Most visitors to Canada or Toronto usually have Niagara Falls on their bucket list. This I know from personal experience as whenever I tell anyone Niagara Falls is my birthplace, there’s an immediate and obviously positive reaction. That initial “Wow you were born in Niagara Falls?” response is often followed by a volley of questions about the best things to do in Niagara Falls.
So there’s no doubt in my mind Niagara Falls is a bucket list favourite for visitors to Canada (of course I’m biased but justifiably so!).
Dear reader, now that you know I was born in Niagara Falls, please keep reading to find out my most favourite Niagara Falls attractions.
- Things to do in Niagara Falls
- 1- Ride the Whirlpool Jet boat over the Devil’s Hole
- 2- Voyage to the Falls
- 3- Visit Niagara Parks butterfly arboretum
- 4- Ride the cable car over Niagara Gorge
- 5- Journey behind the falls
- 6- Ride the yellow bug up Skylon Tower
- 7- Have fun at Clifton Hill
- 8- Roll the dice at Fallsview
- 9- White Water Walk
- 10 – Watch the Niagara Falls Fireworks
- Things to do near Niagara Falls
- Niagara Falls Tours
- Seasonal things to do in Niagara Falls
- Discover Canada
Things to do in Niagara Falls
By the way, I’m not the only one who loves Niagara Falls.
Everyone knows that Niagara Falls is one of the most famous Canadian landmarks.
A couple of celebrities that have even been caught by its mystical draw are Titanic director James Cameron, who claimed he was inspired by the swirling waters as a kid growing up; and Nick Wallenda, the daredevil tightrope artist, who was the first person to walk directly over Niagara Falls on a high wire.
1- Ride the Whirlpool Jet boat over the Devil’s Hole
Every time I gather up my courage I head to the choppy waters, the rolling rapids of the Niagara River, to do battle on a watery canyon ride that’s guaranteed to make you wish you hadn’t.
It’s the ultimate challenge and one of the best things to do in Niagara Falls to test your courage.
So, I go for the ultimate courage test but I also go because I hope next time it won’t be so bad.
A ride on the Whirlpool Jet Boat is not an easy sail in the park.
Last time I did it, I sat either in the third or fourth row which we discovered far too late is the wet zone, the wish you hadn’t-sat-there-zone.
Picture a boat ride that passes by rapids like “Devil’s Hole” now you know.
2- Voyage to the Falls
Whenever I want to feel the rush of Niagara Falls pouring over me, I take the famous boat ride passing the American Falls en route to the Horseshoe Falls (that’s the other name of the Falls).
Get sopping wet on a Niagara Hornblower Cruise as you cruise close to the bottom of the mighty Niagara Falls watching the wall of thundering water with its thundering sounds.
One word: Awesome!
Hornblower Niagara Cruises, which is famous in its own right for ferrying folks around Manhattan and taking tourists around the infamous Alcatraz Island in California, has taken over from the Maid of the Mist (available from New York).
The boat is bigger and gets you right up close to the mighty Niagara Falls on their Voyage to the Falls cruise.
Of all the things to do in Niagara Falls, this one is not to be missed. The experience will take your breath away.
If you’re visiting from the USA side of Niagara Falls, you can combine a cruise on Maid of the Mist with a tour of the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.
3- Visit Niagara Parks butterfly arboretum
This stunning two-story butterfly arboretum located on the grounds of the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens brings out the kid in all of us.
I love how they majestically flutter by and if you’re super still, you might be lucky enough to have one of these gorgeous creatures rest on your shoulder.
Sometimes, depending on the season and butterfly lifecycle, you can see them emerge from their cocoon.
It’s especially wonderful to visit during winter or spring as this climate controlled interior feels like a tropical paradise.
Run by the Niagara Parks Commission, the agency reports there are over 2,000 tropical butterflies.
4- Ride the cable car over Niagara Gorge
Running as smoothly as a well-greased motor this iconic aero car trip crosses the great Niagara Gorge and offers unparalleled views of the whirlpool.
You also get a bird’s-eye view of the crazy jet boats whipping by the fast-flowing currents below.
Operational from spring to autumn, a trip aboard the Spanish-designed antique cable car is truly wonderful.
A classic ride that’s been around for years, it’s definitely one of the things to do in Niagara Falls to put at the top of your list.
Check out a selection of Niagara Falls tours here.
5- Journey behind the falls
Can you walk behind the Niagara Falls?
Yes. Journey Behind the Falls has been taking curious visitors down to see the catacombs that weave behind the Horseshoe Falls.
As a kid, I remember sporting rental wellies and buttoning up a heavy rubber raincoat for this thrill.
Those retro accessories are gone now but white-water thrill seekers instead get a souvenir rain poncho needed to see this wet’n’wild experience.
You’ll never forget the rush and gush of six million cubic feet of water again. It’s by far one of the most memorable Niagara Falls attractions.
6- Ride the yellow bug up Skylon Tower
Take a ride up the yellow bug.
The Skylon Tower is a retro tower constructed in the swinging sixties that still has a fun vintage feel to it as sightseers take a ride on the iconic elevator that now looks more like a Minions character.
While the property is sadly in need of a redo you still can’t beat the fabulous view you get once you reach the observation deck.
The Skylon Tower has been the stage for many events, one of which included 81 high wire performances with the legendary high wire artist Jay Cochrane a few years ago.
7- Have fun at Clifton Hill
Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls’ answer to Vegas with all the flashy lights but minus the casinos, is the strip that’s rife with tacky and big.
Take a walk up the hill at night to see the colourful lights from local shops, and restaurants.
Get some big frights at the Nightmares Fear Factory, which is one of the more unique things to do in Niagara Falls.
Learn about the weirdest discoveries at Ripley’s Believe It or Not, or see if you can beat a world record at the legendary Guinness Book of World Records museum, home to bizarre displays, some which are interactive exhibits.
Another fun thing to do is to hang out at the Niagara Skywheel, Canada’s largest observation wheel, looming atop Clifton Hill.
The Clifton Hill fun pass offers access to six attractions, including the Skywheel.
There are several Clifton Hill hotels to choose from for an overnight stay.
8- Roll the dice at Fallsview
Niagara Falls is home to two casinos, the larger Fallsview Casino Resort is the preferred place due to its shops, entertainment, and restaurants.
Located at the top of Murray Hill imagine the falls views.
The older Casino Niagara while smaller has two action-packed floors and is within walking distance to the mighty Niagara Falls.
9- White Water Walk
Another cool spot to get up close is by the White Water Walk, which is a boardwalk along the Great Gorge that showcases natural surrounds beside the raging river.
10 – Watch the Niagara Falls Fireworks
The fireworks at Niagara Falls are spectacular.
While scheduled at various times throughout the year, summer is fabulous to watch the free fireworks over The Falls.
The accompanying streaming lights illuminate both the American and Horseshoe Falls.
Things to do near Niagara Falls
11- Learn Canadian history at Fort George
There’s a lot to see in nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake (about a 20-minute drive from The Falls).
This historic town was the first provincial capital of Upper Canada before Toronto (York) became the capital of Ontario.
See countless historic plaques in this region.
One of my favourites is Fort George. The Fort was involved in the War of 1812 and played a key role in the defence of Upper Canada.
This National Historic Site is open from May through October. One of the highlights is to sign up for a ghost tour to experience Fort George after dark.
Head to Laura Secord’s homestead, for a glimpse into the private residence of Canada’s most famous heroine, a key figure in the War of 1812.
Ascend the narrow spiral staircase at Brock’s Monument for great panoramic views of Niagara farm country and see Lake Ontario on the horizon.
The monument was made to commemorate the death of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock who died during the Battle of Queenston Heights in 1812 and is also a tomb for two British soldiers.
Brock’s Monument is the largest monument of its kind in Canada and bears an uncanny resemblance of Nelson’s Column at Trafalgar Square in London.
12- Cycle the Niagara Parkway
If you don’t have a bike, bike rental companies can be found either in pretty Niagara-on-the-Lake or in Niagara Falls.
For a good workout, I recommend renting a bike in Niagara-on-the-Lake and cycle the legendary Niagara Parkway passing historical landmarks, wineries then further ascending the steep Niagara escarpment by Queenston Heights.
A good route is along the 56 km multipurpose path known as the Niagara River Recreation Trail that connects from Fort Erie to Niagara-on-the-Lake.
You can also start the route anywhere in the park as the paved trail is mostly a separate route away from vehicles.
Niagara Falls Tours
Located on the Canadian-U.S. border the mighty Niagara Falls is an all-time favourite vacation destination and there are plenty of Niagara Falls attractions for all seasons.
Here are some tours that combine visits to both sides of Niagara Falls.
Seasonal things to do in Niagara Falls
Each season in Niagara Falls brings a set of different things to do. Niagara Falls is a destination for all seasons.
Summer in Niagara Falls is high season. Across the city and throughout the Niagara Parks Commission, good days are bumper-to-bumper days when traffic snakes to a crawl.
Summertime is also the ultimate sightseeing time. Sightseers head out to see The Falls and explore the many things to do near Niagara Falls.
5 Things to do in Niagara Falls in winter
Niagara Falls was once nicknamed “The Honeymoon Capital of the World” (you can still see remnants with some old motels sporting that classic heart-shaped Jacuzzi in the honeymoon suites).
To boot, the renowned Horseshoe Falls has been the inspiration for many who have peered at this magnificent natural wonder. It truly is spellbinding, and especially so in winter.
Come winter Niagara Falls takes on a dramatic look, as the icicles and frothy white snow caps magically appear against the roaring Niagara Falls.
- Take winter photographs of the frozen falls – Photographs of the ice jams are world-renowned.
- Tuck inside one of the pubs and sample the highly revered Icewine.
- Attend the Winter Festival of Lights – during the holidays the Niagara Parks morphs into a winter wonderland as the Winter Festival of Lights takes over the park every November through January.
- Taste icewine – The pretty snow-draped vineyards are also celebrated in neighbouring Niagara-on-the-Lake as vintners, outdoor lovers, and Icewine fans mingle for the annual Niagara Icewine Festival which takes place in January.
- Celebrate New Year’s Eve – One of the biggest shows is the annual New Year’s Eve parYear’s huge crowd pleaser at Queen Victoria Park that headlines some of Canadas biggest musical acts in the business.
4 things to do in Niagara Falls in Spring
After a long winter, it’s time to awaken the senses. Budding blossoms are beautifully showcased throughout the Niagara Parks Commission.
- Visit the Floral Showhouse – In early spring head inside the Floral Showhouse in Queen Victoria Park to smell the fragrant forced perennials and come mid-spring outside along the garden beds are a blanket of tulips and daffodils that emit that warm feeling you love about the season.
- See the Floral Clock – This is a popular stop in the Niagara Parks for its 19,000 springtime flowers. The Floral Clock is just north of the Sir Adam Beck Generating Station.
- Visit the Centennial Lilac Garden near the Queenston Lewiston International Bridge and the Botanical Gardens, 40 hectares of beautifully manicured gardens.
- Springilicious Festival – In May musicians and revellers get in the groove for Springilicious, a free outdoor music festival.
3 things to do in Niagara Falls in Autumn
As kids head back to school the city takes on a different vibe. The local wineries and fruit farms begin to harvest their crops.
- See Fall Foliage
One of the nicest drives to explore the bounty of Niagara is a drive to neighbouring Niagara-on-the-Lake along the pretty Niagara River Parkway.
The fall foliage is blazing and beautiful as the road snakes along the river passing historic hamlets and landmarks like Queenston Heights.
At Queenston Heights Park ascend the legendary Brock’s Monument for panoramic views of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Lake Ontario.
Leaf peepers enjoy a thrilling ride in an ancient cable car that crosses the Niagara River. Known as the Whirlpool Aero Car it’s another fabulous perch from which to see the fall season in all its glory.
- Play a round of golf
In fall golf courses continue to attract golf lovers.
At the Niagara Parks, the public golf courses have relaxing clubhouses with great food, drinks and service.
- Run in the Niagara Falls International Marathon
Marathon runners are also getting ready to lace up their sneakers in the upcoming Niagara Falls International Marathon in late October. Thousands of runners race in this picturesque stretch that ends just before the rushing Falls.
Now it’s your turn to take a plunge at some of the best year-round thrills in and around the fabled Niagara Falls.
Ilona Kauremszky lives in Toronto and ventures to Niagara Falls nearly every weekend (to visit her Mom) when she is not travelling around the globe.
Are you interested in vacations by rail? Try Via Rail’s train trip across Canada.