I recently visited Niagara Falls for the first time.
My mom, sisters and I flew to Buffalo, NY on June 22, 2023 & drove back on June 25th. (More on that later!)
We departed the Nashville airport at approximately 6 am and had a layover in Detroit... after a short layover, we landed at the Buffalo airport around 11 am where we picked up our rental car with Budget.
The drive from the airport to Niagara Falls on the US side took about 30-35 mins and is an easy drive. It’s nothing like trying to drive in NYC!
Of course, I had a full day of activities planned because I like to make the most of my time on trips!
So, our first stop of the day was lunch at the Top of the Falls restaurant!
See reviews on their Facebook page here
This is a great place to eat since you have unobstructed views of the falls IF you sit inside….however, we sat outside on the deck because we didn’t realize the views were better inside!
Tip: For more restaurants with fall views, click here
Tip: Put Top of the Falls into your GPS and park at the large parking lot – it’s $10 to park.
Our first view of the falls!
After getting seated at the restaurant, I ordered the TBLT wrap that came with their house chips for a price of $17.
The food, as well as the service, was pretty good.
The views from the restaurant are awesome!
After lunch, we headed to the Cave of the Winds.
The walk from the restaurant takes less than 5 mins.
The cost for an adult was $21 and $17 for children ages 6-12.
Tip: Cave of the Winds is a timed ticketed attraction, plan to make it your first stop of the day to make your reservation!
After you purchase your ticket, you are taken into a small room where you can read about the history of the falls.
As your reservation time gets closer, you are taken into another room where you will watch a short video about Niagara Falls.
You are given a free poncho but you will still get wet and you will be pounded by winds of up to 70 mph!!
If you have any mobility issues, this will be a challenge because you are having to climb lots of stairs!
As you are walking to the deck & stairs, you will notice a very strong stench from the many birds that hang out in the area….the smell was overwhelming!
The views from this area are awesome! You could see Canada on the other side of the river!
The entrance to Cave of the Winds.
Fun Fact: In the 1800’s there was a rock overhang –or a cave like structure– that allowed people to stand under the Falls. The Cave collapsed in the early 1900’s but the name stuck.
As you can see by my picture, the Cave of the Winds is a series of decks and stairs…each giving you a different perspective and view of the falls.
The views are awesome but it was a bit harrowing walking up and down all of the wet stairs!
With that being said, I still recommend this tour…it’s very cool and the views of the falls are amazing!
Read reviews here
You can get drenched if you wanted to but we decided to stay as dry as we could!
Tip: The decks are torn down every year and rebuilt!
A shot of us standing on one of the decks in our ponchos!
Make sure you wear good sandals and shorts or capris so you don’t get your clothes & shoes wet!
A couple more shots!
After you leave the decks, keep your poncho on and walk to another nearby area where you can stand under the water!! We skipped this because we didn’t want to climb more stairs nor did we want to get wet!
After leaving Cave of the Winds, we decided to get some ice cream.
We then headed to our next adventure, Maid of the Mist!
The walk from Cave of the Winds to the Maid of the Mist is approx. 15 mins.
On our walk there, we saw some great views of the falls!
There are great viewpoints scattered all throughout the park.
We passed a statue of Nikola Tesla.
Fun Fact: The Tesla car is named after Nikola Tesla
More shots along the way
A shot of Cave of the Winds decks
As we were walking, we spotted the Rainbow Bridge….this is the bridge you crossover into Canada.
Arriving to Maid of the Mist for our tour.
The tour is located at the Prospect Point Observation Tower…your ticket for Maid of the Mist boat ride includes the tower as well.
Elevators at the Observation Tower provide access to the base of the gorge and the boarding site for the Maid of the Mist boat tour.
Bird watching is also a popular pastime at the Niagara Falls Observation Tower. Bird enthusiasts have the opportunity to spot peregrine falcons, bald eagles and the many different gull species present in the Niagara Gorge, which has officially been designated an Audubon Important Bird Area.
Tickets are $28.25 for adults and $16.50 for children.
Tip: We decided not to pre purchase any of our tickets and we didn’t have any issues with wait times.
On the boat headed to Horseshoe Falls!
Tip: All of the Maid of the Mist boats are electric
The boat ride lasts about 20 mins…..you can’t make reservations but the boats run every 15 mins so you will never wait too long for a boat.
This was probably our most favorite tour that we did…it was so cool!
Read reviews here
You will get wet on this tour …forget having a good hair day when you visit Niagara!
A shot of Cave of the Winds from the boat
Shots of the falls
We got to see a rainbow!!
You get so close to falls that, at one point, you are completely surrounded by water!
After our tour was over, we walked around the observation tower.
At the bottom of the gorge, there are steps that lead to a viewpoint close to the falls…too many stairs for us!!
Click here for the best views of the falls
After leaving the tower, we walked around to the other nearby viewpoints.
As we were walking around, we spotted a black squirrel! We had never seen one before!!
After walking around for quite some time, we decided to take the trolley back to the Top of the Falls gift shop so we could do some souvenir shopping before heading to our hotel.
The trolley is only $3 and gives you an overview of the park and makes stops along the way…it’s definitely worth the money!
While on the trolley, we passed the historic Red Coach Inn that was built in 1923.
After getting off the trolley, we walked to the nearby Terrapin Point for more views of the falls.
A few shots from Terrapin Point
After leaving here, we walked over to the gift shop to purchase some souvenirs…it’s a 3 min walk.
Once we made our purchases, we decided to head to our hotel which was on the Canadian side.
It’s always recommended to stay on the Canadian side because you get much better views of the falls from that side.
We had to go through customs before crossing into Canada…thankfully, it didn’t take but just a few minutes. Each of us had to show our passports and the officer asked us several questions before letting us go through. We also had to pay a $5 toll.
Shortly after crossing into Canada, we arrived to our hotel and checked in.
We stayed at the Oakes Hotel overlooking the falls.
Since there were 5 of us, we booked two rooms …each room had two queen beds.
The rooms were really nice but the views were incredible!!
We had views of both horseshoe falls and bridal veil falls!
I highly recommend this hotel!
Read reviews here
After getting settled into our rooms, we walked to a nearby Applebee’s to have dinner since the hotel didn’t have a restaurant.
I ordered a grilled chicken wrap with fries and the cost was $21.
Read reviews here
Later that evening, we watched the fireworks from our hotel window!
The falls are lit up around 8:30 pm by hundreds of LED lights that are housed in 3 locations across the Niagara Gorge….it’s so cool!
Then at 10:00 pm, they have fireworks.
The fireworks lasts five minutes and runs every night from May 19 to October 9, 2023.
It was so cool to be able to watch from the comfort of our hotel room!!
After the fireworks, we called it a night…we were exhausted!!
Thanks for reading!
Stay tuned for Day 2!
Click here to see a link to all of my blog posts over the past 5 years!