Niagara Falls: Which Side is Better?

View of Niagara Falls, but which side is better?
Because a waterfall such as Niagara Falls spans two different countries it's natural to ask which side is better. In this case, is the American side or Canadian side better?

You've probably heard that the Canadian side is better, and quite frankly, it is in terms of the photographic possibilities. But before you go off jumping to conclusions and spend most of your time on the Canadian side, there are things you should know about the American side that might help you get the most out your experience here.

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AMERICAN SIDE

The American side (New York, USA) was where we were able to get up close to all three components of Niagara Falls - Horseshoe Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and American Falls. This meant that unless you're going on a paid excursion (not counting admission and parking fees), you're pretty much going to see the falls only from the top down or in profile. So in that sense, it could be underwhelming if you're not shelling out additional money to go on those excursions.

It was also quite noticeable how much quieter it was on the American side (though it was still busy). We could probably attribute that to the reputation that Canada was the better side. In addition, we also saw the impact of Vegas-like developments across the Niagara River on the Canada side as the American side pretty much looked right across to those developments. When you compare those developments to the relatively more humble developments on the American side, that could help enhance the feel of the falls being more park-like instead of more Vegas-like on the Canada side.

Naturally, in order to get the most of our Niagara Falls experience, we did go on some of those paid excursions allowing us to experience the falls in many other ways, including getting drenched at the base of Bridal Veil Falls or from the lookout decks looking upstream along the Niagara River towards the mighty Horseshoe Falls among others.

Below are some photos of what you can expect to see and experience on the American side without going a paid excursion (click here to see photos from the paid excursions)...

The overlook at Terrapin PointThe overlook at Terrapin Point

The American side's view of Horseshoe FallsThe American side's view of Horseshoe Falls

View towards the Rainbow Bridge and American FallsView towards the Rainbow Bridge and American Falls

Looking along the brink of the American FallsLooking along the brink of the American Falls

Another precipitous view over American FallsAnother precipitous view over American Falls

Looking down at the catwalks of the Cave of the WindsLooking down at the catwalks of the Cave of the Winds

The edge of American FallsThe edge of American Falls

Looking past American Falls towards Horseshoe Falls and the Canadian sideLooking past American Falls towards Horseshoe Falls and the Canadian side

Looking over the brink of Bridal Veil FallsLooking over the brink of Bridal Veil Falls



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CANADIAN SIDE

The Canadian side is where you get gorgeous panoramas of both the American Falls and the mighty Horseshoe Falls. While you can't get right up to the American and Bridal Veil Falls, you can get right up to the brink of Horseshoe Falls. This is the one side where you can get satisfying panoramas of both the American and Horseshoe Falls. Of course, there was a big price tag to go along with the privilege of being so well-situated at the falls as it was definitely more expensive to both stay at, park, and eat on this side.

If you have had enough of the falls, there were numerous casinos and activities for the family both around the falls as well as further downtown away from the falls. There was even the historic Queen Street District (you're better off driving there from Niagara Falls), which was both charming and provided a little bit of a nice culinary experience (at least at a crepe place we ate at over there). That said, the Vegas-like atmosphere did make us feel as if Niagara Falls on the Canada side was more of an urban side attraction as most of what was natural was pretty much all gone unless you go further downstream towards the reserves and whirlpools way out of sight of the falls.

Below are some of the photos we took from the Canada side (excluding paid excursions)...

A boat about to enter the Horseshoe Falls torrent Maid of the Mist boat about to enter the Horseshoe Falls torrent

Right at the brink of Horseshoe FallsRight at the brink of Horseshoe Falls

Walking amongst the crowd while trying to find a suitable place to squeeze in and take photos by Niagara FallsWalking amongst the crowd while trying to find a suitable place to squeeze in and take photos by the falls

The overlooks and sidewalks on the Canadian side were also sandwiched between the Niagara Gorge and the busy roadThe overlooks and sidewalks on the Canadian side were also sandwiched between the Niagara Gorge and the busy road

Looking downstream along the Niagara RiverLooking downstream along the Niagara River

A commanding view of Horseshoe Falls surrounding the Maid of the Mist BoatA commanding view of Horseshoe Falls surrounding the Maid of the Mist Boat

Looking across the river towards American FallsLooking across the river towards American Falls

A Canadian side view of all components of the Niagara FallsA Canadian side view of all components of the Niagara Falls

View from further downstream on the Canadian sideView from further downstream on the Canadian side

Lots of people checking out the fallsLots of people checking out the falls

Looking down at the lower viewing deck of Journey Behind the FallsLooking down at the lower viewing deck of Journey Behind the Falls

Looking right at Bridal Veil Falls dwarfing people on the Cave of the Winds TourLooking right at Bridal Veil Falls dwarfing people on the Cave of the Wind Tour

Exclusive to the Canadian side is the ability to stay in a hotel with a commanding view of Niagara Falls. See the photos below for a taste of what you can see from the comfort of your room...

Looking out of our room towards Niagara FallsLooking out of our hotel room towards Niagara Falls

Contextual view of Niagara Falls from our roomContextual view of Niagara Falls from our room

Looking right down at Horseshoe Falls and tiny people besides itLooking right down at Horseshoe Falls and tiny people besides it from our room.

Another look at the brink of Horseshoe FallsAnother look at the brink of Horseshoe Falls from our room.

Looking down at the American Falls from the hotel roomLooking down at the American Falls from our room.

Also best seen from the Canadian side is the Niagara Falls floodlit at night. This usually occurs from the onset of darkness until midnight. They tend to change colors seemingly in random order so you can easily be mesmerized staring at what combination of colors are going to be next. See below for photos that we took of what this looks like...

Context of the lit up Horseshoe Falls fronted by some building lightsContext of the lit up Horseshoe Falls fronted by some building lights from our hotel room.

Looking down at the floodlit American Falls from our roomLooking down at the floodlit American Falls from our room

Context of the lit up Horseshoe FallsContext of the lit up Horseshoe Falls from our room.

Floodlit American FallsFloodlit American Falls

Floodlit Horseshoe FallsFloodlit Horseshoe Falls

Another look at the lit up American FallsAnother look at the lit up American Falls

Looking back at Horseshoe Falls and the high risesLooking back at Horseshoe Falls and the high rises

Floodlit Niagara Falls from the hotel roomFloodlit Niagara Falls from our room



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CONCLUSIONS

In our opinion, the Canadian side is better in terms of what you could do without paying extra for the excursions. We also loved staying at a hotel with amazing views of the falls because we were able to enjoy the falls in the comfort and privacy of our room.

However, I'd argue that it's an incomplete experience if you exclusively visit only one side. That's because in general, Canada has the panoramic views while America gets you up close and personal with the waterfalls (including American and Bridal Veil Falls). And both sides gets you up close to the Horseshoe Falls.

Of course, the visual experience isn't all that the considerations to make upon planning a visit here. Indeed, we learned that our experience at the American side was quieter and relatively less commercialized than its Canadian neighbor. It also felt as if the Canadian side was more of a Frankenstein-like hybrid of Las Vegas and waterfall world wonder given its high rise casinos, intense foot traffic, and high prices.

So with both sides, you have to take the good with the bad to make an informed decision.

In any case, it's pretty convenient and straight forward to see both sides. So why not check them out? What do you have to lose?

With all the textual and visual information provided here, we hope you can decide for yourself how to plan your trip (regardless of which side you might think is better).




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What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

? about Niagara Falls 
We are traveling to the Falls in the summer of 2014. We are coming from MA. I have been reading all the reviews and I am wondering if you all think its …

Canadian side of the falls vastly superior 
Almost every American travel show on t.v. almost always shows the Canadian side of Niagara Falls , without mentioning that it is on the Canadian side. …

US Canada Border crossing dilema 
The discussions on which side of Niagara Falls is better, the US or the Canadian side, does not take into account what side of the border one starts …

Niagara Falls - It Depends on your Environment Preference 
I just came back from Niagara Falls , and my conclusion is the general one. Yes, each side has it's benefits that makes it just as good as the other …

Having been to both sides now... 
The New York side is MUCH better!!! On the American side, you can park free and easily walk to areas with great views of the falls . On the Canadian …

USA Side Disappointing 
USA side is not kept up, except state parks. Town is not clean, run down. No little food booths on street except India food. India people have taken over …

Passport 
Needing passports for the entire family makes seeing the Falls from both sides complex and more costly!

Click here to write your own.



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