When I decided to take my two sons to Toronto for a few days this summer, I knew I had to find a way for the three of us to visit Niagara Falls. I’ve been to the falls twice, both on the American and Canadian side, but my last visit was 25 years ago–well before I started using a wheelchair. Fortunately, there’s more than one way to get to the Canadian side of the Falls, which are only a two-hour drive or train ride from Toronto. Here’s more about my day trip with my boys, as well as another wheelchair accessible option for you to visit.
An Accessible Group Tour with Gray Line
When researching accessible day trip options for Niagara Falls from Toronto, I found several options online. The most solid one came from GetYourGuide, which is a tour company, but not the actual tour operator. They just create the booking, but the actual tour we took was provided by Gray Line Tours. Here is the description of the tour highlights:
Upon your arrival in Niagara Falls, the first stop is Whirpool Rapids. This will be followed by a much anticipated ride aboard the Hornblower Niagara Cruise, taking you to the base of the Horseshoe Falls. You will then be escorted to the Fallsview Dining Room in the Sheraton on the Falls for a well deserved buffet lunch, while taking in the breathtaking panoramic views of Niagara Falls. After your relaxing lunch, you will head to the Table Rock Complex to get a closer look at the Horseshoe Falls. Our tour will continue towards Niagara-on-the-Lake and we will visit a winery.
Best of all, the tour also included a 45-minute Hornblower cruise right into the middle of Horseshoe Falls, as well as a buffet lunch and pick-up/drop-off at your hotel in downtown Toronto. I followed the instructions during booking and contacted Gray Line directly after receiving confirmation to let them know I needed a bus with a wheelchair lift. I called them again two days before the tour to confirm the accessible coach bus.
The morning of our pick-up, the bus was running several minutes late to pick us up. Just as I started to call Gray Line, our tour guide approached us in front of our hotel. She said there had been a delay because of wheelchair lift issues, which is something I’ve come to expect. However, she said it had been taken care of and we could follow her around the corner to board the bus. The lift was working fine, and the wheelchair space was comfortable. The driver was fantastic, and did a great job of strapping my chair down each time I boarded the bus during the day.
Our tour guide narrated the entire 2-hour bus ride to the Falls, telling us some really interesting history and information about downtown Toronto, Lake Ontario, and Niagara Falls. The scenery along the way was lovely, especially when we drove along the lakeshore and over a huge bridge where we could see the shipping channel locks.
Our first stop was at the impressive Horseshoe Falls. My boys were absolutely amazed when they saw the sight of 35 million gallons of water pouring over the edge every single minute. The crowds weren’t too bad, and the stone wall and metal railing were low enough that I could see the falls and take photos without too much trouble. In spots where there were crowds, people were kind enough to move aside to let me see and take some photos. We had an hour at that stop, and my boys and I took advantage of the time to grab a quick lunch at the food court there. I didn’t use the restroom there, but they did have accessible toilets.
Our next stop was the Sheraton Hotel directly across from the American Falls. We chose to eat lunch on our own, so the rest of the group had their buffet lunch at the hotel, and the three of us headed two blocks away to the Hornblower cruise. We already had our tickets as part of the tour, so we sent straight to the ramp that took us to the elevators for the boat dock. There is a funicular for a more scenic view, but it’s currently not wheelchair accessible.
Before boarding the Hornblower boat, which used to be called the Maid of the Mist and is essentially a large double-deck ferry, we were all provided with red ponchos. Rolling onto and off the boat was a piece of cake. Only the bottom deck is accessible, but you can choose to stay behind a glass enclosure on either side of the lower deck, or hurry to the open-air lower deck on the front or sides of the boat. If you choose to take the cruise on the outer deck, you won’t just get wet; you’ll get soaked. This might be okay for a manual chair user, but power wheelchair and electric scooter users need to keep this in mind, as the poncho isn’t big enough to cover you and your chair.
I had no interest in getting wet, and neither did my older son, so we stayed behind the glass enclosure. The view wasn’t nearly as good because we had dozens of red poncho people in front of us, but the real view was well over their heads. We probably had a better view of the thunderous Horseshoe Falls only yards away because we didn’t have to shield our faces from the pounding “mist” blowing around at 40 mph (at least). My younger son, ever the adventurer, looked like he was hanging onto the railing for dear life, sopping wet and with a huge grin on his face.
After the cruise, we had about an hour and a half to do some souvenir shopping and wandering around before meeting up with the bus. We got a dry t-shirt for my younger son, took some photos of the American Falls, and had a nice ice cream break. The Sheraton is right around the corner from Clifton Hill, which is jam-packed with family-friendly attractions, eateries, and souvenir shops. It is VERY steep, so make sure your battery is charged before you head up and your brakes are prepped before heading back down. Please be aware that it can be challenging to find an accessible toilet in this area. The Sheraton doesn’t have one in the lobby, and neither does the Hard Rock Cafe next door (which was shocking). There is a great accessible bathroom in the Crowne Plaza hotel about a block east of the Sheraton.
Our next stop on the tour was the charming and absolutely beautiful town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. We got really lucky because they don’t normally allow coach buses into the town, and passengers have to be dropped off about a half-mile down the road. Because the tour had me and some cane users, they made an exception. We had some homemade ice cream and popcorn, I took tons of photos of the beautiful flowers that were everywhere, and we peeked into the lovely historic buildings that now housed restaurants and shops.
Our final stop was a winery for a quick wine tasting. Since I don’t drink and the boys and I were tired, we just stayed on the bus for the 30-minute stop. Our tour guide was so nice to bring us three champagne glasses with delicious sparkling apple juice to enjoy while we were waiting.
The 90-minute ride back to Toronto was quiet, and we were dropped off around the corner from our hotel without any problems. The tour ran late, so it ended being around an hour longer than advertised, but we didn’t care. It was such a blast, and I thoroughly loved sharing that experience with my boys.
I found and booked this tour on my own for $134 per person, so this day trip wasn’t sponsored in any way. You can book it directly with Gray Line Tours HERE.
GO Train and WEGO Bus
If you’d like to save some money and not be restricted to the timeline of a guided tour, you can take the GO Train from downtown Toronto to Niagara Falls, then use the hop-on hop-off WEGO bus to explore the area. I did not personally visit Niagara Falls this way, but I know of other wheelchair users who have with much success. The GO Train departs from Toronto’s Union Station and stops at 4267 Bridge Street in Niagara Falls (at River Road), The schedule runs May 17 – 20, then weekends and holiday Mondays from June 21 through September 2, and on the weekend of October 11 – 14. For a list of all the stops and the schedule, CLICK HERE.
Located in the middle of the train, the accessibility coach is where you’ll find the Customer Service Ambassador (CSA), accessible toilets, and eight spots on the lower level with adjustable straps to secure wheeled mobility aids (wheelchairs and electric scooters). To board the train, you will use the ramped mini-platform on the train platform. The Customer Service Ambassador will place a ramp between the train door and the mini-platform for boarding and exiting. Please note that accessibility coaches have securement areas of 152 cm long and 90 cm wide, an aisle clearance of 81 cm and a ramp weight capacity of 272 kg.
At the Niagara Falls stop, you can then board the accessible WEGO bus. Take the “Green Line” WEGO bus to Clifton Hill. Choosing the WEGO bus will drop you off at the bottom of Clifton Hill and the Niagara Parkway. WEGO features three different bus lines that all meet in Niagara Parks at Table Rock next to the Horseshoe Falls. This is the main transfer hub from the Blue and Red lines serving the city tourist areas, to the Green line that runs through Niagara Parks. While you’re visiting the destination, use your mobile device to locate the closest WEGO bus and get estimated bus arrival times. For a map of the WEGO routes in Niagara Falls, CLICK HERE.
WEGO buses are fully equipped to ensure persons with disabilities are able to travel independently throughout their service area. The buses can lower to the ground to ensure the entrance ramp is at a shallow pitch, making it easier for travelers to enter and exit the bus. There are also two securement positions to accommodate persons requiring tie downs for mobility devices.
An adult round-trip package for the Go Train and WEGO bus is $35, and a round trip ticket for children 6 to 12-years-old is just $11 from Union Station. Children 5 and under are free. You can purchase tickets HERE.
With only a few hiccups here and there (mainly the bathrooms), I found Niagara Falls on the Canadian side to be a very wheelchair friendly experience!
For more accessibility information about Niagara Falls, to include accessible attractions, restaurants, accommodations, and transportation, you can visit the Niagara Falls Tourism accessibility page HERE.