Niagara Falls is perhaps one of the most talked about natural beauties in the world. Now that I have finally visited the falls, I understand what all the hype is about and can’t comprehend why so many people are disappointed when they visit. I think all the naysayers are pathetic and if Niagara Falls can’t impress them, I’m willing to bet nothing in this world can.
Perhaps the greatest debate about Niagara Falls is which side is better: the American or Canadian side, so I am going to offer my opinion here.
I’ll be honest, I had no intent of visiting the New York side of the falls when my family and I were planning the trip. In fact, I insisted that we not even stop on the New York side because I had heard such awful things about it (words others used to describe it to me: grungy, filthy, deteriorating, rough area, sketchy, etc). I figured why waste time on the crappy side when I could go straight to the winning side? Thanks to a last-minute change in our trip, we actually visited the New York side and I am so glad we did.
Pros of the American side:
- Has a gorgeous state park that I knew nothing about. The area has been kept very natural and green. There are a lot of tourists, but it didn’t seem like an icky tourist trap. There were a few souvenir shops, but not so many that it took away from the serenity of the falls.
- Everything was very clean and well taken care of within the state park.
- The Cave of the Winds attraction (just so happens to be a highlight of my trip). Cave of the Winds gives you the opportunity to experience the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls from a rickety bridge that sprawls jagged rocks beneath the falls. The view seemed to be to good to be true as I looked up at the falls and at the rainbows created by the misty air. The falls showered me with cool water and made my makeup and hair a mess, but that was the last thing on my mind. It was an experience of a lifetime and allowed me to feel and hear how powerful the falls truly are. Cave of the Winds is an attraction you’ll want to spend your money on.
- The views are absolutely breathtaking; however, they are not nearly as extraordinary as the Canadian side. The views are fairly limited to side views. You simply can’t experience the falls the way you should if you only visit the New York side without at least going on Cave of the Winds.
- Prior to Cave of the Winds, I felt like the whole experience of seeing the falls in person was a bit anti-climatic. I never felt that way on the Canadian side. Perhaps it had to do with the limited views.
- There isn’t a lot to do on the American side, so if the whole “touristy” thing is what you’re into, you may be disappointed.
- Less exciting than the Canadian side.
- It didn’t seem like there were a lot of nice areas outside of the state park and the town seemed to be run-down.
- Maid of the Mist is absolutely amazing (also offered on the American side, but I’ve heard it’s better on the Canadian, side which is where I did it). Nothing compares to a boat bringing you to the whirlpool area below Horseshoe Falls. It’s absolutely incredible to be surrounded by walls of rushing, roaring water.
- Entertainment galore. Casinos, ferris wheels, water park, Hershey’s Chocolate Factory, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, etc.
- Spectacular views of American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls. The views from the American side are simply pitiful compared to the Canadian side.
- Extremely nice hotels. We stayed at Embassy Suites on the 10th floor and still had a view of the Horseshoes Falls. The view from breakfast was also amazing. Clean, friendly staff, nice pool, etc.
- Niagara-on-the-Lake is just a short drive away!
Cons of the Canadian side:
- Almost too many people and too touristy. I suppose I appreciate the natural beauty of the falls more than I do the cheesy entertainment (I know some people enjoy that entertainment, especially if they have kids, so I included it in the pros).
- Things are way more expensive, even though the United States dollar is only slightly weaker than the Canadian dollar. My typical Starbucks latte costs me slighty less than $5 in the U.S. The exact drink in Canada costed me slightly more than $7. Yikes.
- Lacks the Cave of the Winds and it’s my favorite attraction.