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Aug 22, 2023

Niagara Falls on a Budget

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, Ontario is one of the top reasons to visit Canada. This city, about 2 hours’ drive south of Toronto, boasts a majestic wonder of the natural world, fine wine and dining, casinos, and tons of fun attractions where the sky’s the limit on vacation spending. But can you also enjoy Niagara Falls on a budget? Absolutely!

It’s a misconception that a visit to the falls will break the bank. There are many affordable activities in Niagara Falls for travelers of all ages, especially if you enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and biking. Some of the very best things to do in Niagara Falls are even free.

There is also affordable accommodation in Niagara Falls and inexpensive ways to get around on public transit.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to visit Niagara Falls on a budget.

Canadian vs American falls

First-time visitors may be surprised to learn that Niagara Falls is not one waterfall but three different waterfalls next to each other.

The spectacular Horseshoe Falls (the classic image seen in most photos) is on the Canadian side, with the smaller but still mighty American Falls and Bridal Falls on the US side in Niagara Falls, New York.

The first tip for budget travel in Niagara Falls is to stay on the Canadian side, where Euros and other foreign currency have more exchange value than in the USA.

Niagara Falls Night Aerial
Niagara Falls Autumn Maple

Are the Niagara Falls free?

Sometimes the best things in life are free. Like the glorious Niagara Falls. All day and night, every day of the year, waters from four of the five Great Lakes rush over these falls at the rate of up to 168 million liters per minute—the most powerful waterfalls in North America. Other waterfalls in the world may be taller but the volume of water here is a spectacular sight—and it’s completely free.

The best place to view Niagara Falls for free is to walk right up close to them.

The Fallsview Trail is a picturesque 1km paved pedestrian promenade alongside the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. This area attracts millions of visitors yearly so expect crowds on weekends and holidays. But it’s a truly awesome sight—and sound. The roar of the falls is a constant reminder of its power. You can also get a good view of the falls by driving past on the Niagara River Parkway. But you’ll miss the gentle mist hitting your face that makes walking near the falls one of most memorable experiences you can have in Canada.

Most days a rainbow will appear over the falls but you can also come back at night when the falls are illuminated in bold colors.

Other free things to do at Niagara Falls at night include a spectacular fireworks show. This free light show happens every night at 10pm during the summer season (May to October) and on special occasions like New Year’s Eve. You can view it from the Fallsview Trail or the nearby Queen Victoria Park.

Not free but still affordable Niagara Falls activities first-time visitors may want to budget for include Journey Behind the FallsLink opens in a new tab, a classic observation deck accessed through scenic tunnels (Adults $24 CDN, Children 3-12 $16), the Tunnel at Niagara Parks Power StationLink opens in a new tab, a new viewing platform deep below a 100-year-old power station ($28 for adults, $18.25 for children 3-12), and a 20-minute cruiseLink opens in a new tab ($32.75 for adults and $22.75 for children) that gets you as close to Niagara Falls as legally allowed! opens in a new tab

Toronto Magnolia Spring Park
Niagara Ripleys Museum Clifton Street

More affordable activities in Niagara Falls for families

Niagara Falls is built for family fun, with so many activities, attractions and guided tours. To make the most of a visit to Niagara Falls on a budget with children it’s best to plan your own adventures and book directly.

Steps from the falls is Clifton Hill. This strip of amusement rides, midway games, wacky museums, haunted houses and fast-food restaurants is a wild sensory overload. (There’s a giant Frankenstein Monster eating Burger King, e.g.) So even if you don’t have the budget to enter all the attractions, simply walking up and down the hill is one of the best cheap things to do in Niagara Falls, especially at night. Many businesses, like Ripley’s Believe it or Not or Dracula’s Haunted Castle, have elaborate entrances that are good for silly photos.

Other free things in Niagara Falls on Clifton Hill include watching sweet treats being made at the Fudge Factory and sampling at the Hershey’s Chocolate World store.

Two popular and kid-friendly affordable activities in Niagara Falls include: The Niagara Falls Butterfly ConservatoryLink opens in a new tab, one of the largest in North America, with more than 2,000 vibrantly colored butterflies that fly around freely, and the Whirlpool Aero CarLink opens in a new tab, an antique cable car that whisks you across the Niagara River rapids between the Canadian and US border, 3,500 feet above the Niagara Gorge. (Both cost $17.50 for adults or $11.50 for kids aged 3-12.)

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Dining in Niagara Falls on a budget

There’s no escaping that food and drink in the heart of Clifton Hill isn’t cheap, with popular franchises from Starbucks to Hard Rock Café charging a tourist-area premium on their menu items. The good news is that you can still eat in Niagara Falls on a budget by ditching the crowds and heading over to the city’s downtown area.

Queen Street in downtown Niagara Falls is a few minutes’ drive from the falls and has many excellent independent restaurants and cafes where you can get more affordable meals and support local businesses. Sample regional craft beers at Taps BrewhouseLink opens in a new tab, sip organic coffee and grab Montreal-style bagels and sandwiches at Third Space CaféLink opens in a new tab or visit the café at Goldie’s MuseumLink opens in a new tab (an Insta-friendly, Barbie-colored photo space) on weekends.

Closer to the strip, try Canada’s national dish poutine at Smoke’s PoutinerieLink opens in a new tab, a popular fast-food eatery on Victoria Avenue.

Toronto Motel Cadillac Sign
Niagara Falls Whirlpool Aero Car

Cheap Places to Stay in Niagara Falls

There’s no need to rush off after a long day by the falls. Overnighting in Niagara Falls on a budget is definitely possible. Consider staying at one of the city’s many motels, or bed down in a cabin at an area campground.

Retro-style motels near Clifton Hill offer basic but comfortable and clean rooms, some with balconies. Parking here generally costs way less than at the large hotels, and is even free in some cases. For single travelers, these are your best options for staying in Niagara Falls on a budget. Look for rooms at chains like Howard Johnson, Super 8, Travelodge, or check out independent motels like Kings Inn or The Falls Hotel & Inn.

Couples may find B&Bs a good value for their cozy rooms, free homemade breakfasts and parking. Look for homes on River Road, which can have excellent views.

KOA CampgroundLink opens in a new tab is just 5km from the falls and a great deal for families visiting Niagara Falls on a budget—with or without tents. Simple campgrounds are the best value, but comfortable cabins sleeping up to 6 people also offer excellent value with more creature comforts. Outdoor swimming pool, hot tubs, on-site laundry, bike rentals, and other fun amenities make this is a top choice for affordable accommodation in Niagara Falls.

Getting Around Niagara Falls on a Budget

The easiest way to get to Niagara Falls from Toronto is via Go Transit trains and busesLink opens in a new tab, which run multiple times a day. For as little as $10 return for a weekend day trip or $15 for the weekend, you can take a comfortable two-hour ride.

Getting around Niagara Falls is easy on WEGOLink opens in a new tab, the city’s public transportation system. Designed with visitors in mind, WEGO offers all-you-can-ride passes for 24 hours ($12/$18 for adults/children) or 48 hours ($16/$12). Three routes travel to all major Niagara Falls attractions from the Table Rock Visitors Centre beside Horseshoe Falls or the Go Transit train and bus station.

Cycling enthusiasts can see Niagara Falls by bike. ZoomLink opens in a new tab Bike Share offers bright green cruisers from $8/hour.

Note that there is no free parking around Niagara Falls or Clifton Hill. You may find some less expensive parking lots north of the main attractions along Victoria Avenue or Ellen Avenue.

Toronto Bruce Trail Autumn
Ontario Canal Autumn Bridge

Free Outdoor Activities in Niagara Falls

Hiking is one the best free things to do in Niagara Falls. And you don’t need to go far from the glitz of Clifton Hill to get out into nature.

Niagara Gorge is a stunning 11km-long canyon running alongside the rushing Niagara River. Experienced hikers can start at the Niagara Glen Nature ReserveLink opens in a new tab and make their way down a steep stairway to access four kilometers of moderate to difficult hiking paths winding through forest and prehistoric rock.

The Bruce Trail is one of Canada’s most famous hiking trails, running almost 900km in Southern Ontario. The Niagara section of the Bruce alone is 80km. But visitors short on time can get a taste on a mostly flat 6km hike that takes in some of the stunning scenery of the Niagara Escarpment and historical attractions at Queenston Heights Park.

Got a bike? The Niagara River Recreation TrailLink opens in a new tab is a fantastic way to spend the day in Niagara Falls for free, biking from the city along the river to nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake, a popular place for wine tastings and historical sites.

You don’t need to hike to enjoy nature in Niagara Falls. Gardeners and lovers of flowers will find two free attractions open year-round but beautifully in bloom in spring and summer. The Botanical GardensLink opens in a new tab and the working Floral ClockLink opens in a new tab.

Niagara Falls Night Illuminated
Niagara Falls Great Orange Tip Flower

More tips to save money in Niagara Falls

One great way to save money in Niagara Falls is to visit in winter, when some attractions close but hotel prices plummet. The falls are gorgeous when surrounded by ice, with fewer crowds. And the Niagara Falls Winter Festival of LightsLink opens in a new tab is Canada’s largest free outdoor light festival, with 8km of stunning illuminated displays.

To save money on Clifton Hill attractions consider the Fun PassLink opens in a new tab, which covers six popular amusements including the towering SkyWheel for one price ($34.95 adult, $22.95 children). Or look out for couponsLink opens in a new tab that offer a few dollars off individual attractions.

Finally, the best value if you’re visiting Niagara Falls on a budget for a weekend and don’t want to miss out on adventure is a Niagara Pass. This bundles Niagara’s most popular attractions plus a two-day WEGO transit pass for one price, starting at $59.

Niagara Falls does not have to be expensive. By following these tips visitors can explore fun, cheap things to do in Niagara Falls and have a trip of a lifetime at one of the wonders of the world!

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