36 hours in Niagara Falls in winter: a trip recap

This weekend I went to Niagara Falls. I’ve been there before, both during the summer and during winter. Even if the main purpose of my latest trip there wasn’t to actually visit the falls, I ended up spending a good amount of time there.

Niagara Falls in Winter

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It’s been way too long since I’ve written a trip recap. These are my favourite kind of posts to write and I really hope I’ll get to write more of them in the new year (which means I’ll be travelling more). As I said before, I’ve learned that living abroad doesn’t mean I get to travel all the time.

Niagara Falls is one of the few places that can be reached from Toronto even if you don’t have a car. I’ve been to Niagara Falls a couple of times this year and maybe I will write a more detailed post about all the attractions and stuff you can do there (would you be interested in that?).

Now, are 36 hours in Niagara Falls enough? Yes and no.

Yes, if you’ve been there before. Or if it is winter. Or if that’s the only amount of time that you have. Seriously, even just taking a walk along the falls will be worth it (and free!). You don’t really have to do all the attractions in order to enjoy the gorgeous views.

No, if you want to have the ultimate complete experience.

Before departure

As I said, I had already visited the Falls a couple of times on both sides: I knew how to get there, where everything is, what I wanted to see. So I didn’t really plan much before leaving Toronto.

If you’re going there during the summer, I highly suggest you book a hotel room at least a couple of months in advance. Niagara Falls is a very popular destination in the summer and hotels are usually full. That being said, I also booked my hotel in advance through booking.com even if it was winter because nowadays you can get a better deal by booking online.

Then, you’ll have to think about how to get there. Niagara Falls is a very popular one-day trip from Toronto. There are a lot of companies that offer all-inclusive tours. For a cheaper option, Greyhound or Megabus will bring you from Toronto to Niagara Falls in less than 2 hours. I personally like Megabus because you can change your tickets up to three hours before departure.

Finally, you’ll have to decide what you want to do there. But, if you are going during the winter months, you don’t have to worry about purchasing tickets or a pass for the attractions, as everything is closed.

A quick note: where to stay + how to get around

There are hotels and motels both on the Canadian and the American side. I believe there are more options on the Canadian side. Also, especially at night, there is more to do there. I stayed on the Canadian side every single time I went there, except for this time.

If you want to stay on the American side, most of the hotels are around the Rainbow bridge, which connects the States to Canada. So it won’t take you more than 20 minutes to get to the other side.

Pretty much everything is within walking distance, so you don’t really need to worry too much about how to get around. But, if you’re not the walking type or for whatever other reason, you might want to purchase a 24-hours WeGo bus pass. Alternatively, taxis and uber are always an option.

Trip recap – my itinerary

Morning

I left Toronto pretty early in the morning and arrived in Niagara Falls before 10am. I would usually take an uber to get to the falls, as the bus station is a 30-minutes walk away from the park and there is nothing interesting on the way. But I wasn’t in a rush so I decided to get a bus ticket without realizing that it actually cost me around the same as uber. There weren’t many people on the bus (or anywhere around Niagara Falls) and I got a seat so I can’t complain too much. Also, it was a 24-hours pass and I thought I could have used that if it was getting too cold, as it was snowing and the wind was terrible.

I arrived at the Table Rock and enjoyed the very pretty and very grey view of the horseshoe fall. Last time I was there in winter, the wind was blowing right in that direction so it was impossible to take pictures from outside. This time, the wind was blowing in another direction, so I got to get very close and personal with the falls without any water pouring over me. It’s crazy how much the colours change during the seasons. In summer, the water looks so blue and bright and warm. In winter, it looks like there is a black and white filter on.

Afternoon

I crossed the bridge to get to the American side. If you are planning to cross the border, remember to bring your passport, which is the only form of ID accepted. Also, be mindful that you have to pay a 50 cents (either CAD or USD) tool to cross the bridge from Canada. In addition, you have to pay a 6$ entrance fee to the US.

After a little bit of wandering in what looked like a ghost town, I went to my hotel. Even in the summer, Niagara Falls, NY is not as commercial and fun as the other Niagara Falls. In winter, it is even worse: literally everything is closed. The few restaurants and shops that are open still look closed as they are empty.

After chilling a little bit in my hotel room and having the worst lunch I had in a while (just a bunch of cookies), I was finally ready for the event that brought me to Niagara Falls in the first place.

Night

I went to a Simple Plan concert! It was their 15 years anniversary tour, which made me feel pretty old but I had a lot of fun anyways.

Here a video of a very old song that even after all these years still gives me all the feels.

The morning after

After a not so good breakfast at the hotel, I went out and explored a little more on the American side. It was freezing, as you can see from these pictures, but it was so worth it! The view was incredible and a bit different from the usual summer day.

I’ve heard a lot of people saying that the Canadian side is better. Sure, you get to see all the falls at once, which is truly amazing. But the views are spectacular even on the American side, as it is more natural and cleaner.

I went back to the Canadian side for lunch. After that, my plan was to stay there until late at night for the Winter Festival of Lights, but it was too cold and I was too tired so I decided to come back to Toronto earlier. I still want to tour the 8km long illumination route through Niagara Parks and I am planning to go one afternoon in January.

Have you ever been to Niagara Falls? Did you like the Canadian or the American side more?

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  • Angela Maria

    As a fellow Toronto girl, I love the convenience of Niagara falls. It’s quite close and it’s a nice little change. I go at least once a year and I partake in the Clifton Hill must-dos i.emuseums, games, ferris wheel, mini golf. I find the hotel room prices unreasonable so if my partner and I spend the night we usually do so outside this hot-spot.

    • Clifton Hill is so fun! I wanted to do mini golf and the hunted house for so long. Maybe next time I get to go there.

  • Anissa Watkins

    I always wanted to visit! My friends have gone there for the women’s half marathon and loved it!

    • Oh, wow! I had no idea they do a marathon there. I need to look into that.

  • Great photos! I’ve been wanting to go to Niagara Falls for so long now! Maybe 2018 will be my year!

    • Thank you, Jennifer! And fingers crossed that you get to visit soon.

  • I’ve been to Niagara Falls several times. Our most recent trip was this summer, which was the first time my kids got to see the falls. It must be freezing visiting the falls in Winter!! But I’m sure still beautiful. I agree that you get a better view of the falls from the Canadian side.

    • Yes, it’s usually very cold in winter, especially if it’s particularly windy. I hope your kids enjoyed the falls too!

  • Lauren Falardeau Pariseau

    We live fairly close, but never been to Niagara Falls. Loved looking at your photos!

    • Thank you, Lauren!

  • I haven’t been to Niagra Falls yet but I really want to get there one day soon! To the Canadian side, in particular. This is really helpful guide!

    • Fingers crossed you get to visit Niagara Falls soon! I would suggest going during the summer for the first time. Especially on the Canadian side, there is so so much to do!