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American Falls vs. Niagara Falls (Canadian Falls)

Niagara Falls is more than 51,000 acres and is split between the United States and Canada. It’s a fun vacation either way, but if you can only visit one, which will it be?

The American side of Niagara Falls features three waterfalls and many great attractions, including Cave of the Winds. You don’t have to pay to get into Niagara Falls State Park. The Canadian side of the Falls has one waterfall but more attractions, including the SkyWheel and Butterfly Conservatory.

So how do you choose? That’s the million-dollar question. This guide should make it easier, as I’ll put the two parts of Niagara Falls head to head to determine which comes out on top.

Introduction to the American Side of Niagara Falls

The American Falls at Niagara Falls, New York.

The American side of Niagara Falls is in New York in Niagara County. It’s a part of Niagara Falls State Park, and the falls isn’t its only claim to fame. It’s also the oldest state park in the country!

You can be right up next to the Bridal Veil Falls and American Falls from the US side of Niagara Falls. On Goat Island, you can also stand next to the Horseshoe Falls, also commonly called the Canadian Falls.

When you finish your tour, you might consider taking your family on the boat ride known as Maid of the Mist or getting up close and personal to Niagara Falls at Cave of the Winds.

That’s a personal family favorite because it’s open all year round and is such an immersive experience. Get ready for a soaking, and don’t miss the World Changed Here Pavilion.

» MORE: Cave of the Winds at Niagara Falls State Park (US Side)

Niagara Falls State Park invites you to explore its hiking trails. You can also venture off the beaten path and stroll Old Falls Street USA, a stretch of cobblestone that extends for three blocks.

Old Falls links the Niagara Falls Convention Center and Niagara Falls State Park, so it’s very accessible. You’re also in proximity to many attractions and lodging options downtown.

The calendar changes seasonally, with options like concerts, festivals, and other attractions.

» MORE: Niagara Falls With Dogs – Guide to Visiting With Your Four-Legged Friend

Introduction to the Canadian Side of Niagara Falls

The Canadian side of Niagara Falls is located in Ontario. It’s known for its impressive views of the Horseshoe Falls, which is accessible from this side of the park. You can also look across the river gorge to view the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.

As much fun as you and the family can have visiting Niagara Falls, there is so much more to do once you finish admiring the beauty of the Falls.

Between Journey Behind the Falls and indoor water parks, amusement centers like the Big Top Amazing Mirror & Laser Maze, Bird Kingdom, and so much more, visiting Niagara Falls is one of the best ways to experience Canada.

» MORE: 3 Amusement Parks by Niagara Falls (Your Kids Will Thank You)

American Falls vs. Niagara Falls (Canadian Side): Which Is Better?

Are you still stumped on which side of Niagara Falls to spend your next family vacation? This section will help you mull it over.

Which Side Has More Waterfalls?

The view of the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls

This distinction belongs to the American side of Niagara Falls. It’s the home of American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. Part of the Horseshoe Falls is located in New York, so technically, you have access to all three waterfalls within the country.

The Canadian side of Niagara Falls can stake a claim to the rest of Horseshoe Falls, but not Bridal Veil Falls or American Falls, although some might argue you can see them better from across the river.

Which Side Costs More to Get In?

You won’t pay a fee to visit Niagara Falls, whether you do so from the Ontario or New York sides.

» MORE: Cost to Get into Niagara Falls State Park

Which Side Is Less Expensive?

The American Falls is less expensive. The immediate area has fewer dining and entertainment options, which makes it more appealing if you want a low-cost family vacation.

That’s not to say that you’ll be bored, as I promise you, you’ll be anything but.

» MORE: How Much Does It Cost to Visit Niagara Falls? (Plus Budgeting Tips and Tricks for Families)

The surrounding downtown area can be costly, although you’re outside Niagara Falls State Park by that point.

However, whether you spend more money to visit and enjoy the Ontario side of Niagara Falls depends on what you’re looking for out of your vacation.

Checking out the commercial attractions will surely be costly, but touring Queen Victoria Park, wandering the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, hiking or cycling the Niagara River Recreation Trail, and seeing the Floral Clock are free.

» MORE: Things to Do in Niagara Falls for Free

Which Side Is More Accessible?

That depends on where you’re coming from!

If you already live in the US, you don’t need a passport to get into Niagara Falls State Park. However, if you’re visiting the New York side from Canada, you do need a passport.

You also require a passport if you live in the US and wish to see the Canadian part of Niagara Falls. Canadians do not.

» MORE: Can I Get Into Niagara Falls Without a Passport?

Which Side Has More Activities?

Image credit: Niagara Parks

This distinction goes to the Canadian side. The variety of activities here is immense. Here is a complete rundown of what you can do in Ontario.

Rides and attractions like:

Water parks such as:

Animal attractions like:

Unique Niagara Falls experiences, including:

Outdoor recreation like:        

» MORE: Fun Things to Do in Niagara Falls, Ontario

The New York side of Niagara Falls contains these family-friendly activities:

Which Side Is Less Crowded?

That depends more on when you visit Niagara Falls than on which side you choose. For instance, you can expect both sides of the park to be poppin’ in the summer when most kids are out of school, and families are eager to take their annual vacations.

The spring is another popular time for travel to Niagara, and you might even see some stragglers into the autumn. It’s usually quiet in the winter, but it’s an amazing time to visit to possibly see Niagara Falls frozen over, or at least rimmed with ice.

Which Side Has More Dining Options?

I’d say they’re about evenly split, with perhaps the Ontario side offering more dining options.

However, you and the kids won’t go hungry for a second when dining on either side of Niagara Falls, with restaurants scattered about near the waterfalls and in the vicinity.

Here is a link to all the restaurants on the US side of Niagara Falls.

The list reveals casual inclusions like Arby’s and Applebee’s and unique spots like Anchor Bar and Top of the Falls Restaurant.

You can find quick, casual family fare or fancy sit-down establishments depending on your mood and budget.

Check out the full list of Niagara Falls Ontario dining options here. You can again find chains like Hard Rock Café and Ruth’s Chris Steak House and special spots for a meal like the Skylon Tower Revolving Dining Room and Milestones of the Falls. The restaurants run the gamut from casual to upscale.

Which Side Has More Lodging Options?

Image credit: Great Wolf Lodge, Niagara Falls

This is another even split, or thereabouts. Your lodging options on both sides of the falls include quaint bed and breakfasts, affordable motels, chain hotels, hostels, vacation rentals, idyllic cottages, RV parks, and campgrounds.

Which Side Has More Transportation Options?

You have plenty of transportation options between both sides of Niagara Falls. You can drive, fly in, and rent a car, take a Lyft or Uber (or another rideshare service of your choice), ride a taxi, take a bus or train, or explore via a trolley or shuttle.

» MORE: Can You Get Around Niagara Falls Without a Car?

The Verdict

American Falls vs. Niagara Falls needn’t be a battle to wage within your household. These sides of Niagara Falls are equally as charming and hold different secrets between the two of them.

I recommend concentrating your efforts on obtaining a passport (if you don’t already have one) and visiting both sides.