Have you ever considered taking a trip to Niagara Falls, but you didn’t know where to start? No worries! I’m going to walk you through the steps I took to plan my recent weekend getaway to Canada. I’ll also dive further into the details of the trip once we got there!
Andy and I have talked about taking a trip for a while now. We have Myrtle Beach with family set up for August, but we didn’t want to wait that long to de-stress. He just graduated from a coding boot camp, so now was the perfect time! Especially before he gets a new job.
During Easter, I asked my grandparents and uncle their favorite spots for a short trip. They all voted unanimously on Niagara Falls. They made it very clear that the Canada side was the better option. It has a better view and more to do.
That was all I needed to hear! Niagara Falls is only a 4 ½ hour drive away without stops. So to the planning stage I went.
How Do I Enter Canada?
One of the very first things I looked up was, “What do I need to drive into Canada from the U.S?”
Thankfully many Google searches did not disappoint. All that was needed was proof of citizenship and identity. I used my passport, but the State Department also states that a passport card or NEXUS card satisfies these requirements for U.S. citizens.
The border patrol made sure to ask that I didn’t have any weapons, drugs or alcohol. He was very adamant on asking me 3 times if I had pepper spray since it’s considered a weapon. I just chuckled and assured that I was not smuggling pepper spray across the border.
The Planning Stage
After I knew I was good to drive into the country, I worked on where to stay! A quick Google search again and I was provided with many options. The top ones that seemed to come up included:
- Hilton Niagara
- Falls/Fallsview Hotel
- Embassy Suites by Hilton Niagara Falls Fallsview
- Sheraton Fallsview Hotel
- Fallsview Casino Resort
- Many more!
I ended up choosing the Sheraton Fallsview Hotel and booked through booking.com. We were so happy with our choice once we got there! This specific hotel was located:
- Across from the falls.
- Right beside the Clifton Hill area.
Within a 5 minute walking distance from main attractions, like Niagara City Cruises.
I have an unlimited Verizon phone plan. I found out that it works within the US, CA, and MX. I was all set there. Make sure to call your phone carrier to double check. mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.
My Visa debit card is through PNC so I gave them a call to make sure they knew I was going out of the country. I didn’t want any financial hiccups once I got there!
I knew I was also going to be using my Discover card. I was able to go on the app and set up my trip. If you also have a Discover card, sign into the app and select ‘More.’ There’s a Security section with a menu titled, ‘Register Travel.’ From there, you can set up your trip easily without calling!
Canadian currency uses the Canadian dollar. The current conversion rate from USD to CAD is $1 USD = $1.34 CAD. Now this does adjust daily so make sure to check the current conversion rate before your own trip.
I was able to use all of my cards (Visa debit and Discover) there. I did end up paying International POS fees every time I used my debit card. Thankfully each fee was only a few cents, but they do add up quickly so be aware.
EZ Pass works to get into Canada! The cost with it is $4 and without it is $8. Make sure you have some cash on you if you don’t have EZ Pass.
What to Bring
Andy and I went on our weekend trip from 4/28/23 – 4/30/23. The weather was still cold, landing in the 40s most days. We brought jackets, long sleeved shirts, shoes we didn’t mind getting wet, and an umbrella.
When I researched Niagara Falls, it does come up that the area gets rain often, so I highly suggest an umbrella or raincoat definitively. If you end up forgetting any of the essentials, like a toothbrush or deodorant, there are shops all around that you’re able to snag them at for reasonable prices.
Before Trip Necessities
- Check with your carrier.
- The Verizon unlimited plan works in the US, CA, and MX.
- Call your card issuers to make sure they’re aware you are going out of country.
- Have your passport ready as you need it at the border.
- Pack an umbrella. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
What to Do: Clifton Hill
I was surprised to find all the cute things to do in the Clifton Hill area once we arrived. I’m so glad we stayed near that section as it proved to be the area that had the most entertainment and nightlife if we wanted to just walk around and enjoy a snack. Listed below are some of the great options in the Clifton Hill Area.
- Wax Museums: Movieland and Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks
- Ripley’s Believe It or Not
- Falls Indoor Waterpark
- Hershey’s Chocolate World (very small Hershey’s store)
- Bird Kingdom
- Go karts
- Niagara Skywheel
- Lots of great food and drink options, including a Benihana, RainForest Cafe, Hard Rock Cafe, Coco Bubble Tea, Tim Horton’s, BeaverTails, and more!
The Niagara City Cruises was also a 5 minute walk from this location. That turned out to be our absolute favorite thing we did on the trip. We boarded the cruise ship and it swung by the American Falls first. Shortly after, we went right into the midst of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Our ticket was for 12 PM. The boat boarded in a timely manner and there was plenty of room to enjoy the ride. You receive a free raincoat. Trust me, you’re going to need it!
The ride was BEAUTIFUL but since I went in April, it was absolutely freezing in the mid-40s. Still worth it, but very cold. You also have the option to purchase snacks, photos, or souvenirs after the cruise ends.
What to Do: Skylon Tower
About a 15 minute walk through Queen Victoria Park from Clifton Hill area will get you to the Skylon Tower. This tower has an observation deck, two highly rated restaurants, a gift shop, and an arcade. I’m not going to lie, the arcade looked dated and I judged it at first. We started playing those old 90’s games like Top Skater and I was hooked! I love those old games infinitely more than those at Dave and Buster’s. You had to buy tokens to play the games. You could use USD or CAD.
The observation deck itself also had a gift shop and access to wonderful views of the falls. Even the yellow bugs you take to get up to the tower from the bottom level provide great views and a friendly attendant informing you of Niagara Falls tips/info.
What to Do: Journey Behind the Falls
Journey Behind the Falls is another experience that we highly recommend. Andy and I walked from Skylon Tower to this attraction. It took about 15 minutes. We walked right along the falls outline to get there, so we didn’t mind at all. They do provide a lot of mist, so be aware that you’re going to get wet.
The Journey Behind the Falls experience involved descending 125 feet and exploring the 130-year-old tunnels through the bedrock. There were viewing portals cut straight through the rock, so we were actually able to see behind the falls. Pretty cool!
Pizza from Antica’s
- Roughly $50 USD for a pizza, a cheesy garlic bread app, and a tiramisu dessert
- This was some of the best pizza we ever had! We got the pizza with pears, goat cheese, and honey. The crust was so light and crunchy. Truly just delicious. I may or may not be salivating a little just thinking about it.
Chicken shawarma with little spice, pickles and onions from Osmow’s.
- $7.51 USD for a regular sized chicken shawarma
- This was our first time eating shawarma and we were HOOKED. We ended up going a total of 3 times in 2 days. We also tried their lamb shawarma and falafel.
- $5.43 USD for a maple beavertail
- This cute little snack place sells what they call beavertails. It’s essentially a flat funnel cake and honestly, I liked it infinitely more than funnel cake. It was easier to eat, a little crunchy, and we enjoyed the light, airy maple flavor.
Skylon Tower Revolving Dining Room
- $123 USD for french onion soup, clam chowder, tortellini alfredo, and seafood symphony
- This was the cheaper lunch price
- The food at Skylon Tower was ok. To be honest, it was a bit overpriced. BUT the view was entirely worth it. The restaurant itself rotates 360 degrees. You get fantastic views of the falls. It was more about the experience for us than the food. Even though the restaurant wouldn’t bring my main course out until I finished the french onion soup, I still thought it was a really great experience to share with Andy.
Coming Back to the US
Coming back into the U.S. felt like it took two seconds. We took the Rainbow Bridge that led us from the Niagara Falls, CA side to the Niagara Falls, US side. I also saw people walking from one side to another. To get back into the US, the border patrol simply asked for our passports, what we were doing, and if we thought it was expensive. It was less than a minute conversation and back into the US we were!
Niagara Falls, CA is a great weekend trip. There’s lots of fun things to do and the falls themselves are truly amazing. If you’re looking for a weekend getaway from the Pittsburgh area, this is a great option! It’s good for both a romantic getaway or even taking the kids since there’s diverse options. I wouldn’t recommend more than 3 days as the falls are the main attraction, although I’m sure you can find something more to do.