Niagara Falls – Which Side to Visit

The Niagara Falls with the all the snow and heavy rainfall this spring has seen an increase in water levels. However the number of tourists has steadily declined. This effect is the result of new rules on travel as well as the persistent trade war with China. So when you plan your trip to Niagara Falls – which side should you visit?

In the past, Chinese have top the list of foreign visitors to the Falls by a long shot. It has been on the bucket list for many from mainland China but that bucket has begun to leak and run dry. This trend is most noticeable in the U.S. side Besides the size of the crowds, what are the obvious differences between the two sides and which one offers the best deal?

It’s been thirty years since I last visited the Falls. While the U.S. side with its pristine state park and Mom & Pop businesses on Main Street has grown at a snail’s pace, the Canadian side has exploded as fast as the raging rapids.

Beginning four decades ago, Ontario prudently realized the importance of tourism and began to make huge investments to commercial development.  The US, on the other hand, was too focused on its trend-setting hydropower industry to focus on tourism. After all, most of the Falls resides in the Niagara Falls State Park in the U.S.

However, it is Canada that provides a commanding view of the Horseshoe, the Wedding Veil and American Falls that is arguably more panoramic and literally more stunning. So a view of the Falls would not be complete without making the short and scenic trek to Ontario.

Many Americans pass by shuttered storefronts and struggling stores on their way to Canada where a spinning ferris wheel, glowing arcade lights, festive carnival rides and yes, even a tribal casino beckons. There are clearly two chasms between the two and it’s not just one that is formed by rushing water.

The Rainbow Bridge is a quick stroll over the River. Pedestrians pay $1 when returning to the U.S.

Once you drive or preferably stroll over the Rainbow Bridge into Canada, one must continue a mile along the shoreline to the Horseshoe Falls offering a great vantage point of both the U.S. and Canada.

The water is so clear and inviting, the falls so powerful and steady, the mist so magical and refreshing. There are few things in North America that tops the grandeur and mystic of the Falls. You can stand there for hours in utter amazement. Meanwhile you get a kick out of seeing tourists on the Maid of the Mist getting tossed around soaked by the potent falls like a battered boat been slammed by a Nor’easter.

And even at 200 feet up, you feel the strength of 75,000 gallons per second smashing on the rocks below creating a plume of mist that rises like a hot-air balloon.

The American side over Horseshoe Falls

Even with the sudden decline in tourism and no letup in sight, both sides see a rainbow forming over the Falls.

Hyatt recently announced it will build three hotels in downtown Niagara Falls, Canada. While in the U.S. politics has seemed to finally line up with development with the state purchasing over 30 properties in the downtown tourism district that is ripe for development. Additionally a Buffalo-based private equity firm has purchased 20,000 square feet of land and plan to build stores, galleries and restaurants.

Finally the U.S. has begun to see the light. There’s certainly plenty of water left to gush over the Falls.

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