Niagara Falls: New York vs. Canada side

Old Nov 11th, 2007, 11:32 AM
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Niagara Falls: New York vs. Canada side

I hear a lot of people telling other people to go over to the Canadian side. I plan on taking a three day trip to Niagara Falls sometime in the next year or so. And I have done a lot of research on it. 1st common argument:the New York's side Downtown is rundown compared to the modern Canadian side. I am not going to Niagara Falls for the downtown, but for the falls and the attractions. Along as there are decent hotels and restaurants on the NY side it is fine. From what I have heard the Canadian side is a lot more touristy and not as much a natural setting as the New York side. The new york side has Niagara Falls State Park and it sounds like a lot more natural setting. I prefer the more natural setting. Another common argument is that there is nothing to do on the New York side. Well, there is the state park you can walk around, maid of the mist, cave of the winds, there is the Niagara Falls Discovery Center, up the road is the Whirlpool State Park which is free and you can do similar hiking there to the White Water Walk across the river that costs $, the Niagara Power Plant, and further up the road, Old Fort Niagara. The new york side seems to lack the touristy attractions, but seems to have more natural attractions. Sure, I would go over to the Canadian side or possibly stay over there, but they are going to start requiring passports. Unfortunately, I don't have one. I believe they cost $80 and last for 10 years. I don't plan on traveling to any other countries other than this trip anytime soon. I almost always travel around the US. My question is it really necessary to go over to the Canadian side and get a passport for this 3 day trip? Another point I want to address is the views of the falls. People say it is better on the Canadian Side. But, aren't you closer to them on the NY side? Also, I heard Terrapin Point on Goat Island is just as good as the view from Canada for the Horseshoe Falls? Plus, don't you get the more distant view from Maid of the Mist?
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Old Nov 11th, 2007, 11:48 AM
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You could easily visit the falls from the New York side and never cross over the border.

Many people do it every year and aren't disappointed with their trip. Many people are disappointed.

Many people go to the Canadian side and are disappointed with their trip. Many people are thrilled.

This past summer, I went to both sides. Honestly, I don't think one side is "better" than the other in terms of atmosphere, etc. They are different, but I really enjoyed both.

View of the falls wise, the difference is:

Horseshoe Falls - you get a good full look at the falls from down river on the Canadian side. You get very close looks at the brink of the falls from both Terrapin Point and Table Rock.

American Falls - you get the best full look from the Canadian side directly across from the falls. You get very nice side views from the American side.

Goat Island (US) has wonderful views of the rapids, etc. above the falls.

Niagara Glen (CAN) has wonderful views of the rapids, etc. below the falls.

I would recommend going to both sides - why go there and not see it all? However, if it's a choice of going only to the US or CAN side and not going at all, then go. Go and experience the Falls in whatever way you can. Don't worry about what people will tell you or the naysayers, etc. Go, see the falls, and decide for yourself what you think.
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Old Nov 11th, 2007, 01:05 PM
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Thanks-I don't have a problem with going to the Canadian side and I would want to if I were to go right now. The problem is that sometime next summer they are going to start requiring passports. I believe they are $80 apiece plus a picture fee and I have a family of 4. For a 3 day trip, it starts to cost as much as the trip itself. I don't know if I am going to get there before this requirement or not. If I do get there before this, sure I will go over to Canada. But, if I don't there before it happens, it is a question is it worth it? It is only for a 3 day trip and I probably won't be using the passport for anything else. I was just wondering if you can get good pictures of the falls from NY and experince it. Is the NY side as breathtaking? Don't you get a full view from Maid of the Mist? But, whenever I go, I am probably going to base myself in NY. I like the sound of the attractions on the NY side better, not as commercial as Canada. But, the reason I would want to go over to canada is the different view of the falls. I tend to stay away from the commercial things i.e. the skywheel on the canadian side. and stick with the natural scenery. Maid of the Mist and Cave of the Winds are an exception though. From what I have read, they are two best ways to experience the falls. I have also read, that NY's Cave of the Winds is better than Canada's Journey Behind the Falls. And taking the Maid of the Mist from the NY side is better than taking it from the Canadian Side.
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Old Nov 11th, 2007, 01:39 PM
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My suggestion to families debating the passport issue is to get one passport per year. Even if you don't think you're going to travel outside of the U.S., if that opportunity arises, you'd hate to have to say "Oh, I'd love to go to XX, but I don't have a passport." It would be even worse if that trip were offered free of charge.

If cost is a concern, don't worry about the passports or the Canadian side this trip. You can always go back later.

Yes, you will get a full view of the falls from the Maid of the Mist. No problem there. But, when you're right up at the falls, it is very wet, so cameras are a bit difficult (use a ziplock bag and stick the camera in it, use a waterproof camera - disposable or otherwise, get a waterproof casing, or don't plan on taking photos close up. The other option is to chance your camera once or twice).

Cave of the Winds is spectacular.
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Old Nov 11th, 2007, 01:48 PM
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The Canadian side has much more to offer than the American side. We have american relatives to come to visit us from New York City and they would agree. The American side is not developped as much and I am not sure that the hotel choices are as varied.
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Old Nov 11th, 2007, 01:49 PM
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Have been to both sides twice(2006 the latest). To me, without question, the Canadian side is much much better. I don't think you will find 3 days worth to do on the American side. This last time we stayed 4 days over the 4th of July. We should have stayed 3. We did everything. The Butterfly Garden is interesting. It sounded boring to me, but was pretty darn cool once we got there. If you could go around July 1 you will get to see plenty of fireworks over the falls. Canada Day is July 1st or 2nd (cant remember). It was neat to see that. Try to have dinner with a falls view for one meal. The revolving restaraunt is neat. Lunch and earlybird dinner is not priced near as expensive as their regular dinner. If you do end up crossingthe border be prepared to wait for a long time. Sometimes you get right thru, other times 2 or 3 hours. We enjoyed seeing the falls and it is something you should see and do once in your lifetime. The two things I always think about as terms of really seeing something are still The Grand Canyon, and Niagra Falls. I have been to several other National Parks, and all area unique. The Falls is all about the rate and power of the water. You mentioned Maid of the Mist and it is something you MUST do while there. Enjoy your trip.
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Old Nov 11th, 2007, 02:17 PM
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I listed out a bunch of stuff on the NY side to do in my very first post. I definetly think it could fill 3 days. Somethings are not directly related to the falls, but are within 30 minutes of downtown Niagara Falls,NY. Here is the list/description again of things on the NY side:
there is the state park you can walk around, maid of the mist, cave of the winds, there is the Niagara Falls Discovery Center, up the road is the Whirlpool State Park which is free and you can do similar hiking there to the White Water Walk across the river that costs $, the Niagara Power Plant, and further up the road, Old Fort Niagara.
I have looked all this stuff up. Maybe I only need 2 days. About the passport, I have no interest in traveling to Europe or anywhere else except around the US. I just can't see myself traveling outside the country. So, if I got a passport, it would just be for this one short trip. Is it necessary?
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Old Nov 11th, 2007, 02:32 PM
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My husband, 11 year old daughter and myself were there this past August. We had a great time, better than we expected. Stayed in Doubletree on the Canadian side. I think that it is a good idea to have passports just for air-travel within the US. With security the way it is, it just seems easier to just show our passports. Good suggestion from toedtoes, get two passports now then get the other two in a few months so your pocketbook won't be hit at one time. Get the kids at the same time because children's passports expire after 5 years this way they will expire at the same time.

We LOVED the Cave of the Winds on the NY side. The restaurant within Goat Island was surprising good. On the Canadian side lodging prices and accomodations vary greatly. You can probably save some money on lodging which can help offset some of your passport fees. We also drove to Niagara-On-The-Lake for dinner one night which was lovely.

The other thing that we did was spend a day in Toronto. Since we went on a Saturday, city traffic wasn't so bad, however, the Toronto attractions were packed. I've been told that traveling to Toronto during the week has tons of commuter traffic, but the attractions are much less crowded. In Toronto we purchased a one-day family transit pass, which was good on the trains, buses, and trolley and we really got our money's worth out of that pass.
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Old Nov 11th, 2007, 02:35 PM
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Asdaven - it sounds like you know what you're doing. Don't worry about the Passports and just go and enjoy the New York side.

I will always recommend that people go to both sides. I will also always recommend that people get a passport "just in case" - it's better to have it (it last 10 years) now when you don't need or want it, than to have to try and get it at the last minute later on when an opportunity arises.

But, if you don't, you're not going to miss what you're not interested in seeing. It sounds like you know what you want, so don't worry about what everyone else says and just enjoy your trip.
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Old Nov 11th, 2007, 03:22 PM
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The Canadian side is gorgeous.
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Old Nov 11th, 2007, 03:49 PM
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Well, I would love to see the Canadian side, but the passport especially with 4 people is a budget-breaker and plus it is just for a 3 day trip. I just don't want to spend all my time on the New York side and not think I am seeing Niagara Falls. I assume the world-famous views of the falls is from the Canadian side? What's wrong with the NY side? On the Canadian Side, there are not any attractions that interest me, but the viewing area on that side does. But, Cave of the Winds is similar to or better than Journey Behind the Falls, the Maid of the Mist leaves from NY and is less crowded, Whirlpool State Park offers a hike along the whirlpool rapids on the same section of river, and so on. Well, there maybe some attractions in Canada that interest me. But, the main reason I would go over to Canada is the views of the falls. I am considering Lewiston,NY for a base instead of Niagara Falls,NY. Is this a good idea? That puts me closer to Old Fort Niagara and is only 15 minutes from the falls. I kind of know what I am doing, but I kind of don't know what to do as far a passport. The cost of a passport is almost the cost to stay there. But, I would like to go over to Canada. I guess the best thing to do is to go before the new requirement is in place if I can.
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Old Nov 11th, 2007, 03:57 PM
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I'm not sure about this, but I don't think that a date has been set yet for the passport requirement. If you go early in the summer, you'd have a better chance of getting into Canada without having to have a passport. Lewiston NY is a very nice town but I don't know anything about the hotels there. I don't believe there are many. Another activity you can do from the American side is the Whirlpool Jet Boat ride, which leaves from Lewiston as well as from Canada.
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Old Nov 11th, 2007, 04:37 PM
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The passport thing is still being debated, and I believe authorities on both sides are discussing other options. Border cities like Buffalo draw many Canadians on a daily basis for shopping and entertainment. Many people here go to Canada during the summer for the beaches. I was out shopping last weekend and I think there were more Canadian license plates in the parking lots than NY plates.

Although at some point it may come down to passports, I don't think it will be in place within the next year. As of right NOW, you must have a certified birth certificate and picture I.D. (like your license). When you return to the U.S., you may not be asked for a birth certificate, but if you are asked, well......you ought to have one.

Hotel choices are much better on the Canadian side and you can walk around at night. Although a lot of it is cheesy, there are t-shirt shops, stores, and other things that light up the streets and there are attractions for kids. On the NY side there is really no night time entertainment for kids. And you don't want to go driving around the City of NF, NY at night.

The Canadian side offers you a full panaramic view of the falls. But I do prefer the NY side better, as you can stand so close to the falls. I love Terrapin Point on Goat Island and Luna Island. And the upper rapids are amazing.

I absolutely, positively recommend Old Fort Niagara on the NY side. It is a wonderful piece of American history, and even if the kids aren't into history, they will think the fort is a cool place. And adults will, too. Just check to see if there are re-enactments before you go. Old Fort Niagara is within a state park, and on a clear day you can see Toronto across Lake Ontario. There are several swimming pools, even a splash one for little kids, with slides, etc. It's a wonderful place to spend a day. Bring a picnic lunch and spend the day.

I highly recommend it over Niagara on the Lake (Canadian side). Although it is a quaint, historical town, it is very expensive and just not exciting for kids. Unless they like expensive restaurants, stores, and wineries (hopefully not .

I hope this helps. Have fun!



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Old Nov 11th, 2007, 04:47 PM
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If you're going to make a deliberate trip to see Niagara Falls (vs just driving through from Cleveland to Boston, for example), then for god's sake, please go over to the Canada side.

If you don't want to get passports, then go early. Before they may require one.
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Old Nov 11th, 2007, 04:59 PM
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If you can't afford to get the passports then don't.

If, when you go to Niagara Falls, they require passports to cross the border, then just stay on the NY side and enjoy that.

If, when you go, they don't require passports, then bring the required documents and cross the border and enjoy the CAD side.

Of course everyone is going to tell you the Canadian side is worth it. It is. But if you can't afford it, then do what you can afford. If getting the passports means your 8 day trip will be a 3 day trip, then only you can decide if it's worth it for your family.
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Old Nov 11th, 2007, 05:34 PM
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I think most people reco the Canadian side since the views of the falls are much more dramatic. From there you see the water falling over the falls coming at you - so you get a complete view.

From the US side you are looking more at the top of the falls - and don;t get a view of all the water coming at you - esp dramatic when floodlit at night.
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Old Nov 12th, 2007, 02:25 AM
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What's wrong with Niagara Falls,NY at night? Is it dangerous or something?
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Old Nov 12th, 2007, 03:57 AM
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Asdaven: It's fine where all the hotels are (they're pretty much clustered together in the same area). If you're going to eat dinner and call it a night in your hotel room, then fine. If you want night time entertainment for your family, there really is nothing to do except view the falls.

OUTSIDE of the immediate hotel area, you do NOT want to walk around or drive around because it's isolated and ghetto. Lots of crime.

To recap....go ahead and stay on the New York side. There is really nothing to do with KIDS at night. Don't go driving around outside the hotel/falls zone at night.

I hope this helps.
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Old Nov 12th, 2007, 04:23 AM
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Hi as,

Have you looked into getting a family passport?

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Old Nov 12th, 2007, 04:31 AM
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To me going to Niagra and not seeing it from the Canadian side is like taking your kids to Orlando and skipping Disney. When we went two years ago everyone was talking passports even then. Today, when you cross the border they only ask you a couple of questions and I can't imagine the security being worse. They didn't even ask us for a drivers license and we crossed 2 times (4 times entering and exiting). However, I would have the documents required. Have you called any government agency concerning crossing the border? There is a reason everyone says to see it from the Canadian side. Thats because it is that much better overall panoramic view. To me it is totally different looking from both sides. An inexpensive place for breakfast that we liked was Bob Hortons. Aparently, they are in the north several places. We live in the Oklahoma and had never been to one. Have you looked into the limited passport. Below is the latest from www.cbp.gov customs and border protection

11/01/2007)
Beginning January 31, 2008, U.S. and Canadian citizens ages 19 and over will need to present a government-issued photo ID such as a driverís license, and proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, naturalization certificate or passport to enter the U.S. by land or sea.

A passport or NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST card will be accepted as ID and citizenship requirements. Border Crossing Cards will continue to be accepted documents for Mexican citizens to meet both requirements.


As early as summer 2008, all travelers who enter or depart the U.S. by any means (land, sea or air) will be required to have a valid passport, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST, Border Crossing Card or other acceptable document.


The State Department also intends to make available in spring 2008 a limited-use Passport Card, specifically for land and sea travel from these neighboring countries. In addition, several states including Washington, Vermont and New York are creating an Enhanced Driverís License that will fulfill these new identification requirements. Ample notice of the exact date of implementation will be provided to ensure travelers can obtain the appropriate documents.
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