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Our Insider’s Guide to Niagara Falls

If traveling abroad isn’t in your budget have a look closer to home.  Maybe there’s a special day trip that could just do the trick to brighten your mood.  Close to our home in Ontario is the world famous Niagara Falls.  Located in Southern Ontario this attraction draws crowds from all over the world.  This is probably the most spectacular site to see if you’re in the area of Niagara.   There’s actually two falls a Canadian & American falls.  We have a few crossing bridges to join the two countries Canada and the United States.  If you think you may be bored there is actually plenty to do in the city of Niagara Falls itself as well as surrounding parks, and plenty of wineries to take tours for the day.  Will share with you a few ideas for a day tour itinerary as well as our insider’s guide & knowledgeable tips from a local.

View of the American Falls

View of the American Falls

Must Know Tips for Visiting Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is a very popular tourist attraction with that being said you might want to beat the crowds and visit in the spring before that mad summer rush of tourists.  May is an excellent time to visit.  I just did a day trip on Mother’s day and had a great time.  I went early to the Skylon Tower first to get the best views of the falls.  The Skylon Tower is 775 feet high and takes you up to the observation deck in an elevator.  The cost was $15 CAD plus tax but seeing I was by myself and never taken the opportunity in past visits to the falls it was totally worth it just for the photos, and of course the amazing views.

Something to be aware of before you go up in the elevator is they take your photo & give you a card.  The card is of course for the photos they hope you purchase later.  Later in the evening there will be a line ups to use the tower so if you don’t like crowds I suggest an earlier visit might just be your best bet.   At the top is a Revolving Dining Room for lunch or dinner.  One the back of your ticket you can save $10 off a main course.  Once your at the top there is a door you can exit which takes you to the outside viewing area. If you choose to go out on the edge there is a strong wire fence so no worries about anyone falling however those afraid of heights may prefer to overlook this activity and stay inside.   Having the fence makes it a little difficult to do a panoramic photo or video.  When you take the elevator down there is a desk where you can view your photos.  They will try to sell them to you for $35 for a package.  A little haggling & I got it for $25.

A big must know tip is keep an eye on your kids at all times.  Really this shouldn’t have to be mentioned, but as usually some little boy was standing near myself & another couple.  They had been following him as they noticed no were no parents were in sight.  As the 3 of us stayed with the boy who was probably about 3 years old spoke no English when I tried talking to him.  The parents finally came.  Whew!  That was a worry.

Canadian Moose

Travel Tip:  The 520 feet high Skylon Tower’s provides an excellent view for observing the falls.  If you want to see the vibrant colors of the lights on the falls go at night.  Park at the lot just before the Skylon Parking it was only $5 which I thought was reasonable and it was all day parking.

Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls

Best time to visit

While the falls is open year round the best time to visit is from June to August our warmest summer months.  Peak travel ranges from May to October.  I actually prefer off season to beat the crowds.  Niagara Falls can be packed with tourists during the summer months making it more difficult if your into photography or don’t like waiting to be seated at a restaurant.  May was the perfect time for me the weather was not too hot, the magnolia trees were out in full bloom as well as the tulips making it a picture day for photography.

Spring time in May

Where to stay

  • Courtyard by Marriott
  • Sheraton on the Falls
  • Niagara Falls Hilton Hotel Fallsview South Tower
  • Great Wolf Lodge
  • Holiday Inn Niagara Falls
  • Old Stone Inn Boutique Hotel

There’s also lots of low budget hotels as well as B&B’s.  We’ve stayed at a few of the low budget hotels & Old Stone Inn in the past.  The Piller & Post is a vintage inn located in Niagara On The Lake very popular for wedding celebrations.  The building was once a canning factory in 1890’s.

Best things to see and do in Niagara Falls

The falls has lots of things to do beside see the waterfalls.  There is everything from hiking trails to botanical gardens, to the main street wax museum, and animals.  Get up close to the falls on the Maid of the Mist.  The first steamboat to carry passengers started in 1848 and today the Maid of the Mist is still going strong.  Read more about the history here Maid of the Mist.    If you love chocolate like I do stop in at the Hershey’s Chocolate World.  There is mouth watering treats as well as collector items & souvenirs to take home.  I tried the Fudge Factory as the word cheesecake captured my eye as I was looking for a place to get out of the rain.  They had 3 types of cheesecake to choose from that was then dipped in chocolate and added with another topping of choice.  My chocolate treat was chocolate swirl cheesecake dipped in chocolate & finished with peanuts.  I have to tell you it was mouth watering delicious!  The cost was $5.99 not a bad price for Niagara Falls.

A new attraction was added last year with a zip line along the falls on the Canadian side.  I inquired about the price which was $50 CAD per person.  The youngest age available to participate in this activity is 6.  It’s located along the boardwalk right near where you go for the maid of the mist.

  • Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory
  • Bird Kingdom
  • Fallsview Indoor Waterpark
  • Niagara Fallsview Casino
  • Niagara Falls Museum
  • Whirlpool Aero Car
  • Ripley’s Believe it or Not
  • Movieland Wax Museum
  • Safari Niagara (outdoor zoo)
  • Journey Behind the Falls (via tunnels & obersvation decks)
  • Maid of the Mist (ride near the falls)

Trail located near the Skylon Tower

Where to eat

  • Watermark Restaurant
  • Copacabana Brazilian Steakhouse
  • Paris Crepes Cafe
  • Top of the Falls
  • Skylon Tower
  • Niagara Brewing Company
  • Revolving Dining Room

Local Wineries

I’ve been on a wine tour visiting many of the wineries in the Niagara area in the past.  Some properties are larger like the Peller Estates while others are small.  Each winery has a unique location with samples of wine you can try.  Usually there is a small cost to try the wines about $3-4, but if you are on a tour this would be included.  My girls & I arranged lunch at the Peller Estates a few years back.  This was a great experience as my daughter was enrolled in chef school.  Our lunch included a 4 course meal with different wine pairings as well as a change to meet chef Jason Parsons.  Our lunch included visiting the kitchen to see how food was prepared and talk to the staff.  We actually spent a lot of time in the kitchen and loved talking to the pastry chef.  This was a great experience for all of us but especially for my daughter.  I would highly recommend this if you love food & wine.   Not only do you have great food but also learn a lot about the wine during your food presentation.

  • Trius Winery & Restaurant
  • Inniskillin Wines
  • Peller Estates Winery & Restaurant
  • Strewn Winery
  • Palatine Hills Estate Winery

[Caroline Cellars winery open daily for wine tastings & lunch]

Peller Estates Winery located on Niagara on the Lake

Have you been to Niagara Falls?  Tell us your experience & what things you enjoyed doing in the comments.

A wine tour might just be the perfect outing for the girls.

About the Author:

Laurie Johnson is travel writer, agent, and founder of Pura Vida Vacations. She finds her inspirations from travelling of the beaten path, meeting the locals, and sharing her travel stories, reviews, and tips with her readers.

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