Though some folks try to fit Niagara Falls into a day trip, we feel this is a huge mistake. Not only is it a beautiful area, but both the Canadian side and U.S. side of the falls have a lot to offer its visitors. Let’s jump straight into this sample three-day itinerary on what you can do with a long weekend trip at Niagara Falls.
One of the biggest questions every visitor has is, which side of the falls to visit? The simple answer is both of them. Canada, by far, has the best views of Niagara Falls. Plus, there’s more to do.
However, this doesn’t mean the U.S. side is chopped liver. The U.S. side definitely has it’s fair share of jaw dropping things to see. It just means, for the purposes of this guide’s itinerary, we assume you will base yourself on the Canadian side. However, this itinerary is easy to shuffle around to fit your preferred schedule.
Niagara Falls Cruise
What trip to Niagara Falls is complete without actually seeing the waterfalls up close. As there are often crowds, we recommend doing this in the morning before it gets busy.
There are two cruise options, the Hornblower (Canadian side) and the Maid of the Mist (U.S.). They are both roughly the same price, include ponchos, take the same route and are crowded in peak hours. It makes very little difference which one you take, but we strongly recommend doing a cruise to the falls.
Honestly, I wasn’t keen on doing it, but I’m glad I did. The power of these waterfalls is incredible and the best way to feel it is in a boat at the foot of Horseshoe Falls. It really is one of the highlights of the trip.
As our hotel was on the Canadian side, we choose the Hornblower cruise. This made it very convenient to go in the morning before the crowds. It also meant we didn’t need to carry our passports and a change of clothes on the boat. We just went back to our hotel and changed before heading out for the day.
Niagara Falls Walking Path
For beautiful views of the waterfalls, just follow the car-free walking path through the park alongside the river. It’s just under 1 mile from the Hornblower Funicular to the Horseshoe Falls viewpoint behind Journey Behind the Falls.
It’s a great way to dry off if you are coming off the boats, or just a lovely stroll.
On a sunny day, count how many rainbows you can find in the mist.
Niagara Falls MistRider Zipline
As you follow the park towards Horseshoe Falls, it’s hard not to notice folks whizzing by overhead on the zipline. The adventurous may want to take this faster route to the falls.
Journey Behind The Falls
If you have a warm sunny day and are keen to get wet, Journey Behind the Falls may be for you.
We opted not to do this particular tourist attraction and instead did a similar activity on the U.S. side which we talk about a little further down.
Flora Showhouse and Dufferin Islands
Continue following the walking trail beyond Horseshoe Falls for Floral Showhouse. This magnificent garden and greenhouse always has something in bloom.
If you are keen to keep walking, continue to follow the river to Dufferin Islands. This natural area and park is popular with locals and bird watchers. All up, it’s about 1.7 miles from our starting point at the Hornblower Funicular.
Clifton Hill Area
As the evening starts to roll in, most visitors head for the Clifton Hill area. Here you will find all sorts of typical tourist attractions. Haunted houses, wax museums, fun centers, and tacky souvenir shops line the street.
There’s no escaping being a tourist in Niagara, so have fun embracing it. Pop into some of the novelty stores, like Hershey and Coca-Cola before heading into the Great Canadian Midway for a few rounds of skee-ball. Or, head into the Casino Niagara for adult entertainment.
Grabbing Dinner in Niagara Falls
Not far from the Clifton Hill area, on Victoria Street, we can recommend the Weinkeller for dinner. It’s a fine dining option, so a little pricier than other meals in the area. However, the food and atmosphere was very nice.
Day 2 - Niagara Falls, U.S. side
Next on our long weekend itinerary of Niagara Falls, the U.S. side of the falls. Grab your passport and head over Rainbow Bridge.
Crossing the Canada - U.S. Border
Crossing the border is relatively painless. Though cars can often find long toll lines in summer and during holidays.
As the views from Rainbow Bridge are stunning, we recommend crossing on foot if you are able. You cannot go on the bridge without going through immigration first. Crossing into the U.S. requires a $1 (USD or CAD) pedestrian toll. A change machine is onsite as the toll requires quarters only.
Niagara Falls State Park
Once you pass through the border, take a right and walk along Niagara Falls State Park. You’ll want to follow the path along the river. First, you’ll come to the Maid of the Mist boat tours at Prospect Point.
For $1.25 (USD) or free in winter, the Niagara Falls viewpoint provides the best view on the U.S. side. It gets you above the trees and out by the river for a panoramic view of all three waterfalls.
Taking the elevator to the bottom brings you to the Maid of the Mist boarding area. Head off to the left and find a set of stairs. These take you to the base of the American Falls and the very wet and windy “Crows Nest” viewpoint.
On the top level of the state park walking path, keep following the river for the top of the American Falls viewpoint.
Cave of Winds
Keep following the river and cross over Goat Island Road Bridge. There are several viewpoints in this area, including Luna Island, a little outcrop on American Falls.
You also have the option of doing the Cave of the Winds; a set of walkways that lead around the bottom of the waterfalls. This is another area you are guaranteed to get wet. If you really want to get drenched, head up to the “hurricane deck,” which does actually feel like a mild hurricane.
Included with admission is a poncho and water sandals. You can keep the sandals to use on the boat rides to the falls, if you didn’t take the boat earlier.
Horseshoe Falls, U.S. side
Continue following the walkway in the state park all the way to the end of Goat Island at Terrapin Point. Enjoy the views Horseshoe Falls, before making the walk back to the border crossing.
Waterfalls at Night & Firework Shows
No matter which day you visit Niagara Falls, you’ll find them beautifully lit in the evening. On holidays and weekends throughout summer, firework shows add an extra dazzle to the evening lights.
It’s worth noting, the Hornblower does offer firework cruises. These are a bit pricier than the standard cruise. There’s no need to be on the boats to get a fantastic view, but it may be worthwhile.
Day 3 - North Niagara, Canadian Side
On the third day of your long weekend in Niagara Falls, let’s head north. If you are not able to drive your car across the border or don’t have a car, there are plenty of tours that run in this area.
Roughly a five minute drive north of Rainbow Bridge starts the Niagara River’s Whirlpool Rapids. You don’t have to be in a boat to enjoy the area. Just past the Whirlpool Bridge on the Canadian side is an elevator that takes visitors down to a lovely boardwalk along the rapids. Unfortunately, unlike a lot of the parks in the area, there is a charge for entry.
A little further around the river is the Whirlpool Aero Cable Car which takes visitors over the gorge and the Whirlpool Rapids below.
Further north are several other tourist favorites, like the Botanical Gardens, Butterfly Conservatory, and famed Floral Clock.
As shocking as it sounds, Niagara-on-the-Lake is famous for wine. Apparently, the surrounding lakes provide a moderate micro-climate, making the area ideal for growing fruit, including grapes.
Dotted along the landscape are just under two dozen wineries. The specialty of the area are the Icewines. Made from frozen grapes, the wine is sweet and usually considered a dessert wine.
Most wineries accept walk-in guests, and offer tastings for free. Alternatively, there are plenty of tours which shuttle you around to a few vineyards in the area. Usually, these include a formal sit down tasting, with a bit of education about the wines and the region.
Some of the vineyards we tried and enjoyed include:
- Southbrook Organic Vineyards
- Pondview Estate Winery
- Pillitteri Winery
- Stratus Winery
If you are also into beer, we felt the Oast House Brewery also made a nice stop.
The HOB NOB Restaurant makes a lovely spot to splurge on lunch.
Back to the waterfalls for the evening, take in your final views of the gorgeous Niagara Falls from above, at the Skylon Tower. Have dinner at the rotating restaurant or just head to the observation deck. They even offer a day/night combination ticket if you prefer to also see the views during the day.
We hope this guide has made planning your long weekend trip to Niagara Falls a cinch. If so, please be sure to pin us on Pinterest and share with others, thanks so much.