Visiting Niagara Falls is almost a cultural thing in North America. From weddings to family outings and even honeymoons, the falls are a popular destination because of their breathtaking beauty and the activities they offer.
To enjoy a complete view of Niagara Falls, you would want to see them from both the Canadian and US sides. However, if that’s not possible and you’re stuck at the US border, you can still do some things to make the most out of your visit.
This article offers a complete guide on how to see Niagara Falls from the US side. We’ll discuss how you can prepare for the trip, essential facts about the falls, activities to enjoy, and other general information you’ll need.
Preparing Yourself for a Visit to the Niagara Falls State Park
Table of Contents
- Preparing Yourself for a Visit to the Niagara Falls State Park
- You’ll Have a Long Drive
- You’ll Get Wet
- You Need to Stay for More Than a Night
- It’s a Good Idea to Make Reservations
- Niagara Falls Basics
- What You’ll See
- Best Time for Visiting Niagara Falls
- Does Niagara Falls Freeze?
- How to See Niagara Falls from US Side and more
- Old Fort Niagara
- Observation Tower
- Rainbow Bridge
- Niagara Gorge Hiking
- The State Park
- Cave of the Winds
- Maid of the Mist
- Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum
- Aquarium of Niagara
- Getting Around in the State Park: The Trolley
- Goat Island
- Luna Island
- Schoellkopf Geological Museum
- Whirlpool State Park
- Where to Stay in Niagara Falls, USA
- Is There a Difference Between the US and Canadian Sides of Niagara Falls?
- Key Takeaway
Before anything, here are the things you should know before visiting Niagara Falls:
You’ll Have a Long Drive
Niagara Falls are located on the border of the US and Canada, specifically between the states of New York and Ontario. If you’re visiting from the US side, you’ll need to drive 400 miles to the falls from New York, which will take approximately 7 hours. Prepare accordingly.
You’ll Get Wet
A visit to Niagara Falls isn’t even a visit if you don’t feel sprays of water from the fall running down your skin. Hence, it’s a good idea to take waterproof raincoats, go pros, and clothes that dry fast. You should also consider carrying sandals or flip-flops and leaving gadgets in your hotel room if they’re not water-resistant.
You Need to Stay for More Than a Night
To make the most of the trip, we recommend staying in the falls for at least two nights or more. There are many attractions in the area, and you’ll need to enjoy them without worrying about running out of time.
It’s a Good Idea to Make Reservations
Niagara Falls gets about 13 million visitors every year. The place is crowded throughout the year, and even if there are many hotels around, sometimes, they may run out of rooms. Unless you want to get in Micheal Scott’s situation (you’ll know him if you watch the Office), you should try your best to make a reservation before visiting here.
Niagara Falls Basics
Well, now that you’ve got everything ready for the trip, we’ll discuss some basic things about the falls which will be very beneficial during your visit:
What You’ll See
Niagara Falls has three falls, the American Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls in the USA, and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. The 180 feet long Horseshoe Fall is the one that many people refer to when saying ‘Niagara,’ so for most of your trip, you’re likely to look for positions and angles to get a better view of the Horseshoe Fall.
Best Time for Visiting Niagara Falls
The summer season is the best time to visit Niagara, preferably sometime between June and August. The area where the falls are located is freezing during the winter, with the average low and high being about 20°F and 31°F, respectively.
During the summer, however, the area experiences an average high of 80°F and a low of 64°F. This is an ideal time to get wet from the falling water. Furthermore, with no mist and an ample amount of rain, you’ll get to see the falls in their full glory.
Does Niagara Falls Freeze?
Well, technically, no. But during the winter, the mist can cause ice crystals to form on the water’s surface, making it seem as though the falls have frozen.
How to See Niagara Falls from US Side and more
Now comes the good part. Apart from viewing the falls, here are the things you can do once you reach the place:
Old Fort Niagara
The Old Fort Niagara was built in 1726 by New France to get access to routes between Lake Ontario and Niagara River. And now, it’s the oldest occupied military site in the USA, and one of the best tourist destinations, especially for history lovers.
Inside the fort, you’ll visit many 18-century buildings and experience fun and informative historical re-enactments. The best time to visit the fort is during the summer when there’ll be different art exhibits, firing demonstrations, and guided tours. On the other hand, during the off-season, you can still take part in a self-guided tour and see some enactments.
The observation tower gives you an enigmatic and up-close view of all three falls. Its base extends from the Niagara Gorge; it’s 520 feet tall, and the observation point is about 282 feet up from the Niagara River. Thus, the tower is also perfect for those who want to watch birds while listening to the sounds made by the raging water.
While in the observation tower, you should visit the gorge and climb the stairs to the crow’s nest, where you’ll be greeted by Niagara Falls’s sprays.
The Rainbow Bridge is located between Canada and USA. It’s about 1450 feet long and 202 feet above the water level and also accommodates a stone tower with a carillon of bells. Furthermore, its name was given to represent the friendship between the two countries.
Since you’re only visiting Niagara Falls in the USA, you won’t be able to cross the. But it’s still worth a visit because it’s beautiful and the farthest you can go on the US side.
Niagara Gorge Hiking
There are eight hiking and biking trails in the Niagara Gorge trial system of varying distances and difficulties. They all happen parallel to the gorge and the best time for hiking is between mid-May and November.
The easiest trials in the Niagara Gorge Hiking Trails are the 3.2-mile Robert Moses Recreation and the 1.2-mile River’s Edge Trail. More experienced hikers can make the Whirlpool Rapids Trail, which has a distance of about 1.3 miles and, despite being short, has various stairs and boulders.
The State Park
The American side of Niagara Falls has 435 acres of Niagara State Park, where most of the artificial attractions of the falls are located. Once you visit the park, you can go to places, including:
Cave of the Winds
The Cave of the Winds was a natural cave beneath the Bridal Veil Falls. It was destroyed in 1954 because of a rockfall that caused an overhang, which led it to be dynamited.
While you won’t be able to see the cave, you’ll still be able to stand where it used to be and take amazing pictures of the Bridal Veil Falls. Remember that the water from the falls will reach you, so bring your waterproof camera.
Maid of the Mist
The Maid of the Mist is a boat tour on the Niagara river. It offers views of the falls from various angles on the American side. Currently, the trip is organized in two modern electric boats, both of which launched in 2020.
The tour lasts about 20 minutes, and you’ll get a complimentary hooded rain poncho. Furthermore, the vessel may slightly touch the borders of Canada, but don’t worry – you won’t need any identification for the boat ride.
Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum
A perfect place for you and your family, the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum houses about 600 wonders. Here you’ll learn various mystifying facts about people, places, and animals from history in a very immersive way. Moreover, there are several interactive games, and the contortion boxes should interest the kids.
While in the museum, don’t forget to take photos in the selfie studio. By the way, inside, you can also view the lifelike wax figures of about 100 celebrities.
Aquarium of Niagara
The Aquarium of Niagara is within a short walking distance of the Maid of the Mist. This modern aquarium facility houses about 1,500 aquatic animals, including seals, sea lions, jellyfish, penguins, etc. You’ll even come close to sharks and enjoy fantastic sea lion shows.
Note: Since the facility is always full of people, you should consider booking tickets in advance.
Getting Around in the State Park: The Trolley
Those who cannot walk around the park can board the Niagara Scenic Trolley. In addition to helping you get around, the vehicle also offers fun facts about the history and other tips for visiting Niagara. And the best part – it is ADA compliant.
After all, celebrations never cease at Niagara Falls. This year, fireworks began on May 20 and will continue until October 10 at 10 PM every night.
The best places to watch these fireworks would be Luna Island, Prospect Point, and Terrapin Point. However, you don’t have to worry if you can’t get to those places since the sky and the gleaming falls will look majestic from wherever you’re located.
Note: In addition to the fireworks, the falls are illuminated by LED lights during special occasions. The occasion determines the colors; for example, recently, the lights were illuminated between September 11 and 19, 2022 in royal blue to commemorate the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.
The Goat Island is a small island between Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls. And while it doesn’t have any goats, it has many viewing points, including the Terrapin Point, and is connected to the smaller Luna Island by a bridge.
You can reach goat island from the mainland by foot, car, or trackless train. Furthermore, science lovers will love to know that the island houses the Tesla monument, which honors Nicolas Tesla, the inventor of the first AC motor technology.
Luna Island is another small island in Niagara Falls. It’s between the American and the Bridal Veil Falls and offers up-close views of both of these falls.
The name Luna Island is derived from the spectators’ ability to see lunar rainbows during full moon night when viewing the falls from this island.
Schoellkopf Geological Museum
The Schoellkopf Geological Museum is located exactly where the Schoellkopf Power Station used to stand, which was one of the first hydroelectricity plants in the USA.
Also known as the Schoellkopf Discovery Centre, the museum is considered one of the best hiking spots in the region. It has information about the natural and local history of the Niagara Falls area.
Whirlpool State Park
Whirlpool state park is a 109-acre state park that overlooks the Niagara Whirlpool. It has picnic tables, a playground, hiking and biking trails, fishing spots, and skiing.
You can descend to the Niagara Gorge through this park. Furthermore, it’s connected to the Devil’s Hole State park via a path in the gorge.
Where to Stay in Niagara Falls, USA
Many good hotels in the area offer accommodation at varying costs and facilities. Here are some helpful links:
Is There a Difference Between the US and Canadian Sides of Niagara Falls?
Both have their pros. The Canadian side will give you a better view of the mighty Horseshoe Falls. Moreover, there are better hotels and lodging options.
On the other hand, the American side has more activities, especially with the Niagara Falls State Park. There are many river islands and walkways. You’ll also see native wildlife. Furthermore, the American and Bridal Veil Falls are entirely within the US borders.
While the Canadian falls are more mesmerizing, you can still enjoy the trip to Niagara if you have adequate information about the attractions on the US side. From the state park to various view towers and fireworks, there are many things to enjoy, and once you’re in the area, you won’t regret that you couldn’t move past the borders.
You might enjoy reading my post on Lakes in Syracuse.
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