10 Best American-Canadian Border Cities To Visit

10 Best American-Canadian Border Cities To Visit

Feature Photo: Rony Stephen / Shutterstock

The 10 best American-Canadian border cities to visit comes from a collection of reviews by locals and travelers who are in agreement their community has the most to offer. Between top-notched hospitality and the convenient location that’s either on or very near the border that separates these two nations, these cities stand out as favorites. Whether visited frequently by travelers who frequently commute between America and Canada, or by tourists passing through for the first time, the charm of such a city often receives positive reviews as each visitor shares their experience.

Did you know that Canada and the United States remain the only two nations with the least protected borderland between them? These two nations often behave like brothers, even when they don’t always see eye to eye on every issue. For the most part, the cultures are pretty much the same. There are key differences that are easy enough to notice but overall, the two have much in common when it comes to everyday living. Between these two nations that have communities situated on or near the American-Canadian border, it’s not uncommon for the locals to cross the border back and forth several times throughout the course of a full year. Some do so daily, mainly among the population that has dual citizenship. There are some who live in one nation while working in the other, raking in the benefit of residing at such a convenient location.

10 Best American-Canadian Border Cities to Visit

# 10 – Windsor, Ontario

In about ten minutes, one can travel between Canada’s Windsor, Ontario, and USA’s Detroit, Michigan, by car. By using the Detroit Windsor Tunnel, a motorist can trek across the Detroit River between these two cities. The Ambassador Bridge also connects these two cities together and is North America’s busiest border crossing for commercial vehicles. This is often the case among commuters who live in one of these two cities but work in the other for as long as they have dual citizenship. Windsor’s population sits at over two hundred thousand people but serves as a major hub for nearly half a million Canadian citizens. However, it’s also a popular destination for Americans who take advantage of the lower dollar value Canada has when it comes to shopping excursions. Aside from a shopper’s point of view as one of the best American-Canadian border cities, it’s also a great destination for travelers looking for a mix of natural and urbanized scenery. Windsor’s Peche Island City Park serves as the community’s crown jewel, which is also home to the Historic Cement Bridge. It’s definitely worth the visit.

Lake St. Clair is the large body of water that graces the northwestern shoreline of Windsor, which is a huge draw for outdoor enthusiasts. Also referred to as the Automotive Capital of Canada, Windsor enjoys a proud heritage as a city responsible for the industrialization and manufacturing of motor vehicles. As Windsor continues to grow as a city focused on the future as a major contributor to industry, it also focuses on its value as a tourist destination. Caesars Windsor is one of Canada’s largest casinos and serves as a major draw for Americans to see how far their dollar can stretch while visiting there. Among visitors not interested in gambling, there are more than enough recreational activities to keep fans of the indoors, as well as fans of the outdoors, busy.

# 9 – Abbotsford, British Columbia

Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada has a city population of over one hundred and fifty thousand citizens. It takes just over ten minutes to drive directly south from this Canadian community to the American border town of Sumas, Washington. The province of British Columbia, including Abbotsford, is world famous for its natural beauty between the mountainous landscape, lakes, and rivers. Don’t forget, this is the province that has its west coast meet with the Pacific Ocean. What makes Abbotsford especially appealing to visit is the neighborly hospitality the locals give to just about everyone they meet.

The best of so many worlds is found here, often causing a traveler to wonder if this really is a city or not. Surrounded by farmland, as well as beautiful parks, this is one of the most beautiful cities a motorist can possibly travel along the American-Canadian border. Because this is a major hub of commercial and industrial activity, it’s also a popular daily commute for Americans and Canadians alike. If Abbotsford doesn’t have enough to cater to travelers visiting the city, Vancouver is only about ninety minutes to the west. It’s one of Canada’s largest cities and one of the most popular destinations in the world to visit. The closest major American city to Abbotsford is Seattle, Washington. For as long as there are no border crossing delays, it takes between two to three hours to get there by car.

# 8 – Fort Frances, Ontario

Over seven thousand Canadians call Fort Frances, Ontario their home. Sitting just north of its neighboring city of International Falls, Minnesota, it holds its ground as one of the best American-Canadian border cities to visit. This place is amazing between its historical landmarks and natural beauty. It is also a major hub of commercial activity as daily commuters and truckers travel to and fro between destinations. In order to keep up, Fort Frances makes sure it’s able to accommodate so much traffic. This isn’t easy to do as the demands of a growing population continue to test the resolve of Mother Nature.

Fort Frances, Ontario is able to do it, however. The history of this city begins as the first European settlement west of Lake Superior. It was established in 1731 by a French Canadian named Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Verendrye. After the war between the Americans and the British in 1812, the Hudson’s Bay Company built a fort at Fort Frances. Aside from this city’s history, the natural wonderment surrounding it continues to draw travelers from all over just to visit. This city borders to the east of the infamous Lake of the Woods. Among outdoor enthusiasts, Fort Frances, Ontario remains an all-time favorite. It also accommodates visitors who prefer to spend their time indoors with several activities and shopping opportunities to keep them entertained.

# 7 – International Falls, Minnesota

With a population of over five thousand people, International Falls, Minnesota enjoys the convenience of an American-Canadian border city, unlike many others. This American city sits on the Rainy River, directly across from Canada’s city of Fort Frances, Ontario. It is connected to its Canadian neighbor by the Fort Frances-International Falls International Bridge. Located eleven miles east of International Falls, Voyageurs National Park has served as one of the most popular tourist destinations along the American-Canadian border. It is also among the coldest as International Falls is also referred to as the “Icebox of the Nation.” On average, over one hundred days per year sits below the freezing temperature mark.

The geographical importance of International Falls first began realizing its true potential in 1895 when L.A. Ogaard taught on behalf of the Koochiching Company. Originally, the city was named Koochiching, a term used by the indigenous tribes of the region. The English translation referred to Koochiching as “the place of inlets.” Rainy Lake and Rainy River were names given to the bodies of water in this city by the Europeans who settled there. These names came about due to the misty presence that’s strongly felt where the falls and the lake flow into the river. In 1903, Koochichin was renamed International Falls. To this day, it continues to play a major role in the border connection between Canada and the United States. The geographical and historical wonderment of International Falls, Minnesota makes this city an absolute must for visitors traveling along the American-Canadian border.

# 6 – Buffalo, New York

The distance from Buffalo, New York to the Canadian border is short enough that it takes only half an hour to drive to the Canadian border city known as Niagara Falls, Ontario. It takes less than ten minutes to drive from Buffalo to the Canadian Border Agency’s Peace Bridge and cross over. This is, of course, the border crossing itself hasn’t met with any delays or lineups. For Canadians living in the Golden Horseshoe region, visiting Buffalo, New York is a favorite destination to run away from home without having to go so far. With approximately three hundred thousand citizens living in Buffalo, the close proximity of Buffalo allows Canadians to enjoy everything it has to offer. As for visitors traveling along the American-Canadian border, this makes for a great city to visit.

One of the must-see points of interest is the Lake Erie Canal. This architectural wonder played an important role in Buffalo’s expansion as it went from village to city after this ambitious project was completed. Buffalo also has a rich history, especially as a community that played a very important role during the events leading up to the American Civil War. The infamous Underground Railroad saw fugitive slaves make their way to Buffalo during the 1840s. From there, most escaped across the Niagara River into Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada. Many freed members of the black community stayed put, playing an instrumental role in Buffalo’s expansion as a city. Today, Buffalo remains a geographical hub of activity for commercial travelers who travel back and forth between Canada and the United States on a regular basis.

Among history buffs, visiting Buffalo is a must. What’s interesting about this city is the tradition it carries as a city that has independent settlements. There are five main districts that may have seen the neighborhoods change over time but remains as a city focused on improving its future. In 2021, Buffalo was ranked as the seventh-best city to visit in the United States by Travel + Leisure because of its dedication to cultural diversification and growth potential. Between the historical sites and the celebratory events, Buffalo has earned its place as one of the best American-Canadian border cities to visit.

# 5 – Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

Until 1812, Sault Ste. Marie was one city that sat on top of the American-Canadian border. One-half of it sat in Ontario while the other sat in Michigan. The events revolving around the war in 1812 changed that and a line across the St. Marie River was drawn that separated it into two cities. Connecting these two cities together is the International Bridge. Speaking as someone who has been there, this place is awesome. Long before the French explorers and missionaries founded what we recognize as Sault Ste. Marie, the indigenous population called it home for well over a thousand years. This was actually one of the earliest European settlements in America when it was founded in the 1600s.

The population of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan is over ten thousand people. Although considerably smaller than its Canadian counterpart, there is no lack of appeal to this American community. The French were the original settlers, naming the city and its river after Saint Mary. The spelling of the name, however, owes its archaic roots to the Middle French Period. As a word, “saut” or “sault” made reference to cataracts, rapids, and waterfalls. Sault Ste. Marie has an abundance of that along its river, as well as the city itself. The English translation of Sault Sainte-Marie is “Rapids of Saint Mary.” The Saint Mary’s River spans from Lake Superior to Lake Huron, which are two of the five Great Lakes that make this American-Border destination so popular.

Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan may not be huge as a city but it’s loaded with spectacular scenery and history that makes this one of the best places to visit as an American-Canadian border city. There are some notable landmarks in the area that are worth the visit. The Soo Locks have a set of parallel locks that enable ships to travel between Lake Superior and the rest of the Great Lakes. The waterfalls and the rapids are must-see sites that allow a visitor to take in the splendor of Mother Nature.

# 4 – Niagara Falls, New York

When referencing Niagara Falls, the majority of vacation planners are likely to think of the city located in Ontario, Canada. Not very many realize there is another Niagara Falls, but in New York, USA. For years, this city of nearly fifty thousand people has lived in the shadow of its Canadian neighbor. Because of this, it somewhat serves as a hidden gem among tourists who realize this is a city well worth the visit. The distance between these two cities, by car, is slightly over ten minutes. Before the Europeans migrated to this city, it was dominated by the Neutral Nation of Native Americans. In 1679, Fort Conti was built after Robert de la Salle received permission from the native Iroquois to do so. This served as a base for his ship as it traveled the upper Niagara River near Cayuga Creek.

The natural beauty of the horseshoe-shaped falls served as a major draw that would see the American version of Niagara Falls blossom into a heavily industrialized city before the end of the nineteenth century. At that time, Niagara Falls, New York focused more on industrialism than it did on tourism. As the times changed, so did the direction of this American city. Although still an important hub of industrial activity, the focus on attracting tourists has gained enough ground as its equal.

The advantage Niagara Falls, New York has over Niagara Falls, Canada includes the value of the American dollar compared to the Canadian dollar. People living along the border in this region know this, using it to their advantage. Among those with dual citizenship that often travel daily between both communities, it’s not uncommon to see Americans trek into Canada to buy their goods. At the same time, Canadians usually try to fuel up at the American pumps. The American dollar is usually worth at least ten percent or higher than the Canadian dollar. Meanwhile, the price of fuel in America is usually much lower than in Canada.

The Niagara Falls State Park is one of the city’s primary attractions between its popular Maid of the Mist boat tours from Rainbow Bridge, Bridal Veil Falls, and Cave of the Winds. When roaming about in the great outdoors to take in the natural scenery doesn’t suit one’s fancy, there are several indoor attractions and activities such as the Niagara falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center and the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel.

# 3 – Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

With a population of over seventy-thousand people in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, the Canadian half of this city sits directly north of its American counterpart along the St. Marie River. Connecting it to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan is the International Bridge. Once upon a time, these twin cities were actually one community. It was divided in 1812 after the war between the Americans and the British ran its course. However, these two cities still behave as one as commuters often travel along International Bridge as they go about their daily business. Some live as Canadians, working in America. Some live as Americans, working in Canada.

As a tourist destination, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario continues to remain one of the most popular locations to take a vacation. The city, as well as the surrounding communities, parks, and scenery, is truly breathtaking. The historical significance of the Canadian half of this border city offers so much more than a learning opportunity for visitors. It also offers awesome visuals of how man and nature work together to make the most out of its demographics, along with the challenges that come with it. This is a natural playground for people who love the great outdoors, regardless of the season. Among those who prefer to stay indoors, there are casinos, shopping, and a variety of attractions that are bound to keep them busy and entertained for the duration of their visit.

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, despite the business of this hub city that has connections sprawling out in every direction, remains one of the greenest cities in North America. Should one visit this city between June and October, be sure to take advantage of the Agawa Canyon Tour Train. This is worth it as one takes a full-day journey through the Canadian wilderness as it travels over a hundred miles north of the city.

# 2 – Detroit, Michigan

The majority of the time, the Canadian border sits north of the American border. However, from Detroit, Michigan, one can travel southbound for about seven minutes to reach Canada’s Windsor, Ontario. This is accomplished by driving the Detroit Windsor Tunnel. Even not as a border city, Detroit is worth the visit as an urbanized tourist destination. It has so much to offer as a city with its abundant mix of culture, history, and scenery. This city is on the bank of the Detroit River and is home to Belle Isle and its Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory. Among nature enthusiasts, this is an absolute must to visit. Belle Isle Beach is also nothing short of fantastic.

Aside from the natural beauty Detroit has access to, the history of the city includes the birth of Motown. When visiting this city, doing so without visiting Motown Museum would almost feel like a crime, especially if you’re a fan of the cultural influence it brought to the music industry. That influence continues to make its mark today. Detroit also has a flurry of art museums, historical monuments, and various venues that makes visiting this American-Canadian border city worth visiting. The population of Detroit is over six hundred thousand people in the city alone. However, it caters to over four million people when factoring in the entire metropolitan area.

Among all the American-Canadian border cities, Detroit is the largest. A city this large is bound to have something for everyone, which it does. Even if you’re not interested in taking in the business of the city, one doesn’t have to travel far for some peace and quiet. On average, Detroit receives nearly sixteen million visitors per year. The numbers alone illustrate this is not only among the best American-Canadian border cities to visit but throughout all of North America as well.

Also referred to as Motor City, Detroit’s contribution to the North American automotive industry is legendary. There is so much to see and do in Detroit that it would take at least a week to take in the best of the best. This is also a city that’s world-famous for its visual appeal of magnificent murals and architectural splendor. The Guardian Building is a must if you’re into architecture and history. If art is your thing, One Campus Martius has the world’s largest indoor waterfall that’s adorned with a colorful assortment of suspended glass kites. That’s just one of many worthy places to visit to take in how creative the human race can be. As a whole, Detroit has been serving a shining beacon as one of North America’s most vibrant cities when it comes to cultural diversity, entertainment, industrialism, and tourism.

#1 – Niagara Falls, Ontario

Once upon a time, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada was considered the honeymoon capital of the world. Among several Canadian newlyweds, this is still the case. Among many American couples who’ve tied the knot, this also remains near the top of the list as a favorite destination to visit. Ontario’s favorite city sits on the western bank of the Niagara River and has a population of approximately ninety-thousand people. What makes Niagara Falls so popular is the horseshoe-shaped waterfall. This spectacular site attracts millions of tourists from all over the world every year.

Situated straight across this Canadian city and its infamous waterfall is Niagara Falls, New York. In addition to the falls, there are also historical sites, as well as several other points of interest that aim to maintain its popularity as a tourist town. While Niagara Falls, Ontario continues to dominate as one of Canada’s top tourist attractions, Niagara Falls, New York strives to serve as its American equivalent. Among the American population, visiting the Canadian version of Niagara Falls works to their advantage as the value of the Canadian dollar consistently sits lower than the American dollar. This means every American citizen who ventures into any Canadian community gets more bang for their buck, so to speak.

As casinos have become just as popular as sightseeing for many visitors, American tourists tend to spend some of their money there. This is also the case when it comes to shopping. Instead of spending $100.00 US on goods in their own country, Americans living close enough to a Canadian city along the border won’t give it a second thought to hop across and spend that same amount of money that will result in at least twenty percent more stuff to bring back home with them. Among Canadians who live close enough to an American city or town, the price of fuel tends to attract them to do the same. On average, fuel costs are cheaper in the US than in Canada. Commuters who live along the border between these two nations often do the bulk of their shopping in Canada but make a point to hit the American gas pumps when it’s time to fuel up.

From a tourist’s point of view who pays more attention to what Niagara Falls has to offer overall, the natural beauty of this city remains the primary reason why it’s regarded as the best American-Canadian border city to visit. Not only is this a favorite destination for honeymooners but for families as well. This is the Golden Horseshoe region’s pride and joy, as well as Tourism Canada. This was a place of great importance during the war of 1812 as the United States of America squared off against the United Kingdom and its British North American allies. At this time, Canada wasn’t officially established yet as a named nation. That didn’t happen until July 1, 1867. Today, Niagara Falls remains a major hub of activity, still serving as a crossroads that leads to larger cities such as Toronto, Ontario to the north, Buffalo, New York to the south, and Detroit, Michigan to the west. It only takes half an hour to drive between Niagara Falls and Buffalo.

10 Best American-Canadian Border Cities To Visit article published on BigCityReview.com© 2023

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