Niagara Falls tops many lists of the best natural wonders in the United States. Its immersive terrain, breathtaking waterfalls, and surrounding activities continue to compel millions of families to visit each year, but can you view Niagara Falls for free?
You can visit Niagara Falls for free. Niagara Falls State Park in New York doesn’t charge an entrance fee, and the Canadian side of Niagara Falls is also free to visit. However, parking isn’t always free, and food, beverages, souvenirs, and activities cost additional fees.
Do you have more questions about what you’ll spend on a Niagara Falls family vacation? I’ve got answers ahead, so don’t miss it.
Is it free to view Niagara Falls on the New York side? What about Canada?
Why do more than 20 million people visit both sides of Niagara Falls every year?
Well, part of it is to see the gargantuan waterfalls, of which social media photos and videos will never do justice. The other part is because it’s such a cost-effective family getaway.
You don’t have to spend a cent to view Niagara Falls.
Niagara Falls State Park in Niagara County, New York, doesn’t charge entry into the park. Ontario’s side of Niagara Falls, which features Horseshoe Falls (the largest waterfall of the three), similarly does not charge.
If you’re not a Canadian resident, you will need a passport to enter Canada.
Can you see Niagara Falls for free at night?
The cost to visit Niagara Falls (which, to be clear, is nothing) doesn’t change whether you visit the site by day or night. Niagara Falls State Park and Ontario’s side of Niagara Falls are open 24/7, 365.
You can enter the park in the middle of the night if you want. I can’t guarantee there will be any camping spots left (if you’re interested in camping out in Niagara Falls State Park), but you can do it.
Visiting Niagara Falls at night is an entirely different and invigorating experience from enjoying the park during the day.
The waterfalls are awash in lights once the sun goes down. The glowing lights create a rainbow of colors, and the rushing water over each hue gives it a dazzling effect.
Is parking around Niagara Falls free?
While it’s free to get into Niagara Falls on the US and Canadian sides without paying a penny, parking is often a different story.
Niagara Falls, Canada, has several free parking lots. The first is in Old Fort Erie on 350 Lakeshore Road. There are several caveats to consider before parking here.
First, it’s a 27-minute drive away from Niagara Falls State Park in New York and a 24-minute drive from Ontario’s Niagara Falls, so it’s not conducive to being able to see the falls.
Second, the lot is open seasonally. It’s also small, so parking spots go quickly. It’d be a shame to drive out of your way for nothing.
The next free parking spot is by the Whirlpool Aero Car on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. The address is 3850 Niagara Parkway. This is still about a half-hour drive from the Canadian entrance to Niagara Falls, but it’s only 12 minutes from Niagara Falls State Park.
The Whirlpool Aero Car parking lot is small and seasonal. It will go fast because it’s free, so arrive early if you want a shot at it.
The rest of the parking lots require a fee of $10 to $35 to park.
The Falls Parking Lot A on 6635 Niagara Parkway is a gated parking lot. It’s open year-round.
Here’s a rundown of the metered parking spots and whether they’re open seasonally or all year:
- McFarland House on 15927 Niagara Parkway (seasonal)
- Queenston Heights Park on 14184 Niagara Parkway (seasonal)
- Niagara Glen & Nature Centre on 3050 Niagara Parkway (year-round)
- Butterfly Conservatory & Botanical Gardens on 2565 Niagara Parkway (year-round)
- Thompson Point – Adventure Wildplay Course Lot on 3500 Niagara Parkway (year-round)
- Fisherman’s Parking Lot on Niagara Parkway (year-round)
- Whirlpool Parkette on 4280 Niagara Parkway (year-round)
- White Water Walk ion 4330 River Road (year-round)
- Rainbow Bridge on 4348 Hiram Street (year-round)
- Kingsbridge Park on 7870 Niagara Parkway (seasonal)
- Dufferin Islands on 6345 Dufferin Isle Road (year-round)
- Queen Victoria Place on 6349 Niagara Parkway (year-round)
- Rapidsview Parking Lot C on 7651 Niagara Parkway (seasonal)
- Floral Showhouse Parking Lot B on 7145 Niagara Parkway (year-round)
Are the activities in Niagara Falls free?
With so many people flocking to Niagara Falls each year, businesses are eager to capitalize. All the dining experiences in and around Niagara Falls are not free, and most activities aren’t either.
If you live in New York and don’t have a passport, you’re limited on the free activities you can do. Within Niagara Fall State Park, here are the free activities you can enjoy:
- Three Sisters Islands: The Three Sisters Islands on Goat Island have three bridges to explore. Each is historic and leads to different views of Niagara Falls.
- Terrapin Point: Terrapin Point offers a wondrous view of Horseshoe Falls from your unique vantage point. The surrounding Top of the Falls Restaurant and gift shop are not free.
- Luna Island: Hidden between Bridal Veil Falls and American Falls is the small but lovely Luna Island. This island is handicapped-accessible.
- Green Island: Originally named Bath Island for its bathhouses, the land became Green Island in the 1900s. It didn’t earn its moniker because of its lush vegetation but was named in honor of Andrew H. Green, a Niagara River Commissioner.
- Prospect Point: Visitors always make a beeline for Prospect Point. It’s an optimal viewing location for American Falls and the nightly seasonal fireworks. You can also see Maid of the Mist and the Observation Tower from this viewpoint.
- Schoellkopf Power Plant Ruins Site: You won’t pay a cent to discover what fate befell the Schoellkopf Power Plant, which was built in the early 1900s and was the biggest hydroelectric power station at the time.
These activities require you to pay to enjoy:
- Cave of the Winds: An optimal opportunity to learn more about the history of New York’s Niagara Falls, Cave of the Winds is open on select dates between September and March. Admission costs $17 for youths and $21 for adults through October, then $10 for youths and $14 for adults from mid-October until the end of March.
- Maid of the Mist: Explore Niagara Falls by boat on the guided tour called Maid of the Mist. Children five and under can ride for free with an accompanying adult. Tickets cost $16.50 for children six to 12 years old and $28.25 for adults.
- Rainbow Bridge: The pedestrian bridge allowing travelers to cross between the US and Canada, Rainbow Bridge costs $5 USD from New York to Ontario and $1 USD from Canada to the US.
- Niagara Falls Convention Center: A popular spot for weddings, business meetings, and other events, the Niagara Falls Convention Center charges $50 to $75 per person for an all-day meeting package, $48 to $68 per person for weddings, and $20 to $75 per person for meetings or banquets.
- Aquarium of Niagara: Experience the best of New York’s sea life at the Aquarium of Niagara. General admission tickets cost $19.95 for kids over 13 years and adults.
- Third Street Entertainment District: The eccentric Third Street Entertainment District is reachable by shuttle. It features shops and restaurants, although you can walk through for free.
What about those visiting from Canada or sticking to the Ontario side of Niagara Falls? The following activities are free:
- Niagara River Recreational Trail: The four-part Niagara River Recreational Trail offers free enjoyment to visitors, requiring about two hours to cross if you don’t rush.
- Floral Clock: One of Ontario’s most majestic sights is the Floral Clock along the Niagara Parkway. This display, which the Niagara Parks’ horticulture staff lovingly maintains, changes its floral selection twice annually.
- Dufferin Islands: The beautiful 10-acre Dufferin Islands near the Table Rock Centre feature footbridges, varied wildlife, and walking paths. The island is part of the Winter Festival of Lights display that occurs annually between November and January.
- Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens: A score for families on a budget, the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens is nearly 100 acres and full of majesty and natural wonders to explore. The seasonal landscapes on display are award-winning.
- Niagara Glen: With a natural history spanning hundreds of millions of years, Niagara Glen is all that remains of the Carolinian Forest. The animals and plants here, of which there are almost 500 species, are largely vulnerable.
These Ontario activities charge:
- Skylon Tower: Ontario’s answer to the Top of the Falls Restaurant, the Skylon Tower offers an amazing view with an incredible menu of yummy delights.
- Journey Behind the Falls: Experience Niagara Falls up close and personal on Journey Behind the Falls, a walking tour where you descend hundreds of feet. A children’s ticket costs $16, and an adult ticket $24.
- Butterfly Conservatory: The only place in Niagara Falls to see free-flying butterfly species, the Butterfly Conservatory is a favorite for families visiting Ontario. Tickets cost $11.50 per child and $17.50 per adult, and guided tours are $18.50 per child and $27.50 per adult.
- Niagara SkyWheel: The most talked-about attraction at Clifton Hill is the Niagara SkyWheel, a larger-than-life, slow-spinning Ferris wheel granting amazing viewpoints of Niagara Falls and the surrounding area. Tickets cost $7 for children 12 and under and $15 per adult.
- White Water Walk: The White Water Walk is a walking tour to experience the immensity of Niagara Falls in Ontario. It’s open seasonally each year between April and November. Kids two and under can get in free, while tickets for kids three to 12 cost $11.50, and tickets for adults are $17.50 each.
- Whirlpool Aero Car: This is the only way to get between America and Canada without a passport! The Whirlpool Aero Car travels thousands of miles up over Class 6 rapids. It’s free for kids two and under to ride. Tickets for kids three to 12 cost $11.50, and adult tickets are $17.50
- Bird Kingdom: The whole family will make flying friends at Bird Kingdom, one of North America’s largest aviaries. Tickets start at $13.95 per person.