Niagara Falls is on many bucket lists and family vacation wish lists for its unfailing beauty and charm. While you can visit from the New York side and see quite a lot, many visitors wish to venture to the Canadian side for activities like the Niagara SkyWheel or Butterfly Conservatory.
Do you need a passport to visit Niagara Falls, or can you get to the Canadian side of the park from New York without one?
You cannot get into the Canadian side of Niagara Falls without a passport or an enhanced driver’s license. The Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, Whirlpool Bridge, and Rainbow Bridge require a passport or enhanced driver’s license. Children under 15 traveling with parents or guardians do not need a passport but must have an original birth certificate.
This guide will answer all your questions about entering Niagara Falls, including when you need a passport!
Do I Need a Passport to Get Into Niagara Falls, Canada?
US citizens must have a passport or an enhanced driver’s license to cross the border into Canada for any purpose, including visiting Niagara Falls.
Canadian customs often accept NEXUS cards, with NEXUS a border control program between the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Canada Border Services Agency.
Travelers must be preapproved to use a NEXUS card, with the eligibility criteria being permanent residents of the US or Canada who have lived there for at least three years. You can apply if you live in Mexico but must have a Viajero Confiable membership.
Some travelers carry a passport card, and others an Enhanced Drivers License or EDL as another means of identity confirmation.
Enhanced Driver’s Licenses are not available nationwide. The following states offer them:
- New York
Does My Child Need a Passport to Get Into Niagara Falls, Canada?
Whether a child requires a passport depends on their age. Children under 15 who are US citizens do not need a passport for Canadian entry. However, Mom and Dad, you still do, so make sure you get yours before you plan your family vacation to Niagara Falls.
Also, just because your children under 15 don’t need a passport doesn’t mean you can get them through the inspection checkpoints without any form of identification. You must have a certified copy or original birth certificate.
Are you traveling with a family member or friend’s children? You must have a handwritten note from the child’s parents stating how long the child will visit. The note must include the parent’s contact information and be notarized.
Children older than 15 must have a passport.
Can I Access Any of the Niagara Falls Bridges Without a Passport?
Niagara Falls has three crossing points between Canada and the US. They are the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, Whirlpool Bridge, and Rainbow Bridge.
The Lewiston-Queenston Bridge is near the Niagara Escarpment in Lewiston, New York. You can see views of the Niagara River at the crossing point and reach Queenston, Ontario. The bridge links Lewiston’s Interstate 190 with Queenston’s Highway 405.
The Whirlpool Bridge, also known as the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge, links Ontario’s Niagara Falls side with New York’s Niagara Falls side. It’s a little over a mile from Niagara Falls.
The Rainbow Bridge, called the Niagara Falls International Rainbow Bridge in full, is located on the Niagara River. It connects the western side of Ontario’s Niagara Falls with the eastern side of New York’s Niagara Falls.
You must show your passport when crossing these three entry points.
Can I Ride the Whirlpool Aero Car Without a Passport?
The Whirlpool Aero Car is one of Niagara Park’s biggest attractions. Running since 1916, the cable cars were created by Leonardo Torres Quevedo, an engineer from Spain.
A ride on the Whirlpool Aero car takes you across the Niagara Whirlpool (hence the name), which are Class 6 rapids. The views of the Niagara Gorge from more than 3,000 feet up are nothing short of awe-inspiring.
The antique designs of the cable cars are still reminiscent of their original creation and are another charming element of riding these inexpensive cars.
You will need a passport to ride the Whirlpool Aero Car if you’re arriving from the US. The reason is that this is an Ontario-based ride. You will need to cross into Canada to access the attraction and board the cable car.
Once you’re on the cable car, you follow the Niagara Gorge, venturing between the US and Canadian sides of Niagara Falls a grand total of four times.
You will not stop on the American side of Niagara Falls in this cart, and you cannot access it from the American side.
If you’re visiting Niagara Falls from the Canadian side, you do not need a passport to ride the Whirlpool Aero Car since you won’t disembark on American soil.
What Can You Do in Niagara Falls Without a Passport?
Do you not have enough time to secure a passport before your big family vacation to Niagara Falls? That will mean staying on the New York side for your trip. While you’re limited in what you can do, you have plenty of options for entertaining the family.
Here’s an overview.
See Bridal Veil and American Falls
Two of the three waterfalls at Niagara Falls are located on the New York side, Bridal Veil and American Falls. You can tour them, no passport required.
See the Horseshoe Falls
You will have to settle for seeing the Horseshoe Falls without crossing the border. You will spot parts of the largest of the three waterfalls throughout your visit, but you can’t view the whole grand arc without a passport.
Witness the Falls at Night
As dusk falls and the stars come out, the nonstop rushing waters of Niagara Falls are awash with multicolored lights that glimmer and shine.
It’s a breathtaking sight no matter which of the three waterfalls you see, and it will make up for not being able to venture to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.
Another benefit to staying after dark is the possibility of seeing a fireworks show over Niagara Falls. The fireworks are viewable from the New York and Canadian sides but only happen seasonally between the spring and autumn.
Check Out Maid of the Mist
New York’s Maid of the Mist is a tour that has enchanted visitors for over 100 years. You’ll start your trip on the Observation Tower, where you will receive a souvenir poncho you’re definitely going to need.
After putting it on, you’ll begin your boat tour, which takes you past American Falls through Horseshoe Falls’ basin.
Get Soaked at Cave of the Winds
A personal family favorite is Cave of the Winds, a year-round attraction that includes the World Changed Here Pavilion.
Cave of the Winds is another Niagara Falls attraction where you and your family should plan to get wet, so dress appropriately!
This cave tour will help your family see a new side of Bridal Veil Falls.
The wealth of hiking trails in the area will keep your family on their feet after you wrap up seeing Niagara Falls. Consider exploring these trails:
- Whirlpool Rapids Adventure Hike (for kids eight and up)
- Devil’s Hole Rapids and Giant Rock (for kids eight and up)
- Upper Great Gorge Hike
- Great Gorge Scenic Overlook Hike
- Niagara Gorge Trailhead Center
Visit the Aquarium
The Aquarium of Niagara is located on the New York side of Niagara Falls. The aquarium features a varied assortment of aquatic creatures, everything from reptiles to penguins.
Visitor experiences help guests, young and old, to get up close and personal with fun animals like sea lions and seals.
See the Schoellkopf Power Plant Ruins Site
The Niagara Gorge has an elevator that will take you to the Schoellkopf Power Plant Ruins Site. The power station wrapped construction in the 1920s, and by 1956, it began cracking. It collapsed not long after with one casualty.
The ruins still stand today and are partially used by the Maid of the Mist for boat storage over the winter.
What Can You Do in Niagara Falls With a Passport?
For as many activities that await you without a passport, having a passport opens your access to the full extent of what Niagara Falls has to offer, including free and paid activities that will take your family vacation to the next level.
See all the Falls
The only way to understand the full scope of Horseshoe Falls is with a passport. It’s worth coming to the Ontario side for this sight alone, as this expansive view of the waterfall will undoubtedly take your breath away!
Experience the Enormity of Niagara Falls
The fun doesn’t stop there! Perhaps you and your family will get to know Horseshoe Falls better by taking a tour of the Journey Behind the Falls experience. You’ll ride an elevator more than 100 feet down and see the other side of Horseshoe Falls.
Niagara’s Fury is a theater experience with whipping winds, falling snow, splashing water, and other sensory experiences presented in a compact yet intense six-minute ride.
You can also appreciate the size of Horseshoe Falls by boat on Niagara City Cruises. The Voyage to the Falls Boat Tour is approximately 20 minutes and features unique vantage points of Bridal Veil Falls, American Falls, and the Niagara Gorge.
Visit Amusement Parks
The best amusement parks in Niagara Falls are on the Canadian side. This is the one and only home of Clifton Hill, which features the famous Niagara SkyWheel.
That’s far from all you can ride at this amusement park. You’ll also find dark rides, a spherical go-kart track, an arcade called the Great Canadian Midway, dinosaur-themed mini golf, and the Movieland Wax Museum.
MarineLand of Canada is a half-aquarium, half-amusement park and is sure to delight your children to no end.
Play with the Animals
Animals roam in Niagara Falls, and your children will likely want to see them all. A visit to the Butterfly Conservatory makes for a relaxing afternoon after a high-adrenaline visit to Horseshoe Falls.
Safari Niagara is a zoo with many hands-on animal experiences.
Not to be outdone by New York, Ontario offers visitors many great hiking trails to experience, including:
- Fireman’s Park Loop
- Heartland Forest Trail
- Dufferin Islands Loop
- Niagara River Recreational Trail
- Whirlpool Trail
- Niagara Whirlpool Loop