- Travel and Places»
- Visiting North America
Top 10 Things To Do in Niagara Falls
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
#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.
Niagara Falls Visit Poll
Have You Visited Niagara Falls?
#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!
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!
Wedding Travel & Souvenir Resources
- Travel Themed Favors
Getting married in Niagara Falls? Check out these fillable mini suitcases, luggage tags and more that would make great little gifts for guests.
- Canada Gift Baskets
Find Canadian themed gift baskets and products from Canada that can be either purchased locally or hand delivered to your friend or family member. The perfect welcome gifts for guests at your Niagara Falls wedding!