12 Tourist Traps To Avoid In Niagara Falls

Beautiful though it may be, Niagara Falls has a reputation for charging tourists a pretty penny. While nobody can charge you to gaze upon the Falls themselves — or, to be precise, Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls — hundreds of restaurants, bars, and novelty attractions have cropped up in the area over the past few decades to take advantage of the fact that people flock from all over the world to do so.

Tourist traps aren't exactly a rare phenomenon. However, Niagara Falls does them better (or worse) than most. In fact, in March 2023, a report by Casago named the Falls one of the biggest tourist traps in the world — and the biggest in all of Canada. Visitors can expect to pay a premium for everything from eating to parking and even staying hydrated. If you're heading out to Niagara Falls any time soon, these are the traps we recommend avoiding if you want to protect your wallet.

Chain restaurants

The likes of Wendy's, McDonald's, and Denny's are popular because they provide filling meals at a relatively low cost compared to independent restaurants. Sadly, that is not the case at Niagara Falls. Visitors have long complained about the inflated costs of chain restaurants in the area. Thanks to the premium that comes with running a business in Niagara Falls, some have even noted that their meals on both sides of the Falls are twice as expensive as they would be back home.

One Tripadvisor reviewer noted that their favorite Outback Steakhouse special set them back $55 instead of the $17 they usually pay. Meanwhile, there have been reports of $38 entrees at IHOPs offering views of the Falls and Burger Kings charging triple their usual prices. This is a result of add-on fees that restaurants often quietly introduce under the guise of improving guest experiences, with one Niagara Falls IHOP server telling CBC that they were trained to explain to curious diners that it's "mandatory" and goes towards "maintenance and fireworks."

Tempting though it is to dip into a fast food spot for a quick, comforting snack, you'll feel slightly less duped if you pay a premium at a restaurant you can't enjoy back home. Tough though they are to find, there are also plenty of spots for cheap eats in the area, such as Flying Saucer Drive-InChip 'N Charlies, and Pho Xyclo.

Movieland Wax Museum

Done wrong, wax museums can range from "uncanny valley" territory to outright terrifying. Considering the price, you'd hope that Movieland Wax Museum — Niagara Falls' self-proclaimed "top wax museum" on the Canadian side of the border — was neither. Unfortunately, tourists lured in by recreations of iconic cinematic characters such as Tony Stark, Indiana Jones, Captain Jack Sparrow, and Hannah Montana have described the experience as "unbelievably terrible" and a "waste of time."

Those with a Clifton Hills Pass, which gives you access to most attractions on the famous "street of fun" that is the promenade, have admitted that Movieland Wax Museum is fine if you're not paying for it outright. However, others have lamented forking out over $50 for a family of five to spend less than 10 minutes in the museum, with one Tripadvisor reviewer noting that "this is just a way for someone with no passion for wax figures to make a quick buck in a tourist town." Niagara Falls isn't the wax capital of the world, so if you are determined to see some quality wax figures, we recommend saving that trip for another time (and place).

One Niagara Welcome Center

Located near the American Falls and the Rainbow Bridge connecting the U.S. with Canada, One Niagara Welcome Center describes itself as a "tourism and sightseeing haven." It's packed with gift shops and an "International Food Court" offering Mexican, Indian, Chinese, and other global cuisines, but unsurprisingly, this food doesn't come cheap. Tourists stopping off for a bite to eat have complained about the high prices (and low quality) of the food.

Souvenirs and snacks sold at One Niagara Welcome Center are also pricey purchases, with stores allegedly adding hidden charges at checkout. "It feels dirty and the souvenirs are poor quality but very expensive," one visitor wrote on Tripadvisor. Another cautioned tourists new to the area to avoid being lured in by the Center marketing itself as a must-visit.

While One Niagara Welcome Center does sell tickets to legitimate sightseeing tours of the Falls, the same tours can be booked for a cheaper price at the Official Visitor Center, just a five-minute walk away. There is one positive to stopping off at the Center: at $25 for two hours, it offers cheaper parking than other lots nearer the Falls. However, considering the prices you pay once inside, this perk isn't enough to redeem the Center of tourist trap status.

Rental cars

Speaking of parking, be prepared to pay exorbitant costs. Even once you've shelled out the upfront fee for a rental vehicle, some hotels charge as much as $70 CA (U.S. $51.60)per night to park a car onsite, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a location that doesn't boast similarly extortionate fees. That's if you can find parking at all; Niagara Falls is packed with overflow lots, as the main parking lots can fill up quickly throughout the day.

While it's always nice to have the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want, the reality is that everything is within walking distance if you're staying in the center of Niagara Falls. Public transport is easily accessible on both the American and Canadian sides of the Falls, with the WEGO bus pass — which costs just CA $12 (U.S. $8.82) per day or CA $16 (U.S. $11.76) for two days — an excellent option for anybody staying on the latter. You can also pay CA $16 (U.S. $11.76) for a round-trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake, a charming town in southern Ontario that's well worth visiting if you're already in the Niagara area. Uber and Lyft are also available on both sides of the border.

Souvenir stores

This tourist trap isn't limited to Niagara Falls. While you'd never consider paying $15 for a plastic magnet back home, that's a bonafide bargain at some well-known travel destinations that take advantage of the knowledge that tourists can only buy a t-shirt emblazoned with "I've been to Niagara Falls" on this one trip and will often throw caution to the wind to do so.

Niagara Falls is one of those places, and both sides of the Falls often put the likes of New York City, London, or even Disneyland to shame with their souvenir costs. Most stores in the area (as well as hotels and restaurants) add on an unnecessary tourist tax, usually with a vague nickname such as "destination marketing fee," "tourism fee," "luxury fee," or "Niagara Falls destination fee." An investigation by CBC in February 2023 found that these fees have soared over the past few years, and unlike regular taxes, the money doesn't go to local authorities or the government but to the establishments themselves.

This tax is so rampant that some souvenir stores try to stand out from the crowd by advertising their services as tourism fee-free in the windows, so if you are desperate for that Niagara Falls t-shirt, you may be better off at least looking for one of these establishments. We also recommend People Discount Souvenir, which is a 30-minute walk from Clifton Hill and stocks many of the same souvenirs at lower prices.

Upside Down House

The Upside Down House is, well, an upside-down house. Located on the tourist haven that is Canada's Clifton Hill, this walkthrough exhibit charges guests CA $12.99 (U.S. $9.57) per person to explore a regular home where furniture just so happens to be stuck to the ceiling (or, technically, the floor). Unlike some other attractions on Clifton Hill, this isn't included in the Clifton Hill FunPass, which means you're paying for the house totally out of pocket.

While it makes for a solid photo-op, visitors have dismissed the experience on Tripadvisor as a "clear tourist trap that [they] unfortunately fell for." You can easily pass through the entire house in three minutes, with all but two of the rooms containing barriers, so you can't even get up close to the exhibit itself. For a similar price, you could experience something that makes the most of Niagara's natural beauty, like the Niagara Skywheel or the White Water Walk.

If you really feel like seeing something strange, then Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium offers more to keep young guests entertained. Despite also being an undeniable tourist trap on the Canadian side of the Falls, it's the biggest in the Ripley family of museums and boasts over 600 exhibits and displays — including contortion boxes, a vortex tunnel, and rare skeletons — that will take much longer than three minutes to complete.

Journey Behind the Falls

Journey Behind the Falls takes tourists up close and personal with Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of the border, the biggest of the three waterfalls in the area. A series of 130-year-old tunnels means you can quite literally look through the back of the Falls, while an outdoor observation point allows you to observe them from below. It's one of multiple sightseeing experiences at Niagara Falls — and one of the most expensive. Before tax, it will cost each adult CA $24.00 (U.S. $17.69), while children between the ages of 3 and 12 must pay CA $16 (U.S. $11.79).

While there's no denying the incredible view, visitors have dubbed Journey Behind the Falls "the greatest tourist trap joke in the history of tourist traps." Some claim that the well-known Maid of the Mist boat tour offers a better view for a slightly higher price. That experience also lasts longer than Journey Behind the Falls. Despite the website advertising it as a 45-minute excursion, this self-guided tour takes just 20 minutes. You'll most likely end up spending more time waiting in line for the elevator to the tunnels than you do in the actual tunnels themselves — and even once you get there, the sight of a wall of water can be underwhelming. The tunnels involved in Journey Behind the Falls are also very narrow and humid, which can really put the "trap" in "tourist trap" if you're claustrophobic.

Casino Niagara

Casinos are the very definition of tourist traps, designed to lure in as many visitors (and as many wallets) as possible. With over 1,400 slot machines and 40 gaming tables, Casino Niagara is no exception. Unfortunately, visitors have found it both "deserted" and a "major ripoff" compared to other casinos, making it tough to rationalize its high prices.

A Tripadvisor reviewer from 2019 called out the casino– which is located on Clifton Hill on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls — for the costs of parking (CA $40, or U.S. $54.45) and coat check (CA $4, or U.S. $5.44), and multiple visitors have criticized the low payouts of its machines. It also reportedly doesn't offer complimentary drinks at the slots as is custom in many casinos, and dining options are both slim and expensive. One visitor in 2022 spent CA $78 (U.S. $57.49) on just two burgers and two servings of fries. Despite being just as expensive, the nearby newer and bigger Fallsview Casino is often highlighted as a better place to spend your money, offering a better range of restaurants and a more updated gambling environment.

Niagara's Fury

Niagara's Fury immerses guests in 10,000 epic years of history. This indoor 4D experience on the Canadian side of the Falls covers the creation and preservation of Niagara, spraying guests with water and shaking the floor beneath their feet in the process. While it has the potential to be an exciting experience, visitors remain largely unimpressed by Niagara's Fury's poor effects, expensive tickets, and short duration. "This is a poor 4D experience, it is certainly underwhelming," one Tripadvisor reviewer noted.

If you have the Niagara Wonder Pass or Niagara Traveler Pass, entry to Niagara's Fury is included. Otherwise, it costs CA $17.50 (U.S. $12.90) per adult and CA $11.90 (U.S. $8.77) per child, which is a lot considering visitors report the entire show lasting for roughly 10 minutes despite the 45-minute length advertised on the official Niagara Parks website. It also feels redundant to pay to experience a digital version of the Falls with the real thing being just minutes away. By that logic, you could have stuck on a YouTube video and saved yourself the trek to Ontario. "Do not pay out of pocket for it," warned a visitor in 2019. "You'll be mad at yourself if you do."

Louis Tussaud's Waxworks

Despite what the name would have you think, Louis Tussaud's Waxworks is a totally separate entity from the world-famous Madame Tussauds. Founded by Louis Tussaud — the great-grandson of "Madame Tussaud" herself, Marie Tussaud — the wax museum is located on the Canadian side of the Falls, where it's struggled to achieve the same success as its namesake.

For CA $29.99 (U.S. $22.10) per adult or CA $22.99 (U.S. $16.94) per child, visitors can spend about 10 minutes strolling through a kitschy collection of wax replicas of the likes of Elon Musk, Drake, Kate Middleton, Jay Leno, and Marilyn Monroe that one Tripadvisor review described as "unrecognizable and unkempt." The museum has even made headlines for its not-so-accurate lookalikes in the past. If you're looking for something a little bit different, by all means, go ahead. However, if not, there are probably better ways to spend your time and money.

Skylon Tower

Like a lot of places in the area, the main selling point of Skylon Tower is its location. At 775 feet high in the air, visitors can choose from two different dining options: the Revolving Dining Room Restaurant or the Summit Suite Buffet Dining Room. Both offer panoramic views from the Canadian side of the Falls, but the Revolving Dining Room Restaurant tends to be the first choice of many patrons as it has the added novelty of slowly rotating 360 degrees per hour as you eat.

Impressive though the views are, they come with a hefty price tag. Diners have noted that the experience is overpriced, considering the quality of the food. Entrees range from CA $49 (U.S. $36.10) to CA $70 (U.S. $51.58), and each bill is subject to both a 3% "Attractions and Promotions Fee" and Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), all of which can quickly add up. There's also a minimum charge of CA $49 (U.S. $36.10) per guest, eliminating the sneaky alternative of sharing a few starters and drinks. The Revolving Dining Room Restaurant has also been accused of being outdated and in desperate need of a refurb in recent years.

Rainforest Cafe

Rainforest Cafe is divisive at the best of times, combining the prices of a luxury restaurant with animatronic gorillas and simulated thunderstorms. Love it or hate it, the Canadian side of Niagara Falls is home to one of the most expensive Rainforest Cafes around, even beating out the location at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom. It's also one of the worst-reviewed. "We expected pricey going in, but $30 cheeseburgers and $6 drinks is high-end restaurant pricing," one reviewer wrote on Tripadvisor in June 2023. "Cold food, terrible burgers and kids meals that could be found on the shelf at Walmart."

Unless novelty is your thing (in which case, this genuinely is your best option), there are dozens of restaurants in the area serving higher quality, family-friendly fare for the same amount of money. Check out the likes of Carpaccio, Turtle Jack's Niagara Falls, Frontier BBQ & Smokehouse, or Antica Pizzeria & Ristorante for a tasty alternative.