U.S. vs. Canada: Which Side of Niagara Falls Should You Visit?

Niagara Falls is something you have to see to believe. It’s big. It’s bold. It’s beautiful. But visiting Niagara Falls also requires that you make a few choices. Like the Grand Canyon in Arizona, there are two very distinct sides, both of which have their advantages and disadvantages. Despite what many people think, Niagara Falls is not a national park in either the United States or Canada, which means the experience is not regulated by the national governments and has the potential to be a bit overwhelming and commercialized. Nonetheless, it really is one of those natural wonders that people should make the point to see at least once in a lifetime.

So what side of Niagara Falls should you visit? Consider the following:

Canada

U.S. vs. Canada: Which Side of Niagara Falls Should You Visit?

Prepare for commercialization. After driving through the relatively sparse landscape of Ontario, it can be a bit jarring to suddenly happen upon Niagara Falls from the Canadian side. Right next to the natural wonder that is Niagara Falls is a busy street lined with chain restaurants, shops filled with souvenirs and several tour operators. There is no shortage of commerce taking place right on the edge of the falls, but if you need anything at all, then you can buy it on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

U.S. vs. Canada: Which Side of Niagara Falls Should You Visit?Views are arguably more spectacular.

There are several waterfalls on the U.S. side, which means it’s a lot easier to see all of them from the Canadian side. There is a long, clean view of the massive falls from the Canadian side, which makes the whole of Niagara Falls almost more spectacular when you can see everything all at once. If you’ve come to see the waterfalls and that’s it, this is the place to do it.

Parking is more difficult to find and more expensive.

Follow the signs to find parking on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, and you’ll find yourself driving far, far away. The walk from the parking lot to the falls can be quite long depending on how busy it is. Also, if you park in Canada, expect to pay somewhere around $20.00. If you park in the United States, you’ll only have to pay $10.00 in the state park, and the information station regarding all of the U.S.-side activities is just a short walk away.

Expect more people.

Perhaps it’s the fact that Niagara Falls from the Canadian side is more built up or the views are better, but in general, it’s just more crowded. You’ll be enjoying the view with many others by your side when you experience it from Canada.

The walk is easier.

The path from which visitors view the waterfalls from the Canadian side is paved, making it much easier to navigate for those with strollers, wheelchairs or other mobility issues. It is a wide sidewalk with plenty of room for lots of people, so it’s incredibly accessible, and everyone can enjoy the falls without much effort.

United States

U.S. vs. Canada: Which Side of Niagara Falls Should You Visit?

It’s located in a state park.

Niagara Falls is not part of the United States’ national park system, but it is a state park in New York. This means that it’s not overdeveloped or paved with concrete. There are more trees and meandering walking paths, and the overall landscape is just a lot more scenic. Waterfalls by their very being are natural, so it only makes sense to enjoy them within a natural setting, wrapped by trees, rocks and slick moss.

U.S. vs. Canada: Which Side of Niagara Falls Should You Visit?The area is cleaner.

When you visit Niagara Falls from the United States, it seems to be a bit cleaner. I’m not sure if it is because the U.S. side of the falls are located in a state park or because the rim of the falls isn’t as close to a busy road, but there’s just a lot less garbage when seen from the U.S.

Spend less money on the U.S. side.

It is worth noting that several activities related to the falls are found on both sides, many of which are quite similar (or even run by the same company!). Nonetheless, in cases where there are similar activities, it is always cheaper to take advantage of them on the U.S. side. Also, as noted, parking is less expensive in the United States.

Make it an all-day event.

You can see Niagara Falls for free in both the U.S. and Canada, and you can take the Maid of the Mist (the under-the-falls boat) from both sides as well, but if you want to experience Niagara Falls from as many angles as possible from one country, then visit from the United States side. You’ll be able to take a walk down along a boardwalk that’s practically built below the falls plus there’s a movie and other interactive activities to enhance your visit. The one main highlight in the United States that isn’t found in Canada is the observation tour, which peeks out over top the falls.

Take your walking shoes.

Paths along the U.S. rim are a bit windy, and, in addition to strolling right above the falls, there are several other walking trails in the state park. If you want to enjoy all that the park has to offer, take some time to walk around the rest of the park after you’ve checked out the waterfalls.

Prepare to get wet.

You’ll definitely get up close and personal with Niagara Falls in the United States, and even if you don’t venture down to the Maid of the Mist or the boardwalk under the falls, you’ll still feel a bit of spray. It feels good, especially during the summer months, and it’s not a ton of spray, but do be prepared that you’re likely to get at least a little damp.

My Recommendation

If you have a day to spend at Niagara Falls, I recommend you start by parking in the United States. Take advantage of all of the activities in the United States as well, especially since this is where you’ll have the greatest selection of choices and the prices are better. Once you’ve explored the park on the U.S. side, cross the bridge by foot (don’t forget your passport!) to Canada. Spend the afternoon taking in the sweeping views with a leisurely stroll on the Canadian side, and grab a bite to eat over here for dinner if you’re so inclined. There is a $.50 toll fee to get back across the border, so be prepared to spare a couple of quarters at the border on your way back to the United States.

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U.S. vs. Canada: Which Side of Niagara Falls Should You Visit?
JoAnna is a globe-trotting, idea-inventing, culture-collecting creativity connoisseur with big dreams and a desire to touch all seven continents. You can also find JoAnna at joannahaugen.com and at The 52 Letters Project.

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51 Responses

  1. Abi says:

    I agree with you — do both! The streets around the waterfalls are the most commercialized I have ever seen (apart from Lourdes.) They are so bad, they are almost worth a visit in their own right ;)

  2. Abby says:

    I’ve NEVER been!! It’s ridiculous. When I go, someday, I’ll be back to this post. And go NY for making it a state park!

  3. JoAnna says:

    I was shocked how built up Niagara Falls is, especially on the Canadian side. For some reasons, I always thought it would be pristine and natural.

  4. JoAnna says:

    You live in New York but have never been?? Definitely add it to your to-do list!

  5. Jill says:

    JoAnna, I must respond to your comment about how built-up Niagara Falls is. When I was first there in the 1960s the place to go was the Canadian side because it was clean, beautiful and “not built up”! The New York side was considered to be a “slum” in comparison. A few years ago I visited again and was blown away by how nice the New York side is. A total turn-around. The view is great from both sides & that’s what really matters.

  6. Cam says:

    Sadly, as a proud Canadian, I have to agree that the US side is better. I grew up about an hour away from the Falls and visited a lot as a kid, haven’t been back in years though!

  7. Deb says:

    I very much disagree. Sorry, I love you girl, but this post touched a nerve in me.
    We visit Niagara Falls at least once a year and there is a reason that the Canadian Side is busier, it is better. There are great hiking trails around the escarpment and you can go bouldering just a few minutes down the road at Niagara Glen. We have an amazing wine region just down the road too at Niagara on the Lake.
    The people mover in Niagara Canada can give you a life to places like The Butterfly Museum, Rapids Walk, Journey under the falls, The cable car…so many things to do. And I love the wax museums and Nightmares and Ripley’s Believe it or Not. It is an amazing weekend getaway. And the whole point of it is being fun. Canada has so many places that are not built up and dedicated to National Parks, it is fun to have a place that offers some excitement. You can go 10 minutes down the road and be back in rural Canada hiking the Bruce Trail.
    AND, I have never noticed that the Canadian side wasn’t clean.I’ve hiked through many of the trails around Niagara falls and it is very clean. The city may be busier so our garbage cans may be more full, but it is a clean area and the trails etc are in excellent condition.
    Cam, if you haven’t been there since a kid, maybe you should go back and then decide.

  8. I think this is great advice — see it on both sides & save some money in the process by starting from the US. I must admit after visiting Iguazu Falls I’m less impressed with NF :P

  9. JoAnna says:

    That’s exactly my point, Both sides definitely have something to offer, and Niagara Falls really is stunning wherever you see it from, there are just different things to consider depending on where you view the site.

  10. JoAnna says:

    If you visited it again, I’d be curious to know what you think.

  11. JoAnna says:

    Thank you for providing a different perspective, Deb. I appreciate your honesty and suggestions for visitors.

  12. JoAnna says:

    If Niagara Falls is impressive, then Iguazu Falls must be beyond describable.

  13. Ray says:

    Always loved Niagara Falls. Used to go every couple of years and always liked the Canadian side much better, to the point of not even going to the US side, and I’m from Massachusetts. I used to have a friend who lived in Buffalo but now lives in Florida. Unfortunately it’s been about 15 years now since I’ve been. Have to make plans to go again. It’s been too long. Too bad we have to get a passport now.

  14. JoAnna says:

    Well, if you live in the U.S. and want to visit the Canadian side, you’ll definitely need a passport. There are security checkpoints on both sides of the bridge.

  15. Madhu says:

    Hi Joanna,

    How long does it take to cross the border from US to Canada. Can we cross by foot or have to drive? Cos we booked the tour and it only includes U.S side of the Niagara falls. I am from U.K and I hold British Passport. And many of them are mentioning to cover the camera. How do we do that? simply covering it with a sandwich bag? Please advice. Thank you.

  16. JoAnna says:

    Hi Madhu ~ You can easily cross from the US side to the Canadian side by foot. It’s just a single bridge that you have to walk across. In fact, it’s a lot easier to walk, otherwise you have to find a new place to park. There is a small fee (less than a dollar) to cross back from Canada to the US by foot. Regarding your camera, if you ride one of the boats down by the falls, it will get wet. I’m not an expert on how to keep cameras safe from water, so you should research that on your own, but what I did was take photos up to the point where I felt safe with my camera out, and then I stowed it when we were so close we were getting wet. It was nice to just enjoy the ride anyway and not worry about taking photos. Hope that helps ~ safe travels!

  17. Samy says:

    Hi Joanna, we are US permanent residents and planning to visit the falls this weekend. I find your post interesting and hopefully helpful. We want to see both sides of the fall and gosh you touched the point exactly and how to make the best of it, by parking on US side and walk across the bridge by foot, without forgetting the passport. Madhu asked the exact same question that I had. your answer is great! Thank you. so, we plan to walk (with a 4 & 8 yr old). hoping for fun!

  18. JoAnna says:

    I hope you enjoyed your visit to Niagara Falls, Samy. We had a lot of fun when we went. It was hard to believe we spent a whole day there!

  19. justin says:

    Hi Joanna,
    I would like to know ‚if there is a specific address or park name for the US side fall view or park… I am coming from canada side..

    Thanks

  20. JoAnna says:

    Hi Justin ~

    The park on the U.S. side is called Niagara Falls State Park. You really can’t miss it since the falls are right in the park and there is lots of signage leading visitors to the falls.

    Safe travels!

  21. Heidi says:

    I am taking my daughters, 13 and 10, to visit the falls for the first time at the end of March. We plan to stay either 2 nights. Would you suggest that it is cheaper to stay on the U.S. side?

  22. JoAnna says:

    You may be able to get a cheaper hotel on the U.S. side away from the falls, but there are a few hotels that offer great views of the falls from the Canadian side. In addition, there are more immediate amenities near the falls on the Canadian side. If you’re looking for the cheapest accommodations, consider camping instead of staying in a hotel.

  23. Claudia says:

    Hi Joanna,

    great website!

    I only have a visa for the US so I’d like to go on a Maid of the mist ride starting from the US side. Do you know if there is any border control during this boat trip? Do I need a passport for it? Or will I remain in the US for the time of the trip?

    Thanks!
    Claudia

  24. JoAnna says:

    There is a boat on each side of the falls. If you’re on the U.S. boat, you stay on the U.S. side, and if you’re on the Canadian boat, you stay on the Canada side. You don’t cross the border during the trip or need a passport.

  25. kumar says:

    Thanks JoAnna for your help. We have already visited Niagara falls from US side couple of times and planning to come again to show it to my parents. We would like to see from Canada side this time. However, we need to take Canadia tourist visa. For Canadian visa, we need to wait 45 days and spend 150 dollars (for two people) to visit the falls from Canada side. Can you please advise if it’s worth to spend that much time and money to see from Canada side or it is better off to see from US side alone? Please advise. Thanks for your help.

  26. JoAnna says:

    Hi Kumar ~ Though some people prefer the Canadian side to the U.S. side, I am more of a fan with the experience in the United States. If the trip over the bridge was easy for you, I would suggest taking the trip to Canada, but I personally don’t think it’s worth $150 dollars to experience it from both sides. Perhaps if you plan another trip to Canada someday, you can make a quick stop to catch the falls fro the Canadian side.

  27. Divakar says:

    Thanks JoAnna for the infn regarding spending $150 just to see NF from Canadian side. We are planning to see the NF from US side during Aug-Sep and were thinking whether it is worth taking Canadian Visa just for this purpose. We are from India and you saved us from spending $300. As you suggested we shall make it when we plan to visit Canada separately.

  28. amy says:

    JoAnna, thank you for your awesome explanation. You are an angel! I & my fam are going to visit Niagara at US side and was wondering, is it worth to process Canadian Visa just see the falls from Canadian side for 3 – 4 hours or better to spend it to buy $33 pass for all attractions at US side. Really appreciate your tips.

  29. amy says:

    Awesome JoAnna,

    yesterday when i post my question i haven’t read your comment to Kumar. Its answered my question, since i also have to pay $75 each person to get Canadian visa and plan to be in Canada just to see the horse shoe fall for few hours. Will the boat tour from US side take us to see from the front of Horse shoe fall? Your post is really helpful, thanks!
    and i like your smile ;-)

  30. JoAnna says:

    Glad to hear you’ve made some decisions regarding your vacation. Safe travels!

  31. JoAnna says:

    Hi Amy! Yes, the boat tours from either side cover basically the same thing. We did the boat tour from the U.S. side and I was completely satisfied with the experience.

  32. deb sue says:

    My husband and I are coming for about 5 days to see the falls ‚was told to stay on the Canada side because there was nothing to do in the evenings on the us side . so should we do some activities on the us side first , you said it was cheaper there.

  33. JoAnna says:

    The U.S. side is much more serene, and the Canadian side is much more touristy. There are more things to do on the Canadian side in the evening, but they are touristy activities, so if you’re into that, then you should visit the Canadian side. If you’re interested in focusing on the Niagara Falls-specific activities, then, yes, the stuff on the American side are less expensive, but if you’re looking for a multi-day/multi-night experience, then Canada might be your better choice. Keep in mind that, if you have a passport and appropriate visas (as needed) then you can easily cross from one side to the other.

  34. sue ellen says:

    so.… coming to falls for first time for one night. want a great hotel with fall view. Canada or us side? thank you.

  35. Raju says:

    Hi JoAnna, approximately how long is the walk on the bridge from U.S. Side to Canadian side of the fall? Which side has better view during night time? I have heard about fireworks at the fall. Are there perticular days when they do the fireworks?

  36. JoAnna says:

    I’m not sure if there are any hotels that are right on the falls, but my guess is you’re going to have better luck finding something on the Canadian side that meats your needs since the U.S. side is a state park.

  37. JoAnna says:

    It’s just a standard bridge, so you can walk across in about five minutes, but you might want to stop and take pictures from the bridge. Regarding nighttime viewing, I personally haven’t been to Niagara Falls at night, but nighttime illumination happens year round, and I imagine it is quite spectacular regardless of where you’re standing. Fireworks are set off over the falls by the Niagara Parks Commission and visitors on both sides of the falls can enjoy them.

  38. Chai says:

    I was stunned to see so much of commercial activities in the Canadian Side, for me it just killed the pistine beauty of the falls it self.
    In that sense, the Lake Superior and pictured rocks are magnificent in Michigan. I have to plan to visit the US Side if Niagara sometime.

  39. JoAnna says:

    I hope you’ll get the chance to visit the US side. Though still crowded, I find it to be much more serene than the Canadian side.

  40. Paige says:

    Hi JoAnna. My family and I are visiting the US side of the NF this weekend. I have read that it is dangerous to be out at night, is this true? What are the options as far as places to eat on the US side?

  41. Alex says:

    Great post and pictures. I definitely think most people prefer to go to both sides and I imagine if you’re traveling to Niagara Falls you might as well visit both the American and Canadian sides (per having a passport). Regardless, very in-depth write up on the differences between both sides.

  42. JoAnna says:

    Hi Paige ~ I may be a bit late to provide any insight as I believe you and your family have already traveled, but I’m not sure I’d be much help anyway. The U.S. side is actually part of a state park and I don’t know if it’s dangerous or not. I have not heard either way. But it is a popular tourist destination, so I imagine there may be the usual concerns about being mindful of where you’re going in the dark, but I don’t know of anything specific that makes the U.S. side particularly dangerous at night. Regarding where to eat on the U.S. side, there is a small town with a few really fun places to eat. There are also a lot of wineries here (http://kaleidoscopicwandering.com/2011/10/19/niagara-falls-wine-tour-niagara-falls-wine-trail/) so make sure you order a glass of wine with your dinner! I like to turn to the review site/app Yelp! for suggestions on where the locals like to dine.

  43. JoAnna says:

    I’m glad we visited both sides of Niagara Falls as I thought it provided a different perspective for different reasons, though I do realize not everyone has that freedom. Both have pros and cons, so I’m glad you found the write-up helpful. Safe travels!

  44. RV says:

    1. The panoramic view of all the falls from the Canadian side is surely a plus …

    2. .. but the American side lets you get closer to the falls, not to mention all the footbridges that let you cross the river just before the falls (“the calm before the storm”).

    3. The Horseshoe falls is crazy-big which is a plus and a minus — the mist/spray from it is so much you can hardly see anything!

    4. The Canadian side is over-designed. It’s like Disneyland minus the ushers. Getting from the bus stand at Table Rock to the incline Railway right across the street requires passing through a gift shop, a crowded atrium, etc. etc..

    5. The long stroll on the Canadian side from the Rainbow bridge to the Horseshoe Falls is amazing.

    6. On the American side, Goat Island with its nooks, corners, and views, is simply lovely.

    I agree with the recommendation about starting at the American side and walking over to the Canadian side. If you have more than a day, spend a day here and a day there — which is what I did during a recent visit.

  45. JoAnna says:

    Thanks for your perspective and insight, RV. Much appreciated!

  46. Douglas Peng says:

    As a Canadian living in nearby Toronto, we go to Niagara Falls (both sides) all the time. However, visitors should also consider visiting the quaint village of Niagara-On-The-Lake on the Canadian side. It’s about 15~20 minute drive from Niagara Falls Canada and is in the center of Ontario’s wine country. The village itself is beautiful (kind of like Main St USA in Disney World or a smaller version of Carmel-by-the-Sea in California) and is surrounded by dozens of fairly large wineries where they offer wine tours and taste testing. If you drive all the way to Niagara Falls Canada, might as well travel a bit more to visit Niagara-on-the-Lake.

  47. JoAnna says:

    Thanks for your insight, Douglas. I knew that area was a rich wine country, and I agree with you. What better way to top off a visit then to hit up a few wineries?

  48. Andy says:

    I think that travelers should definitely see both sides. There is no point in just staying on one side if you can get both perspectives. I found the US side to be somewhat like you described it, just abandoned though when you get away from the border.

  49. JoAnna says:

    Certainly if you’ve got a passport or the crossing doesn’t require too much undue stress, you might as well see both sides. They’re very different from each other.

  50. Sid says:

    Definitely Canadian side. No doubt! :) I want to go back to see it. So beautiful!

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