It was my 22nd birthday a couple of weeks ago and to celebrate, I had decided to go on a mini road trip to Niagara Falls with my sister. While we were there, we did almost everything wrong.
Mistake after mistake, we couldn’t have done things any more wrong if we tried. It was quite hilarious actually. So you don’t have to make the same mistakes we did (or if you want to make these mistakes!), here are 22 tips of what to do and what not to do when you visit Niagara Falls!
1. Make sure you know the directions to Niagara Falls.
Have them printed them out, handy on your phone, or make sure you have a GPS.
Or else you may get off on the wrong exit and find yourself driving along some small roads. You may think that these roads will eventually lead to Niagara Falls but in reality, they never do. You may then spend hours driving along this road trying to find your way back. And you may end up having some (pretty awesome!) unplanned adventures along the Niagara River.
2. If you hear a strange sound coming from your car, pull over and check it out.
Do not continue driving for another five minutes trying to figure out what it is. You may or may not be driving on a flat tire that somehow simultaneously occurred just as you were exiting a strange gas station…
3. Here’s what to do if you get a flat tire and you have no idea how to change it.
- Call 411 (this is the number for local directory assistance in Canada and the United States).
- Ask the operator for the number of a roadside assistance company.
- Call that company and tell them you have a flat tire. They’ll lead the conversation from there.
As a general tip, make sure your car has a spare tire in case you ever get a flat. Research done by the American Automobile Association has found that over a third of new cars sold in 2015 did not come with a spare tire. Also, tire inflator kits do not work in all situations and are not a substitute for a spare.
Be aware that the mechanic that the company dispatches, may arrive and, for some reason, may not able to locate a spare tire in your car. Don’t freak out right away. After lying on the ground to get a better look at the underneath of your car and more fumbling around in the truck of your car, the mechanic may realize you actually do have a spare.
And the mechanic may then change your flat tire to a rusty, deflated tire — which you do not realize until the next morning.
4. Keep your wits about you.
If you don’t book accommodation in advance and find yourself looking for a place to sleep in Niagara Falls on a Friday night, try not to be choosy but don’t let people trick you either.
Motel owners may make a string of comments about how young you look and you may find yourself booking a room with two queen size beds, even though it’s only you and your sister and could have easily shared one.
5. Old rusty spare tires may not work 100%.
Let’s get back to the spare tire issue. The next morning, you may go to a gas station to fill air into your spare and find that the valve has rusted shut. A kind gas station attendant may recommend the only shop specializing in tires in Niagara Falls but when you rush there, you may miss the closing by ten minutes.
6. Some shop owners are strict on closing time.
Even though you may have missed the tire shop closing by ten minutes, you may have the urge to survey the building. You may actually find a side door that opens and be tempted to say hi and ask if anyone is in there. Chances are someone is inside but they will turn you away and you will have to continue driving on a rusty tire with low air pressure the whole weekend.
7. Bring sunscreen.
If you walk around at midday with no sunscreen, you may get very tanned and/or burned.
8. Make sure you stay hydrated.
You can buy bottled water at Sobey’s or any other grocery store. This will be much cheaper than buying single bottles at convenience stores or fast food places.
Another good, cheap way is to buy 4 L jugs of water from Sobey’s and drink straight out of this jug. However, if you drink a lot of water, 4 L may not be enough and you may run out of water halfway through the day. Buy several 4 L jugs if this is the case.
9. Again, know the directions to places.
Don’t just memorize a single route and have to go through its entirety to get anywhere. You may want to avoid circling the Niagara Parkway, getting intimate with Stanley Ave., passing the same church on St. Paul Ave., and looping back to the Queenstown Heights Restaurant area 50 times before getting to the actual Falls.
10. If you’re a first-timer, see the Falls in the middle of the day.
If it’s your first visit to Niagara Falls, definitely go do this. It will be packed with thousands of other visitors but, on a sunny day, you are guaranteed some beautiful rainbow sightings as the sun shines through the mist in the air.
11. Or if you’ve seen the Falls before, hit up Sobey’s.
Perhaps you just want to find a place to escape the midday heat; Sobey’s is the perfect place to do this. They have a great food selection, washrooms, free wifi, and they’re open 24 hours (this may come in handy later).
12. The park by Queenstown Heights Restaurant is also great.
You can have a picnic with food bought from Sobey’s, take in views of the Niagara River atop the Niagara Escarpment, explore the historic park, or simply lie in the grass shaded by the trees. Conveniently, there’s also a washroom here.
However, if you do decide to relax in the grass and happen to roll around in it a lot, be warned that you may get itchy after. If you think you’re itchy from pesticide in the grass and try to wash your arms and legs with soap and water in the washroom, you may get immensely more itchy. You may realize after the fact that in reality, you were itchy because you were simply cut by the blades of grass.
13. The Whirlpool Aero Car area is another fun spot.
If you don’t want to spend money going on the cable car (turning one hundred this year!), you can still enjoy the stunning views of the Niagara Whirlpool from here. There’s also a path behind a souvenir shop leading to a balcony that’s a perfect spot to take some photos.
14. Two words: Bouncy. Balls.
The souvenir shop by the Whirlpool Aero Car has the most fun souvenirs ever: BOUNCY BALLS! And for under $1, how could you go wrong?
Be careful where you bounce the balls though or you may end up almost losing them into the gorge.
15. Go see the Falls at night.
A great time to enjoy the Falls is at night when fewer people are around. Spotlights will bathe them in a number of colours.
However, make note of this: when exiting the Falls Parking Lot, do not walk in the opposite direction of the Falls for half an hour before realizing you went the wrong way. As you walk along the Niagara River, you may notice street lights becoming less frequent. You may notice a strangely high glisten of the moon in the water. You may notice the mist receding behind you.
Read the signs.
Walk towards the mist.
16. Do not lean against the railings.
If you ever find yourself by the dam before the brink of Horseshoe Falls, do not lean against the railings. You may get giant spiders on you.
17. Make sure to book your accommodation early.
This is important. In the summer months, especially on a Saturday, Niagara Falls gets busy and rooms fill up fast.
If you don’t book in advance (or at least earlier in the day), you may find yourself with nowhere to sleep. You may spend the night frequenting a 24-hr Sobey’s five too many times (their wifi and washroom comes in handy), trying to getting some shut-eye in the Sobey’s parking lot, and driving around some more before entering the store again.
18. If you don’t book early, you may find yourself spending an inordinate amount on food.
And getting a food baby you nickname Stanley in your sleep deprived state. Check out #StanleyRT2K16 on Instagram to see photos from this trip!
Extra large coffees from the iconic Canadian coffee shop, Tim Hortons, may come in handy the next day.
19. The best time to see Niagara Falls is to go at dawn.
One way to make sure you don’t sleep in and miss it? Forget to book accommodation so you’re already outside!
And who says you have to stay at the upscale Marriott Fallsview Hotel to see stunning views from there? Drive along on Stanley Ave, and make a left onto Livingstone St. and you can see some pretty incredible views from outside the Marriott.
Next, you can go down to the Falls again. This early in the morning, the parking lot barriers are raised and you can park at the Falls Parking Lot for free. There are very few other people around and you can have Niagara Falls almost all to yourself.
However, you may also be hit on by hungover guys who just came from a bachelor party. You may to tempted to let them know that they’re hitting on a seventeen-year-old (who is actually eighteen but just forgot), but don’t. And then you may laugh uncontrollably about this after.
20. The washrooms at Table Rock Welcome Centre can be helpful.
After enjoying Niagara Falls early in the morning, you may need to wash up after a sleepless night. You can wash up in the washrooms here. They are open early in the morning and there are very few people at that time.
21. The Butterfly Observatory is another nice area to visit.
However, in your sleep deprived state, you first reaction to seeing the greenhouses may be something like this:
You: Oh my God.
You: Pod People!
You: Pod People live here!
22. Niagara-On-The-Lake is one last must-visit spot.
Often described as the prettiest town in Ontario, Niagara-On-The-Lake has a number of shops to explore, historical sites see, and a lovely park by the water you can bounce souvenir bouncy balls. Souvenir bouncy balls are the best (see #14).
Parking is metered and starts at 10 a.m. on a Sunday. If you arrive earlier than 10 a.m. but won’t be back by 10 a.m., make sure you still pay the meter.
Overall, this two-day trip to Niagara Falls was some of the most fun I’ve had in a while — even with all the mistakes and misadventures. When things don’t go as planned, go with the flow. It can be a learning experience and you can still make a really good time out of it. I think it’s really important to just roll with the punches and don’t get stressed out by the little obstacles thrown your way.
I hope you enjoyed reading this fun little post as much as I did writing it! There are actually some real tips sandwiched between some not-so-applicable-to-everyone-ok-probably-just-me tips. 😛
Here’s a short little video that my sister has put together of our trip to Niagara Falls! You can also check out her Instagram page and give her some love. Photo creds for the photo of me under #13 and the photo of us under #22 go to her.