Ride. WOW. Excellent value for money.
Enjoyed your post, and thanks for sharing your experience. :-)
Lily Barrios on August 03, 2019:
Great Post!! Very informative!!
marc meyers on July 17, 2019:
i am from Belgium
i have visite many years ago the falls i believe 1989.
we are considering to do it again
many things are changed, more hotels and more things to do
looking forward to come.
Claudia Mitchell (author) on July 08, 2019:
I hope you get to see the falls soon. It's lots of fun. I think I make mistakes on every vacation I've ever taken. Some bigger than others. Thanks for reading.
Besarien from South Florida on July 08, 2019:
I have never seen either side of the falls, but would love to see them both one day. Thank you for this guide to the Canadian side! By the way, I've made mistakes on holiday, too. Hubs are a great way to make lemonade out of those lemons, and help others avoid some of the pots holes on Holiday Road.
Faustino on July 06, 2019:
Great information! Thank you!
Claudia Mitchell (author) on June 30, 2019:
Glad you liked the article. Check online or in brochures or in your hotel for the passes.
Maureen Gringle on June 26, 2019:
Thank you !! I just need to know where to buy the pass etc ???
Claudia Mitchell (author) on June 04, 2019:
The hotel we stayed in had all of the bus info in the lobby and the concierge was able to tell us everything we needed to know. The fee I was talking about was the foreign transaction fee, but I don't know what every credit card company does so you would have to check with your credit card company.
Ej on June 04, 2019:
Moreover, you said there was service fee. Is it foreign transaction fee? If you use your credit card out side of US, there is fee whenver you use a credit card. But some of credit card do not have foreign transaction fee like capital one credit card.
So i am wondering you regard service charge as foreign transaction fee.
Ej on June 04, 2019:
I am going to drive from us to niagara falls. So what you are suggesting to get public bus pass? Where to get this?
Is there bus map ? How do you fogure whay number bus you have to take to the your destination? I am thinking to walk or take my vehicle to see around.
Claudia Mitchell (author) on April 02, 2019:
Sorry I wouldn't be able to answer that.
Nancy on March 31, 2019:
Hello do you need permission from your lender for your vehicle ?
Claudia Mitchell (author) on March 10, 2019:
We drove, so I am not familiar with the Buffalo airport.
susy on March 09, 2019:
Did you leave from Buffalo Airport? Because we have a trip planned in the end of May, and I didn't realize it was 45 minutes away and that's not counting the time stopping at the border. How did it go for you if that's the case?
Claudia Mitchell (author) on September 04, 2018:
Thank you and I hope you have a good time when you visit the Falls.
Fatima on September 03, 2018:
Thanks for sharing your experience with us and also for your precious advices.
Claudia Mitchell (author) on August 27, 2018:
Oh Liz - I have many more places I'd like to see in my lifetime but unfortunately budget always rears its' ugly head. I know what you are talking about. Thanks for reading.
Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on August 26, 2018:
So many places I want to travel and see, but on my fixed income, it isn't going to happen. I'll do all that travelling from the spirit world once my days on Earth are finished. ;)
Claudia Mitchell (author) on August 22, 2018:
Have fun. I would love to go back.
Claudia Mitchell (author) on April 17, 2018:
Thanks Dianna - It would definitely be worth a visit. It was very touristy, but sometimes that is lots of fun too.
Dianna Mendez on April 14, 2018:
I would love to visit one day. Great shot of the ferris wheel, not my favorite ride but it's pretty.
RedElf from Canada on March 27, 2018:
Awesome article. The parks and gardens are gorgeous, aren't they. I'd love to visit the American side sometime :) Just to see some of the wedding chapels.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 27, 2018:
I got to see both sides of Niagra Falls with my family when I was only 12 years old. I know that I would enjoy going back and spending more time there after reading your post. Thanks for all of the tips!
Marina G Corbin on March 26, 2018:
Great info but one thing: Staying longer is often too expensive for the common folk. I just wanted to bring that up. You could add some affordable places at that location.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 25, 2018:
This is an enjoyable article. I've never seen the Niagara Falls in person, but I'd love to do so. The area certainly sounds interesting. Your tips should be very useful for people visiting the area.
Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on March 25, 2018:
I haven't been to Niagara falls yet but am hoping to before the summer is out. Thanks for writing these tips as there are several mistakes I definitely would have made and having waiting this long to visit I really want to get the most out of it. As for getting over my fear of heights . . . well. . .
I do plan on trying to get to Niagra on the Lake as it sounds lovely.
srsddn from Dehra Dun, India on March 25, 2018:
Very useful tips, Glimmer. Some of my friends have visited Niagara Falls, but did not discuss these issues. Sometimes even a small tip can add to your comfort while visiting such places. Thanks for sharing.
Readmikenow on March 25, 2018:
Good article! Visiting Niagara Falls in Canada is always a great experience. I would also add that if you go on the Maid of the Mist tour you should accept the fact you're going to get wet. It's part of the experience. Enjoyed reading this.
Claudia Mitchell (author) on March 25, 2018:
Thanks Bill & Donna - Bill - I had no idea what a beautiful area it is around the city. Also if you are a big wine fan there were vineyards everywhere. I definitely want to head back and see the surrounding area. Donna - I didn't realize the point about the birth certificate/passport. I just know that when I was planning I heard lots of different things from people, but luckily I have a passport so there were no issues. Glad you enjoyed the article.
Donna Herron from USA on March 24, 2018:
I haven't been to Niagara Falls, but I've wanted to go since I saw the movie "Niagara" with Marilyn Monroe. I didn't know that my phone had international roaming settings, so thanks for the tip. Also, as you pointed out, most US citizens might not realize that you can get into Canada with just a birth certificate, but you'll need a passport to get back into the US. Thanks for the great tips!
Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on March 24, 2018:
Hi Glimmer. Great hub. I guess we just assume that going to Niagra Falls is a simple trip, and doesn’t require much planning. Your experience should certainly help anyone planning to visit the falls, especially the Canadian side. I wasn’t aware of all the other things to do around the falls so good information.