Niagara Falls straddles the border between the USA and Canada, and it is one of the biggest natural attractions visited in each country. I have seen a lot of waterfalls in my life, but it’s hard to think of one more impressive than Niagara Falls. Sure it’s a touristy spot, but that doesn’t make the flow any less impressive. I spent 24 hours exploring the city and created an itinerary that you can follow along with below. Let me know if I left off one of your favorite spots in the comments.
This post assumes you will be arriving either the night before or early morning. There is an FAQ at the end with information about the different sides of the falls.
9 AM – Maid of the Mist
No visit to the falls is complete without a ride on the iconic boat that takes you close. I recommend getting there when they open and taking the first or second boat that leaves. This attraction is really popular, and you can’t schedule a time in advance, so getting there early and getting it out of the way is your best bet.
The ride to the falls and back only takes about 20 minutes, so it is quick. It is a lot of fun though, and you will get wet from the mist coming off the falls, even with the poncho they provide.
Pro Tip: Everyone wants to stand on top of the boat, but for photos, it can be better to be on the bottom in the front.
When you finish your time on the boat, walk up the stairs they have built right next to the waterfall to get close to the American Falls. Also, be sure to walk out on the observation deck which is at the top of the elevator and included with your ticket purchase.
10 AM – Luna Island
After leaving the Maid of the Mist area, walk through the state park which provides many views of the falls below. Cross the pedestrian bridge to continue towards Cave of the Winds, but before going there, follow the signs for Luna Island.
This small “island” is almost entirely a viewing platform, but the views are directly down the waterfall itself, and they are amazing. This is one of my favorite viewing spots on the US side.
10:30 AM – Cave of the Winds
After leaving Luna Island, you are a short 5-minute walk from the ticket area for Cave of the Winds. Cave of the Winds is a set of stairs and platforms right below the American Falls and which is only open during the summer. A ticket purchase gets you a pair of sandal and a poncho to wear so you can keep a little dry. You will not be dry by the end though, especially if you go to the hurricane deck.
This spot is really fun to explore as it gives you a great vantage point for the American Falls. The highlight is the Hurricane Deck though where you are almost directly under one of the falls, and you get soaking wet.
After exploring Cave of the Winds, head back up to the ticket area and then head left to go to the observation deck for Horseshoe Falls from the American side.
This view is not super impressive when you compare it to the Candian, but it is worth seeing since you are in the area. After this, I would recommend getting changed and grabbing some lunch before crossing the border into Canada for the afternoon. be sure you bring your passports.
1 PM – Rainbow Bridge
Following lunch, you can drive or walk over to the Canadian side of the falls by crossing the Rainbow Bridge. The crossing was smooth both ways when we went since we were not staying more than a few hours on the Canadian side.
After crossing, you can drive up near the casinos and find a parking lot. Parking prices range from $7 to $20 if you want to park close to the falls. Also, you can just park in the lot for Skylon Tower if you want as it is in an excellent location. It does usually cost $15 though.
2 PM – Walking the Falls Overlook
After finding parking, head down to the long walkway that goes along Niagara Parkway and that provides amazing views of the falls.
I recommend walking the whole thing and taking your time as it is awe-inspiring to see it from many different angles.
You can even walk up close to where the water goes over Horsetail Falls which is fun.
5 PM – Tower
When you finish walking along the pathway, make your up to the large tower that looks like the Seattle Space Needle. This is a great observation deck that gives some excellent views of the falls. It does cost $18 though to ride up, but if you have a zoom lens it’s an epic photo spot.
The elevator will take you up to a deck at 160 feet which has a 360-degree view. There is even a restaurant up here if you want to grab something to eat. It is pricey though.
This is a great spot for sunset too if you want to stay up here for longer or come up later.
Dinner – Smoke’s Poutinerie
When you are done near the falls and observation tower, I recommend trying Canada’s famous dish poutine. There is a good spot about a mile away called Smoke’s Poutinerie, but there are a lot of other restaurants around as well.
Smoke’s has a dozen or so different styles of poutine, which is essentially fries with gravy and cheese curds (plus other assorted toppings). Don’t knock it till you try it though its great.
Falls at Night
After dinner, consider walking/driving back down to see the falls again at night as they are lit up.
I thought it would be lame, but it was actually cool to see them like this.
10 PM – Fireworks
If you are staying late, then watch the fireworks show that happens every day over the American Falls at 10 PM. It is only 5-10 minutes long, but it is fun to see. Do note that it doesn’t happen if it’s windy or if it is raining.
Here is a video I made showing all of these.
That’s the end of the recommendations I have for 24 hours in Niagara Falls. Be sure to let me know what I left off and good job making the most of your time in this fun city.