Without a doubt, Niagara Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls in the world. The sheer amount of water surging around you is simply sublime. In fact, when Austrian composer Gustave Mahler first encountered the falls, he is said to have exclaimed, “At last, fortissimo!”

Niagara Falls and a rainbowOver 28 million tourists visit the falls every year. If you’d like to be one of them, first make sure you have the travel documents you need for your desired itinerary.  Do you need a passport to go to Niagara Falls?  If you’re traveling with children or minors, do they need a passport to experience the falls? The Niagara River straddles the Canadian border, so the answer depends on which side of the attraction you’ll be touring.  The American Falls and Bridal Veils Falls are both on the US side of the border.  However, their bigger brother Horseshoe Falls is on the Canadian side. There are plenty of waterfall-related activities and vantage points on both sides of the border, but the view from the Canadian side is generally considered to be the most impressive.

Do I need a Passport to Visit Canada?

Obviously, if you’re going to stay in New York, you won’t need a passport. However, if you want the full Niagara Falls experience, you’ll need to cross the border into Ontario. The U.S. Department of State recommends a valid passport for all international travel. However, for a minor crossing by land into Canada, a birth certificate accompanied by the parent or guardian with a valid passport is acceptable. We always recommend being extra prepared and travel with a valid passport.

Here’s what Niagara Falls Live has to say about the matter:

passport coverU.S. CITIZENS RETURNING TO THE U.S. AFTER VISITING NIAGARA FALLS CANADA ARE REQUIRED TO PROVIDE A PASSPORT, PASSPORT CARD OR ENHANCED DRIVERS LICENSE AT THE IMMIGRATION CHECKPOINT. If you  are a U.S. citizen living in the U.S. and cross the border to Canada and attempt to re-enter the U.S. you will need one of the above listed forms of identification.

Until June of 2009, this wasn’t the case, and you can see from the emphatic combination of all-caps and red font that many travelers still show up unprepared.  Don’t be one of them- get a passport, a passport card or another acceptable form of ID.  Trusted traveler cards like NEXUS, FAST and SENTRI cards can also be used to cross, though they are much less common and more of a hassle to acquire.  Please note, if you are flying from the US to Canada, you’ll need a passport book, not a passport card and not one of the alternate IDs. See Do You Need a Passport to Go to Canada? for more information.

Niagara Falls Activities

  • Maid of the Mist tours:  The Maid of the Mist boats take travelers on either side of the border past the American and Bridal Veil Falls, and then right into the mist coming off the Horseshoe Falls.
  • The Cave of the Winds takes you right up to the base of Bridal Veil Falls, where winds can reach over 60 mph.
  • On the American side, the Niagara Scenic Trolley takes you around the American Falls and Goat Island.
  • Queen Victoria Park, in Ontario, provides a lush, gorgeous setting in which to view the falls.
  • Skylon Tower, also on the Canadian side, lets you take in the view from 520 feet in the air.
  • The Whirlpool Aero Car is an old-fashioned cable car, built in 1916, that takes you over the Niagara Whirlpool.

Fun Facts About Niagara Falls

When you go, here’s some interesting trivia to keep in mind:

  • During high season, about  100,000 cubic feet of water tumble almost 200 feet down the falls. If the falls weren’t used to generate hydroelectric power, the volume would be about twice that. The falls are at their peak during the spring and summer. Unfortunately, so are the crowds.
  • The first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel was a 63-year-old teacher named Annie Edson Taylor. She survived, but immediately proclaimed “No one ought ever do that again.” Daredevils and publicity hounds alike have spent the past century ignoring her advice.
  • The first mammal to go over the falls in a barrel was a cat named Iagara. Taylor sent her down first, only attempting the stunt herself after the cat emerged from the falls unscathed. PETA would definitely not have approved.
  • Stunts are prohibited at and around the falls without a permit, but both the US and Canadian governments have agreed to make an exception for the Flying Wallenda family, who will be walking over the falls on tightropes this summer.

Passport Tips

If you’re planning a trip to Niagara Falls and you need a passport, check the Department of State’s current processing times before you apply. In general, it takes about six weeks to get your passport back in the mail if you apply with regular processing. If you pay the extra $60 for the State Department’s expedited option, you’ll still find yourself waiting about three weeks.

For faster service, you can either make an appointment at one of the country’s 24 Regional Passport Agencies or you can use a private expediter like RushMyPassport. We personally deliver your application to the Department of State for processing in as little as 24 hours, so you can see Niagara Falls from both sides. If you need help getting your passport application processed quickly, contact us today!