Niagara Falls captivates visitors with its roaring waters. Stretching over 2,600 feet across, this massive curtain of water — comprising three separate waterfalls — plummets 167 feet into a misty whirlpool below. While not the tallest waterfall in the world, Niagara Falls certainly ranks among the most well-known. This international phenomenon connects two namesake towns found in Ontario in Canada and New York in the United States. Visitors with passports often cross the arched Rainbow Bridge, to experience both sides of the falls.
Finding the Falls
Located on a sliver of land between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, the Niagara River dramatically rumbles over an escarpment, creating the iconic falls: On the Canadian side, Horseshoe Falls plunge into the Maid of the Mist Pool. On the United States side, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls form their own curtains of water. Several highways come together at this popular spot, making it easy to travel between the U.S. and Canada. In Ontario, the Queen Elizabeth Way connects Niagara Falls with the largest nearby city, Toronto, 80 miles to the north. Visitors arriving in the popular summer season will find pleasant temperatures, with highs in the 70s and 80s. The region receives plenty of precipitation year-round.
Fun Around the Falls
Where Lake Ontario meets the Niagara River, you’ll find a hotbed of fishing activity. Epic salmon, trout and steelhead teem here, thanks to the high levels of oxygen in the water caused by the nearby falls and rapids. To the south, Lake Erie is not to be overlooked, as it’s home to record-setting bass. Paddlers enjoy these waters as well. Niagara-on-the-Lake is a particularly charming spot to access Lake Ontario and the Niagara River. Several marinas and boat launches line Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, providing access for boaters. The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority offers access for hunters on conservation lands across the peninsula. Waterfowl, turkey and small game are the primary wildlife found here.
There’s something romantic about a waterfall, and Niagara Falls is one of the most spectacular cascades on the planet thanks to its size and the sheer volume of water that crashes over the falls. Get a bird’s-eye view from 775 feet above with a trip up the Skylon Tower, which looms over the spectacle with a revolving restaurant at the tower’s top. During summer, fireworks fill the skies, and the glassy falls shimmer with color.
To feel the power of the falls, take a cruise aboard the tour boat Hornblower or a Journey Behind the Falls tour. Put on your poncho and prepare to be amazed by the sight of 150,000 gallons of water crashing over the falls each second. To escape into the serenity of nature, head to the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve, featuring miles of trails through the woodlands above the river.
Falling for Festivals
After a cold, snowy winter, Niagara Falls springs to life with the annual Springlicious celebration, held in early June. Queen Street fills with vendors, live entertainment and colorful carnival rides. Though Ontario’s winter weather inhibits some agriculture, it gives the region a unique treat: icewine. As the crisp, frozen air begins to bite, local vineyards leave their grapes on the vines and later pluck them to make a sweet, luscious wine, found few places in the world. It’s so revered, Niagara Falls celebrates with an annual Icewine Festival, held in January. In the fall, traditional wines are celebrated at the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival, which features hundreds of events over the course of 18 days.
Queenston Heights Park
North of the falls, on the top of the Niagara Escarpment (a UNESCO world biosphere), Queenston Heights Park is the site of the 1812 Battle of Queenston Heights. A series of formal gardens sprawl in the shadow of a 185-foot column that commemorates Major General Sir Isaac Brock, “Savior of Upper Canada.” One of Canada’s great heroes of the War of 1812, Brock was killed here by a gun shot; his remains are interred at the monument’s base along with his Lieutenant-Colonel, John Macdonell.
More Museums and Monuments
For more history, follow the Niagara Heritage Trail, which runs 33 miles along the Niagara River between Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake, connecting several historic sites. Built by the British in 1764, Fort Erie was later the site of the bloodiest battle in Canadian history during the War of 1812. Today, this story is shared through educational displays, fort tours and live reenactments. Canada’s oldest museum is also found in the region. What started as a collection of taxidermy animals in 1827 has now become the Niagara Falls History Museum, featuring displays about the War of 1812 and the fascinating history of the falls and the daredevils who have tried to conquer them.
Colorful homes and grand brick beauties dating to the 1700-1800s line the streets of Niagara-on-the-Lake. This charming village, bordered by both Lake Ontario and the Niagara River, is simply steeped with character and romance. Listen for the clip-clop of horses’ hooves as horse-drawn carriages glide under the majestic shade trees. The vibrancy of the floral-lined sidewalks is matched only by the liveliness of the wares sold in cozy shops, bakeries and cafés. Continue onward to Niagara’s Wine Country, a region marked by fields of grapes and welcoming wineries. From quaint houses to gleaming glass structures, you’ll find diverse tasting rooms to match the diverse wines filling the cellars.
Wine and Farm to Table Dining
The Niagara Falls wine region adds to the dining options available in the area’s burgeoning culinary scene. Glasses of delicious, locally sourced vintages accompany meals at restaurants that are renowned for their farm-to-table menus.
Cuisine From Around the World
International cuisine is commonplace in Niagara Falls, and options range from fresh seafood specialties to spicy Thai and Caribbean. Family-style restaurants are also on hand, along with casual dining in local pubs and grills. For a view of Niagara Falls with your meal, try a dinner cruise on an old-fashioned riverboat by signing on with Grand Sunset Cruises. The Niagara Belle sails the Lower Niagara river from the opening of the Niagara Gorge to Lake Ontario.
Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens
To immerse yourself in the area’s flora, Niagara Parks’ 99-acre Botanical Gardens is well worth a visit. North of town, on the scenic Niagara Parkway, the gardens were established in 1936. During the summer, horse and carriage rides are offered through the kaleidoscopic gardens, which brim with perennials, rhododendrons, azaleas, a formal parterre garden, herb and vegetable gardens, and a rose garden with over 2,400 roses. The garden’s signature attraction is a 12-meter diameter Floral Clock comprising more than 25,000 plants. But what draws most visitors is the acclaimed Butterfly Conservatory, where 2,000 fluttering insects (with more than 50 international species), including swallowtails, fritillaries and luminous blue Morphos.
For the Birds
At Bird Kingdom, located just a short walk from Horseshoe Falls, visitors enjoy encounters with wild animals. Guests can learn about the world of exotic plants, animals, birds and reptiles. A gift shop offers a variety of plush toys. The experience culminates with an entry into the world’s largest aviary, home to a 40-foot waterfall, living jungle and free-flying exotic birds.
Walk the Footsteps of Soldiers
Tours of the battlefield outline the history behind the combat and include a jaunt to the top of the hillside for superb panoramic views. With picnic pavilions, tennis courts, a children’s playground and splash pool, and the highly praised Queenston Heights Restaurant, the park makes for a great half-day excursion.
Whirlpool Adventure Course
Unveiled in 2016, the Whirlpool Adventure Course shakes up Niagara’s old-school image with a pulse-racing series of log ladders, rope swings, tightrope obstacles and ziplines suspended high above the Niagara gorge. On the Canadian side, and not for the faint of heart, the Mistrider is a 2,200 foot, white-knuckle zipline that jettisons four people at a time for some 670 meters towards the Horseshoe Falls at speeds approaching 65 miles per hour. There’s a viewing platform with exhilarating views of Horseshoe Falls at the bottom.
More Fun With Water
Another major attraction in the area for family fun is Marineland, where visitors can marvel at the amazing performances by sea lions, dolphins and walruses. Educational exhibits shed light on the planet’s delicate marine ecosystem. The Fallsview Indoor Waterpark is home to 16 waterslides, a giant wave pool and Beach House Rain Fortress. The Americana Waterpark Resort and Spa offers the whole family its Waves Indoor Waterpark, with features that include water slides up to three stories high, a wave pool and a retractable glass roof.
For More Information
Tourism Partnership of Niagara