One day in Niagara is all you need to do some pretty awesome things. We split our time there into two days, spending the first in Canada and the second on the US side, mainly because we had a 6am train to New York the next morning and didn’t want to get up any earlier to get across the border. We crossed the Rainbow Bridge at about 8.30am and it was virtually empty, despite the hotel receptionist warning us of massive queues. What was interesting is that I needn’t have bothered with the US ESTA (visa) as you don’t need it unless you arrive by air. Instead, we had to pay a $6 toll to get our passports stamped in order to gain entry to America.
Once over the border we dropped our bags at the hotel, and walked to Goat Island which is a lovely area in the Niagara State Park with many viewpoints of the Falls and the rapids which lead up to them.
Our first stop was the Cave Of The Winds which is similar to the Journey Behind The Falls on the Canadian side, but it is much more dramatic with terrific views, but visitors get much wetter as it’s right next to the American Falls! First of all you pick up some rather unflattering but complimentary sandals, to save your shoes from getting soaked.
Next, you get a yellow poncho which offers marginal protection against the cascading water and makes you look rather silly too! Then you head along the boardwalk towards the viewing platforms.
Once there, you have superb views across to the Canadian side of the river and the Horseshoe Falls.
You are then given the option of going right up beside the Falls. Some of us began climbing the steps but chickened out when the water started trickling through the poncho. It was so hard to see anything through the mist too. I honestly think they should sell goggles as they’d make a fortune!
My husband was much braver and went as far as he could up the side of the American Falls, and he didn’t even get too wet, I’m not sure how. Maybe his big head and neck made a better seal for the poncho?
It was an incredible experience and I’m grateful it was a sunny, warm day as we were able to dry off fairly quickly.
We then walked the short distance to Terrapin Point which was, for me, the best view of the Horseshoe Falls. To see the water coming down the rapids and furiously cascading over the edge was unforgettable.
We bought tickets for the trolley ride which turned out to be a great idea if you’re spending one day in Niagara and excellent value. For just $3 you get an all-day wristband for the trolley cars which circle the island with various stops. It’s a lovely, scenic ride and saved us walking back to the mainland. It meant that we could use it later too, for a last look at the Falls.
We stopped at the Red Coach Inn (read reviews here) for a lovely lunch and it was nice to get out of the heat. It’s an 18th century coaching inn, the service is great and I can highly recommend the meatloaf! We had done a lot of walking so headed back to the hotel and chilled in the room for a while before going back out for the Maid Of The Mist tour – which is a must-see attraction and didn’t disappoint.
The highlight of our one day in Niagara
You experience the Falls from the river itself, which is a unique angle, and you get to experience their power up close. The Canadian side has the Hornblower, which is the same boat ride, so you can do it from both sides of the border. The Canadian boats are red and the American ones are blue.
As it turned out, ours was the last tour of the day, and the queue was quite long. The timing turned out to be perfect though as the setting sun produced some gorgeous skies and lovely views of the Falls.
Although the boat was crowded, we headed for the lower deck and found ourselves a spot right at the front! If you’re fairly near the front of the queue then I’d highly recommend it as everyone heads for the upper deck, so going downstairs means you have more chance of getting a fantastic, unhindered view.
As much as you try and tuck in your poncho, it’s impossible not to get wet when you get close to the Horseshoe falls. It’s such a unique experience though, just like a heavy rainstorm. I would highly recommend getting a plastic case so that you can take photos of the trip, like this one – they are very cheap and mean you can get some amazing photos without the worry of ruining your phone.
Once we disembarked there was another long queue to get the lift back to the top. They should install some stairs for those who are fit enough to climb back up and speed things up for those who can’t!
Where we ate :
The Red Coach Inn – this is an 18th century coaching inn and we had a superb lunch here. The food and service were great and it seemed very cheap when compared with the Canadian prices we had been paying. It was a great place to cool off on a hot day. Reviews here
Read more :
Where we stayed :
Holiday Inn – it was excellent value and had everything we needed. Details here
If you’re in the area then you may also enjoy reading these related posts :
- One day in Niagara on the Canadian side
- Things to do in Toronto
- Best New York Landmarks
- New York hidden gems
This post contains affiliate links for which I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase at no extra cost to you. The money goes towards the costs of maintaining the website and makes me very happy!