Most Niagara Falls travel guides assume visitors have a full day in the area, if not a weekend. But, what should you do if you only have half a day to spend in the area – or even less? Luckily, visiting Niagara with a time constraint is not uncommon. Many people enjoy two, four, and six-hour Niagara Falls “day trips” each year. With proper planning, even a quick in-and-out visit to the natural wonder can be a marvellous experience. Here’s how to make the most of a shorter visit to Niagara Falls.
What to do with two hours in Niagara Falls
Your goal on a two hour trip to Niagara Falls should be to take in as much as possible without stressing out your schedule. Book one attraction that involves getting super close to the waterfalls (such as a Niagara Falls boat tour), and leave the rest of your visit unscheduled to enjoying the views and ambience.
With two hours in Niagara Falls, you’ll have time to:
- Take some stunning photos as you overlook the natural wonder
- Get as close as possible to Niagara Falls with a 20-minute Voyage to the Falls boat tour
- Wander around Clifton Hill – if the lineup is short, you might even have time to ride the Niagara Skywheel!
- Enjoy a sweet treat while enjoying the great outdoors (ice cream is plentiful in Niagara Falls)
What to do with four hours in Niagara Falls
With four hours in Niagara Falls, you will likely have time for two major Niagara Falls, a quick meal, and a stroll through the tourist centre. Get started with a Niagara Falls boat cruise and a walk along the lookout points. Then, head over to your second attraction of choice: the Journey Behind the Falls and White Water Walk are both great options. Finally, take some time to explore Clifton Hill and enjoy a quick meal or picnic-style lunch at Queen Victoria Park.
With four hours in Niagara Falls, you’ll have time to:
- Visit two major Niagara Falls attractions – we recommend the Niagara Falls boat cruise + the White Water Walk or Journey Behind the Falls
- Have a quick meal at one of the area’s many restaurants, or enjoy a picnic lunch at Queen Victoria Park
- Walk around Clifton Hill and stop in at one or two of the roadside attractions. Nightmares Fear Factory (for adults), glow-in-the-dark mini-putt (for kids), and the Niagara Skywheel (for everyone) are some of our favourites!
What to do with six hours in Niagara Falls
Six hours is a solid amount of time to take in much of what Niagara Falls has to offer. With this length of day trip, you should have enough time to try everything listed on the popular Niagara Parks Adventure Pass: a Niagara Falls boat tour, the Journey Behind the Falls, White Water Walk, and Niagara’s Fury. The Niagara City Cruises tour and Niagara’s Fury offer the most background information on the geology and history of the area, so they are the most popular starting points. With the additional time you have left, you can wander through Clifton Hill, enjoy a drink on the Riverside Patio, and/or take a ride up Skylon Tower.
With six hours in Niagara Falls, you’ll have time to:
- Enjoy most or all of the attractions on the Niagara Parks Adventure Pass
- Spend some time wandering through Clifton Hill
- Enjoy a light meal or drink on Riverside Patio
How long does it take to see top Niagara Falls attractions?
The amount of time needed to visit top Niagara Falls attractions can vary distinctly depending on lineups and crowds, and we can make no promises about wait times. However, for your reference, here are some basics on the expected time it takes to experience the main Niagara Falls attractions:
- How long does Niagara City Cruises Voyage to the Falls Boat Tour take? The boat tour and funicular generally take between 30 – 60 minutes from start to finish. Boat tours leave every 15 minutes for the majority of the day, but wait times can vary a great deal. For example, you can expect a significant wait between 11 am and 4 pm on summer weekends. Boarding can take much less time if you arrive first thing in the morning, on a weekday, or outside of summer vacation. Be sure to factor a potential lineup into your schedule and buy tickets ahead to skip the booth.
- How long does Journey Behind the Falls take? You should schedule in between 30 to 45 minutes for the Journey Behind the Falls. Journey Behind the Falls is located right next to Table Rock, a tourist information centre and popular first stop for Niagara Falls visitors. It takes about 15 minutes to walk between this attraction and the Niagara City Cruises, so it is possible to enjoy both in a half-day trip to Niagara Falls.
- How long does Niagara’s Fury take? Niagara’s Fury is a 4D show that lasts about 30 minutes. During busy times of the year, Niagara Parks advises lining up 20 minutes before the next show to secure your spot, although this is not always necessary.
- How long does the White Water Walk take? This is a self-guided tour and can take as long as you would like, though most people take about 20-30 minutes. The attraction is a 15-20 minute WEGO ride (green line) from the main tourist area at Table Rock. If you are taking the GO Train from Toronto Niagara Falls, consider making this your first or last stop – it is located extremely close to the GO station (see full WEGO route map here).
As a general rule, most Niagara Falls attractions take about 30 minutes to experience. You should factor in about 15-20 minutes between each to make your way between the attractions, along with a reasonable buffer for wait time (especially if you are visiting a popular attraction during a high-traffic period). We recommend scheduling no more than one attraction for every 1.5-2 hours you have in the area.
Our top tips for shorter day trips to Niagara Falls:
Before we finish off this article, we want to leave you with a few of our best day trip tips for Niagara Falls:
- Plan ahead for parking – if you are driving into Niagara Falls, consider budgeting for a spot close to the action to make the most of your time in the area. If you are coming from Toronto, the weekend Niagara Falls GO Train is also a great option.
- Book tickets in advance – tickets for some attractions, like Niagara City Cruises, can be booked in advance. This is a good option for everyone, but those on a tight schedule will particularly benefit from having everything ready in advance!
- Visit at lower-traffic times of day – if you have control over the time of your visit, consider a morning or evening trip rather than the busy 11 AM to 5 PM period. While the buzz around Niagara Falls is exhilarating at the most popular times of day, the lineups are not ideal for a tight schedule.
- Don’t overbook – to truly enjoy Niagara Falls, you should allow for some time to admire the waterfalls and to wander Clifton Hills. At maximum, you should plan about one scheduled tourist activity every 1.5-2 hours (see section above for specific details).
- Make a list of what you want to do in order of importance – It can be hard to predict which attractions will have the longest waits on a given day, so walk around your top spots and keep an eye out for openings. While it is usually worth waiting a bit for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get close to Niagara Falls, you can probably find an alternative to attractions lower on your list.
While it might not be ideal to have such a quick visit to the area, you can certainly make the most of a few hours with a bit of planning, realistic expectations, and clarity about your personal must-see spots. If you have any questions about how to best schedule your visit to see us, feel free to send us a message on Facebook or through our website’s chatbot. Happy travelling!