Experience Thunderous Niagara Falls. Recommendations for touring and visiting Canada.
Updated: Mar 14, 2019
While travelling with adventurers from around the world across Canada, we explore waterfalls and national parks. They frequently ask why we don’t take people to Niagara Falls on our Canadian road trips? You venture through Ontario, don’t you? Leading from there, many ask if they should even visit given that we generally don’t go - not to mention everything else you would see on an epic Canadian road trip, whether with us or not.
Simply put, YES, you should visit Niagara Falls when visiting Canada and stopping in Toronto. It is an incredible natural spectacle. This place is booming, majestic, and indeed one of a kind. We are talking 170 feet high, 150K gallons of water per second. Yes, you read that right, per second. And 2,200 feet wide - with viewing platforms and boats that can get you up close and soaked. Keep in mind that Niagara Falls is a really really really touristy location - filled with lots of travellers and the corresponding big charter buses, overpriced food, and lots of “attractions” with that classic tourist town cheap feeling. Regardless, the falls are merely called the falls for a reason - if you have the time, do visit on your Canadian road trip or holiday.
Why we don’t venture to Niagara Falls on the trips that we run is because you don’t need us! You can visit Niagara Falls, Canada on your holiday to Canada from Toronto without too much effort. It is pretty easy to do on your own at a reasonable price. For a start, there are many transport options to get you there that run frequently - bus, train, ride-share, inexpensive tours, rental car options and more (details below). It is an easy jump off point for a day trip from Toronto either at the beginning or end of your journey.
Additionally, many people who are staying in Toronto for studies, working holiday or just to explore - some of whom end up on our adventures - will usually have found a time to visit already - why do a repeat? Also, it isn’t the right direction for our big trips! It is south/east of Toronto, and our first stop is usually to Algonquin Park, due north - and we don’t want to drive unnecessarily or spend our time getting you there when we are focused on getting you out there. If this were an easy stop somewhere along the route, then it would be a different story.
HOW TO GET TO NIAGARA FALLS ON YOUR VISIT TO TORONTO, CANADA
You can get visit Niagara Falls, Canada pretty easily by bus, train, car rental or inexpensive tour. The fastest route is by car/bus being a little longer than 1.5 hours. It is a personal choice - but we do have some recommendations and details to help you make a decision for your Canadian adventure trip.
Generally speaking, the best option is taking the bus for your holiday to Niagara Falls. For just about everything at the horseshoe falls you don’t need a car once you get there - just use your feet. You can take Megabus or Greyhound buses with departures throughout the city. They start at around $18 (one-way). If you are planning on bringing luggage, keep in mind that greyhound charges extra fees (and they are steep, at $25 for a checked bag) - so just go with Megabus if you have a big bag and spending the night. They run really frequently from the early morning through the late evening. Schedules can be seen, and tickets can easily be purchased online.
Want to get a cheaper bus fare on the way back? Take the “Safeway” casino bus on your way back for just $10. What you need to do is visit the Niagara Falls Casino when you arrive - it is just a short stroll from the main falls, and go to the loyalty desk and get a free PAC loyalty card. They will then gladly take you back to Toronto at the reduced fare of $10. They run frequently. If you are a serious gambler and visit Niagara Falls frequently, this bus will be free - but we suspect you aren’t reading this article if that is the case. Unfortunately, it only works with the card already, which you cannot get online at the moment. Therefore it will just make sense for your return journey from a money savings perspective.
What about the train for travelling to Niagara Falls, Canada? Even though we enjoy and appreciate train travel - it doesn’t make sense exploring Canada in many locations. Niagara Falls is another classic example of this from a value and travel time perspective. It will cost you at minimum $25 each way, and take at least two hours and a bit, but usually closer to three hours to get there - many times requiring a transfer in Burlington. Many departures start at union station just around the corner from the HI Toronto, one of our recommended hostels. However, given the bus options which are also around the corner and are faster and cheaper, it isn’t worth the additional time or money. The only time to even consider the train is if you plan to travel during rush hour traffic - which we would strongly compel you just to avoid.
What about renting a car for road trip touring of Niagara Falls, Canada and the areas around? Additional freedom from places to stop along the way locations to see nearby and more - it is a pretty solid option. Just be sure that you can get a rental (>25 years old), have the appropriate license to drive and more. We recommend this if you have a few friends willing to split the cost which is around $40+ per day. Do note that there are additional fees to have multiple drivers, so whoever is taking the lead is the driver for all intents and purposes. Having a car is generally necessary if you want to explore Niagara on the lake area as well and don’t want to go on one of the rushed standard day tours.
Are there any good tour companies for Niagara Falls? There are many options available that start at around $75+ per person to visit the falls, Niagara on the Lake on a day trip to and from Toronto (not including most activities). They are fast-paced and take you to the hot spots, but quickly and without and flexibility. Should you spend the extra $40 or so as compared to getting a regular bus… we don’t think so unless you are really keen to go to Niagara on the lake. You will be on one of those previously mentioned “big charter buses” in most cases - especially on the reasonably priced options. If you are strapped for time, don’t want to do any planning or flexibility and just want to check it out - this isn’t that bad of an option.
NIAGARA ON THE LAKE, CANADA TRAVEL OPTIONS
Many people have heard of and consider exploring Niagara on the Lake when visiting Niagara Falls, Canada since they are heading that way and it is nearby. It is a nice cute area with a rustic feeling, a small town with all those good 19th-century charms - plus lots of wineries to do some tasting. Many Ontario couples go for a nice romantic weekend with their partner. It isn’t one of our favourite places to visit on a grand Canadian adventure, but it is still lovely and a good part of a multi-day getaway from Toronto that isn’t too far. We would stress that you pretty much require a car to get there and do the necessary explorations to make it worthwhile. Drive through the area, check out some wineries and the Fort George National Historic Site. You can also rent a bike and explore - which we do recommend in the right season and weather. Accommodations are a little on the higher end side unless you have a few friends willing to share double beds in an inexpensive hotel - or simply venture back to Toronto or the hostel in Niagara Falls.
Should you visit the Niagara Falls from the United States side as well? NO. Visiting New York to see Niagara falls essentially requires crossing a border, driving further with the added benefit of nothing. The town is... not the nicest (to put it lightly), there are no amazing additional things to do making it worthwhile, and well the prettiest part of the entirety of Niagara Falls are the Horseshoe Falls, on the Canadian side.
OUR RECOMMENDATIONS FOR WHAT TO DO ON A TOUR TO NIAGARA FALLS, CANADA
Firstly check out the falls from the free observation decks above the falls, and get a bit closer by doing the nature walk that get incredibly close to the rapids ($15). You can take an elevator down 200+ feet and explore the small boardwalk to witness the most massive standing waves in North America, and the magnitude of the Whirlpool Rapids and Niagara Gorge from viewing decks.
You should definitely take the Hornblower boat tour to get up close and personal with the falls - while a little pricey at around ($30), it is a must do if you are there - and you will get soaked (they provide ponchos). Do note that many Toronto locals will refer to it as the “Maid of the Mist” which used to operate on both the Canadian and US sides - but that is no longer the case - they just operated in the US side. It is now “the Hornblower” and is the same thing. If you have friends that say do the Maid of the Mist, then just do the Hornblower because it is conveniently located on the Canadian side. They also run pricier rides in the evening which are also beautiful.
There are jet boat tours, but they do not get you to the falls and require a drive to get to the start-point - so skip it unless you just want some adrenaline. There are other adrenaline activities like zip lines, skydiving and more.
Other things that you can get up to include a Ripley’s believe it or not, Skywheel, Casino, Bird Kingdom, Wax museum and more. In our opinion, these aren’t must do experiences and really depend on your mood, budget and time you have available. We personally would prefer to find a quiet spot and witness the falls for longer.
How Long to Visit Niagara Falls, Canada
If you don't have a lot of time to explore the Niagara Falls region, you can head in early in the morning, spend a day on travelling and then head back. It is a bit rushed, but you’ll see most of the falls area and get the core falls experience down. However, the falls are really quite attractive in the evening - even if lit up with the strange coloured lights - and we never like to recommend driving at night. If you have the time, we would recommend spending an evening. Explore the touristy city, check out Niagara on the lake, witness the falls at day and night - and most importantly, don’t rush!
BEST ACCOMMODATIONS TO STAY IN NIAGARA FALLS, CANADA ON A TRIP
There are decent accommodations available in Niagara Falls for your trip. There is a small hostel international located right near the heart of town at $27 per night for a dorm room. There are also some inexpensive “motels”, with the corresponding amenities, if the hostel is full or you want to share a double bed with your friends, partner, or group!
Our overall recommendations for a trip to Niagara Falls, Canada
Aren’t into reading the details and just want a recommendation for what to do? Here it is.
Solo traveler on a budget? Take megabus there + safeway casino bus back (after getting your loyalty card) to save money. Spend the night if you have time to see the falls at night and not rush.
Small group of friends? Rent a car (if you can) which provides you with flexibility. Spend the night and add a bit of exploring around Niagara on the lake - and stay there for longer if you want something more relaxed and want to unwind for a weekend (and are willing to spend a bit more on accommodations).
What to do? Visit the falls observation decks and nature walks. Definitely go on the Hornblower boat tour. Consider the journey behind the falls. Niagara on the lake check out some wineries, the town and find a pretty spot to unwind.
Regardless of what you get up to, enjoy your time paddling, traveling and adventuring on.
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