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Niagara Falls on a Budget

The famous Niagara Falls attracts many visitors seeking to get close to this stunning sight. The Canadian side of Niagara Falls is a popular destination for tourists, who come to see the Falls and participate in a variety of activities, including boat tours, hiking, and sightseeing. The Falls are popular with travellers looking for a luxurious and romantic experience but it is also an attractive destination for those on much tighter budgets. There are a number of hotels and restaurants located near the falls, as well as souvenir shops and other attractions. Hotels range from the 5-star establishments with incredible panoramic views to very affordable motels just a few blocks away from the Falls. Visitors can choose to eat at incredible high-end restaurants or grab a quick snack from a fast-food joint.

Niagara Falls is a group of three waterfalls located on the Niagara River in Ontario, Canada. The Falls, right on the border between Canada and the United States, are one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. The largest of the three falls is the Horseshoe Falls, on the Canadian side. The American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls are located on the American side of the border.

The Falls are the result of the Niagara River flowing over the Niagara Escarpment, a steep ridge of rock that runs along the western edge of the Great Lakes. The Niagara River flows from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario.

Depending on the time of year you visit, Niagara Falls can get quite crowded. If you're not a fan of large crowds, you may want to avoid the busiest areas and attractions. I find that one night in Niagara Falls is enough for me. I can easily spend a couple of weeks exploring the surrounding area, but I prefer to base myself in Niagara-on-the-Lake or the Queenston area.

Clifton Hill

Clifton Hill is the neighbourhood surrounding Niagara Falls and is known for its many tourist attractions and entertainment options. Located just a short walk from the falls, Clifton Hill has a noisy, chaotic, neon-lit carnival atmosphere.

One of the main attractions on Clifton Hill is the Niagara SkyWheel, a 175-foot tall Ferris wheel with stunning views. Other popular attractions on Clifton Hill include the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark, the Niagara Falls Adventure Course, and Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum. It is hard to miss the faux erupting volcano. It is not at all my scene but this area was most anticipated by my kids on family trips in bygone years.

There are many souvenir shops located that sell a wide variety of Niagara Falls-themed merchandise. Some of these shops can be quite overpriced, so you may want to shop around before making a purchase.

Visit Horseshoe Falls

The Horseshoe Falls is the largest of the three waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls, and it is located on the Canadian side of the border. You can view the Falls from several different vantage points. Budget travellers can view them at any time of the day or night for free from the Table Rock Welcome Center.

Don't miss seeing the Falls after darkness falls. The falls are always colourfully illuminated, sometimes with a theme. During especially cold weather events the Falls will ice over for spectacular visual treat. In the summer, the fireworks show is always marvellous.

Take a Boat Tour

If your budget allows, take a boat tour of the falls. On the Canadian side, Niagara City Cruises offer popular boat tours that take you to the base of the Horseshoe Falls, where you can get up close to the falls and feel the mist on your face. Passengers are provided with a light plastic rain poncho but you will get wet -- very wet. The tour costs between $35 - $40 CAD and runs from May to early November, depending upon weather conditions. There are also more adventurous (and more expensive) small boat options available.

I have always wanted to take a helicopter tour over the Falls but that would be a splurge that I have yet to justify to myself. If it fits into your travel budget, there are two operators: Niagara Helicopter and National Helicopter. Flights continue year-round but are dependant upon weather conditions.

Visit the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens

The Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens are simply beautiful. These gardens are home to over 2,400 species of plants and flowers, as well as a number of walking trails and ponds. There are seasonal displays of lovely plantings in both formal and informal sections. The Rose Garden should not be missed if visiting in the summer. It is free to visit but hours change throughout the year, so check the website before visiting.

Visit the Skylon Tower

The Skylon Tower is a 236m (775 foot) tall observation tower that offers panoramic views of Niagara Falls and the surrounding area. You can dine at the tower's revolving restaurant (spendy but with amazing views) or buffet restaurant (less expensive with a stationary view) or take a ride on the tower's glass-enclosed elevators. Ticket prices to the Observation deck are offered at several different price points between $19 - $28 CAD

Visit the Niagara Falls History Museum

The Niagara Falls History Museum is located in the heart of the Niagara Falls tourism district and offers a fascinating look at the history of the Falls and the surrounding area. This area was central in the War of 1812 between the British and the Americans. Visitors can try on a replica uniform, handle a musket, build a model bridge across the Niagara Gorge, and practice their dare-devil skills by walking a tightrope. It's a bargain, costing only $5 to visit.

Take a walk along the Niagara Parkway/Recreation Trail

This scenic route runs along the Niagara River and offers beautiful views of the Falls and the surrounding landscape. The Niagara Parkway follows the Niagara River Gorge from Fort Erie to Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Meander around Niagara Glen

Hiking fans will want to be sure to visit Niagara Glen for meandering paths through a beautiful wooded area in a designated nature reserve. The Glen has great easy trails mixed with slightly more rugged terrain. This is an especially pleasant activity after spending time amongst the Falls-watching crowds.

ATB#2 enjoying the coolness beside the river.

While the Falls are most definitely the main attraction in the area AND these stunning waterfalls are surrounded by many high-end hotels and restaurants, a visit to see the Falls doesn't have to be expensive. The Falls can be seen for free, there is a good selection of budget accommodations and a wide range of inexpensive and free activities.


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