things to do in niagara

The 10 Best Things to do in Niagara Falls 2020

Introduction to Niagara Falls

Looking for things to do in Niagara Falls? Here is our concise Niagara Falls Travel Guide. Straddling the Canada border, it is a vast waterfall in the state of New York. It is considered one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world. The Falls are the combination of three waterfalls actually: the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls. 

The Niagara Falls are a result of the Niagara River flowing from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. It is over 160 feet (50 meters) deep and drops over six million cubic feet (168,000 cubic meters) of water over the crest every minute. While volume and width-wise it is the biggest waterfall in the continent of North America, it is a relatively young waterfall. It was created only at the end of the last ice age. 

Why go to Niagara Falls?

There are no ends of things to do in Niagara Falls. The mammoth Niagara River plunges over the rocks, at up to 68 miles per hour, creating a misty fog. You can hear the Falls roar long before you reach them. The jaw-dropping, humbling scenery and mighty natural beauty of the location make this one of the most attractive tourist spots in the whole world. You can go down the railings to enjoy the mist on your face, take a boat ride as close to the falls as safely possible, or enjoy other tourist attractions nearby.

The Falls can be viewed best from afar from the Observation Tower at Prospect Point in the Niagara Falls State Park, which juts right over the Niagara Gorge. Or if you prefer an up-close and personal encounter with the Falls, you can choose to ride the coal-powered steamboats in the Maid of the Mist ride. The Niagara Falls is also the location of the twin cities by that same name, in Canada and the USA. The cities themselves are tourist honeytraps and provide lots of things to do here, on the Canada side or on the US side. 

Rides to Niagara Falls

There are lots of things to do in here on the waterfalls themselves. You can take various rides and tours from either the Canada side or the NY side. Some of the best rides are listed below.

1. Niagara Falls Day Tour from Ontario

You can enjoy a day trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls. This trip is conducted on a modern coach which stops at the Falls, at the Floral Clocks (which is described as the world’s smallest chapel), and at the Reif Estate Winery for fine wine tastings. You will also have three hours of free time at the waterfalls for some independent adventuring of your own. The tour starts at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada and returns there at the end of the day. You will pass by Niagara Parkway, Brock’s Monument, Queens Heights, etc. iconic landmarks. Licenced Tour Guides will accompany you on the tour and they will explain everything in detail.

2. Niagara Falls American Side Highlights Tour

One of the best Niagara Falls guided tours from the US side, this tour will pick you up at your hotel in downtown NF city. A coach will carry you through all three falls. The Maid of the Mist boat ride is included in this ride as well. You will be guided through the Cave of the Winds behind the Bridal Veil Falls. Standing high in the Prospect Point Observation Tower, you can take in all the scenery. You will also get to visit the Whirlpool State Park to see the spectacular foaming rapids in the lower Niagara River.

3. Niagara Falls Helicopter Tours

One of the best things to do in Niagara Falls from either the NY side or the Ontario side is to take a helicopter ride over the region. The aerial view of the area offers an awesome experience of this vast natural beauty. The pilot will perform fly-by’s of all three falls and the nearby tourist spots that are well visible from the air. You can take breathtaking photos from the chopper and listen to the taped commentary. 

4. Best of Both Niagara Falls  American/Canadian Tour

When you are trying to cover most of everything to do at the Niagara Falls from both the Canadian and the American sides, you had best take this guided tour. You’ll get picked up from your local Niagara Falls Hotel, and get whisked off straight to the Maid of the Mist. After you had your fill of an hour of wetness, you will go see the Cave of the Winds, the Goat Island, Skylon Tower, Table Rock, Dufferin Islands, etc. You will also get to ride the Aero car above the whirlpools. After all of this, you will return to your NF City stay.

Things to do in Niagara Falls

  1. Maid of the Mist
  2. Cave of the Winds
  3. Niagara Falls State Park
  4. Goat Island
  5. Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino
  6. Niagara Falls Observation Tower
  7. Whirlpool State Park
  8. Aquarium of Niagara
  9. Trailhead Niagara Gorge Hiking Trail
  10. Fallsview Casino Resort

Maid of the Mist

Probably the most famous of the rides in the area, this boat ride takes you across the bottom of the Falls, as close as safely possible, right through the mist clouds created by the roaring waterfalls. Starting first as a ferry across the border as far back as 1846, the Maid of the Mist boats are coal and diesel steamers (recently two all-electric boats were added). They will take you from a landing at the bottom of the Falls, go through the mists (parka is a must if you don’t want to get drenched!), cross briefly into the Canada side. and get back to the US side landing. You might be thrilled to note that many royal persons take this ride at least once in their lifetime.

Cave of the Winds

If you want to get as close as possible to the Falls on your feet, take the Cave of the Winds tour. One of the best things to do at this place, this tour begins by dropping you 175 feet into the Niagara Gorge. When you exit the elevator, you will stand on the Hurricane Deck, sidling up to the Bridal Falls crashing down. The weather here is like a tropical storm even on the best of days. The rest of the tour is a 45-60 minute guided walking tour which includes 15 rooms, a 1/2 mile of concrete walkways, and 196 stairs. 

Not only that, the winters bring a totally new perspective on this tour. One of the top things to do in Niagara Falls in winter, you can experience the frozen beauty of the waterfalls best from here. Take the elevator down to the Gorge and admire the arctic wonder of the frozen Niagara River up close and personal. Snowshoes are available for free.

Niagara Falls State Park

One of the nicest locations near around here, this is the oldest state park in the USA. It contains over 15 miles of hiking challenge and stunning views throughout the trails. Much of the three waterfalls come into the territory of this Park. 

Goat Island

A small island on the river between the Bridal Veil Falls and the Horseshoe Falls, the Goat Island one of the important spots to visit in Niagara Falls. There are lots of activities in goat island, such as:

  • Snorkel with the fish in the goat island marine reserve
  • Go kayaking around the island in Niagara River
  • Scuba diving underwater in the marine reserve
  • Visit the Goat Island Marine Discovery Center
  • Take a calming walk on the Goat Island Walkway

Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino

For an evening of fun and entertainment, you should keep this on your list of things to do in your things to do in Niagara Falls NY USA list. With a hundred gaming tables and over four thousand slot machines, the casino is sure to entertain you. Also, it is one of the most prominent hotels in the area.

Niagara Falls Observation Tower

Niagara Falls Observation Tower

The Prospect Point Observation Tower, perched right on top of the Niagara Gorge is probably the best spot to view the Niagara Falls in its entirety. An architectural wonder by itself, the tower extends dramatically over the Falls. This is the only point providing an unrestricted panoramic view of the wild cascades of all three Falls together. The tower provides elevator and stairs to the bottom of the gorge where the Maid of the Mist tours start. For a thrilling experience, climb all the way up to the Crow’s Nest and get doused in the misty Niagara sprays.

Whirlpool State Park

Overlooking the Niagara whirlpool, this 109-acre NY state park offers you multiple spectacular views of the Niagara rapids. The street level of the Park has many scenic overlooks with picnic spots, a playground, and the Gorge Natural History Room, which should come into your list of family things to do in Niagara Falls. The bottom level has many spectacular trails up and down the river like Devil’s Hole Trail or the Rim Trail. For those who are unable to hike, a 15-stop shuttle ride is available along a 14-mile guided tour of the Falls. It’s worth noting that this park is a pet-friendly zone.

Aquarium of Niagara

A non-profit public aquarium, the Aquarium of Niagara takes a prime spot in our list of things to do in Niagara Falls Buffalo NY. The aquarium is located in NF city New York and is open all year-round. It is home to over 120 species of animals including California sea lions, Harbor seals, Gray seals, Humboldt penguins, Jellyfish, freshwater and marine fish and invertebrates, etc. You can also plan many activities here such as:

  • Seal encounters
  • Penguin encounters
  • Trainer for a Day program
  • Birthday parties
  • Sleepover programs
  • Summer camps

Trailhead Niagara Gorge Hiking Trail

For nature and trekking enthusiast in you, this bunch of challenging hiking and biking trails will offer you an unforgettable experience. The trails range from easy paths to difficult steep climbs and boulder hopping. The Niagara winter brings extra challenges to these trails. The hikes are limited to a minimum five-person team, and hikers must bring their own heavy hiking equipment and water. Children below 8 are not allowed, also. 

Fallsview Casino Resort

Another casino and hotel near the gorgeous waterfalls, this is one of the best fun things to do in Niagara Falls Ontario Canada. It is built right beside the Horseshoe Falls on top of a cliff, and the Canadians consider this to be the best hotel with a view in Canada. With over 3000 slots and video poker machines and over 100 gaming tables, this casino has ample means to please large crowds. The Hilton Fallsview hotel and casino also has a theater, Spa, Galleria with shops and dining opportunities, conference space, and enough hotel rooms for visitors.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) about Niagara Falls

1. When is the best time to visit Niagara Falls?

There is no best time to visit this famous tourist location as each season offers a varied experience to the visitors. If you are going to go hiking, golfing and wine tasting, spring to fall would be a good time to visit the Niagara Falls. But in the winter, much of the falls and surrounding areas freeze over, offering a very different outlook. That is also the time of the Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls. Please note that between November 1st and April 1st, the water flow at the Niagara River is reduced for electricity generation and so at that time the Falls may appear a bit dried up.

2. How can I reach Niagara Falls?

This varies depending upon where you are coming from. If you are traveling from the states, you can reach the Niagara Falls town (USA) by driving up 17 miles from Buffalo, NY. From the Canada side, the Canadian counterpart of the town is about 90-120 minutes of drive down from Toronto.  In Niagara Falls NY, the Trailways bus terminal is 0.6 miles or 1 km from the Rainbow Bridge. In Niagara Falls Ontario the GoTransit terminal is 1.6 miles or 2.5 km from the Rainbow bridge’s other side.

3. What do I need to know about crossing the border at Niagara Falls?

Covering all the best tourist spots in Niagara Falls will require you to cross the US-Canada border. You need to keep your passport and other identification papers in hand while you do this. If you do this regularly, there are certain services offered by third parties who can help you. Also, please keep in mind that if you want to stay or shop on the other side, you must have an adequate amount of local currency as well. Though, in Niagara Falls, some small shops so accept either currency so you needn’t be in too much trouble if you don’t have the local money. But please remember to keep all your receipts while crossing the border if you have bought stuff from there. The interesting thing is that your driver’s license from one side will be valid on the other side in the region.

4. Can we bring pets and medicines while visiting Niagara Falls?

Dogs are welcome in the park areas, though you need to have the updated medical papers on them if you plan to go on a cross-border trip with them. Please note that certain attractions do not allow pets at all. Similar rules are in effect about medicines. Note that bringing large amounts of medicines with you may be troublesome.

5. How much will the visit to Niagara Falls cost?

This will extensively depend upon the tours and trips you have planned. Please look up their respective rates at their websites or ask the contact person. Otherwise, note that the parks are free and open to the public at all times.

6. Can I bring my own vehicle to the Niagara Falls?

Of course, you can. However, do note that this being an extremely popular tourist spot, parking places at Niagara Falls are probably the rarest commodity here. It would be better if you’d rather use public transport. 

7. Can I visit Niagara Falls at night?

Though the parks remain open 24 hours and some rides are exclusively for the night time, please note that after dusk for hydro-electricity generation the water flow is severely reduced till dawn. So your view of the Falls at night may not be as majestic as daytime. However, to compensate matters, they light up the whole area at night and it becomes another kind of wonderful. 

Niagara Falls at night
8. How many people have gone over Niagara Falls in a Barrel? 

A funny but common question. Up until 1995, fifteen people have challenged the mighty Niagara Falls, and five of them have given their lives in the effort. Since then, it has been outlawed to perform stunts or extreme sports at the Niagara Falls.

Places to Visit Near Niagara Falls

The area nearby Niagara Falls is packed with a lot of tourist attractions, resorts, activity spots, etc. Here is a short list:

Three Sisters IslandsTerrapin PointSchoellkopf Power Station
Niagara Wax Museum of HistoryHyde ParkDe Veaux Woods State Park
St. Mary of the CataractOakwood CemeteryNiagara Power Vista
Fantasy IslandAdams Power Plant Transformer HouseFort Schlosser
Cayuga IslandHerschell Carrousel Factory MuseumGriffon Park
Old Stone ChimneyGrand Island Fun CenterFreedom Crossing Monument
Carnegie Art CenterOppenheim County ParkNiagara Aerospace Museum

…and many more!

BookOnBoard’s Top Things to Do in Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is one of the most popular tourist spots in the world. There are so many things to do around this place that you might get confused about planning your itinerary to Niagara Falls. However, help is at hand! Read our BookOnBoard’s Guide to Niagara Falls to know all about the places and activities in and around Niagara Falls. We also have guides to many other places in North America.

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