This Mid-May road trip took us through Niagara Falls as the temperatures were just about perfect in the 70s, and the weather a mix of clouds and sun. While the park and the Falls are open 24/7 365 days a year, there is a busy season starting in June and going through the summer. Our May visit was off-season, and honestly, a perfect time to go.
Visit The Falls In may
As I mentioned, the weather was great and the crowds (or lack of) were even better. Parking was a breeze, viewing the Falls from just about any vantage point was no problem, and lines for facilities and features were short to non-existent. The only downside was that some (not all) amenities were closed. Since we weren’t there for the restaurants or shopping, that was fine with us.
When you travel with dogs, the off-season is the best time to travel. While our shelties do fine with people and were good with the crowds (as limited as they were), having the extra space in the viewing areas and paths was a bonus. Niagara Falls is pet friendly, though you cannot bring them into the indoor spaces. So, either bring a picnic or plan to split up to purchase food or do any souvenir shopping.
There is a reason there is a busy season, kids are out of school and families can travel more easily. If you have the option, visit in the off-season. Our spring visit was perfect. While I can’t say what a fall visit is like, I imagine the colors are beautiful. Either side of the calendar should be better than summer though.
Visitors are drawn to Niagara Falls from around the world for the obvious reason, the Falls. To get the most out of the trip, plan to spend time in the park beyond the Falls, it is beautiful. We didn’t realize how large Niagara Falls State Park was until we arrived, so we only saw a portion of what was there. Our next trips will be a bit longer to see more of the park.
Walking paths wander the lush wooded areas along rivers and the Falls. As a pet-friendly park, the paths are wide enough to walk our two dogs and maintain a reasonable distance for other visitors (Our dogs are good with crowds, but not all people are comfortable around dogs. So, keeping space is important.) There are a lot of trails and paths to walk, and it can be tempting to rush to see as much as you can. I prefer to walk more slowly and absorb more from a shorter distance than to try to walk as far as I can during the day.
Streams and bridges
A surprise for me (in addition to the size of the park itself), was the number of streams and bridges. When I thought of Niagara Falls, I thought of the big Niagara River and one big waterfall connecting Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The park has much more. Just a short walk from the main viewing areas are little islands known as the Three Sisters Islands. Between them are streams crossed by footbridges. These are tranquil, picture-perfect settings unexpectedly juxtaposed with the hectic rush of the main Falls. Since we didn’t plan for the time, I can only imagine the other scenic experiences we’ll have on our next visit to the Falls.
Since we travel with our dogs, we often look for an “out of the way” place where we can just sit and relax. When visiting busy places, some dogs (ours included) can get over-stimulated. Goat Island has a lot of open space, including a picnic area. This was perfect to just lay a cloth tarp down and rest with the Shelties. Sometimes dogs just need a break, and there is plenty of space at the park to give it to them.
Of course, the main reason to visit Niagara Falls is the Falls. They don’t disappoint. Even before you get to the park you can see the rising mist of the fall from the town and as you drive up interstate 190.
We viewed the falls in two ways, from the shore and from the boat, Maid of the Mist. You can also take helicopter tours. We did not take the flying route.
While I viewed the falls from the US side, I couldn’t go to the Canadian side with the dogs. So, I stayed stateside while the others crossed the bridge to the Canadian side. The view from the north allows for a better look at the falls. But, we warned, some of the border guards are a bit testy, and perhaps not without reason.
Before you go across, be sure to fill out the Canada App, which lets travelers register their plans with the Canadian government prior to arrival. Even for a day trip, filling out the app is required. Unbeknownst to us, it is apparently ok to say you are staying at a Canadian hotel, even if you are not (an address for where you are staying is required). At least, that’s what the Canadian border guard said. So, if you are crossing on a day trip fill out the Canada App and pick any hotel as the address you will be “staying at” while in Canada.
A lot of people didn’t do this or even try to fill out the App information. The border guard wasn’t thrilled.
Overall, traveling to Niagara Falls with dogs is a very pleasant experience. As long as you have two people at least, someone can take the dogs while others get food, souvenirs, or use the facilities.