Tips for Enjoying your Niagara Falls Trip

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View from the observation deck at Journey Behind the Falls

Niagara Falls is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. It’s like the Eiffel Tower, a grand monument that brings people from all over the world clambering for a closer look. As a major tourist destination, it’s easy to get wrapped up in over paying for things and miss out on some hidden gems.

So here are are couple points to consider when planning your trip to Niagara Falls

Don’t stay at the major hotels in the tourist district. Yes, there are some benefits to staying in the tourist area. Lots of things to see and do are walking distance. There are convenient bus stops. But that’s about it. Unless you’re really set on spending your days at the casino or need to be two doors down from Ripley’s Believe It or Not, there’s no reason to spend on a big hotel.

Just a short way away from the main strip is the residential area. Along the river there are dozens of charming b&bs. There are bus stops, super markets, and downtown restaurants within walking distance or a short drive away. B&Bs are typically cozier and much more cost effective. Even looking at deals on Groupon, the b&b we stayed in was about 1/3 the price of the large hotels even after a discount.

Try the local restaurants and super markets. Instead of hitting up Subway and Starbucks try some of the local favorites. Our b&b host had a list of recommendations and we also enjoyed wandering around Queen Street to see what looked good to us.

Our favorites on this trip were Paris Crepes Cafe  on Queen Street and Frijoles  on Portage Road. We did, of course have to try some poutine as well and made our one food stop in the more touristy district to do so at Smoke’s Poutinerie.

Visiting the local supermarkets is also a great way to save money on meals (most have some prepared food to grab for a quick lunch or dinner) and to see local culture. I love visiting supermarkets when I travel and finding all the surprising little differences. Local liquor stores are also a treasure trove. The local stores are a great place to get souvenirs too. Pure maple syrup at the tourist souvenir shop is easily twice the price you’ll find it at the super market. Local sweets and wines are also much cheaper where the locals shop for groceries.

Buy the Adventure Pass. Learn from our mistakes. We didn’t buy the pass and regretted it. If you want to spend a couple of days taking advantage of all the cool things Niagara has to offer, you might want to invest in The Adventure Pass. There are a couple different options, but each pass gives you discount admission to various activities and sights in Niagara and Niagara on the Lake. The pass also gives you a two day bus pass which will take you almost anywhere you want to go and save you money on parking.  Some areas near the Falls charge as much as $20 CAD for parking. Even free attractions will usually have a price on their parking. And certain attractions like the ubiquitous Maid of the Mist boat ride cost about $90 per person before the discount.

Enjoy the views and take your time. The Falls are a natural wonder. And the Niagara region overall has a lot to offer. If possible, spend a couple days to slowly enjoy and see the Falls from different angles and perspectives. This is also one of the few places where I would advise giving the museums a skip, or at least not spending too much time on them. Go out and enjoy the beauty of nature instead of simply reading about it. Journey Behind the Falls provides a bit of historical context if you read the placards on the wall along your walk through the tunnels. But if you really can’t help yourself, the Niagara Falls Museum has free admission on Thursdays.

We did a lot of research before our trip to find what there was in the area to suit our interest and we still ended up missing a few things. I guess we’ll just have to go back. Hopefully though, this will help you plan for your own trip to Niagara Falls.

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6 thoughts on “Tips for Enjoying your Niagara Falls Trip

  1. I totally agree with trying the local restaurants. Food is part of a place culture and I make sure to visit the markets to try the local produce. As a budget traveler, I rarely use a hotel unless it’s sponsored. I’ll make sure to check out the B&B’s when I go there.

  2. I loved my trip to Niagara Falls! I thought it would be boring and uneventful, but it turned out to be one of the best holiday trips ever. Just admiring the sheer beauty of the falls is enough to get me to go again. Thankfully, the time we went there wasn’t too many people. Even the local towns provided a great experience!

  3. Wonderful suggestions! But if you don’t mind me asking, usually people say visit this restaurant or that restaurant to try the local food. I notice though that you recommended visiting the supermarkets to buy pre-packed food. If you had to recommend some restaurants serving local Niagara-falls-area type of food (because Smoke’s Poutinerie serves Quebec food, according to their site?) which would you suggest? Thanks!

    1. Hmm… that’s a good question. Ontario is a bit of a mish-mash of cultures, so I didn’t find any place billing themselves as a “Niagara-style” restaurant. There is still a lot of French food influence in the region, like the crepe shop I recommended, and Mexican food is really popular with the locals too. There are some Canadian chains like Tim Horton’s that we visited (surprisingly good soup) and some local sandwich shops we stopped in. As for the taste of Niagara specifically, I’m not sure what that would be. I know Poutine was created in Quebec, but is popular throughout most of Canada now, so it seemed like a necessary “authentic” taste of Canada.
      I think it’s similar to my time in Hamburg, Germany. There weren’t many German restaurants in the city because everyone wants to eat something else when they went out: Italian, Japanese, etc, not the food their mother cooks at home. I did eventually find a place specializing in a classic Hamburg fish fry because it’s port city. Maybe I’ll have to investigate the food of Niagara more on my next visit.

  4. I’m totally on the same page about visiting grocery stores while traveling abroad, sometimes the subtle differences in products offered, in prices or even the layout can make a big shopping difference. I’ve never been to Niagara Falls, but this summer checked out the Niagara Falls of the West – Shoshone Falls in Idaho. I was lucky enough to even catch a rainbow in all the magnificence of our destination. Your first shot is superb by the way and I’ll keep your tips in mind for the future (esp the one about buying and Adventure Pass to save money!)

    1. Thank you for the compliment! I’m just a cell phone photographer, but I’ve been trying to improve my shooting and processing. I’ve never been to Idaho, but I’ll have to check that out!

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