The Best Niagara Falls Day Trip From Toronto
A Niagara Falls Day Trip From Toronto Itinerary
Niagara Falls is less than two hours from Toronto, so a day trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls is very convenient and fun. We love this part of Ontario, so we’ve put together some of our favourite itineraries for an incredible Niagara Falls day trip from Toronto that combines the world-famous waterfalls with some of the region’s other hidden gems.
Want to visit Niagara but don’t have access to smartphone data? Check out our blog on how to download Google Maps so you can easily navigate offline while you explore!
The Best Toronto to Niagara Falls Itinerary
While it might not be the first place you think of, no Niagara Falls day trip from Toronto is complete without a visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake. This charming town has been voted the prettiest in Canada, and as soon as you arrive you’ll understand why. The federal government made this town the only National Historic District in Ontario because it has done an incredible job preserving its many heritage structures. A stroll through Niagara-on-the-Lake almost feels like you’re walking through an early-1800s colonial town, as many of its buildings date to that time period.
Timing is Everything When Going on Niagara Falls Day Trip from Toronto
Our recommendation is to leave Toronto around 8:30 AM, headed firstly to Niagara-on-the-Lake and arriving likely around 10:15. Plan for a couple hours here, strolling the main street and through the residential areas, before having lunch either in a restaurant or in a picnic at Queen’s Royal Park along the shore of Lake Ontario.
Starting Off Your Niagara Falls Day Trip
The main retail and dining hub is Queen Street, but you should take a walk down one of the residential streets like Regent St. or Victoria St. to get to Queen’s Royal Park. If you grab some food, this is an incredible place to have a picnic, enjoying the view of New York on the other side of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario stretching out before you.
The view from Queen’s Royal Park.
The Prettiest Sunday Drive in the World
After lunch drive down the Niagara River Parkway, which links the town to Niagara Falls. (If you’re using a mapping system like Google Maps, be sure it’s taking you the route along the Niagara River, which is the dark blue line in the photo below—that’s the Niagara River Parkway.)
Winston Churchill once called this road the ‘prettiest Sunday drive in the world’, and we’re sure you’ll see why. You can drive it without stopping, but there are a few viewing areas en route, so feel free to stop for a photo or two. Our favourite is at the Niagara Whirlpool. You can read about the whirlpool and the ways to explore it here, but you can easily do a five-minute pitstop then keep heading towards Niagara Falls.
View the Niagara Whirlpool
Most people view the whirlpool from the departure point of the Whirlpool Aero Car—a suspended cable car you can ride from one side of the river to the other. If you don’t want to do the cable car ride, we recommend viewing the whirlpool from its opposite side (type in the address 3500 Niagara River Parkway to get to this viewing area). Not only is this area less congested, but the view is also less obstructed from this vantage point so you can see the Niagara Whirlpool Rapids pouring into the whirlpool, the nearby beach, and the lush gorge surrounding the pool.
Piece de Resistance
Finally, you’ll arrive at the piece de resistance, the most powerful waterfall in the world, Niagara Falls. Most people begin their Niagara Falls adventure inside the Table Rock Centre, which is a great place to get your bearings as it has all the amenities you’ll need. Most importantly, its outdoor terrace is the closest you can get to the top of Horseshoe Falls, making it a most popular spot for photos or to simply take in the falls in all their glory. Enjoy breathtaking views over the railing of thousands of gallons of water pouring into the churning Niagara River below.
Niagara Falls deserves at least two hours, first at the Table Rock Centre then doing an activity to get a new perspective on the falls. There are so many incredible ways to do so, we’ve written a blog post about it and you can decide for yourself which one appeals to you.
After a few hours at the falls, you can head for home; however, if you’d like to extend your Niagara Falls day trip from Toronto, you can have dinner at Queen Victoria Restaurant—on the patio if you can—to enjoy the sunset. Many people don’t realize that at night, the Niagara Parks Commission lights up all three waterfalls. Once the sun sets they bathe the falls in a kaleidoscope of colour, casting an enchanting glow over the cascading water. Often the lights change in concert with music, creating an atmosphere of wonder and romance. The performance is all the more alluring as spray rises from the Niagara River, making it feel almost dreamlike as the colours shimmer through the mist.
Enjoy the show, which is often set to music, from the Queen Victoria patio or strolling along the walkway beside the falls.
The Many Special Seasons of Niagara Falls
Most people visit the Niagara waterfalls on a sunny summer day, and while we think Niagara Falls is always stunning, there’s something special about exploring in other seasons. So if you find yourself in Toronto in the autumn or winter, we still encourage you to consider a Niagara Falls one day trip.
In the fall, Niagara comes alive with an explosion of colour as the leaves change from green to a brilliant red, yellow, and orange. The Niagara Parkway is at its finest, so you might consider parking and taking a leisurely walk along the Niagara River Recreation Trail. This trail goes all the way from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Niagara Falls (and beyond!), so it isn’t possible to walk in a day, but if you park in the whirlpool parking lot at 3500 Niagara River Parkway and walk north, you’ll get some stunning fall foliage views. It’s a 30-minute walk to the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, which offer rotating flower displays curated by the students of the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture.
When visiting in the fall, consider starting at Niagara Falls then exploring the Niagara Parkway before finishing the evening at Niagara-on-the-Lake. Why? Because fall is the spookiest time of year, and if you take a Niagara Falls day trip from Toronto in autumn you can enjoy a ghost tour of what just might be the most haunted town in Canada: Niagara-on-the-Lake!
Have dinner at the 200-year-old Olde Angel Inn—and ask the staff whether they’ve seen the ghost of the British soldier who’s resided there since the time of the War of 1812—then spend the evening with a guide from the tour company Ghost Walks being entertained with the creepiest stories from this historic place. It’ll admittedly make for a late night, but a ghost tour during the Halloween season will make your Toronto day trip to Niagara Falls all that much more memorable.
While Niagara Falls doesn’t freeze over in winter, the flowing water looks gorgeous surrounded by sheets of snow as moonlight dances over sparkling icicles dotting the landscape. From mid-November through the end of January, the Niagara Parks Commission also installs millions of lights beside the Niagara Gorge. Be sure to check out Dufferin Islands, which are home to the Canadian Wildlife displays including towering moose, deer, polar bears, and bison all made from Christmas lights. You’ll feel like you’re wandering through a winter wonderland with more than fifty larger-than-life holiday displays spread throughout Niagara Falls. When paired with the illuminated waterfalls described above, the atmosphere can only be described as magical.
Given that the lights are what help make Niagara Falls feel so festive during the colder months, your best bet if you don’t want to make your day too long is to start out a bit later in the day from Toronto and devoting the day to Niagara Falls alone—firstly seeing the waterfalls, then wandering amongst the holiday lights. If you feel like splurging a little, go up the Skylon Tower for a meal (open lunch and dinner) or a drink. You’ll enjoy a bird’s eye view of all the lights lining the parkway, with blankets of snow spread out as far as you can see. You might plan to be up the tower a bit before twilight, so you can watch the sun set on this idyllic Canadian winter scene.
Viewing the Niagara waterfalls from the American and Canadian sides
The border between Canada and the United States runs right down the middle of the Niagara River, meaning it’s possible to see the three waterfalls from both countries, and each one has something unique to offer. The New York side allows you to get closer to the base of the American and Bridal Veil Falls, with the Cave of Winds experience taking you right down front of Bridal Veil Falls (and we promise, you will get wet!).
In Ontario, you can get you much closer to Horseshoe Falls, and can also see American Falls better because you’re looking at them from across the gorge.
A Niagara Falls day trip from Toronto can easily include both the Canadian and American sides (but everyone in your group—including any kids—will need a passport to cross both borders), though if you’re planning this you’ll likely need to skip Niagara-on-the-Lake.
While most people tend to drive across one of the bridges between Ontario and New York, a special experience is to take the Rainbow Bridge, a footbridge connecting Canada and the United States. There’s a small toll to cross and you’ll still need a passport to get into each country, but walking across the gorge offers an amazing view of the waterfalls.
We’ve made our suggestions for the best day trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls, but admittedly, there’s so much to do here that it’s not possible to pack it all into a single day. If you do want to spend more time here, the area has many accommodation options for you to spend the night. If you are taking a few days, check out our blogs on the historic sites and natural attractions to fill out your itinerary.
Looking to experience Niagara Falls without any hassle? Let Black Lab Tours take care of planning your Niagara adventure so you can focus on exploring this incredible place. On our Best of Niagara and Niagara Falls Day Trip, we’ll whisk you from Toronto out to Niagara to spend the day exploring Niagara-on-the-Lake—voted Canada’s most beautiful town—before taking Winston Churchill’s favourite drive to Niagara Falls. Begin at the Table Rock Centre, then you can choose from a number of the activities listed above to experience Horseshoe Falls. Along the way, we’ll also share our favourite Niagara stories. See the rail bridge where Harriet Tubman helped enslaved people to freedom along the Underground Railroad, the most significant battlefields of the War of 1812, and much more.