Are you deciding on taking a tour to Niagara Falls? We'll show you how to see the epic falls in one day and what other attractions you'll expect to see.

Are you deciding on taking a tour to Niagara Falls? We’ll show you how to see the epic falls in one day and what other attractions you’ll expect to see.

Day trip to Niagara Falls from Toronto

We booked an extra night during our stay in Toronto so we could take a full day trip to Niagara Falls. After doing a fair bit of research online it became clear from people’s negative comments that many of the tour operators (which there are many!) don’t offer visitors enough time at the falls. We wanted the maximum amount of time as possible without staying there overnight, so after wading through countless websites and TripAdvisor reviews we decided on Niagara Day Tour as they offered the most time – a maximum of 3 hours and a minimum of 2.5 hours at the falls depending on the traffic. It turned out to be a great choice.

 

1st stop: Niagara-on-the-Lake

The memorial clock tower of Niagara-on-the-Lake

The memorial clock tower of Niagara-on-the-Lake

The day started early when Burkus our driver and guide collected us from our hotel at 8.10am in his air-conditioned small bus. We then picked up a few other guests in the city before hitting the Gardiner Expressway motorway, yes! we’re on our way heading out of Toronto. Our first stop was Niagara-on-the-Lake at 10.30am. We had an hour to explore this small historic town and grab some breakfast. We wanted to try Canadian pancakes and maple syrup so we opted for the Sunset Grill on Main Street, a bit like in America the portion sizes are huge! Our 3 massive pancakes were served with whipped butter portions, but the pancake syrup is just sugar, so make sure you order the pure maple syrup separately.

Pancakes and maple syrup at Sunset Grill

Pancakes and maple syrup at Sunset Grill

Niagara-on-the-Lake blooming lovely floral displays

Niagara-on-the-Lake blooming lovely floral displays

Niagara-on-the-Lake was once the capital of Upper Canada

Niagara-on-the-Lake was once the capital of Upper Canada

Niagara-on-the-Lake is one of Canada’s oldest settlements built in 1781 situated on Lake Ontario, the town used to be the capital of Upper Canada. Its compact size means a short stop here is doable in an hour. The high street called Main Street is attractive with charming colonial buildings – the town appears romantically frozen in time, especially with many of the twee shops selling old time goodies.  You can tell a lot of time goes into keeping this town tidy with immaculate flower displays lining the street and overflowing petunia baskets hanging from the trees.

Main Street's olde world shops

Main Street’s olde world shops

Tasteful shop windows

Tasteful shop windows

The Niagara Apothecary dispensed medicine from 1820-1964

The Niagara Apothecary dispensed medicine from 1820-1964

The luxurious and historic Prince of Wales Hotel

The luxurious and historic Prince of Wales Hotel

Pretty cottages and residential homes

Pretty cottages and residential homes

Fort Niagara on the American side of the Niagara River

Fort Niagara on the American side of the Niagara River

After our breakfast we walked down to Lake Ontario to see where it meets with the mouth of the Niagara River, it’s just a 10 minute walk from Main Street. To get there you walk past some lovely residential side streets and beautiful homes, all sugary sweet looking with their perfect white picket fences. At the river is Fort Niagara – the old American fort, located on the opposite side of the river. The Americans fought various battles with the British, we passed Fort George the British fort on the way out of the town.

Sadly the weather was a bit gloomy and it started to rain, but it turned out to be a passing shower as we were later rewarded with great weather.

 

2nd stop: Wine country & the World’s Smallest Chapel

So many wineries in this region of Ontario

So many wineries in this region of Ontario

Back on the bus we headed out of Niagara-on-the-Lake along the banks of the Niagara River, the countryside scenery here is just lovely. This region of Ontario is wine making country with fields upon fields and with rows upon rows of grape vines, we couldn’t get over just how many wineries there are here. There’s also some fabulous mansion houses belonging to wineries, some even have views of 2 countries – New York State and the Niagara River in their back garden and Canada to the front.

Impressive mansion houses

Impressive mansion houses

The world's smallest chapel

The world’s smallest chapel

After 10 minutes we made a short stop to take some photos and take a quick look inside the world’s smallest chapel. Services are not held here, but weddings are popular on weekends especially in the summer.

 

3rd stop: Wine tasting & discovering ‘Icewine’

Icewine from The Reif Estate Winery

Icewine from The Reif Estate Winery

You can't come to this region without a spot of wine tasting

You can’t come to this region without a spot of wine tasting

Fields of grape vines

Fields of grape vines

Next was a 30 minute stop at The Reif Wine Estate where we sampled three different wines. Phil was in his element! The Reif Estate is the oldest family owned winery in this area, where they make their signature ‘Icewine’ using a technique the family brought over from Germany to Ontario. Grapes are harvested at -12ºC around 2am early morning and pressed in the cold. The Icewine is expensive because they get as little as one drop per grape. It has a tropical fruity taste and is very sweet, Garth loved it but Phil didn’t like it, oh and apparently goes well with blue cheese or a curry. We didn’t buy anything but were impressed because we never felt pressured into buying anything and the free wine samples were very generous! Hiccup!

 

4th stop: Floral Clock

The Floral Clock - Niagara Parks

The Floral Clock – Niagara Parks

Time for a quick comfort break, especially welcome after all that wine! and a photo opportunity at Niagara’s very own floral clock. Built in 1950 apparently they took their inspiration from the flower clock in Edinburgh, Scotland we’ll have to check that one out when we get home. The flower displays are created with 15,000 bedding plants planted twice a year and it chimes every 15 minutes, it must look great from the air. This is the second massive garden clock we’ve seen, the other was in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

 

5th stop: Hydroelectric Power

The Canadian Sir Adam Beck No.2 Generating Station

The Canadian Sir Adam Beck No.2 Generating Station

The American Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant

The American Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant

Are we nearly there yet? Garth asks Phil, well nearly but we finally get to see the majestic Niagara River from a great viewpoint of two hydroelectric power stations. A quick lesson – they are basically dams built on the edges of river banks that divert water through turbines that generate electricity. There are various working power stations built on each side of the river, one is over 100 years. You will also see a couple of old derelict power stations when you get to the falls.

 

Niagara Falls

The awesome Niagara Falls

The awesome Niagara Falls

Finally time for the main event! Woohoo! We’ve arrived at one of the planet’s most iconic natural wonders, Niagara Falls! It claims to be the world’s second biggest natural attraction after the Grand Canyon, maybe? it’s also the honeymoon capital of Canada, the hotels and casinos give it a Las Vegas vibe about the place.

Niagara Falls consists of the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and the Canadian Falls

Niagara Falls consists of the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and the Canadian Falls

We headed straight for the promenade and took in the wide views of the three waterfalls that line the Canadian and America border. There’s also a border crossing via The Rainbow Bridge, you don’t need to do this as the Canadian side of the falls is easily the best.

 

Hornblower Cruise

In the horseshoe of the Canadian Falls

In the horseshoe of the Canadian Falls

Hornblower view from the brink

Hornblower view from the brink

Selfie on the Hornblower

Selfie on the Hornblower

To really get involved you have to get up close with the water onboard the Hornblower. Garth has been here back in 1996 when the boat operated was the Maid of the Mist it still operates but now only from the American side. After donning our attractive pink ponchos, bin bags more like! we were ready, like 2 excited kids about to board a rollercoaster.

Well we haven’t laughed so much in ages if you are stood on the top deck it’s wet and a wild ride! The best part of the cruise is when you get to the base of the Canadian horse-shoe falls, it’s quite an overwhelming sight with tons of water surrounding you. The sound of the thundering water is something else! not only can you hear it, but you feel the immense power of the water, especially when so much of it lands on you!

We’ve seen waterfalls and even stood at the bottom of some in South Iceland, but the colossal scale of Niagara Falls is awe-inspiring.

Ice cold beer from the Niagara Brewing company

Ice cold beer from the Niagara Brewing company

The Horn-blower cruise lasts 20 minutes plus queuing up time, ours was about 10 minutes. If you really don’t want to get wet, then you can sit downstairs in the boat, but you’ll be missing out on a real thrill! After all the excitement we grabbed a bite to eat and enjoyed some of Niagara’s very own beer.

 

The Brink

View of the brink, Canadian Falls

View of the brink, Canadian Falls

The brink, Canadian Falls

The brink, Canadian Falls

Tourists take photos at the brink

Tourists take photos at the brink

After lunch we walked down to the brink, about a 15 minute walk from the Hornblower terminal. The brink is the part of the where the water drops right over the edge.

It’s very cool because you can get so close, what first strikes you is the power of the water as it drops over the edge. Every second 2.2 million litres of water cascades down, the vertical drop is 57 metres and the water flow is the highest rate of any waterfall in the world. The colour of the water is amazing too extremely green, it comes from all the minerals and dissolved salts, basically very finely ground rock.

That morning we missed one of Niagara’s many daredevil stunts in history. The daredevil was Erendira Wallenda from Zero Gravity Circus who hovered over the falls by her teeth from a helicopter. The first daredevil was a 63 year old lady who went over falls in a barrel! Amazing how many people want to risk their lives trying to conquer Niagara Falls.

 

The Promenade

The Promenade

The magnificent Niagara River

The magnificent Niagara River

We thought about doing Niagara Fall’s second favourite attraction – Journey Behind The Falls, but decided against it as Garth did it previously and said it was pants. However the best bit is the platform where you can stand right next to the water crashing down, but going behind the falls and through the tunnel is rubbish. So we opted to see the views from the Skylon Tower instead.

 

Skylon Tower

The Skylon Tower, Niagara Falls

The Skylon Tower, Niagara Falls

Panoramic views from the Skylon Tower

Panoramic views from the Skylon Tower

View of the Canadian Falls from Skylon's observation deck

View of the Canadian Falls from Skylon’s observation deck

View of the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls

View of the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls

After a quick ride in the yellow glass lift – 52 seconds to be exact, you’re outside where the views are just amazing! After seeing it all close up, it’s great to see the wider geography of the area, you get a great sense of scale and just how epic this landscape really is.

We’ve been to lots of observation decks, but this one is very cool as their safety net is just the right size, which means you point your camera through the gaps for cool pictures.  They also have a fancy restaurant at the top, we would have treated ourselves to an evening dinner here if we were staying over.

 

Other attractions:

  • Helicopter sightseeing flights (Burkus can arrange this)
  • MistRider Zipline to the Falls – For thrill seekers
  • Clifton Hill – Theme park with casinos, it’s like a mini Las Vegas strip
  • Niagara Falls History Museum – 15 minutes away, discover the daredevils who have barrelled over the falls

 

Our Verdict

Burkus from Niagara Day Tour

Burkus from Niagara Day Tour

Our driver and guide Burkus was very professional, providing excellent commentary and pointing out many sights of interest. He was very knowledgeable answering questions about the Falls and Ontario’s wine making region. The bus is clean and comfortable with air conditioning and the compact size is ideal because there’s not tons of people on the tour. Burkus provided free bottles of water and also has tickets onboard for the Hornblower cruise if you want to buy them, which means you can skip the queue for tickets.

Overall it’s a well planned day that we’d recommend doing it you’re short on time, like we were. Doing a tour is always slightly pressured because of time limits, but the 3 hours was enough time to do 2 attractions comfortably, if you want to do more then you’ll have to stay the night. The only negative was the heavy traffic heading back to Toronto, which makes it a long tiring day, but one incredible day out, and one big bucket-list tick!

 

Phil and Garth’s Top 5 Niagara Falls Tips

Phil and Garth at Niagara Falls

Phil and Garth at Niagara Falls

  • Tip #1: Wear swimming shorts & T-shirts or short sleeves on The Hornblower boat cruise.
  • Tip #2: ‘Washroom’ is Canadian for the toilet or restroom.
  • Tip #3: Journey Behind the Falls can have long queues during summer months.
  • Tip #4: Early September is the best time to visit – warm weather and least crowds.
  • Tip #5: You can leave your belongings on the Niagara Day Tour bus if you want to.

How we did it:

  • We travelled in June with Niagara Day Tour, full itinerary here.
  • We paid C$89 each excluding the boat cruise. It costs C$109 including the Hornblower boat cruise.
  • The Skylon Tower costs C$15.02 each – It’s a bit cheaper booking ahead online.
  • A 375ml bottle of Reif Vidal Icewine costs C$47.05

Our timetable

  • 8:10am Toronto hotel pick up
  • 10:30am Niagara on the Lake (1 hour)
  • 11:55am Reif Wine Estate (30 minutes)
  • 1:15pm Niagara Falls (3 hours)
  • 4:15pm Depart Niagara Falls
  • 6:15pm Arrive Toronto

Disclaimer: We received the Hornblower boat cruise with compliments of Niagara Day Tour, a big thank you to Burkus!  All opinions, as always are our own.

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16 Comments

  1. Rob+Ann at TravelLatte(.net)
    5th August 2017

    The first word that comes to mind is Fantastic! What a fun day – and jam-packed. I’m thinking we’d like to spend a few days in Niagara on the Lake, partly because it seems so charming! We can just imagine a leisurely morning at the Prince of Wales Hotel – we love those quaint yet historical places. That zip line is really calling to me, too! (Ann…not so much.) Awesome post, gents. You’ve filled us with wanderlust yet again!

    Reply
  2. Travel Lexx
    30th July 2017

    Incredible day trip and just amazing how much you guys managed to fit in a day! I really want to visit the Canadian side of the falls – the US side is great but nowhere near as beautiful. Maid of the Mist was amazing though. You guys have made me want to go back to explore asap!

    Reply
  3. Angie (FeetDoTravel)
    30th July 2017

    What a great tour, you certainly packed a lot in, a lot more than I realised you can do here! I would be itching for the main event … I adore waterfalls. I have been to Victoria Falls and you are right, hearing the thunder of water and feeling it’s spray is magical, and that is why the top waterfalls in the world are on my bucket list … which obviously includes Niagara! I hope to see it from all the Canadian and American side so this is very helpful information! Pinned for when we visit and I’m glad you had an amazing time. #feetdotravel

    Reply
  4. Only By Land
    28th July 2017

    The Niagara Falls waterfall video shows so many great angles of the falls. The go-pro images from the Hornblower cruise show how much spray comes from the falls. It reminded me of the Bruce Almighty scene when Jim Carrey took the Maid of the Mist cruise. The smallest chapel in the world is an interesting bucket list item! The views from the Skylon Tower are amazing, I didn’t get chance to go up there – next time!

    Reply
  5. Shona @ paraphernalia.co
    28th July 2017

    This is a fantastic way of getting to Niagara Falls, you see so much on the way. Your pics are amazing as always!

    Reply
  6. David
    27th July 2017

    It’s cool to learn about all of the other sights at Niagara beyond getting soaked at the falls. That view from the tower though! Overall a great overview of a day at the Niagara, useful for such an iconic spot.

    Reply
  7. Anna
    25th July 2017

    The brink looks so impressive! I´ve also been to Iceland and waterfalls were amazing, but for ex. even at Dettifoss, which was one of the strongest, you don´t get that close by boat to feel the scale like at Niagara Falls. Looks like quite an experience all together with the other stops you´ve made. Never heard of icewine either – won’t miss it now… Thanks for sharing #feetdotravel

    Reply
  8. Jane
    25th July 2017

    We just did a day trip to Niagara Falls as well! Although we did do Journey behind the Falls. The lookout points are kinda crap especially since you have to wait so long to get to them. Silly really everyone is taking crap selfies that don’t turn out due to the lighting. But the observation deck is pretty amazing. You are literally right beside the falls. It is amazing. I totally want to go up the Skylon tower next times the views were amazing!

    Reply
  9. Paul and Carole
    24th July 2017

    What an informative post. It looked a wet and windy ride, but also great fun. The video was superb you get some brilliant shots. Thanks for sharing on #feetdotravel

    Reply
  10. Marcelle
    24th July 2017

    Your pictures in this post are beautiful! I didn’t know that the Canadians put as much flowers around their houses as the Austrians! The Niagara Falls are beautiful. We visited the US side which is less built up than the Canadian side but I think the views from the Canadian side are better.

    Reply
  11. Penny Walker (Adventure Creators)
    23rd July 2017

    Wow, looks like you had a blast! I did the falls way back in 1984 when Niagara-on-the-Lake wasn’t overly touristy. The trip on Maid-in-the-Mist was great fun!

    Reply
  12. Lolo
    22nd July 2017

    Omg Niagara-on-the-Lake is sooo adorable! I visited Niagara Falls as a teen but we didn’t go there! So much more to do than just the Falls!! Pinning this!! #feetdotravel

    Reply
  13. Stephanie (1AdventureTraveler)
    21st July 2017

    Wow, what a fabulous day trip from Toronto. That is a big plus for me. Your video and photos are stunning! The places you stopped at and the pancakes look yummy. I will definitely use this tour group and do the extras when I go to Toronto in the next few months. You have done all the work and I am ready for some fun! I pinned this for my use 🙂 Happy you shared! #feetdotravel

    Reply
    • Garth
      21st July 2017

      Glad to be of help Stephanie!

      Reply
  14. By Land and Sea
    19th July 2017

    Less than 3 months and we will be here too! I seriously cannot wait – your post has gotten me so excited! And, I’m so glad you spent some time at Niagara-On-The-Lake. The first time I went to Niagara (years ago) we went through here and it was such a cute little town. Saving this post for later as we get closer to planning the details of our trip!!

    Reply
    • Garth
      19th July 2017

      Im excited for you Jenn, look forward to hearing about your trip 🙂

      Reply

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