Published June 30, 2020
Niagara Falls is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic tourist spots in North America. Straddling two countries, the falls can be viewed from two cities: Toronto and New York.
If you haven’t seen it in person, you’re missing out a lot. So file that leave, pack your bags, and hit the road. Here are some things to remember when planning an epic road trip to Niagara Falls.
Crossing the Border
Both sides of the falls have their own set of attractions. The American side shows you an unspoiled view of the falls. Though the county surrounding it has undeniably seen better days. The Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the US but it’s not that well-kept.
On the Canadian side, however, the scene will remind you of Las Vegas – although on a smaller scale. Restaurants, hotels, casinos, souvenir shops, and all sorts of entertainment that are aimed at luring tourists – you can find it here.
It’s no wonder why a lot of people prefer the Canadian side. If you’re coming from the American side, you can cross the border by land or by air. But since we’re talking about a road trip, it’s obvious that you’ll be crossing the border by land.
There are three international bridges through which you can cross the Niagara border:
- Rainbow Bridge
- Peace Bridge
- Lewiston-Queenston Bridge
Most tourists go through the Rainbow Bridge as it offers a spectacular view of the falls. If you’re a Nexus holder, you can also go through the “Whirlpool Bridge” about three miles north of the falls.
Visa and Passport
US citizens over 16 years old will need to show a passport, a passport card, or an Enhanced Driver’s License. If you are traveling with minors (15 and below), they must have proper identification. In the absence of passports, a birth certificate will suffice if they are US citizens.
For non-US citizens, make sure that you have a valid visa for entry into Canada. If you’re visa-exempt, you may need to secure an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA). Check with your embassy for the latest visa requirement updates.
The International Driver’s Permit (IDP) is valid in Canada. Obviously, you need to have a valid driver’s license in your home country to be able to get an IDP.
Thanks to a mutual recognition treaty, a US driver’s license is as good as a Canadian one. So if you have one, there’s no need to get an IDP.
Depending on where you’re coming from, a trip to Niagara Falls can take a few days. If you plan your route correctly, you might also pass through several interesting places along the way. So whip out that map and plot these recommended stops to make the most of your road trip.
Considered the second-largest state park in NY, Harriman State Park has 31 lakes and over 200 miles of hiking trails. It also has multiple streams, a camping area, and great views – a perfect place to jumpstart your road trip.
Kids (and kids at heart) will surely love this video game paradise. It’s the biggest arcade in New York. With over 100 vintage games and pinballs, it’s guaranteed to take you back to the ’80s.
Take a break from the long drive and see the stunning glass art displays at the Corning Museum of Glass. They also offer a “Make Your Own Glass” tour and various activities for kids and teens.
Fancy a short trip down history lane? Canandaigua will take you back to the colonial period with its historic mansions and museums. You can even take a requisite Instagram photo with the Canandaigua lady, a replica of a 19th-century paddle wheeler.
All that driving and being cooped up in the car for hours can make you hungry. So a quick side trip to Rochester will be perfect. The town offers a wide range of cuisines that will surely delight your palate. It also has more than a hundred festivals all year round, multiple parklands, and a lot of family-friendly attractions.
Also known as the “Grand Canyon of the East”, Letchworth is a must-see if you visit upstate New York. Its three major waterfalls surrounded by large forests make a nice prelude to the Niagara. If you visit in the summer, you can go on a whitewater rafting, kayaking, and even ride a hot air balloon.
Niagara’s neighbor, Buffalo is the second-largest city in New York. Plus (you guessed it right), the now world-famous buffalo wings were born here. It’s also home to hundreds of wineries and breweries so if you fancy a pint, you can just pop up in any of the thousands of pubs around the city.
What to Do at the Falls
Visiting the Niagara isn’t just about sightseeing (though your eyes will surely feast on the visuals). There are a lot of activities you can do. You probably won’t run out of activities for days, if you’re to try it all. Here are just some of the things you can do while there: