Five Things to Know Before Heading to Niagara Falls
Along with thundering waterfalls, Niagara’s cacophony of slot machines, buzzing arcades and all-you-can-eat buffets brings thousands of visitors to the area every day of the year, ready and eager to spend, spend, spend. But finding a good deal in Niagara Falls isn't about getting dealt a lucky hand. Everything beyond the bare minimum costs extra, so the quoted price won't be the final price on a hotel or restaurant bill. While these fees aren’t buried, there are ways to save money in this amusement-filled town.
We rounded up advice from our travel experts to show you how to navigate the sea of costs and fees in Niagara Falls, making sure you know where to hedge your bets.
1. Read the fine print on hotel deals.
There are 300 hotels in this city with just over 80,000 people, but hotel rooms can still come at a premium. Fallsview rooms cost double those with a city view, and Saturday nights are almost never discounted. Deals are typically found in the off-season or during the week, so look for rooms Sundays to Thursdays. In order to avoid sticker shock when checking out, keep in mind most hotels charge resort fees, ranging from $10-$20 per night to cover things like in-room coffee and Wi-Fi, along with fees for additional guests. Familiarize yourself with the hotel’s policies and expect to pay at least 20% above the base room price.
2. Parking is rarely included and it isn't cheap.
Parking is almost never included with your hotel stay. Guests of any hotel in Niagara Falls should expect to pay anywhere from $10-$30 plus tax, per night, in addition to the price of the room. Free public parking is sparse, unless you can find your way into the casino. Paid parking costs more the closer you get to Clifton Hill and the Falls: The lots fill up quickly with early morning day-trippers visiting the area, and cost $15-$25 per day in high season. For those only visiting for the day, try parking in lots farther out and walking into the centre of the town, or using the WEGO shuttle -- this can save you as much as $10 per day.
3. Bargains on family meals do exist.
Dining in Niagara Falls can be expensive; even dinner at one of the fallsview buffets can run you more than $160 for a family of four. The best strategy for finding a low-cost meal for the whole family is to wander out of Clifton Hill, where prices skyrocket come dinnertime. There are dozens of local restaurants and cafes to choose from a short walk away. When searching for a place fit for the whole family, make sure you ask about the specifics when it comes to kids-eat-free promotions. The age of a child varies from place to place, and most of the time two adults must buy entrees in order to take advantage of this offer. Travel experts suggest bringing snacks or a picnic lunch for those visiting for the day, because even a bottle of water will cost more near the Falls.
4. That mystery fee is everywhere.
Most hotels and restaurants in this area charge a fee as part of a Destination Marketing Program, which can tack on 3 to 8 percent to your bill. Supported by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, the fees go towards marketing for the Niagara region. This fee can also appear as Tourism Improvement Fee (TIF), Attractions and Promotions Fee (APF), Niagara Falls Destination Fee (NFDF) or Destination Productivity Fee (DPF). Note: These fees are not mandatory and can be taken off your bill by request, but the procedure for this varies by establishment.
5. Get off the main drag for souvenir shopping.
Like dining, looking for cheap souvenirs in the major tourist areas like Clifton Hill or close to the Falls is like trying to find a free parking spot, so head a couple blocks away from the throngs of crowds for better quality and lower prices. Queen Street, otherwise known as the Q District, has little local shops for finding unique gifts. Visitors can also head to the mammoth Souvenir City, which has hundreds of nostalgia-inducing knickknacks to bring home with you.