I asked a few friends and this is the rundown they gave me.
Niagara Falls, N.Y.
What It’s Like
Niagara Falls, N.Y. doesn’t seem very exciting at first glance, admittedly. It feels dreary and run-down, with one high-rise casino (Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel) and some hotels and restaurants scattered throughout. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll see the area offers quite a lot for families. In fact, some of Niagara Falls’ most famed attractions are in New York, offering the best opportunities to get up close with the falls.
Maid of the Mist
You can’t go to Niagara Falls and not ride Maid of the Mist, which has hosted tourists since 1846. The iconic ride doesn’t just provide unparalleled views of the falls; it takes visitors into the falls. Prepare to get soaked.
Cave of the Winds
This is another unique experience that allows visitors to get up close with Niagara Falls; in fact, you probably can’t get any closer to the falls than this. You can walk right up to Bridal Veil Falls via walkways and viewing decks. Tip: Go at night when the falls are lit up in different colors. You might be lucky enough to see fireworks, too.
Niagara Falls State Park
Walk or drive right into Niagara Falls State Park — there’s no cost (you’ll just have to pay for parking). You and the kids will, once again, have an amazing opportunity to get close to the falls, as well as the rapids. Pack a picnic lunch.
Old Falls Street
Old Falls Street, which spans just three blocks, plays host to festivals, concerts and activities just for families. Saturdays are actually dedicated to “Free Family Fun,” with cooking demonstrations, arts and crafts, life-size board games and more.
If you’re looking for a hotel right on Niagara Falls, you won’t find it in New York — Canada wins in that category. You can, however, find reasonably priced hotels within walking distance of Niagara Falls State Park.
Niagara Falls, Canada
What It’s Like
Niagara Falls, Ontario feels glitzy, but livelier in comparison, with flashy arcades, oddball museums and dozens of chain restaurants on Clifton Hill and Lundys Lane (where all the action is, aside from Niagara Falls). Niagara Falls, Ontario also offers more tourist-centric attractions, including its own version of New York’s Maid of the Mist.
Hornblower Niagara Cruises
Hornblower is Canada’s Maid of the Mist. It takes riders right to Horseshoe Falls. The company has a catamaran that holds up to 700 people, but families can also elect to ride a private charter (150 people).
Every city’s tower and observation deck is advertised to offer the “best views,” but sometimes, those views aren’t really views at all. That’s not the case at Skylon Tower, which rises 775 feet to provide vistas of Niagara Falls in New York and Canada. It also offers two restaurants.
Niagara Sky Wheel
Situated on Clifton Hill, Niagara Sky Wheel provides another means to view Niagara Falls. It’s the largest observation wheel in Canada, towering 175 feet.
Journey Behind the Falls
Journey Behind the Falls is similar to New York’s Cave of the Winds, but this experience allows visitors to go to the Cataract Portal and Great Falls Portal, one-third of the way behind the water.
Niagara Falls, Ontario offers a wealth of hotels with views of Niagara Falls. Of course, the rates to enjoy those views come at a premium — but they’re worth the splurge. Families can also find affordable accommodations (some with excellent package deals) sans views.