You’ve probably heard that the Canadian side is better. 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 both the American and Canadian sides that might help you get the most out your experience here.
THE AMERICAN SIDE OF NIAGARA FALLS
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 (for reasons we’ll get to further below).
In addition, from the American side, we also saw the impact of Vegas-like developments across the Niagara River that was going on in the Canada side. 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.
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.
We also noticed some historical artifacts and relics amongst the walks such as a statue of Nikola Tesla on Goat Island. Tesla was credited with refining power transmission technology via alternating current (AC) for commercial use, especially at Niagara Falls.
Below are some photos of what we were able to see and experience on the American side without going a paid excursion. We have a separate writeup describing the paid excursions that we’re aware of around Niagara Falls.
THE CANADIAN SIDE OF NIAGARA FALLS
The Canadian side is where you get gorgeous panoramas of both the American Falls and the mighty Horseshoe Falls. It’s definitely the more glamorous side of Niagara 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 (and really feel the raw power of the Niagara River).
You can even get direct views of the mighty Horseshoe Falls from the established lookouts along the Niagara River.
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.
In addition to the views, if you’ve had enough of Niagara Falls, there were numerous casinos and activities for the family both around the waterfall as well as further downtown away from the natural attraction.
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 well downstream towards the reserves and whirlpools way out of sight of the waterfalls themselves.
Below are some of the photos we took from the Canada side (excluding the paid excursions, which we have a separate writeup for).
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…
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…
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 shouldn’t be the only consideration to make upon planning a visit here.
Indeed, we learned from our experiences that 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. Either way, just come with an open mind and you’ll likely not set yourself up for disappointment.
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).