Couple posing in front of Niagara Falls American Side

Basic Guide to Niagara Falls

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NIAGARA FALLS! You would be hard pressed to find someone who has never heard of these massive waterfalls. Considered to be a potential Eighth Natural Wonder of the World. The Niagara Falls are a combination of three waterfalls and are located on the border of the United States and Canada. These two locations provide distinct viewpoints and experiences depending on the side that you choose to visit. The question is, what side do you visit? Our Basic Guide to Niagara Falls will show you the differences between visiting both sides!

What are the Niagara Falls?

Niagara Falls consists of three distinct waterfalls:

  • American Falls
  • Canadian Falls, also known as horseshoe falls
  • Bridal Veil Falls (Smallest)

Four of the five Great Lakes actually contribute to the water that flows over Niagara Falls. These include Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and Lake Superior. The water then travels down the Niagara River to Lake Ontario, then to the St. Lawerence River and finally to the Atlantic Ocean!

Fun fact from Maidofthemist.com– about 20% of the drinking water in the United States goes over Niagara Falls!

Map of the 5 great lakes with arrow pointing to Niagara Falls

It’s hard to articulate how massive these waterfalls actually are. For instance, the American falls are slightly taller at 180 ft (56 meters) and Canadian waterfalls tower at 167 ft (51 meters) high!

Lets put this into perspective.

That is about half the height of Big Ben in London or the Statue of Liberty in NYC!

Every second, 3,160 tons of water flows over the Niagara Falls and provides over 4 million kilowatts of electricity! Because the American Falls are slightly taller and also a bit stronger, no daredevils ever performed a stunt over the American Falls. Therefore, they were always over the Canadian Falls.

The Horseshoe Falls are the most powerful waterfalls in North America!

Things to do while visiting Niagara Falls


The American side is most known for the side-on view of the Falls and Niagara Falls State Park. Because of this, you can actually feel Niagara falls on the American side by doing the Cave of the Winds tour. Even walking next to Niagara Falls throughout Niagara Falls State Park you can hear their power of water gushing down. In addition, this is actually the oldest park in the United States and was established in 1885.

American Attractions

There are many great attractions on the American side a short drive or walk away. If you are looking for adventure, be sure to check out Whirlpool Jetboat Tours, Rainbow Air, Inc. Helicopter Tours, Hiking the Gorge, and Cave of the Winds! Cave of the Winds is definitely windy and wet, but ponchos are included! Because of the close proximity, in the winter the wooden walkways are removed so you don’t get as close to the falls but can still go down to the bottom!

Into a little more into the history? Explore the Niagara Falls Visitor Center and learn about the history of the Niagara Region. The Niagara Legends of Adventure film at the visitor center is 30 minutes long and provides a great overview of the history of Niagara Falls and some of the great stories that go along with it. Costing $12 per person for Adults and $9 for youth. You can also check out the nearby Old Fort Niagara, or Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum!

Looking for something different? Go shopping at the Fashion Outlet Malls of Niagara Falls USA, Gamble at Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino or check out the Aquarium of Niagara!

Lastly, walking around the oldest national park is certainly a breathtaking experience! During the summer this is a great place to have a picnic or take a nap while listening to the water crash down over the falls.

Girl standing next to Niagara Falls and a rainbow in the background
View from Niagara Falls State Park, USA


The Canadian side of Niagara Falls is known for being able to view all three waterfalls. In addition to the views, it is known for Clifton Hill. One short block away from the falls, this strip provides an abundance of activities.

Because of the similar ‘strip’, Clifton Hill is sometimes referred to it as a mini-Vegas. Similarities of the lights, music, casinos, and even a Ferris Wheel resemble the famous Las Vegas Strip. Clifton Hill surely does not disappoint and you could spend a few days here. Activities range from museums, putt-putt, restaurants, bars, Ripley’s believe it or not, and arcade games at Boston Pizza.

You can even Zipline through the gorge! This goes past the American Falls and to the base of Horseshoe Falls!

Because of all these activities centralized on one strip, it is more of a commercialized experience visiting Niagara Falls on the Canadian Side.

Ariel view of Horseshoe Falls, Canada
Horseshoe Falls, Canada

Which side?

This Basic Guide to Niagara Falls shows there is nothing basic about a trip here.

Both sides have different attractions, an abundance of things to do and are a short distance away from a major city. Niagara Falls on the American side is less than a 30-minute drive to nearby Buffalo, NY. The Canadian side is only about 1.5 hours to Toronto!

Ideally, for the best experience, you could spend a week starting in one of the major cities, driving through the region and stopping at some of the Niagara Wineries, visit Niagara Falls on BOTH sides of the border, and then head over to the other city! You really can’t go wrong with either side you pick. It just depends on what kind of adventure you are looking to have!

Maybe we’re just biased because we live here, but we love the nature of the American falls, and also the Cave of the Winds is a great up close and personal tour!

When to Visit the Niagara Falls?

Ideally, I’d suggest visiting during both the winter and summer months as both can provide you with very different experiences. The pros of visiting during the summer are, of course, the Sun! The warmer it is, the more time you can comfortably spend taking in the views and visiting all of the attractions.

Another bonus of coming during the summer is being able to see the Falls by boat! On the American side, it is the Maid of the Mist tour. Hornblower Niagara Falls Boat Cruise is the Canadian counterpart. This is one of my favorite experiences. It provides you with an up close and personal view of the Falls! Remember to bring your umbrella! The biggest con, in my opinion, is navigating the large groups of tourists in the summer. Consequently, you also will be paying peak prices for accommodations.

I think that the winter months are the best time to visit Niagara Falls for a quieter ambiance. Because of the colder weather, there are fewer tourists. This helps to provide a more intimate and natural experience for you. Sometimes when it’s extremely cold outside, you can get some very unique views of the falls becoming partially frozen appearing like a winter wonderland. In addition, the discounted rates for accommodations are also a nice perk! Providing you with some extra cash in your pocket for some Buffalo Wings at the Anchor Bar!

Niagara Falls- American side with Rainbow and a view of Canada

Our Basic Guide to Niagara Falls will continue to cover staying at one of our favorite places on the American Side.

Where to Stay in Niagara Falls, USA?

We love the Hyatt Place Niagara Falls!

Amazing Location

Most importantly, it is only a 4-minute walk to the Niagara Falls Visitor Center which is where you pass through in order to see the Niagara Falls.

The short walk makes it nice and convenient to come and go to the Falls multiple times for photos.

There’s also a parking ramp right next door to the Hyatt Place which is convenient given there are not many places to park around Niagara Falls.


One of the reasons why we love visiting Niagara Falls in the winter is that you can often find rooms at the Hyatt for less than $100 per night! If you have Hyatt points to burn, it will cost you 12,000 points per night all year round as it is a category 3 hotel. Therefore, a Basic Pro tip would be to save the points for a summer visit when the rates can reach over $250 per night! For $72 night at the Hyatt, we used 7,200 Capital One Venture Points leftover from our 50,000 sign up bonus.

The Stay

From check-in to check-out we were greeted with a friendly smile and great customer service. The rooms are spacious and conventional and the beds are really comfortable. After a long day exploring, a good night’s sleep in a large and comfy bed is the best feeling!

Hotel room with King size bed and couch/seating area

On Friday nights, the Hyatt has live music which is always a nice way to enjoy a meal or drink. We had the pleasure of listening to Mark Marinaccio playing the piano and singing all sorts of classics. Guests actually started chanting “one more song” after he said that he was done for the night. In good spirit, Mark agreed and finished the night off with some Ben Folds!

Pink cocktail with Mark Marinaccio singing in the background

Eating at the Hyatt

We opted for burgers for dinner as we were super hungry by the time we got in! Both were served with fries! I got the bacon burger while Lisa opted for the veggie burger. They definitely hit the spot we decided to wash it down with a crafty cocktail from their quality selection of drink options. In the morning, there was a fantastic breakfast spread which included scrambled eggs, pancakes, fresh fruit, oatmeal, and an assortment of breads. A basic pro tip is to make sure you sign up for a FREE world of Hyatt membership in order to collect points for the visit and get a free breakfast!

Basic Review

Niagara Falls is a fantastic place to visit. It is by far at LEAST a Once-In-A-Lifetime destination to visit. While the vast majority of people tend to visit in the summer, be sure to check out the winter months as well! It can be huge cost savings to you, and you can also check out our hometown of Buffalo, NY while you are at it!


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Happy Travels!

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

Disclosure: Basic Travel Couple, LLC has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Basic Travel Couple, LLC and CardRatings and MileValue may receive a commission from card issuers. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

The comments section below responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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