The last time I was at Niagara Falls, I was about 13 and traveling with my 7th-grade class on a trip to Toronto. I don't remember anything about the waterfalls other than the yellow ponchos we wore to go behind the crashing water on the Canadian side.
So when my boyfriend and I decided to plan a trip to Niagara this spring, I vowed that this time I would do things “right.”
If you, too, think a weekend at the falls sounds like fun (and, believe me, it is!), here's a look at our itinerary:
(But first: a video!)
1 p.m. — Drive to Niagara USA
Living in northeastern Ohio, Niagara Falls is actually pretty close for us — it was only a 3.5-hour drive from where we live to the American side of Niagara.
4:30 p.m. — Hotel check-in
We stayed at , a historic boutique hotel full of character within walking distance of Niagara Falls State Park. The rooms here aren't huge, but they are comfortable and beautifully designed. There's also a lounge/observation room on the 19th floor, which offers up a nice view of the state park. (And, the buffet breakfast is also quite good.)
5 p.m. — Dinner at at the
Staffed by students of the NF Culinary Institute, Savor is slightly finer dining in Niagara Falls at a really affordable price. The food is good, and it's cool to support a program that is shaping future chefs and restauranteurs.
7 p.m. — A stroll through Niagara Falls State Park
Being so close to the park means that it makes for a perfect after-dinner stroll. We got up close to the American Falls as Prospect Point, and then took the pedestrian bridge over to Goat Island where Terrapin Point gets you close to Horseshoe Falls. Did you know that this is the oldest state park in America?
10 p.m. — Fireworks
Every Friday and Sunday during the summer, Niagara Falls puts on a fireworks show at 10 p.m. On the American side, the best spot to watch the show is as Prospect Point. Afterwards, you should be able to see the falls illuminated (though admittedly the view of this is much better from the Canadian side). Be warned, though: it gets crowded.
10 a.m. — Niagara Falls State Park
After a late rise and a leisurely breakfast, we headed back to the state park for a second look at the falls up close. It all looks completely different in the sun vs. under clouds!
11 a.m. —
Even though the name is slightly deceiving (there's not really much of a “cave” involved), this U.S.-side attraction is definitely worth checking out. You get outfitted in sandals and a brightly-colored poncho, and then take an elevator down into the Niagara Gorge. From here, a series of boardwalks lead to a “Hurricane Deck” basically right beneath Bridal Veil Falls. Yes, you WILL get wet, but it's pretty cool to get so close to a surging waterfall.
12 p.m. — Lunch at
Located on Goat Island, Top of the Falls is a family-friendly restaurant with views out towards Horseshoe Falls. The food isn't anything to write home about, but it's not every day you can eat lunch somewhere with this kind of view.
2 p.m. — Helicopter tour with
After lunch, we headed back into town and made our way to Rainbow Air's headquarters on Main Street near the entrance to the Rainbow Bridge. This family-run business is the only one operating helicopter tours from the American side of the border — and also the most affordable. Flights in their bright yellow chopper last 10-12 minutes and cost $105 per adult. It sounds like a lot of money, but I promise that this is an experience that is WELL worth it.
3 p.m. —
No trip to Niagara Falls would be complete without a ride on the famous Maid of the Mist. You can take boat tours from both sides of the falls, but the original Maid of the Mist boats ONLY operate from the American side these days (in 2013, Hornblower Cruises took over the Canadian side operation). The experience includes access to the observation tower, an elevator ride down to the river, and then a cruise that puts you right in the middle of the thundering action of Horseshoe Falls. You're given a poncho for the ride, but be warned that you probably WILL get wet — the word “mist” is used lightly.
5 p.m. — Cross the Rainbow Bridge into Canada
We decided we wanted to experience both sides of Niagara Falls, and so crossed the border in the evening.
5:45 p.m. — Hotel check-in
Since this was meant to be somewhat of a romantic getaway, we decided to splurge on a fallsview room at the Radisson on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. The incredible room had a panoramic window looking out towards Horseshoe Falls, a king-sized bed, and a 2-person hot tub. We were reluctant to leave (especially since there was free wifi and our phones were freaking out not being able to tell which country we were in), but a rainbow stretching across Horseshoe Falls changed our minds.
6:30 — Incline railway down to Horseshoe Falls
We took the incline down the hill so that we could reach Horseshoe Falls in time to appreciate that rainbow we'd spotted from our room. Getting so close to the most powerful waterfall in North America was truly incredible — I didn't want to leave!
7:30 p.m. — Dinner and relaxing
After ogling the waterfall for quite some time, we took the incline back up to hotel row and grabbed a bite to eat in a sports bar (where we could also watch the World Cup, of course!). Then we headed back to the Radisson to chill out and upload some photos.
9:45 p.m. — Falls illumination
Even though our hot tub was calling, we decided to venture out once more to see the Falls illuminated. While you can't truly appreciate this effect from the American side, the view from Canada is stunning. Both the Horseshoe and American falls are illuminated by giant colored spotlights starting around dusk each night. This year-round feature was begun in 1925 and is definitely worth seeing, no matter how tired your feet are. THEN it was time for hot tubbing.
11 a.m. — Drive to
After having breakfast at the hotel, we decided to head north to Niagara-on-the-Lake. This meant skipping the behind-the-falls experience at Horseshoe Falls, but I think it was definitely worth it.
11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. — Niagara-on-the-Lake
Situated on Lake Ontario, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a historic small town known for its beautiful architecture and immaculate streets and homes. We spent a few hours walking the main street, popping into cute boutiques and shops, and admiring the beautiful homes that we will probably never be able to afford. We grabbed lunch and a bottle of local wine in town (this region is known for its wineries) before it was time for us to call it a day.
2:30 p.m. — Drive home
All too soon, it was time for us to once again hit the highway and head back to Ohio.
A lot of people complain that Niagara Falls has become too commercialized; that the casinos and bars take away from the beauty of the waterfalls. But I have to say that I was pretty darn impressed. We didn't set foot in a casino, but we nevertheless found PLENTY to do at Niagara Falls, regardless of which side of the border we found ourselves on.
I would definitely recommend a trip like this for anyone!
[stextbox id=”info” caption=”Some sample prices”]
Here's a look at the prices of some of the things included in this itinerary:
- Dinner at Savor: $40-$50 USD for two people
- on the US side (which includes tickets for the Cave of the Winds, Maid of the Mist, the Aquarium of Niagara, the Niagara Falls Trolley, and more): $36 for adults
- Helicopter ride with Rainbow Air: $105 USD per person
- Toll to cross the Rainbow Bridge: $3.50 USD per car
- Fallsview room at the Radisson with breakfast, hot tub, and parking: $375 USD
- Incline railway: $5 CAD for a roundtrip ticket
*Note: Big thanks to for setting up the U.S portion of our trip, the Giacomo for hosting us, and Rainbow Air for hooking us up with an incredible helicopter ride. As always, all opinions are completely my own, and this itinerary reflects 100% my ideal trip to Niagara Falls.