1. Fly Into the Buffalo Niagara Airport and Rent a CarAaron and I flew into the airport late in the evening, but we had no trouble renting a car and driving the half hour into Niagara. If we had more time, I would have stopped for dinner in the Buffalo area, but we kept driving. Just so you know, renting a car in the States and driving across the border is very common and not hard to do at all! We had a bit of a wait at the border, but this wasn't too troubling because we weren't going to see the falls until the next day. Make sure you have your passport if you'd like to return to the States!
2. Drive to the Canadian Side of the FallsI'm all about supporting my country with my money, but let me be real: the American side of the Falls isn't very exciting. Other than a large casino and some souvenir shops, there isn't much to see. The Canadian side is much more well-kept and has a ton of hotels and touristy activities to choose from. We actually stayed another 30 minutes past the falls in St. Catharine's, Ontario, because the hotels were much cheaper and we didn't mind the drive.
3. Stay the Night in a Hotel or See the FallsWhen you see the falls will depend on how what time you get in. We arrived late at night, so we just went to dinner and to our hotel before getting up the next morning to drive to the falls. Since this is a tourist destination, I recommend finding hotel coupons and other discounts so you don't spend all your money on lodging.
Even with this plan, we still made it back to the airport and off on our next flight in less than 24 hours. You may want to visit the falls right away when you're driving through, especially if you have an early-morning flight the next day. Parking can be expensive, so see if your hotel includes it, or use this handy website to find your best option. We ended up doing some metered parking right near the viewing area, and it was reasonable and convenient.
4. Take Plenty of Photos From the Canadian SideThis is easy to do, since you'll already be on the Canadian side. That being said, if you'd rather stay on the American side of the falls, you do have some options. You can walk across the Rainbow Bridge on the pedestrian walkway, but make sure you have your passport so that you can return. There is a toll to cross the bridge, either by foot or by car. You'll obviously have to cross the bridge at some point. We found it easiest to park on the Canadian side, take our photos, and then cross the toll and come across to the US to ride the Maid of the Mist!
5. Visit the Maid of the MistThis was one of my favorite parts of the trip! There is a Canadian version as well, but I liked the idea of seeing the Falls with my fellow Americans. You get up close and personal with the falls, and even get your own souvenir poncho, which you'll need or you'll get totally soaked! The line was surprisingly short for the Maid of the Mist if you book ahead of time, and the boats are constantly departing. Note the schedule, as the ride does not run year round (and could be pretty chilly depending on when you go!)
Overall, visiting Niagara Falls was a blast! We didn't need more than a day to visit, but it was definitely a worthwhile stop on our trip, and you can make it an easy stop on any vacation by following these simple tips. Since we saved money on this excursion, we're planning our next trip. We might head to Las Vegas and check out the shows in Sin City. Happy traveling!