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Backpacking From Toronto to Niagara Falls

The natural splendor of Niagara Falls makes this world wonder an essential part of any trip to Ottawa. Luckily the Niagara Falls are easily accessible from Toronto, so if you’re backpacking around Canada, you can combine a cosmopolitan city break with a trip to Niagara.

Getting To Niagara Falls

Avoid organized tours from travel agents – it’s far cheaper to make the trip to Niagara independently. Hiring a car can work out cheaper if there’s a large group of you, but remember that the roads in the city and around Victoria Park can get extremely congested in peak season, and it can be difficult to find a parking spot. The best option is to get a train or a bus from Toronto, and then take one of the shuttle buses within the resort to the Niagara Falls.

Amtrak and Viarail offer a twice daily service to Niagara from Toronto station on Bridge Street. Greyhound and Coach Canada also offer a bus service that takes you to the resort center. Both train and bus journeys take around two hours, and a return should cost around $40.

One cheap way of getting to Niagara is to ride the Casino shuttle buses that depart from downtown Toronto – for around $11 you can get to Niagara and back, but as you aren’t allowed to bring backpacks on board (you are supposed to be visiting the casino), this only really works for a day trip.

If you would prefer to book a tour, the cheapest tours can be found inToronto hostels with their own travel desks, with special ‘backpacker tours’ stopping off at all the hostels in the area.

Where to Stay In Niagara Falls

There’s a wide range of accommodation at the resort, ranging from ritzy motels to expensive hotels, but a Niagara Falls hostel is the best option for backpackers. From homely guesthouses to traditional youth hostels, most organize trips to and around the falls, and have great free breakfasts to fuel up for a day of sightseeing.

What to See In Niagara Falls

The breathtaking Niagara Falls are quite obviously the most impressive tourist attraction in Niagara. And the view from the Canadian side is far more impressive, and the area is far more touristy as a result. The resort is packed with gambling casinos and multi-story hotels, souvenir shops and gaming arcades. Luckily the tourist traffic doesn’t distract from the beauty of the Niagara Falls – viewed from an escarpment of rock -that was converted to become the beautiful Victoria Park -the Horsehoe Falls are simply breathtaking.

If you want to see the Falls in all their glory, travel on foot, (the roads leading up to the Niagara Falls is always congested with tour and shuttle buses) and to escape the crowds, see it early in the morning or later in the evening when the Niagara Falls are illuminated with colored spotlights. To really see the falls up close, take a ride on the Maid of the Mist boat – departing from a steep gorge a couple of hundred yards under Niagara Falls, you cruise within about a hundred yards of the Niagara Falls, and are given rain macs to keep your clothes dry!

Beyond Niagara Falls

The city of Niagara has really upped its game in recent years, with over 35 tourist attractions to be seen in the Clifton Hill area alone. If you plan on staying for more than a day, Clifton Hill has some lively clubs and bars, several nice museums, a gaming casino, and an IMAX theatre. The SkyWheel is Canada’s largest observation wheel, towering 175 feet above the city and providing some amazing views of the Horseshoe and American Falls.

For an alternative view of Niagara, try the Great Gorge Adventure, which offers a ride on an elevator to the lower level of the canyon, where water boils over into unusual foaming pools. The Spanish Aerocar is a thrilling ride by cable car to a whirlpool caldron further down river.

If you’re planning on seeing several sights at once, the cheapest option is to buy a Niagara Parks Commission Pass for around $30 – this includes admission, transport and discounts to most attractions along the gorge.

Off the Beaten Track

If you want to avoid the tourist crowds, there are some interesting places to visit en route to the falls. The Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas is a fascinating building surrounded by the wonderfully peaceful Botanical Gardens, with a collection of flowers from just about everywhere in the world and a butterfly conservatory.

Niagara-on-the-lake is a picturesque small town of Victorian buildings 15 minutes north of Niagara Falls. Each house has been restored and the town is full of cute shops and cafes selling fresh and organic food.


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