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~View of Horseshoe Falls from Above~
Niagara Falls is one of those bucket list destination that inspires ooohs and aahhs. In fact, it’s so impressive, that it spans two countries, creating two different “sides” from which to view the magnificent site. That begs the question: which side is better and how do you choose?
The American Side: New York
Just the Facts: Niagara Falls on the US side is accessed by a state park, in fact, it is the oldest state park in America. Encountering the Falls in this pastoral environment, that includes huge trees over shaded paths, is a natural setting for one of the most awe-inspiring feats of nature. On the US side, you can easily get up close to each of the three elements of the Falls-Horseshoe Falls, Bridal Falls, and American Falls. This is also where you will find the more iconic ways to explore the Falls, including the Maid of the Mist and the Cave of the Winds.
~Niagara Falls at Night~
Best Of: The US side is the best chance of seeing Niagara Falls in natural and relaxing setting. Parking is plentiful and easily accessed, and activities directly related to the Falls are just a trolley ride away. A day on the US side is a way to convene with nature, and even though there are always crowds in the area, it is easy to find a place to just soak in the beauty. Visit after dark to enjoy sparse crowds and nothing but the roar of the water.
Haters Gotta Hate: Detractors of the American side usually have one big complaint-lack of hotels and development near the falls. It’s true that there is no hotels right on Niagara Falls on the American side, and the nearest hotels are not new or updated. Of course, what the haters love to hate about the US side is precisely what others love about it. The lack of development on this side can certainly be a bane or a boon.
~The Power of the Cave of the Winds~
Not to Miss: Viewing Niagara Falls from Niagara Falls State Park is free, but to really see the Falls in all its glory, you have to spend some cash. Cave of the Winds, which takes you close enough to Bridal Veils to feel the tropical storm forces that pour out of Niagara Gorge. Maid of the Mist is another not to miss site that takes you to the bottom of the Horseshow Falls and close enough to feel the spray. Other attractions include Aquarium of Niagara, Niagara Adventure Theater, and Niagara Gorge Discovery Center. A Niagara Falls USA Discovery Pass is a great way to save money if you want to see it all.
~Views from the Canadian Side~
The Canadian Side: Ontario, Canada
Just the Facts: The Canadian side offers amazing panoramic views of the three Falls, and allows up close access to the mighty Horseshoe Falls. The network of waterfalls are located within walking distance to hotels, shops, and restaurants, with the option to stay in a hotel with a view of the Falls.
Best Of: If you are hoping for wide sweeping pictures of the grandeur of Niagara Falls, it is best achieved from the Canadian side. The best pictures are happening right here and it is the easy place to get a feel of the entire river and network.
Haters Gotta Hate: As an antithesis to the natural and undeveloped beauty of the American side, the Canadian side is slick, and modern, and ultra touristy. Only a very busy road separates the majesty of the Falls from the less than majestic tourist traps on the other side. Parking is scarce and expensive, and goods and services are more expensive, as well.
Not to Miss: Behind the Falls, an experience that allows visitors to feel the power of the Falls from behind is unique to the Canadian side. Panoramic shots from the Canadian side are also worth the stop.
Bottom Line: Which Side to Choose? A personal note
Distilling down all the facts about the two sides works out like this: The American side is more picturesque and less commercial, and the Canadian side offers better views and more touristy amenities. It all comes down to a matter of preference (or perhaps passports) as to which side to pick, although to really have the full Niagara Falls experience, you really need to see both sides.
My personal preference was to see the American side first, and enjoy the bucolic scenery and the iconic Niagara Falls attractions. This side was an ideal place to enjoy with kids for the day with plenty of room for them to roam and explore, and lots of ways to experience the power and beauty of the Falls. Having visited both sides, I know I would have been disappointed if I had only seen the Canadian side, as the American side was so much more relaxing and picturesque, and offers a variety of experiences unique to Niagara Falls. The Canadian side also lost points for traveling with kids, as they would have had to stand on the sidewalk to see the Falls, and I would have had to worry about them running into the streets. So, my romantic traveler’s side is really glad we started with the American side, but my photographer part of me would have been very disappointed to not see the Canadian side. The views were amazing, and although I thought I had really appreciated the beauty on the American side, the views on the Canadian side won the day.
In the end, sometimes you can have it all. You just have to have a passport to get it.