The Niagara Falls Marathon and Half Marathon should be on every runner’s wish list! Besides spending an entire weekend in gorgeous Niagara Falls, Canada, the race is scenic and well organized. In this blog post, I have provided additional information on how we spent a runcation marathon weekend in Niagara Falls, Canada. It’s the ultimate wellness weekend destination for runners!
The Niagara Falls International Marathon has a few distances to choose from including a 5k, 10k, Half Marathon, Marathon, and Marathon Relay.
I ran the out and back half marathon along the gorgeous Niagara Parkway. Most of the route is through a tree-lined neighborhood alongside the Niagara River, then back into town with a wonderful view of the skyline with a finish at Horseshoe Falls.
Meanwhile, Wes ran the marathon beginning in Buffalo, NY where you run through the outskirts of the city for 4 miles before crossing the international border into Canada over the Peace Bridge. Then, marathon runners get onto the Niagara Parkway, eventually following the same route as the half marathoners and finishing at Horseshoe Falls.
In both cases, the course is closed to traffic through the neighborhood on Niagara Parkway and it’s a very wide divided road coming back into town with one-way car traffic. So, there are no issues with getting lost or dealing with car traffic.
Niagara Falls, Canada
The start and finish of the half marathon is in Canada, but marathon runners are taken by bus to Buffalo, New York on race morning and run back the 26. 2 miles.
We ran the race on Sunday, October 20, 2019.
The next race is Sunday, October 25, 2020.
Other Race Information – Niagara Falls Marathon
A passport is required to enter Canada and must be shown to enter and leave the United States.
Also, marathon runners need to present their passport or NEXUS documents to Canadian Customs at packet pickup. Here, they will pre-verify your information so you do not have to stop when crossing the Peace Bridge from the United States into Canada during the race. However, this only clears you for entering Canada by foot during the race. Half Marathoners (and 5k, 10k runners) do not need to clear Canadian Customs prior to the race.
Important Note About Border Crossings
Marathon runners need to carry their passports on race morning because you will be taken by bus from Canada to the start line in Buffalo, NY. The bus will be allowed to exit Canada, but it is stopped by U.S. Customs at the border crossing. Runners must exit the bus and have your passport reviewed one-by-one before being allowed back on the bus. The bus schedule allows plenty of time for this process before the race start.
Packet Pickup & Race Expo for Niagara Falls Marathon
Packet pickup and the race expo is held the day before the race (Saturday) at the Scotiabank Convention Centre. The race expo has a variety of vendors—other marathons, clothing, shoes, running nutrition, race medal holders, etc. There is also a selection of Niagara Falls Marathon branded merchandise.
Start Times & Cut-Offs for Niagara Falls Marathon
The marathon starts at 9:00 am EST and the half marathon starts at 10:00 am EST. The course closes at 4:00 pm for both distances though all marathoners need to reach the halfway point (13.1 miles) by 12:30 pm EST.
Race After-Party at Niagara Falls Marathon
The race after-party includes free coffee from Tim Hortons along with muffins, bananas, and granola bars. Nothing too exciting, but it does the job! The finish line is a corralled chute with lots of spectators cheering runners over the finish line. Also, there’s music and an announcer calling out every runners name and hometown/country. This is a nice touch!
Flying to Niagara Falls
The international airports in Buffalo, NY or Toronto, Canada are the obvious choices for getting to Niagara Falls but we flew into the tiny airport at Niagara Falls, New York on an Allegiant Airlines flight. Allegiant and Spirit are the only two airlines operating out of the airport. It’s a simple, tiny airport with just a handful of gates and one baggage claim carousel.
From the Niagara Falls, New York airport it’s about a 30 minute cab ride to Niagara Falls, Canada and costs $50 one-way.
FYI: Uber, Lyft, or other rideshare drivers are not allowed to cross the border to/from the United States and Canada. You could also rent a car but unless you’re doing sightseeing beyond Niagara Falls, a car is not necessary.
We stayed at the Hilton Niagara Falls Fallsview Hotel and Suites and splurged on a 32nd floor falls view room. Boy was it worth it! This is the view from our room!
Being able to see the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls from the comfort of our room was a special touch. It was a real treat to open the curtains in the morning and have this view. It was also very nice overlooking the falls at nighttime. Worth every penny!
Distance to Niagara Marathon Start Lines or Bus Pickup
The Hilton is 2.3 miles from the start of the half marathon. You can either walk it (I did) or take a cab/drive to the start. It’s a 1 mile walk to where the bus picks up the marathoners on race morning to take you to the start.
FYI: there are no hotels close to the half marathon start line as they are all located in the same area as the Hilton. The marathon bus leaves from the Sheraton and Crowne Plaza area. Regardless of which hotel you choose, the finish line is a mile or less away.
The Watermark is the Hilton’s signature restaurant for breakfast or dinner on the 33rd floor with its floor to ceiling glass walls overlooking the falls. It’s actually the same view from our hotel room! We sat directly below our room one morning! We have Hilton Honors Gold Member Status so breakfast was included with our room rate. It’s a phenomenal breakfast buffet with high quality offerings and made-to-order eggs/omelets. If you’re not a Hilton Honors member, breakfast is $28 CAD per person.
You can’t go to Canada without going to Tim Hortons. It’s kind of equivalent to Starbucks, but much better. BTW: I’m a Starbucks fan so I’m not dissing Starbucks. Tim Hortons is just a notch up the ladder in my opinion. The coffee is rich and dark and the baked goods are wonderful. I love their maple doughnut.
Corso: A Culinary Tour of Italy (Carb Loading Before the Niagara Falls Marathon!)
There’s a new restaurant in the Hilton called Corso: A Culinary Tour of Italy. It’s a unique concept where you pay one price ($50 CAD) and enjoy an antipasto bar with over 60 items and then have various small courses brought to your table. Dishes are served family style and they come three at a time. The plates are small but it is an incredible amount of food! The waiter explains the origins of each dish as another unique touch. Cuisine from across Italy is represented. It’s good, but it’s a lot of food!
We were directed to the LCBO when you asked about buying beer and wine to take back to our hotel room. It’s less than a mile straight down the road from the Hilton. It’s Canada’s version of a liquor store with a very large selection of local craft beer, cider, wine, and whiskey. It was packed on a Friday night! Single beers or ciders are primarily what’s available so you can mix and match instead of buying a six-pack. They range from $3-5 CAD each.
The Myst Lounge at the Hilton is a popular nighttime bar with, you guess it, a view of the falls! It has a very upscale chic décor with a dress code. If you’re looking for a nice place for a drink, this is a popular choice. They have an extensive martini menu and also appetizers.
Niagara Brewing Company
Located on Clifton Hill in the tourist area, is Niagara Brewing Company with surprisingly good food. They brew half a dozen or so beers on-site and also serve a selection of Canadian ciders. We ate lunch here, sharing a burger and fries. There’s also live music on the patio. We sat inside and downstairs and could still hear the music. There is upstairs dining where the ambience is very different. It was very quiet and you could not hear the music. It was a very mellow dining experience versus being in a bar downstairs with music.
Other dining and drinking options can be found at the Fallsview Casino. There are over 20 choices so you can find anything you want. It’s a large modern casino with slot machines and table games.
On our final night in town, we took a cab to downtown Niagara, about 3 miles away from the Hilton. Queen Street has numerous restaurants and bars where locals go to hang out. It’s off the beaten path for tourists so expect a little bit better prices and local charm.
We ate at Taps Brewhouse where we enjoyed the Classic Poutine, Pork Chili, and locally brewed beer and cider. The food was good and the ambience was great. We were there on a Sunday night so it was quiet but on other nights they have live music.
Our cab driver recommended a few other locals only spots but we didn’t have the time to check them out ourselves. They include:
- Chuck’s Roadhouse – Steaks, Lobster, & Burgers
- Grand Central – Sports Bar
- Four Brothers Cucina – Family Owned Italian Food
- Antica Wood Oven – Family Owned Wood Oven Pizza & Italian Food
- Weinkeller German – Top-Rated German Food
Maid of the Mist
If you go Niagara Falls one of the must-do things on everybody’s itinerary is the Maid of the Mist boat tour available on both the American and Canadian sides of the falls. It is a one-of-a-kind experience getting up close and personal with the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls.
As you get on the boat, you are handed a poncho because you are going to get wet! The boat goes right up to the American Falls and it gets as close as is possibly safe to the Horseshoe Falls.
Lots of fun facts about the Falls can be found on the US National Park web site:
Walking Niagara Parkway
The Niagara Parkway is both a driving road and a pedestrian walkway that goes along for 56 kilometers. It is the main walkway next to the falls and also takes you to the Clifton Hill (more about that next) and over to the Canadian Niagara Parks with gardens, a butterfly conservatory, historical landmarks, and Fort Erie. It is a lovely walk with great views every step of the way. However, you will get wet here too just from the mist coming off the falls.
At Clifton Hill, you can found all sorts of family-friendly touristy experiences such as miniature golf, go-carts, arcades, the Niagara Eye, souvenir shops, and tons of casual and fast-food restaurants.
The Fallsview Casino obviously has gambling, but it also has over 20 restaurants and bars, shops, and big-name live entertainment almost nightly in its concert auditorium.
Have you run the Niagara Falls International Marathon or Half Marathon? What did you think of the race? Do you have other recommendations of things to do in Niagara? We both agreed that we would run this race again; we enjoyed it and the city that much!