Disappointing photos show what it's really like to visit Niagara Falls in Canada

  • I recently spent a couple of days in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, for the first time.

  • I found the reality of visiting Niagara Falls didn't match my expectations from social media.

side-by-side photos show the expectation and reality of visiting Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is a popular attraction that Insider's reporter found to be less glamorous than it appears on social media and in ads.Joey Hadden/Insider
  • I spent much of my time battling crowds, waiting in lines, and standing on my tippy toes.

Niagara Falls is seen from above
Niagara Falls viewed from the Canadian side.Joey Hadden/Insider


When I booked my trip to Niagara Falls in Canada on a Monday and Tuesday in August, I expected to take epic hikes and savor breathtaking views and peaceful moments in nature.

Close up of American Falls at Niagara Falls
The American Falls at Niagara Falls.Joey Hadden/Insider

But the experience of visiting Niagara Falls for the first time didn't quite meet my expectations. While I felt completely in awe of how massive, beautiful, and loud the falls were, the environment felt more like an attraction than a nature getaway.

Crowds at Niagara Falls
People photographing Niagara Falls.Joey Hadden/Insider

Rather than hiking to the falls, I trudged through a crowded boardwalk and saw the falls from an observation deck and viewpoints obstructed by glass and other barriers. I spent more time than I anticipated waiting in lines and looking at the back of people's heads.

Crowds at Niagara Falls
A crowd of people walks along the boardwalk.Joey Hadden/Insider

Niagara Falls Tourism didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comments regarding crowds and long lines at attractions.

I visited Niagara Falls in August. According to the Points Guy, this is one of the busiest months to visit. This is probably because kids are out of school in the summer, I thought.

Crowds at Niagara Falls
Crowds at Niagara Falls in August.Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: The Points Guy

When I arrived, I expected to view the falls from hiking trails since that's how I've seen other waterfalls in the past. However, I was only able to view Niagara Falls from a long boardwalk lining the Canadian side, or by doing an attraction, like a boat tour.

Crowds at Niagara Falls
People walk towards Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls.Joey Hadden/Insider

During the day between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., I went back and forth between the boardwalk, my nearby hotel, and attractions surrounding the falls. During my time on the boardwalk, I found it nearly impossible to squeeze into a spot on the edge where I could see the falls without other people's heads obscuring my view.

Crowds at Niagara Falls
A busy viewpoint in Niagara Falls.Joey Hadden/Insider

And when I did get a spot along the edge, people on a zipline, one of the local area attractions to see the falls, dropped into the view every 15 minutes or so.

Zipliners above Niagara Falls
Zipliners ride above the falls.Joey Hadden/Insider

After 12 p.m., I noticed that the boardwalk became so flooded with people that it felt like what I imagine Times Square is like on New Year's Eve.

Crowds at Niagara Falls
Crowds at Niagara Falls during an afternoon in August.Joey Hadden/Insider

But the boardwalk wasn't the only way to view the falls, so I decided to try out some of the area's attractions.

Crowds at Niagara Falls
A crowded area of Niagara Falls.Joey Hadden/Insider

First, I tried the Journey Behind the Falls, an official Niagara Falls tour that takes visitors in an elevator down to a closer vantage point than the boardwalk. But the line to enter stretched through the entire center it was located in. I was worried I wouldn't have time for more activities if I waited, so I skipped it.

Lines for attractions at Niagara Falls
Lines for the Journey Behind the Falls attraction.Joey Hadden/Insider

Next, I went to Skylon Tower, an observation tower in the city of Niagara Falls with 360-degree views of the falls and city. It was about a 10-minute walk from the boardwalk, and I didn't have to wait too long to get to the top — only about 30 minutes.

The Tower (L) and the view from it (R)
Skylon Tower (L) and a view from the top (R).Joey Hadden/Insider

But while slipping my camera through the fence got me a nice picture, the actual view from the observation deck looks more like this.

Obstructed views of Niagara Falls
An obstructed view of Niagara Falls from the top of Skylon Tower.Joey Hadden/Insider

And most of the Skylon Tower deck was filled with people, so I had to wait for people to leave to get a front-row spot.

Crowds at Niagara Falls
People look at Niagara Falls from the top of Skylon Tower.Joey Hadden/Insider

Back down below, walking away from the falls, I thought the town of Niagara Falls felt more like a carnival than a typical city. I found it was full of arcades, funnel cake stands, and people. There was even a Ferris wheel, which I paid $15 for and waited in an hour-long line to ride.

Crowds at Niagara Falls
A line for the Ferris wheel (L) and crowds on the carnival-like street (R).Joey Hadden/Insider

I thought the Ferris wheel would offer a grand view of the falls. But when I got to the front of the line, I realized that the carts were completely enclosed. Although I thought the view was cool, I ultimately didn't think it was worth the price and hour-long wait to see the falls through a window.

A view of Niagara Falls from the Ferris Wheel
A view of Niagara Falls from the Ferris wheel.Joey Hadden/Insider

For more of a thrill, I paid $30 to take a boat tour via Niagara City Cruises. This attraction gets people the closest to the falls, and it's so popular, it was featured on "The Bachelor" earlier this year, according to Niagara Falls Review.

A boat approaches Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls on a cloudy day
A boat approaches Horseshoe Falls.Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: Niagara Falls Review

I booked a 6 p.m. time slot, which is after peak hours, according to the Points Guy. But I still had to wait in line for almost an hour, while the boat ride itself was only 20 minutes.

People wait to board the boat
People wait to board the boat.Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: The Points Guy

Niagara City Cruises didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Onboard the boat, I had access to two decks. I went to the top deck for a higher vantage point. By the time everyone piled on the boat, it was so crowded that I thought it felt like no one else could fit up there.

Crowds on the boat at Niagara Falls
Crowds fill the top deck.Joey Hadden/Insider

I thought being within feet of the falls and feeling the mist on my face was totally epic, but it was tough to fully enjoy it with so many other people onboard.

Crowds on the boat at Niagara Falls
Passengers take photos of the falls.Joey Hadden/Insider

At the same time, I thought the boat had a great vibe because everyone was so excited to be there. It felt like a big party and was worth the price, in my opinion.

Crowds on the boat at Niagara Falls
People enjoy a boat tour at Niagara Falls.Joey Hadden/Insider

While I used a simple ramp to board the boat, after the ride, passengers must take an elevator to go back up to the boardwalk. I waited in another long line for my turn in the elevator.

Lines for elevators at Niagara Falls
People wait in line for the elevator.Joey Hadden/Insider

Regardless of the crowds and long lines, I thought seeing Niagara Falls up close was amazing and entrancing. I think everyone should see them at least once.

The American falls and a rainbow at Niagara Falls
The American Falls behind a rainbow.Joey Hadden/Insider

To me, it felt like I was witnessing a powerful force of nature commanding people's attention.

A view of Niagara Falls from a boat
Niagara Falls viewed from a boat.Joey Hadden/Insider

According to The Points Guy, Niagara Falls tends to be less busy in early spring and late fall. I would love to go back to Niagara Falls when it's less crowded to enjoy a more peaceful moment to myself in front of the falls.

Niagara Falls viewed at sunset from above
Niagara Falls at sunset.Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: The Points Guy

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