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Top 10 Things To Do in Niagara Falls

Updated on July 8, 2015

Visit Niagara Falls - ON, Canada & New York

Over 20 million visitors flock to Niagara Falls every year and why not? Niagara are the most powerful falls in North America and this beautiful natural wonder is certainly worth exploring.

Niagara Falls straddles the border of Ontario, Canada and the state of New York. The falls themselves are separated into two major sections - Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side and the American as well as smaller Bridal Veil falls on the American side of the border. All parts of the falls and both sides of the border are worth exploring. Each area offers its own activities and breathtaking views.

In this lens, I've outlined my top 10 favorite activities in and around Niagara Falls. Plus I've thrown in some of my own personal tips to get the most out of each experience. Enjoy!

Niagara Falls Travel & Guide Books

#1 Maid of the Mist

Feel The Power of the Falls!

The oldest and most well known tourist attractions at Niagara Falls really deserves the top spot of my things to do list. There really isn't anything better than getting up close and personal to feel the real power of the falls and the Maid of the Mist boat tour enables you to do that.

Maid of the Mist was actually first launched way back in 1846 as a ferry to shuttle passengers between the American and Canadian side (before any bridges were installed in the region). However by 1854, a more luxurious boat was built and it was turned into a tourist attraction.

The fully handicapped accessible boats depart from both sides of the border - near the Rainbow Bridge on the American side or just across from the Rainbow Bridge on the Canadian side. Currently, there are 4 boats in operation (Maid of the Mist IV - VII). The boat takes passengers past the American and Bridal veil falls on its way to the trip's highlight - a loop inside horseshoe falls and its mist. You get a great view of the 170 foot tall falls.

My Tips - Even though each person receives a blue 'Maid of the Mist' poncho, you still get wet (unless you stay fully on the inside of the boat, but why miss all the action?). Just take a look at our before and after photographs to see just how wet we got! With that in mind, I highly recommend going in the afternoon when temperatures are the warmest.

For more information, visit the Maid of the Mist website. The boats generally operate from April - October departing about every 15 minutes from 8 AM - 4 PM depending on the season. The double-decker boat ride last about 20 minutes.

#2 Walk the Canadian Side Promenade

Take A Walk Along The Promenade or Boardwalk

A boardwalk overlooking the river runs from the touristy Clifton Hill area all the way to Horseshoe Falls/Table Rock on the Canadian side of the river. A walk along the boardwalk offers some of the best views of both the American, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe falls. Be sure to take a stroll in the evening as well when the falls are lit with colorful lights.

My Tips - A walk through Clifton Hills is interesting just to see the craziness, but it is packed with tourists, souvenir gift shops and what I fondly call tourist traps. I generally try to avoid this area altogether as it is overbuilt and detracts from the beauty of Niagara Falls in my opinion. I guess my point is that there are a lot of activities beyond Clifton Hills so if you choose to get a hotel in that area, be sure to get beyond the boundaries.

#3 Journey Behind The Falls

Wear That FREE Yellow Poncho or You'll Get Wet!

On the Canadian side, you can take the 'Journey Behind The Falls' tour which enables you to see the back side of horseshoe falls through several observation portals that have been carved out of the rock.

You enter the attraction at Table Rock Center and take an elevator down 150 feet to the access tunnels to the portals. The two portals are approximately 1/3 of the way down the falls and give you a perfect view of the sheets of water cascading over the walls. The sheer power can be felt as water rolls by and you are surrounded by thunderous sounds. You then get back in the elevator and descend to the foot of the falls where there is an observation deck. The entire tour lasts about 40 minutes depending upon how long you linger at the various portals. Within the tunnels, there are all kinds of signs with facts about the falls and the building of the tunnels in the bedrock.

One great thing about this attraction is that it is open in the winter from December through April at reduced rates (because the lower observation deck is closed because of iceflows).

For more information, visit the Journey Behind The Falls website.

My Tips - On this attraction, you will likely get a bit wet, but they provide yellow rain ponchos so it isn't too bad. I have some mobility issues and while the journey's portals are accessible - the observation deck is not. Also if you are handicapped, bring your patience because the customer service personnel clearly are not trained at dealing with folks with disabilities. That said, it was still worth going on this fun attraction.

Journey Behind The Falls Video

#4 Cave of the Winds Tour

After The Tour, Don't Forget To Donate Your Sandals To Charity

Departing from the New York side, the Cave of the Winds tour offers a close-up look at the Bridal Veil falls. For detailed information, visit their website. Until 1954 when there was a massive rockfall, there was an actual cave that was 30 feet deep behind the Bridal Veil falls. These days tourists can get within about 20 feet of the falls on the 'hurricane' deck where winds can easily reach 68 mph.

An elevator takes tourists down to the walkways and platforms that are torn down each Fall and rebuilt each Spring as the winter ice would destroy them. Water crashes down onto the redwood platforms and the area below. Apparently, the platforms are wedged into the rock crevices and are not bolted to the rocks in any way - seems a bit crazy.

Yet another wet attraction! Note that you will receive sandals and a yellow poncho to help keep your clothing dry.

Cave of the Winds Video

#5 American Side - Niagara Falls State Park

Don't Skip The American Side of the Falls!

Dating from 1885, Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest park in the United States of America. The park offers a wide range of activities including many trails leading to overlooks of the American, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls.

Be sure to hike out to the end of the observation deck on the tower which is cantilevered over the Niagara river. It offers spectacular views of the American Falls. Once you've checked out the tower, hike along the path that fronts the river to get great views of the Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls. This affords you an idea of how much water is truly passing over the falls every second. The sheer volume and energy is unbelievable.

In the park, you can also catch the Maid of the Mist boat tour or the Cave of the Winds tour mentioned in this lens.

My Tips - The park itself is somewhat large so consider hopping aboard the Niagara Falls Scenic Trolley. You can either hop on/off at the various attractions or do the full 30 minute circuit to get an overview of the park.

The park gets an A from me because the trolleys run on environmentally friendly natural gas and I'm all about going green!

View of Horseshoe Falls from our Hotel Room - The Marriott Fallsview - on an upper floor

My Tips - After analyzing the location and visiting several of the hotels in the area, I would recommend the Marriott Fallsview, Sheraton Fallsview, and the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort. All three of these hotels are situated to offer rooms with outstanding views of the falls. Be sure to choose an upper room and upgrade to get the fallsview. There is nothing better than laying in your bed at night watching the lit-up falls and the fireworks display (in the summertime).

#6 Skylon Tower

Don't Miss The Observation Deck For An Unbelievable View

The observation deck of skylon tower offers spectacular views of the horseshoe, American and bridal veil falls as well as the surrounding town and area. The tower itself stands 775 feet above the Niagara river. It was built on the Canadian side and opened as an attraction in 1965.

The observation deck is reached by riding in one of the 3 yellow pods that traverse the outside of the tower. You get to the top in just over 50 seconds. Beyond the spectacular views, the deck has a great gift shop at well as casual restaurant.

For a special night out on the town, treat your significant other to a fine gourmet food dining experience in the Revolving Dining room atop Skylon Tower. It revolves the full 360 degrees once an hour.

Visit the official website, for more information.

Niagara Falls Map

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#7 Niagara Whirlpool Aerocar Ride

Take A Step Back in Time....

Personally, I could only watch this attraction from the sidelines because it isn't accessible to handicapped people and because my husband is afraid of heights so just the thought of hanging high above the Niagara River made him turn white. That said, we did make a stop to check out what all the fuss is about and I have to say that it looked like a lot of fun and people seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely.

The aerocar spans the river about 3.5 miles north of Niagara Falls and is accessible via the parkway on the Canadian side of the river. For more information about this attraction, visit their website. The car holds about 35 people and the roundtrip takes only about 10 minutes. It is usually open March - November depending on the weather.

The cable car has been operating as an attraction spanning the river above the Niagara Whirlpool since 1916. The whirlpool is formed at the end of the river rapids where the river makes an abrupt 90 degree turn forcing the river to churn counterclockwise exiting at the narrowest part of the gorge.

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#8 Whirlpool Jetboat Tour

When You Want To Cool Off....Go For The Jetboat!

If you are a thrill-seeker looking for some wet and wild action, the whirlboat jetboat tour is the ultimate Niagara Falls attraction. And yes, my crazy husband is in the boat above - 3rd row from the front.

If you don't mind getting soaked - and yes I mean soaked as in waist deep in water inside the boat - then this ride won't disappoint! You might as well wear your swimsuit because you'll feel like you are in a pool anyway. Bottom line is that you should bring a change of clothes. They do give you a poncho, life vest, full length jumper suit and wet suit booties - you still get wet.

Beyond getting wet and doing spins in the rapids, you do get an excellent view of the Niagara River gorge with its 200 foot steep walls. The area is beautiful.

Jetboats depart from 2 locations on the Canadian side of the border and one New York location. Tours last about 45 minutes, but you need to be there at least 45 minutes prior to departure for instructions and orientation. For detailed attraction information, click here.

Whirlpool Jetboat Video

#9 Niagara Power Project & Visitor Center

A great activity for both kids and adults is a visit to the Niagara Power Plant in New York State. Located just 4 miles downstream of the falls, the power plant visitor center has over 50 interactive displays showing how the hydro electric power is generated. It was fascinating. The best display is a gigantic terrain map that shows how and where the water is diverted prior to reaching the falls.

The power of Niagara Falls helps produce some of the world's cheapest electricity for both the U.S. and Canada - they have a cooperative agreement. For details on exactly how it all works, visit this facitlites website. According to the website, "Put very simply, we divert water from the Niagara River-up to 375,000 gallons a second-and convey it through conduits under the City of Niagara Falls to Lewiston. From there, water flowing through the Robert Moses plant spins turbines that power generators, converting this mechanical energy into electrical energy."

The view of the plant from the outside observation deck is also quite impressive. For more information, visit the power plant website. Admission is FREE!

#10 Niagara-on-the-Lake

Take Time To Relax

Just a short and scenic drive from Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a quaint historic town that sits at the intersection of Lake Ontario and the mouth of the Niagara River. There are a wide range of activities available such as touring old Fort George, strolling the streets and shops of Old Town, and visiting the lakeside park or marina. You can find all kinds of unique antiques as well as Canada Gift Baskets filled with all kinds of local foods. You can also catch one of the Whirlpool Jetboat Rides in the marina as well.

My Tips - Be sure to visit the downtown ice cream shop that makes fresh waffle cones and ice cream - it was some of the best I've ever had.

Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake are well-known as not only great honeymoon locations, but also destination wedding hotspots. If you are getting married nearby, check out these resources!

Share Your Niagara Falls Activity Tips!

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    • socialcx1 profile image

      socialcx1 4 years ago

      Looks wonderful. Loved exploring your lens. Thanks

    • profile image

      fcinternetmarketing 4 years ago

      Wow !!!

    • Yamin Joe profile image

      Yamin Joe 4 years ago

      Thank you for reminding me of my tour to Niagara Falls,excellent photos,great lens!

    • PastorCher profile image

      Pastor Cher 4 years ago from United States

      We love Niagara Falls (both sides). One of my favorite things to do is eat at the Skylon Towers. It is worth the trip. So much to do and see. Great place to visit.

    • profile image

      Thenewolder 4 years ago

      I would like to try jet boat thing next time! Thanks for your tip!

    • TeacherSerenia profile image

      TeacherSerenia 4 years ago

      You didn't mention the renowned Festival of Lights over the Xmas - New Year period? You could have done that instead of mentioning Niagara on the Lake. Otherwise this was a very nice lens.

    • Niagara Ghosts profile image

      Niagara Ghosts 4 years ago

      As a Niagara tour guide, I enjoyed your lens. You profiled some of the more popular tourist spots and some of my favorites!

    • profile image

      AlexanderMontanez 4 years ago

      Awesome lens and scenes here.

    • reserve123 profile image

      reserve123 4 years ago

      I have visited Niagara in both the winter and summer and preferred the summer. Either way, it sure is beautiful. Thanks for the lens.

    • Mr-Panda LM profile image

      Mr-Panda LM 4 years ago

      Awesome lens! I went to Niagara Falls when I was a young chap, and going behind the Falls was the best thing by far =)

    • attraction 42 profile image

      attraction 42 4 years ago

      Amazing! Nice lens.

    • karen-stephens profile image

      karen-stephens 4 years ago

      Love niagra falls! will have to add this to my next top 10 Canadian retirement locales! :)

    • willybinns lm profile image

      willybinns lm 5 years ago

      I just back from Niagara Falls. It was amazing. I loved the "Maid of the Mist". Great lens!

    • profile image

      sivadarsh1 5 years ago

      Wow...fantastic ideas, I have just gone through your lens and now i can feel the power of Niagara falls even from here....

    • profile image

      coolmon2009 lm 5 years ago

      Nice lens; I have only been to Niagara one time, thanks for the pleasant memories.

    • EcoLogik profile image

      EcoLogik 5 years ago

      Wonderful place. The "Maid of The Mist" iss fantastic! Great lens!

    • air ambulance s profile image

      air ambulance s 5 years ago

      Never been; but I'm putting it on my bucket list now!! Thanks for the great info!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I really liked this article it has a lot more suggestions then some of the other ones I have seen. Niagara falls is amazing during the summer though!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Beautiful place. Thanks for your tips.

    • LivRiley LM profile image

      LivRiley LM 5 years ago

      I'm lucky....I'm only a 40minute drive and I visit often. Beautiful!

    • profile image

      jcamdenbow 5 years ago

      What beautiful photos. I have visited Niagara Falls on the NY side but not on the Canada side. That is on my wish list of travels. You have inspired me.

    • martyp lm profile image

      martyp lm 5 years ago

      There is also the casino. It can be a lot of fun at night. Went there for a vacation once and my friend and I both won $100 within 5 minutes of each other. Sure put a smile on our faces that night.

    • profile image

      DentalTourism 5 years ago

      Great lens, but you misseed one of the best things about Niagara Falls: all the cheesy, tourist traps. I'm thinking scary haunted houses, playhouses, Ripley's Believe It or Not, museums dedicated to any topic that might shock and/or enthrall. Now that I no longer live in southern Ontario, I miss those places.

    • profile image

      PamDeer 5 years ago

      beautiful lens, thanks!

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 5 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • CanadaRed LM profile image

      CanadaRed LM 5 years ago

      Love the pics. Thanks.

    • caketech profile image

      caketech 5 years ago

      Blessed by a squid angel on my dream vacation quest...I have never been to Niagara Falls, but I have always wanted to go see them in person! I hope to be able to go one day...in the meantime, I enjoyed the account of your visit and the wonderful pictures!

    • mariaamoroso profile image

      irenemaria 5 years ago from Sweden

      I do wish to see this live. May be one day.... in the meantime - blessings for this lens

    • RazzbarryBreeze profile image

      RazzbarryBreeze 5 years ago

      Niagra Falls is a place I have always wanted to visit. I will get there one day. This is a great Lens.

    • ClassyGals profile image

      Cynthia Davis 5 years ago from Pittsburgh

      Beautiful photos of the Falls! I've visited Niagra Falls but never tried the jet boat, it looks like so much fun. Oh well, maybe next visit.

    • profile image

      golfspice 5 years ago

      Your lens brought back some very good memories of my one and only stay in Niagara Falls about 12 years ago. Perhaps I'll get back there one day. The trip on the Maid of the Mist was great fun!

    • LauraHofman profile image

      Laura Hofman 5 years ago from Naperville, IL

      We just returned from Niagara Falls - our 4th trip. They never disappoint - so majestic. Well done lens with gorgeous photos! Bravo!

    • EuroSquid LM profile image

      EuroSquid LM 6 years ago

      Nivr lens. As I recall, the bars and pubs on the Canadian side are open later than on the US side. So, Americans in nearby Buffalo would sometimes cross the boarder to party a bit later.

    • profile image

      Lindrus 6 years ago

      Awesome photos! Thanks! Niagara falls really is impressive.

    • profile image

      Light-in-me 6 years ago

      Wonderful pictures and I love your tips, really nice lens.

      Nice work,

      Robin :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      great job on this lens! especially loved the jet boat video, always wondered what that was like, now i know!

    • laki2lav profile image

      laki2lav 6 years ago

      Awesome lens...wish I saw it before I went there few years ago.

    • franstan lm profile image

      franstan lm 6 years ago

      What gorgeous photos. Congratulations on such a great lens

    • Michelle77 LM profile image

      Michelle77 LM 6 years ago

      such great close ups of the Falls...so gorgeous!!! Someday i will live there ;)

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 6 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      Love this lens...gorgeous photos. Blessed.

    • profile image

      Geniusabi 6 years ago

      Great lens and beautiful photos. thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      dessertlover 6 years ago

      Looks like an amazing trip! I would never go on that jet boat in a million years....your husband is a bit of a daredevil :)

    • profile image

      promotional-coupons-codes 6 years ago

      Such a beautiful presentation. Thanks for the info.

    • profile image

      NYThroughTheLens 6 years ago

      I love Niagara Falls. I took a trip there last year and did the jetboat with a group of friends. It was AWESOME. I am scared of water too and I had a total blast. I recommend it to everyone.

    • Snakesmom profile image

      Snakesmom 6 years ago

      So glad I found your Niagra Falls lens, we are planning a trip there later this year and what a great source of tips on this page. I am even mor eexcited now!! Thanks so much :)

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

      What a wonderful overview all around the falls - The jetboat sounds like fun, as do several of the others. I love that you gave the hotel tips and recommendations, too.

    • EveStock profile image

      EveStock 6 years ago

      stunning photos

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thank you for a lovely visit!

      ~ Blessed by a Squidoo Angel of the Travel Canada/a> ~

    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Just came back to bless this lens. Amazing photos!

    • squid-pinkchic18 profile image

      squid-pinkchic18 6 years ago

      Very fun lens! I visited here when I was younger and thought it was amazing, even then. It's hard to believe people would actually go down the falls in barrels!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      favorite and added you to my travel squidoo lens blog roll, I want to see the white water jet thing this year.. I've missed it now for the past 4 years.. its on my "bucket List" of things to do. I make travel videos and post them on my youtube channel as well.

    • AuthorNormaBudden profile image

      AuthorNormaBudden 6 years ago

      This lens is featured at Dreams and Goals for 2011.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I am glad you mention seeing the Falls from the Canadian side. Being from the area I am always saddened by people who travel so far to see the Falls but miss that spectacular view. I too avoid Clifton Hills but there are many places to picnic or to hike down the gorge that should not be missed, especially in the autumn.

    • profile image

      kimmanleyort 7 years ago

      Nice job capturing the essence of Niagara Falls. Lensrolled to Niagara Wine Region!

    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Awesome lens. I've been to Niagara Falls and it was a great experience. The only thing I didn't like about it was the town itself - a little too built up and touristy for something so naturally beautiful. I didn't get to take the Maid of the Mist or Cave Winds tour, but someday I'll hopefully get to.

    • JenOfChicago LM profile image

      JenOfChicago LM 7 years ago

      Thanks for your suggestions! Blessed by a squidangel

    • Louis Wery profile image

      Louis Wery 7 years ago from Sarasota, Florida USA

      Excellent photos! Thank you for a personal look at how drenched you get near the falls. Good recommendations for where to go.

    • AuthorNormaBudden profile image

      AuthorNormaBudden 7 years ago

      I think you will be interested in visiting this lens... Angel Blessings.

    • AuthorNormaBudden profile image

      AuthorNormaBudden 7 years ago

      You've certainly given me a few ideas for my next trip to Niagara. I did take the Maid of the Mist tour and enjoyed it thoroughly. I have seen Clifton Hill but did not spend a lot of time there; however, I did enjoy seeing all the lights and witnessing the frenzy was an experience itself. Congratulations! You've been blessed by an angel.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 7 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      This is a great lens! I visited Niagra Falls years ago with my dad. It was a special trip. Your lens brings back memories. I love the photos too!

    • profile image

      poutine 7 years ago

      Fantastic lens about Niagara Falls.

      I prefer the canadian side of the Falls.

      I also loved Niagara-on-the-Lake when I was

      there a few years ago.

      Poutine

    • raegal75 profile image

      raegal75 7 years ago

      Wow - amazing pictures! This just might have to be our next family trip. 5*s

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Wow! What a spectacular lens :) I have lens rolled you on my Niagara Falls lens!

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image

      WindyWintersHubs 8 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Great Tips for a visit to Niagara Falls. Photos are awesome! I've been a couple of times on the Canadian side. The falls are breathtaking! A must visit for anyone for loves to travel. Thanks for sharing your tips. :)

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 8 years ago

      Absolutely gorgeous lens! When I visited Niagara Falls, we stayed on the Canadian side, and my favorite part was walking behind the falls. I'd love to go back now and try some of your suggestions. Thanks for adding this to All Things Travel.