Niagara Falls is nature at its mightiest. More than just a look at a waterfall, a visit is a full vacation surrounded by the natural beauty of the area and the luxury that has drawn tourists from around the world.
A great introduction to the Niagara Falls is from the water with a tour from Hornblower Niagara Cruises. Voyage to the Falls boat tour visits Great Gorge, American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and the most famous, Horseshoe Falls. Whether you decide to see the falls in the daylight, illuminated at night, or both, there is no better way than floating up close to the massive wall of moving water. You will almost certainly get wet if you are on the open/outdoor areas of the boat, make sure you wear your parka they hand out (free with purchase of ticket). If you don’t take the night cruise, make sure you take the time to see the falls lit up at night — it’s a beautiful sight, and one you will be glad you took the time for. Before or after your ride, take advantage of access to the Lower Landing and Falls viewing area for a whole different viewpoint of Niagara Falls.
There are plenty of options to get close to the water on foot with the White Water Walk. Viewing platforms and a wooden boardwalk offer an up close look at the trillions of gallons of water that make the Niagara River’s Class 6 whitewater rapids. Rising above you are the walls of the Niagara Gorge, cut down by the power of the river to reveal 410-million-year-old rock layers. The views you will get on your walk next to the raging waters are breathtaking and like none you will see anywhere else. It’s also a lovely stroll anyone at any age can take.
IF YOU GO: NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE
Just 30 minutes from Niagara Falls is the historic town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Located where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence River, the town has a story dating back to the 1790s when it was the original capital of Upper Canada. If you want a cool title, get elected here and be addressed as lord mayor. Fort George has been restored to the original condition when it played a role in the War of 1812. The costumes and recreated lifestyle of the time period add to the immersion into local history.
>> The annual Shaw Theatre Festival, dedicated to George Bernard Shaw, playwright and Nobel Prize winner, is a great time to visit. Multiple festivals are held in Niagara-on-the-Lake throughout the year including events dedicated to wine. You might not think of Canada when grape-growing comes to mind, but Lake Ontario causes moderate weather in the area so take advantage of the local wineries. Queen Street has shops and restaurants that will introduce you to other regional favorites. Stop for an Ontario specialty, Butter Tarts, or for locally made jams at Greaves Jams & Marmalades.
If you are looking for a different angle to view the river, try the Whirlpool Aero Car. Over a century old (its centennial was in 2016), the trip takes you over 3,500 feet across the Canadian side of the Niagara River. You will cross the international border between the U.S. and Canada during your trip. From the antique cable car, you look down over the Niagara Whirlpool, like seeing the eye of a storm from above.
Get a peek behind the running water with a visit to the tunnels of the Journey Behind the Falls attraction. You can feel the mist as Horseshoe Falls crashes down from 13 stories above. There is an observation deck at the foot of the falls, just be prepared to get wet. In spring and summer, free souvenir rain ponchos are given out to protect you from the moisture kicked up in the air as water thunders past going 40 mph.
Wondering how Niagara Falls became the wonder that it is today? Check out the film, “Niagara’s Fury,” in a 4D, 360-degree theater located at the falls. This is a bit different then other tours, as it’s not out “in” nature, but brings nature in to you. The ground beneath you moves as the history of Niagara Falls unfolds. As the story is told, water mists down on you and your family as you journey through 10,000 years of time, ending up in the present day. Take your souvenir (biodegradable) parkas with you when you leave, you never know when you will need one again.
You can take a break from getting wet and visit the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens just 10 minutes north of the falls. It is easily one of the most beautiful spots in the area, one that might be passed up due to the overwhelming draw of the falls themselves. A highlight is the Butterfly Conservatory taking you to a world of tropical plants and colorful butterflies. Flying loose, they float in the air and decorate any leaf or flower they land on. Also available from May to mid-October are guided tours of the botanical gardens by horse-drawn carriage.
If you plan to visit multiple locations and attractions, or if you are staying for a few days, passes can help you customize your adventure. There are also bus passes and more to choose from — visit the Niagara Parks website at niagaraparks.com for more information.