Niagara Falls is a fascinating place to visit — if not for the world-class waterfalls and thrilling attractions, then for the fact that the destination straddles the American-Canadian border. That means it is incredibly easy for many Americans to see Niagara Falls or even venturing to a hudson valley retreat without making huge sacrifices for time, budget and travel accouterments, but it also means that there are some critical items you can’t forget when you make your trip.
If Niagara Falls is on your bucket list — as it should be — here are the things you can’t forget, as well as a few you can certainly skip.
Two of the three waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls are on the American side. Indeed, without ever leaving the country, you can see Niagara Falls and enjoy some simple and pleasing hikes through the natural landscape around Buffalo, New York. There are plenty of top attractions on this side of the falls, such as:
- Whirlpool State Park, where you can see the class 6 whirlpool rapids and ride on the Aerocar suspended above them.
- Maid of the Mist, the world-famous Niagara boat tour that takes you to the base of the falls.
- Niagara Power Authority, the site of Nikola Tesla’s outstanding contributions to electricity, now a museum on energy sources.
- Cave of the Winds, a tour that takes you to the base of the falls to experience the full force of the thundering water.
However, even with so much on the American side, there is so much more to see and do on the Canadian side. For one thing, there are better hotels in Niagara Falls, Canada — they are more centrally located in the region and they offer more tantalizing amenities than anything you’ll find in Buffalo. For another, the Canadian side boasts attractions you won’t find on the American side, like Clifton Hill, the Niagara SkyWheel, Niagara-on-the-Lake and more.
While Niagara Falls might seem like one destination, you will always need your passport to travel into and out of another country, so this is one thing you simply can’t forget.
If you were planning a trip to the Caribbean, you wouldn’t dare neglect to pack your swimsuit — but Niagara Falls? A swimsuit can be a lifesaver when you visit this Canadian destination. That’s because the falls are wet; the sheer volume and power of the water create a mist that coats everything nearby. If you participate in attractions like one of the boat tours, Journey Behind the Falls or even a hike through Niagara Gorge, you’re likely to get damp, if not soaked to the bone. Wearing a swimsuit can help you prevent chafing, and it gives you something to change out of when you are finally ready to be dry again.
Plus, there are plenty of wet-and-wild attractions where a swimsuit is more than appropriate clothing. Indoor water parks abound in Niagara Falls, providing a fun place to play even in the winter months. Additionally, public pools in Niagara Falls are open to the public, and they are completely free, so you can find a relatively quiet haven from the hubbub — as long as you bring your swimsuit.
Must-have: Walking Shoes (and the Right Socks)
This one should be a no-brainer. Niagara Falls isn’t typically a place you go to kick back and relax; it is a destination full of adventure that requires exploring, usually on your two feet. You need shoes that are going to provide traction on slippery surfaces, which abound close to the falls, and you need shoes that are going to give your soles, ankles, knees, hips and back the support they need to prevent aches and pains for your entire trip.
However, what many people fail to realize is you can have the perfect shoes, but if you lack the correct type of sock, your feet will still hurt. Cotton is a horrible sock material; it traps moisture close to the skin, causing friction that results in blisters and raw skin. Instead, you should opt for wool or fully synthetic materials for your socks, to keep your dogs happy as you explore Niagara Falls.
Forget It: Canadian Money
The most important thing you can forget is exchanging your American currency for Canadian dollars. While you typically can’t use Canadian money on the U.S. side of the border — in fact, finding a Canadian nickel in your change purse can be downright disappointing — because Niagara Falls straddles the border, most merchants around these parts are a bit more accommodating with currency. You should feel comfortable using American cash on the Canadian side of the border, but if you don’t care to carry dollar bills and coins, you can always use your credit and debit cards, no matter where you travel.