Traveling to Niagara Falls for the first time can be exciting, but unexpected issues can hinder the experience. These five tips may help.
The excitement of a vacation to Niagara Falls and seeing the falls themselves are often a highlight for many individuals and families planning a trip there for the first time. However, there are several common issues, particularly in the summer months, such as long line ups and parking, that can cause enough frustration to dampen the experience.
Whether on a tighter budget or simply looking for a few simpler ways to get around Niagara Falls this year, these guidelines are designed to help visitors save a few headaches and a few dollars.
Choosing When to Visit the Falls and Where to Park
Niagara Falls is picturesque year-round, and there are still activities and attractions open during the winter, so any time of year is a good time to visit. With kids out of school and warm weather on the rise during May, the summer months see very high volumes of visitors from all over the world, which only means long lines and big crowds. Stay safe and benefit everyone by in-between parking areas of interest.
Those who are only planning to spend a few hours in Niagara Falls can park at the Skylon Tower and take the People Mover (shuttle bus) if necessary. The distance between Journey Behind the Falls and Maid of the Mist is a good ten-minute walk, realistically. Calculate the distance to other attractions based on this and figure out how much time and energy everyone is willing to spend on foot or shuttling between attractions.
An important and often neglected note about the People Mover: Check ahead of time or while on the bus with the attendant what the last runs for the buses are (generally, it’s 7:30 PM or 8 PM in the summer). It is necessary to transfer to a different bus in order to get to attractions like the Butterfly Conservatory – those routes have different closing times. Please make sure of these times to avoid being stuck without shuttle service.
Choosing Where to Stay in Niagara Falls
Hotels notoriously bump up their prices on weekends during the winter months and hike them up even further during the summer when the rates are generally always high no matter what day it is. This is especially true for Niagara Falls.
While hotels.ca has some fantastic online deals, another good tip is to call a hotel or motel of choice directly (not the 1-800 number) and ask to speak to the manager. Tell them the travel date and ask what can be done to negotiate a good deal.
If the hotel has provided a pleasant experience in the past, remind them of this, and if they haven’t, don’t be afraid to speak up. If the manager doesn’t cut a deal, believe that there are plenty of other quality accommodations in Niagara Falls who will.
If driving a hard bargain isn’t a concern, still check out hotels.ca for special package deals, or visit the Niagara Falls Tourism website for a list of accommodations.
Buying Attraction Tickets and Avoiding Long Lineups
Purchase a Niagara Falls Great Gorge Adventure Pass if everyone in the group is interested in a few or all of the attractions included in the pass – it’s well worth the price. The pass also includes two days on the People Mover (be sure to get a sticker from one of the attraction vendors for the People Mover to wear all day as the bus driver doesn’t take the ticket stubs).
Arrive early to purchase tickets and either get in line then or wait until late afternoon (again, check closing times – some attractions take the last ticket a half-hour before close). Crowds and lines are largest in the early afternoon, between 11 AM and 2 or 3 PM.
Additionally, while purchasing tickets, ask about the fast-pass times available for some of the attractions to return to it later on the same day. This way, a spot is guaranteed, and visitors don’t have to wait in the long regular line.
Double Check Attraction Schedules
It can be stressful to show up at an attraction ten minutes after close or when it’s down for maintenance. Generally, all attractions are open and running during the summer (only the Whirlpool Aerocar, White Water Walk, and Maid of the Mist close for the winter – Journey Behind the Falls stays open), but it’s not a bad idea to ask about times and closures no matter the season.
What to Wear in Niagara Falls
This seems like a no-brainer to some, but the fact is many people aren’t sure what to bring to wear or what they can expect from some of the attractions, which involve being downstream from the thundering mist. Canadian weather varies as much as anywhere else – plan seasonally and check Niagara Falls forecasts before leaving home and upon arrival if possible.
Wear comfortable shoes. This is another tidbit to stress as there can be a lot of walking in between attractions, and a few are a reasonable distance away from each other. Taking the People Mover saves time and provides a chance to rest, but good comfortable shoes are important.
There are many spots along the Niagara River to sit in the shade or find air conditioning. Sometimes the lower decks of Journey Behind the Falls can be blustery with mist, and depending on which side of the boat visitors are on when they board Maid of the Mist; there is a chance pant bottoms and shoes will get soaked (ponchos are provided at both attractions).