Niagara Falls is a bucket list and dream destination for many people. It is truly a spectacular display of nature’s power (and fury) and will leave a lasting impression on just about anybody. But when it comes to getting to Niagara Falls via air travel, there are several different ways you can go about it.
In this article, I will break down the three major airports you might use to get to Niagara Falls in Toronto, Buffalo, and the surrounding area, and I’ll explain their pros and cons. I’ll also talk about which is the better side to stay on: USA vs Canada.
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Niagara Falls map & geography
If you were not aware, Niagara Falls sits on the border between Canada and the US. Specifically, it’s the border between Ontario, Canada and New York, USA.
Also, Niagara Falls is actually a collection of three waterfalls:
- Horseshoe Falls
- American Falls
- Bridal Veil Falls
The Horseshoe Falls is the main attraction and is on mostly the Canadian side while American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls are on the American side. There is also a park on Goat Island that straddles the falls and sits on the American side.
In many cases it could make sense to fly from the US to Canada in order to visit the Falls. But if you don’t have a passport or you don’t want to fly into Canada you can still fly into airports located in the US and make a short drive to the falls.
You can drive across a bridge (Rainbow Bridge) and cross between the countries if you’d like but you’ll have to pass through immigration and keep in mind that line can be long during holidays.
I will talk a little bit more about which side is the best side to stay on later on in the article so be sure to stick around for that.
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What are the best airports for flying to Niagara Falls?
Here are the best airports when flying to Niagara Falls:
- Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)
- Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF)
- Niagara Falls International Airport (IAG)
Hamilton (YHM) and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ) are additional choices but I’m not going to cover them due to limited airlines and routes.
Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)
Toronto Pearson International Airport is a busy airport (31st-busiest airport in the world) and you can find many airlines that fly into it from all around the US. Just take a look at the route map to get a sense of all of the nonstop flights you can get to and from YYZ. They are all over the map.
This means that this will be the easiest airport for you to find a nonstop flight to Niagara Falls. Air Canada is a popular airline that flies to many of these different cities across the US and could be an easy way to get there. But you can also find flights with other major airlines like United, American Airlines, Delta, and WestJet.
Tip: Since Air Canada is a member of the Star Alliance, you can book their flights if you have frequent flyer miles with programs like United Airlines.
Tip #2: Don’t get Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) confused with Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ).
When we flew to Niagara Falls a couple of years ago we flew on United and Air Canada from Houston to Toronto. We decided to rent a car and just drive over to Niagara Falls from Toronto. The drive takes about one hour and 15 minutes depending on the type of traffic that you encounter.
Some of the drive is right along Lake Ontario so you would think it would be very scenic but I remember mostly just seeing highway. However, it was interesting to pass through some of the canals and check them out.
If you were to take an Uber from Toronto Pearson International Airport to Niagara Falls you would likely be paying around $150 Canadian Dollars or around $110 USD (these rates can fluctuate by a lot though).
Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF)
Buffalo Niagara International Airport is closer to Niagara Falls than Toronto Pearson International Airport. If you are driving from Buffalo Niagara International Airport, it is possible that you could get to Niagara Falls in about 40 minutes. So if you think you might be in a time crunch this could save you a little bit of time.
The major issue for flying into this airport is that they just don’t serve as many nonstop locations as the Toronto airport does. As you can tell from the route map below, there are not a whole lot of cities to choose from, so if you go through BUF you might have to work in a connection or two to get there.
If you do fly into Buffalo chances are you will be flying on one of the following airlines:
- Southwest Airlines
One of the advantages of this option is that if you don’t have a passport and you are staying on the US side of Niagara Falls then you can go this route. With that said, I would highly recommend that you stay on the Canadian side and I will say more about that below.
If you were to take an Uber from Buffalo Niagara International Airport to Niagara Falls you would likely be paying around $35. Also, in case you’re wondering, Niagara Falls is about a 6.5 hour drive from Manhattan, New York.
Niagara Falls International Airport (IAG)
Niagara Falls International Airport is the smallest of the three airports. This is the closest airport to Niagara Falls and you could get there in about 20 minutes by driving. This airport is also on the United States side so you would not need a passport to make your way through the airport.
You likely will not be flying to this airport but if you do you will be on one of the following airlines in most cases:
- Spirit Airlines
These airlines are known for being some of the cheapest low cost carriers. You can often find some ridiculously cheap prices but keep in mind that they do have certain restrictions with baggage fees and other charges (You can read more about Spirit Airlines baggage fees here). Also, since this is a smaller airport the prices may be higher than usual sometimes, so always compare your prices with other airports.
The trick with these airlines is that they do not fly to many destinations as you can tell by the route map below. Therefore, if you are trying to fly into this airport you will almost certainly have to have a connection unless you’re flying from the Southeast. Those added connections could add significant costs to your flight so keep that in mind.
Also, these airlines do not fly to these airports every day of the week. In some cases they may only make the trip two times a week so you will really have to time up your trips in order to take advantage of these lower-cost carriers.
If you were to take an Uber from Niagara Falls International Airport to Niagara Falls you would likely be paying around $18. So as you can see, traveling through this airport could be very cheap if you can find the routing.
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Which side of Niagara Falls to stay on?
I highly recommend all people to stay on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. And that is for a few reasons. The first is that there are just better hotels on this side. When we stayed there we stayed at the Marriott Fallsview and it was a great hotel with a fantastic view of the Falls. I would highly recommend staying there.
The second reason is that you have better views of the Falls. You can see the American falls and you can see the Horseshoe Falls. And there is just more to do on the Canadian side. It has a much better tourist infrastructure there with more restaurants and places to see. For example, you can go up in the Skylon Tower and check out the amazing aerial view of the Falls.
- Related: Niagara Falls photography tips
The best time of year to visit Niagara Falls
The best time of year to visit Niagara Falls depends on your personal preferences but I’d shoot for the summer (July through August). The average highs are in the low 80s so the temperature is very bearable. And the best part is that you’ll be able to take advantage of all the water activities that shut down for the winter. But those are peak season times so crowds can be an issue.
June and September will be more on the side of shoulder season so the crowds would be thinner at that time of year and if you visit in true shoulder season (think May or October) you could take advantage of lower hotel rates. Just keep in mind that weather can be a bit unpredictable at Niagara Falls, especially during shoulder season times.
If you do want to visit in the winter, I’d wait until January or February when the snow and ice should be present so you can witness the winter wonderland. It could be there before but it’s not a guarantee. We visited in December and while we had to deal with the cold, we didn’t get rewarded with any snow (I realize that’s not exactly a reward to everyone).
Overall, you will just have to pick a route to Niagara Falls that makes sense for you and your travel goals. If you don’t mind driving in from about an hour away and you have a passport for international travel then going through Toronto can be a great choice. Plus you can check out the city of Toronto.
At the same time if you would like to be a little bit closer or perhaps avoid international travel then going through Buffalo can make a lot of sense as well. And finally if you don’t mind connections or if you live in certain parts of the country then you could fly into the smaller airport at Niagara Falls.
Whatever you end up doing, just stay on the Canadian side so that you can get more from the experience!
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.