Best Things To Do in Niagara Falls
The waterfalls are the main attraction here, and there's a range of ways to see them: from their foot on the legendary Maid of the Mist boat tours; from behind in caves accessible by elevator; from the sky hovering in helicopters; or gazing from observation towers. Taking one of the best tours in Niagara Falls is yet another way to view this natural wonder. But away from the falls, both the New York and Canadian sides offer various activities to keep visitors entertained. The area also hosts several family-friendly attractions, including Old Fort Niagara and the Niagara SkyWheel. If you don't have kids in tow, try your luck at the Niagara Fallsview Casino or sample some of the area's famous ice wine at the Inniskillin Winery.
Updated July 3, 2018
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The main reason to visit Niagara Falls is to see the falls and one of the most memorable ways to do just that is to sport a poncho and hop on a Maid of the Mist boat. These boats have been shuttling visitors to and from the base of the falls since the 1840s. Be prepared to get wet: the Maid of the Mist practically dunks you under the falls, but rain gear is provided and many say that this is one of the best ways to experience the splendor of Niagara Falls. In fact, it's one of the region's best guided tours.
Recent visitors said you can't leave Niagara Falls without taking a ride on the Maid of the Mist. Aside from the incredible views, reviewers were also pleased with the tour length (20 minutes) and the modest ticket price. Though you are provided with a poncho, you should plan to wear waterproof shoes and gear, according to travelers. To beat the crowds, some visitors suggest getting to the attraction first thing in the morning (trips begin at 9 a.m.).
- #2View all Photos#2 in Niagara FallsParks and GardensTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDParks and GardensTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
To escape the thunderous falls and tourist crowds, take an afternoon and lose yourself in the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens. If you like nature, the gardens are a must-see. This 100-acre space is home to dozens of meticulously maintained gardens – cared for by students at the on-site horticulture school – featuring thousands of species of plants. During the summer, guided horse-and-carriage tours allow you to explore the gardens in style. The gardens are also home to the Butterfly Conservatory, where several thousand butterflies flit and flutter among brightly colored flowers.
Recent visitors said a visit to the gardens and the butterfly conservatory provided a nice respite from the kitchsy atmosphere around the falls. Reviewers cautioned that the butterfly conservatory can get crowded, but noted that the gardens were quiet. Travelers also recommended bringing your camera, as the conservatory offers plenty of photo ops.
- #3View all Photos#3 in Niagara FallsSightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
If you enjoy history, make sure to save time for a visit to Old Fort Niagara. Located on the U.S. side of the falls, this 17th-century fort has changed hands between French, British and American troops. This site has seen action during numerous wars, including the American Revolution and the French and Indian War, making it the longest operational fort in North America. Today, the fort occupies one of the most scenic areas in western New York, overlooking both Lake Ontario and the Niagara River. Inside, you can explore underground gunpowder rooms, old army barracks and ancient cannons. If you're looking for a more in-depth history, make sure to stop by the visitor center.
Recent visitors raved about the well-preserved buildings and clean grounds, and were especially impressed with the re-enactors. Many also said they initially only planned to spend an hour exploring the grounds, but ended up staying half the day thanks to all the interesting demonstrations and exhibits.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Niagara FallsHiking, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDHiking, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
If you need a break from the crowds near the falls, visitors recommend you enjoy a relaxing afternoon at the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve. Situated off the Niagara Parkway on the Canadian side of the falls, this nature preserve overlooks the Niagara River and its natural whirlpool, offering more than 2 miles of trails through preserved Carolinian Forest.
Recent visitors enjoyed hiking through the preserve, especially in the fall, when the trees begin changing color. Reviewers were also impressed with the on-site nature center and its knowledgeable staff. From the center, visitors can also join daily guided hikes, which are available from May through August.
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On the Journey Behind the Falls, you'll be able to stand directly behind the roaring sheet of water and get a literal behind-the-scenes peek at this magnificent natural attraction. The tour begins with an elevator ride to an observation deck where you can take in the view of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls and the Niagara River. From there, follow the caverns and enjoy the roaring curtain of the falls from a different perspective. However, be prepared for crowds – Journey Behind the Falls is one of the most popular ways to see the falls, so you may find that the tunnels are rather cramped.
Recent visitors highly recommended the Journey Behind the Falls, even if you've already gone on a Maid of the Mist tour, as this attraction offers yet another interesting perspective of the falls. To avoid crowds and enjoy the view in peace, reviewers suggest getting to the attraction when it opens at 9 a.m. Visiting the attraction with a guided tour group is another way to avoid the constant congestion.
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Many recent visitors called the Cave of the Winds a "must-do." After taking an elevator 175 feet down into the Niagara Gorge, you'll be able to roam a series of wooden walkways that put you within feet of the Bridal Veil Falls. It's called the "Hurricane Deck," thanks to the tropical storm-like conditions. Even with the souvenir poncho and shoes, you'll likely get wet.
Recent travelers didn't seem to mind the soggy outcome from a visit to the Cave of the Winds. Visitors were amazed at how close they could get to the falls and loved being able to witness the powerful rush of water up close.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Niagara FallsSightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDSightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
If you're looking to view the falls from a more natural setting than the Maid of the Mist or the Journey Behind the Falls, spend an hour or two stretching your legs on the White Water Walk. After taking an elevator 230 feet to the base of the gorge, you'll be able to walk along a quarter-mile boardwalk that overlooks the Great Gorge Rapids from the Canadian side of the Niagara River. Along the walk are several observation areas where you can get a great view of the falls and the turbulent whirlpool below.
Some recent visitors called this a "tourist trap" because of the disappointingly short boardwalk, but others loved being able to see the force of the rapids up close. Several reviewers also suggested stopping to read the informational plaques that are placed along the boardwalk, as they provide interesting information about the daredevils who have attempted to cross the river.
- #8View all Photos#8 in Niagara FallsWineries/Breweries, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDWineries/Breweries, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Aside from the falls themselves, the Niagara Falls region is known for one other thing: wine. If you have the time, take a drive north along Ontario's scenic Niagara Parkway to Inniskillin Wines in Niagara-on-the-Lake. This winery is known for its icewine, which is made from grapes that are left to freeze on the vine over the winter. Once temperatures drop to -8 degrees Celsius (about 18 degrees Fahrenheit), the grapes are then collected and allowed to thaw, a process that helps intensify their flavor.
Recent visitors recommended making a stop here, even if you're not interested in tasting the region's famous icewine. Since this is a popular spot for tour buses, the winery can get crowded, according to past visitors.
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For yet another view of the falls, head to Clifton Hill, a tourist district on the Ontario, Canada, side of the falls filled with family-friendly attractions. This is where you'll find the Niagara SkyWheel. Billed as Canada's largest observation wheel, the Niagara SkyWheel offers climate-controlled gondolas that rotate 175 feet above the falls. From the SkyWheel, you'll be afforded views of the Horseshoe and American Falls, the Niagara River and other local landmarks. Rides last between 8 and 12 minutes.
Most recent visitors loved their experience on the Niagara SkyWheel and recommended taking a ride at night to enjoy the illuminated falls. Many travelers described the view as "spectacular," and said it was worth the ticket price.
- #10View all Photos#10 in Niagara FallsCasinos, Entertainment and Nightlife, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDCasinos, Entertainment and Nightlife, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
When the sun goes down, get your game on at the Niagara Fallsview Casino, where 150 table games and several thousand slot machines await your duel with Lady Luck. If you're not much a gambler, the casino's 225,000 feet of shopping space and the Avalon Theatre – which hosts numerous concerts and other performances throughout the year – are sure to keep you entertained. There is also a spa and a golf course, plus more than a dozen different dining facilities that are sure to keep you full to bursting.
Recent visitors were pleased with variety of games and praised the attentive staff. Reviewers also commented on the casino's cleanliness and the incredible view.
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Once you've seen the falls from below and behind, consider seeing them from above at the Skylon Tower. Dominating the Ontario skyline, this 775-foot high tower offers particularly breathtaking views of the Horseshoe Falls. You can enjoy the view from either the indoor or the outdoor observation deck and – if you don't mind shelling out a small fortune – you can also revel in the landscape from the tower's revolving restaurant. To reach the top, you'll board a glass-enclosed elevator that takes just 52 seconds to reach the top of the tower. Many recent visitors recommend going at night to catch a bird's-eye glimpse when the falls are illuminated. Many of the region's top guided tours also make stops at the Skylon Tower.
Located in Downtown Niagara Falls, the Skylon Tower observation decks are open year-round and hours vary by season. In the summer, the tower is open from 8 a.m. to midnight and from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the winter. If tickets are purchased on-site, a ride to the top costs CA$15.02 (about $12) for adults and CA$9.22 (about $7.50) for kids 6 to 12. You can save a few dollars by purchasing your tickets in advance online. Some recent visitors say that the climb is not worth the money, although it is significantly cheaper than a helicopter tour – you can be the judge. Also, be prepared to bump elbows with dozens of other visitors also hoping to enjoy the scenery from above. For more information or to make online reservations, visit the Skylon Tower website.
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