Niagara Falls is an iconic destination that every RVer should put on their travel bucket list. So we asked Kerri Cox from Travels with Birdy to share with us where to camp and what to do…when visiting both the American and Canadian Falls. She and her family planned a multi-generational road trip there last summer with her in-laws, and she learned a lot about visiting the granddaddy of all waterfalls during her journey.
Niagara Falls Campgrounds
Niagara Falls has several great campgrounds and RV parks nearby. Possibly the most renowned is Branches of Niagara Campground and Resort, which we fully reviewed here. Branches of Niagara is not only a great basecamp for visiting the falls, it is truly a fantastic campground in its own right.
Branches of Niagara is convenient to the falls, while providing a true resort experience for the whole family. Take your pick from the a lazy river, the pool, the lake, ziplining, gaga ball, and more. They also have a great activity schedule. Plus, the campsites are nicely shaded and relatively spacious. Branches of Niagara is a great place to return to after a busy day at the falls.
Branches of Niagara is located on Grand Island, fewer than 15 minutes away from Niagara Falls. This small town has everything you’ll need to enjoy your stay. You’ll also find the highly recommended Niagara Falls / Grand Island KOA nearby. Those seeking a more relaxed campground experience might want to check out the Four Mile Creek State Park in Youngstown.
Niagara Falls Attractions on the US Side
Niagara Falls is legendary, not only for its natural beauty but for its historic attractions, as well. There are many ways to enjoy the falls from above…and from below.
Kerri’s family started off their journey with a visit to Niagara Falls State Park, which offers scenic overlooks, hiking trails, and more. There, they purchased Discovery Passes for each member of the family, which provided access to a slew of attractions hosted in the park.
In operation since 1846, the Maid of the Mist is perhaps the most well-known attraction. While you might not know it by its proper name, this is the boat that takes visitors right up to the base of the falls. Don a poncho (which are provided), and prepare to get wet! While Kerri doesn’t always enjoy tourist attractions, the Maid of the Mist FAR exceeded her expectations. There’s just nothing like hearing the roar of the falls and experiencing their power from up close. Pro-tip: Go early or late in the day for quick boarding.
Another attraction included in the Discovery Pass is the Cave of the Winds. This is another chance to get up close to the falls. You’ll take an elevator 175 feet into the Niagara River Gorge, where decking allows you to walk up to the base of a waterfall. If you’re willing to get soaked, a stop on the Hurricane Deck is a must! This is a ticketed attraction, meaning you must allow time to get in the queue once you arrive.
While on the US side, Kerri and her family also enjoyed a walk out on the Observation Tower’s platform over the Niagara River. If you can’t cross over to the Canadian side, this gives you the best views of the whole formation from the US side.
The Canadian Side of Niagara Falls
Since Kerri’s family already had passports, the decision to go into Canada to see the other side of the falls was an easy one. For families without passports, this is a difficult dilemma: Is it worth going to Niagara Falls if you can’t cross over to Canada? Without a doubt, yes! There is a lot to enjoy on the US side. But, if you can get passports or already have them, the Canadian side of the falls offers a completely different experience.
For starts, the town surrounding the Canadian side of the falls is much more developed, whereas the area near the American side has seen better days. This is both good and bad. The good thing is that there are more attractions and shopping, as Niagara Falls, Ontario, is a classic tourist town. You’ll find the Clifton Hill entertainment district, with its speedway, ferris wheel, and theme-park atmosphere. For some travelers, though, this is all a bit over the top.
Even if you don’t partake in all the fun beyond the falls, the views from the Canadian side are much more expansive. You can see the full horseshoe shape as it fills with a curtain of water. A developed pathway runs along the river to the precipice of the falls. At night, this provides the best views of the illuminated falls.
The Canadian side also has its own version of the Maid of the Midst, called the Hornblower, and a place to get closer to the falls on land, the Journey Behind the Falls attraction, and more. The Skylon Tower rises above it all, offering a bird’s eye view. Head to the top to enjoy a meal and the rotating views.
One unforgettable experience Kerri’s family had on the Canadian side was the Zipline to the Falls attraction. While this was expensive and time consuming, it thrilled her younger son!
To experience Canadian wine country, head out to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Just a 40-minute drive away, this charming small town is surrounded by hills, lakes, and vineyards, making it a great little excursion if you have time to spare.
Niagara Falls Dining
Kerri has a couple of great dining recommendations for your trip to Niagara Falls. Not far from the falls on the US side, you’ll find Donatello’s Restaurant. Offering pizza, sandwiches, and more, this is a great family option. Kerri’s husband, Russell, took the opportunity to try a regional favorite, the Beef on Weck.
Near Branches of Niagara, Adrian’s Custard and Beef is a top pick. While her family never actually tried the food, the ever-changing menu of 20+ flavors of ice cream brought them back again and again.
Niagara Falls is a top tourist attraction in both the US and Canada, for good reason. The falls truly are impressive! We hope Kerri’s tips help you plan your trip to this natural wonder!
See you at the campground,
Stephanie + Jeremy