Niagara Falls – a view from two coasts

Have you ever heard that the Niagara Falls are much better from the Canadian side?
I have, many times. Especially in the years between my first visit of the falls from the American side in 2012 and my last visit in 2018 from the Canadian side.
And do you believe those people who say that, or are you just like me and don’t take everything people say for granted? And did you check that for yourself?

I did!

I know… it’s against my policy of never visiting the same place twice, but my boyfriend, who at the time had never been to America, wanted really bad to see the Niagara Falls. So, I agreed under the condition we go to Canada for it. I wanted something new after all.
That is how we ended up doing a Canada road trip with highlights Niagara Falls.

And now you are wondering “So… was it true? Was the Canadian side better?”
Let me ask you the questions: Is a beach holiday better than a ski holiday?
It surely is for some people and it isn’t for others. Just like those two are so much different and the answer to question depends on whether you are a beach lover or a winter lover, the same way the answer to Canadian or American side of the falls depends on whether you like entertainment or nature.
That’s right. The two sides are so much different from each other even though they are only separated by a river.

Niagara Falls view from the American side
Niagara Falls view from the American side
Niagara Falls - the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls - a view from the Canadian side
Niagara Falls – the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls – a view from the Canadian side

Here is the comparison.

Boat rides to the center of the fall – both sides

On the American side – Maid of the Mist, on the Canadian side Hornblower Niagara Cruise.
They are pretty much the same. You go through the tickets check, you get on the boat, sail to the bottom of the Niagara Falls, turn the boat around and sail back to the coast. With the only difference being the color of the rain poncho you are getting when boarding the boat.

Even though it might not sound so amazing, the experience is very different than any other boat cruises. When you are in the middle of the Horseshoe and there is the water fall surrounding you at 180 degrees, it gets pretty awesome. The mist is so thick that even with the rain ponchos you can’t avoid getting wet. On top of that the wind is not on your side, so you might as well just give up on pulling the poncho in all directions, so it covers you, and enjoy the view. Another detail that needs mentioning is: since there is 2,400 m3 or 85,000 cu ft of water flowing down the falls at every second, it gets quite noisy.

Niagara Falls - The Horse Shoe
Niagara Falls – The Horse Shoe
Niagara Falls - all three falls view from the Canadian side
Niagara Falls – all three falls

Caves and observation platforms in the foot of the falls – both sides

Cave of the Winds for the American Side and Journey Behind the Falls for the Canadian side. Those are both caves that let visitors descend down to the bottom of the falls and leads them to observation decks right next to the falls – Bridal Veil Falls for the American side and the Horseshoe Fall for the Canadian side. While for the Cave of the Winds the observation deck is in front of the fall and the water falls down partly on it, the Journey Behind the Falls has a deck next to the falls and tunnels that lead to openings behind the falls.

Niagara Falls - the Bridal Veil Falls view from the American side
Niagara Falls – the Bridal Veil Falls
Niagara Falls - Behind the Falls platform in the base of the Horseshoe - Canadian side
Niagara Falls – Behind the Falls

Whirlpool Aero Car – Canada only

This is a cable car taking tourists over the Niagara Whirlpool which is situated down the river on the Canadian side. It is an open car that takes you on a 1 km ride. There is no similar equivalent of this attraction on the US side of the falls.

Observation towers, accessible from both sides

Niagara Falls - Observation Tower view from the American side
Niagara Falls – Observation Tower
Niagara Falls - Observation Tower view from the American Side
Niagara Falls – Observation Tower

None of the above, though, matter much when trying to decide if it is worth it to go visit both sides.
The difference that struck me the most was the atmosphere of both places.
The whole coast on American side of the falls is covered by the Niagara Falls State Park. It is green, peaceful and relaxing. There are plenty of hiking and bike trails, as well as trolley to take you around the park and between the attractions.
In complete contrast the Canadian side is built like an entertainment park. Some of the things you can find in the area are wax museums, scary houses, souvenir shops, indoor water parks, casinos and theaters. The skyline is outlined by the variety of hotels and the streets are covert mostly with colorful neon billboards and advertisements.

Niagara Falls - Observation Tower from the American side
Niagara Falls – Observation Tower

And now we come to the view, the one thing you came here for.
From Canada you are looking frontal at 2 of the falls (the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls) and partially at the third (The Horseshoe). So, there you have it, the view is right in front of you, undisturbed by anything.
If you are on the American shore, you get a slightly different view. You are looking sideways at all three of the falls. It isn’t as magnificent, but it still has some advantages – you can get very close to the falls and even go on the island between the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls, and that counts for something.

So which side should you visit when going there?

Very simple – both sides! You will not make a mistake by going to both. Not for the ride (since they are pretty much the same), but for everything else. Make sure to plan enough time to visit both for the complete Niagara experience: the Canadian side for the view and the American side for the close-up on the falls.

Niagara Falls - view of the river between the islands and before the falls
Niagara Falls – view of the river
Niagara Falls - the Horseshoe view from the Canadian side
Niagara Falls – the Horseshoe

Tips:

1. When on the boat cruise take a see-through ziploc bag to put your camera/phone in it so you can still take awesome pictures, without your camera getting completely wet.

2. Don’t forget to bring your passport with you, since it is definitely worth it crossing the border and checking out both sides of the falls.

Interesting facts:

1. While on the boat cruise, no matter whether from the American or the Canadian side, you cross the US-Canada border multiple times – 4 times if you start from the Canadian side and 2 times of you are starting from the American.

2. There has been only one case of person surviving an unintentional fall down Niagara Falls. A 7-year-old boy who survived the fall with just a life vest after the boat he was sailing on struck a rock and sank.

3. Attempts to go over the falls is forbidden on both sides, Us and Canadian, and are subject to fines, since many people have lost their lives plunging the falls in barrels or with the help of other devices.

Niagara Falls - the Horseshoe view from the Canadian side
Niagara Falls – the Horseshoe

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