If you’re looking for things to do in Niagara Falls, you’re in the right spot!
Home to one of the world’s most famous natural attractions, Niagara Falls has been attracting tourists for more than a century. Located next to the US border, the waterfalls are somewhat shared between Niagara Falls, Ontario and Niagara Falls, New York. However, the most scenic waterfall is Horseshoe Falls, which is on the Canadian side.
Whether you’re with family, travelling solo, travelling with friends, or wandering around with your partner, there’s no shortage of touristic attractions and natural beauty to behold. In this “things to do in Niagara Falls” travel guide, we’ll fill you in on what to do, where to eat, where to stay, and how to get the best views of one of the most spectacular waterfalls on Earth.
Must-Do Niagara Falls Quick Guide
If you’re really short on time, here are some very quick recommendations.
Top Experiences: Hornblower Cruise, Helicopter Tour, and the Journey-Behind-the-Falls tour.
Getting around: Walking to most areas is a great way to explore but there’s also the WEGO bus.
Best time to visit: The falls are beautiful year-round but the warmer months are the most popular. July and August are the busiest times to visit. June and September are also great.
Accommodation: There are so many hotels but if you want views of the falls from your bedroom, some of the best options are the Marriott Fallsview and The Oakes Hotel Fallsview. We stayed at the Best Western Cairns, which is a bit further out.
Quick Facts about Niagara Falls
- The three waterfalls (Horseshoe, American, and Bridal Veil) are collectivly known as Niagara Falls and combine to produce the highest flow rate of any waterfall on earth.
- Niagara Falls occurs as water drains from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario.
- Roughly 30 Million people visit Niagara Falls each year. Yes, it’s very popular.
- The largest vertical drop is over 50 metres (165 feet). Can you believe that some people have gone over and lived?
- The rapids above the Falls reach a maximum speed of 40 km/hr or 25 mph. The fastest speeds occur at the Falls with a record of 68 mph.
- The water through the Whirlpool Rapids below the falls reaches 48 km/hr or 30 mph, and the Niagara River is a connecting channel between two Great Lakes, Erie and Ontario.
- The brown foam below Niagara Falls is a natural result of tons of water plummeting into the depths below. It is not dangerous. The brown colour is clay, which contains suspended particles of decayed vegetative matter. It is mostly from the shallow eastern basin of Lake Erie.
- The startling green colour of the Niagara River is a visible tribute to the erosive power of water. An estimated 60 tons of dissolved minerals are swept over Niagara Falls every minute. The colour comes from the dissolved salts and “rock flour”, which is very finely ground rock, picked up primarily from the limestone bed but probably also from the shales and sandstones under the limestone cap at the Falls.
For more fun facts, check out our article about Ontario Facts!
Things to Do in Niagara Falls
Okay, now for the fun part. Niagara Falls is an extremely touristy city and therefore, there are loads of attractions. Think of it as a mini Las Vegas but with a waterfall instead of a desert. In addition, if you’re looking to book your Niagara Falls tours and attractions now, please use our links and help us support this site. There’s no additional charge for you but we receive a very small percentage as affiliates.
Admire the Falls from the Boardwalk
To kick things off, one of the best things to do in Niagara Falls is actually free. Simply walk along the boardwalk near the falls and admire them for as long as you want. If you walk towards the Table Rock Welcome Centre, you’ll be able to stand right next to the crest, imagining what it would be like to fall off. I mean, people have gone off in barrels before. Although we’re focused on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, that’s actually where most of the beauty lies.
Before we continue, it’s good to know that Niagara Falls is the name given to the entire area as well as the city. There are actually three waterfalls, with just one being responsible as the star attraction.
The waterfalls are as follows:
Horseshoe Falls (aka Canadian Falls) is the one you are probably thinking of when you think of “Niagara Falls”. This is the waterfall that clings to the Canadian side, has a distinct “U” shape, and delivers most of the water flow of Niagara Falls over a 50-metre drop.
The American Falls is the waterfall that falls on the US side of the river. It’s very flat in profile with many rocks at the base. It’s quite small in comparison to Horseshoe Falls.
Lastly, there is the Bridal Veil Falls, which is the smallest waterfall to the right of the larger American Falls. All three can be captured in one photo from the Canadian side.
Niagara Hornblower Cruise
The Hornblower Cruise is easily the most popular attraction in the area. The ships run like clockwork, leaving every 20 minutes or so, each packed with people. The tour only takes 15-20 minutes and costs approximately $22. This is such a great way to get up close and personal with Horseshoe Falls and truly feel the power of all that water, which includes getting wet with all the mist. In fact, everyone gets a plastic poncho to wear before you board the boat. Keep this in mind if you’re bringing your camera.
If you’re interested in experiencing the Hornblower Cruise, you can buy your skip-the-line Hornblower tickets in advance here. You can also buy tickets onsite through the self-serve kiosks but if you’re visiting during the busy summer months, this is something you might want to avoid.
Another fun feature about the Niagara Hornblower Cruise is that you get to take a funicular ride to the bottom. Once you arrive, you’ll grab your red poncho and line up for the cruise. The boats have two decks. We prefer the upper deck, which is more exposed to the elements, but they also have lower-level viewing with seats.
Niagara Hornblower Funicular + Riverside Patio
Although we highly recommend a cruise, if it’s simply not your thing, you could just take the funicular (for a small fee) down to the Hornblower cafe and enjoy a meal and/or drink. The funicular is really made for cruise passengers but you can pay a small fee just to ride it.
This funicular dates all the way back to 1894 and was modernized over the years. There are pretty good views as you make the descent and there’s audio commentary as well. Once at the bottom, you’ll find the Riverside Patio where you can enjoy a bite while admiring views of the falls.
Niagara Falls Night Cruise with Dinner
Looking for a romantic evening? We can’t imagine something more romantic than the Niagara Falls Night Cruise with dinner. When the sun goes down, Niagara Falls is transformed into an illuminated wonderland, and this 4-hour experience will give you a unique look at this world wonder. First, you’ll dine at Table Rock Restaurant with amazing views of Horseshoe Falls. Then, you’ll get to visit the Illumination Tower, where you control the lights that appear on the falls. And then, you’ll jump on the boat for an evening cruise to falls.
Journey Behind the Falls
Another popular attraction is taking the Journey Behind the Falls tour, which as you may have guessed, literally takes you behind the falls through a series of tunnels. Visitors take an elevator down 125 feet where you’ll find tunnels that lead to some lookout points behind Horseshoe Falls. However, as cool as it is to peer out from behind the falls, the best part of the tour in our opinion is standing next to the falls outdoors on their viewing platform. This way you get to take your time and get a unique look at the falls from the side. This is also where many of the famous pictures are taken.
Many people do a package tour, which includes Journey Behind the Falls, the Niagara Falls Fury experience, and the Butterfly Conservatory for just $25. There are other packages as well.
Niagara Helicopter Tour
One of our favourite activities during our visit to Niagara Falls was taking a helicopter flight. If you have the budget, it’s truly incredible to see the falls from up in the sky. It just adds an entirely different dimension as you see the mist rise high into the sky.
Flights depart from the heliport north of downtown and take you on a short 12-minute flight over Niagara Gorge/River and the mighty falls.
If you’re interested in an action-packed Niagara experience, you might want to check out the ultimate Niagara Falls day tour where you can get a helicopter tour, a boat ride, a trek behind the Falls, and a meal in the Skylon Tower to see ALL angles of Niagara Falls! When else will you be back?
The White Water Walk
If you enjoy a scenic walk, another popular thing to do is the White Water Walk, which is a walking trail that takes you along the Niagara River, offering you the chance to see the rapids and the power of the river that’s created by the falls themselves.
It starts by taking an elevator 70 metres down to the Niagara Gorge where you’ll be able to do a self-guided tour along a 400-metre boardwalk. Almost anyone can do this and it’s also a great way to learn about the 410-million-year-old rock layers that make up the geology of the area. It’s also just a beautiful walk.
The boardwalk also included a variety of viewing platforms that allow you to safely get as close as you can to the famous Whirlpool rapids.
WildPlay MistRider Ziplining
If zip-lining is your thing, you may want to consider doing it with views of Niagara Falls. WildPlay offers a 670-metre long zip-line starting from an elevated platform and heading towards Horseshoe Falls.
In addition to the zip-line, they also offer an adventure course over by the Niagara Whirlpool. For more info, visit their website.
Clifton Hill Attractions
Clifton Hill is a popular tourist street known as “The Street of Fun at the Falls!” When asked to compare it to something, the only thing I can think of is Las Vegas, but with fewer fancy hotels and casinos, and more for families. This area is packed with attractions, museums, eateries, shops, and more!
Some of the popular attractions here include Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium, the Great Canadian Midway, Dinosaur Adventure Golf, Guinness World of Records, The House of Frankenstein, Louis Tussauds Wax Museum, Escape Rooms, and more. You’ll even find Go-Karts and a pretty good view of the American Falls.
As you’ve probably guessed right now, this area has a lot of restaurants but not always the best service or the best price. Just check some reviews before going. There are lots of restaurants all over the city and certainly not just in the Clifton Hill area.
If this type of area is your thing, you may want to look into the Clifton Hill Fun Pass, which includes admission to a variety of attractions at a discounted rate.
Yet another fun attraction that offers beautiful views is the Niagara SkyWheel. Opening in 2006, this is one of the newer attractions and it stands 53 metres tall. If mini-golf is your thing, you can also enjoy Dinosaur Adventure Golf as it’s in the same area.
No major tourist destination would be complete without a view tower that offers dinner. If you’re into heights and grand views, you might want to head up to the Skylon Tower. Dating back to 1965, you can take the iconic yellow elevators up to the viewing platform for 360-degree views!
The tower offers views from approximately 236-metres above the falls and as previously mentioned, also offers the chance for some fine dining.
Queen Victoria Park
Located along the upper walkway of the Niagara Parkway is the beautiful and popular Queen Victoria Park. The park is quite big and can be a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of one of Canada’s most iconic destinations. For those of you into flowers, this is one park you should not miss. Niagara Parks takes incredible care of the place and it really is a beautiful place to stroll around. You’ll also find a variety of statues and historical sites scattered throughout the park.
Niagara Falls Nightly Fireworks + Illumination of the Falls
Those of you into fireworks (who isn’t?) will really enjoy Niagara Falls because, during the busy summer months, fireworks are held daily at 10 PM and are displayed above the magnificent falls.
That’s right. Each summer from June to September (as well as some weekends after), there are fireworks every night. The fireworks can be seen from many locations, so you don’t really have to be concerned with finding a good spot. During our visit, we went right down to the main boardwalk and enjoyed them right in front of the falls, but any of the viewpoints mentioned in this article would be great. Plus, if your location isn’t ideal, there’s always the next day!
Even the falls themselves are lit up each evening, year-round, illuminating Horseshoe Falls for a really beautiful scene at night. For those who really want to indulge in the experience, you may even want to opt for a Firework Night Cruise to the Falls to see the fireworks and Illumination up close.
Fallsview Casino Resort
Niagara Falls is sort of like a mini Las Vegas. It has lots of hyper-touristic attractions and it also has casinos! The Fallsview Casino isn’t just a casino though. It’s also a resort and entertainment complex.
Located downtown on Fallsview Boulevard, this large complex is a hotel and casino with restaurants and a live entertainment venue for shows, musical performances, and more.
IMAX Niagara Falls
If you’re interested in seeing Niagara Falls on the big screen with dramatic images and loads of history, including those who have challenged the Falls and lived to tell the tales.
Located within a massive pyramid-style building, you’ll find the show “Miracles, Myths, an Magic” offered in many languages (with audio guides). Book your tickets here.
Niagara Falls History Museum
If you’re into history, Niagara Falls has a lot to offer. It might be known for the mighty falls that have made the area world-famous, but it’s also home to some pretty big wards, including the war of 1812 between Britain and the USA. If the falls is all you came for, this museum might inspire you to head towards Niagara-on-the-Lake as well, which is also home to some of Canada’s top wineries.
Dedicated to telling the rich history of the region, the museum is close to downtown and accessible via the WEGO bus. The area itself is also home to loads of military history, including the Drummond Hill Cemetery and the Battle of Lundy’s Lane.
Where else can you stand on a bridge that separates two of the world’s top countries? Separating Niagara Falls, New York from Niagara Falls, Ontario is the Rainbow Bridge, which also offers impressive views of the falls.
Dating back to the 1940s, this famous arch bridge has custom checkpoints at each end because the “border” is literally in the middle! If you’re wanting to explore the American side of Niagara Falls, this is the bridge you want to cross. The bridge is for cars but also has a pedestrian-friendly walkway.
If you’re coming from Canada, you can walk on the bridge to take photos without going through US customs but you will need to return through Canadian customs. However, there is a small fee of four Canadian or American quarters to do the crossing. It seems odd, but yes, you do need QUARTERS. You can get them there but be prepared for a line. It’s much better to have them ready.
Like birds? Then go to the Bird Kingdom!
Located just minutes from American Falls, Bird Kingdom is home to the largest free-flying aviary in the world. Just look for the massive glass building under the Rainbow Bridge.
Rather than being caged up, the birds get to fly around in their “natural habitat”, albeit indoors and maintained year-round. Inside, you’ll find a variety of tropical birds to admire as well as some that you can hold and learn more about.
The Botanical Gardens + Butterfly Conservatory
If you’re really looking for a beautiful place to get away from the hustle and bustle, you may want to consider the Botanical Gardens and Butterfly Conservatory, which can be found on a 99-acre complex just a 10-minutes drive from downtown.
Founded in 1936, this is a great place to admire a variety of flowers, including their famous 2,400-rose garden. In addition, you’ll also find the Butterfly Conservatory, which is home to more than 2,000 butterflies, fluttering around in their humid climate with waterfalls and plants to enjoy.
Niagara Glen + Nature Centre
Want even more nature? I mean, it is Canada after all.
For more nature north of downtown, take a trip to Niagara Glen and Nature Centre. It all starts at a stairway that takes you along 4 kilometres of pathways leading into and within the Niagara Gorge. It’s known for its unique Carolinian Forest, rock formations, fossils, and more.
This area also offers views of the Niagara River Whirlpool, which is pretty cool to see as well. There are even guided hikes you can do as well as the nature centre itself, which also offers views, snacks, and beverages.
Whirlpool Aero Car
Another one of the unique things to do in Niagara Falls is the Whirlpool Aero Car, which soars over the famous Niagara River Whirlpools in a 1916 Spanish cable car.
This one-way 10-minute ride takes you on a 500-metre journey 80 metres above the whirlpools. Another fun fact is that you do actually cross the American border within the “air” but you don’t need any ID or clearance to enjoy the activity.
If this sounds interesting, you should check out this combo ticket for the Whirlpool Aero Car and the Journey Behind the Falls adventure!
By the way, you might be wondering how the Niagara Whirlpool was created.
Well, the huge volume of water rushing from the Falls is slammed into the narrow Great Gorge, which then creates the Whirlpool Rapids that stretches for a whopping 1.6 kilometres (1 mile). The water surface at the whirlpools drops 15 metres and the fast-moving waters can reach speeds as high as 9 mps. One of the cool features is that you can see the “reversal phenomenon”, which occurs when the Niagara River is at full flow and the waters travel over the rapids and enter the pool, then travel counterclockwise around the pool past the natural outlet. Pressure builds up when the water tries to cut across itself to reach the outlet and this pressure forces the water under the incoming stream.
Niagara Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours
If you want to see the whirlpools while enjoying some exhilarating entertainment, you might want to check out the Niagara Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours.
As cool as it is to see the whirlpools from above, it certainly doesn’t compare to soaring through them in a high-power jet boat!
Options include the Wet Tour (yes, you will get wet) and the dry dome boat tour, and both of them last roughly one-hour long. You’ll reach speeds of 100km/h so it’s not really for the faint of heart.
The jet boat leaves from three locations, with the main dock situated in the small town of Queenston, which is accessible via a free shuttle from Floral Clock, which is accessible via the WEGO shuttle if you’re using it as transportation.
During the boat trip, you’ll pass through the stunning Niagara Gorge, as well as a variety of historical points until you reach the whirlpool and other rapids.
If this sounds exciting, you can book your spot on the whirlpool jet boat tour here.
Whirlpool Golf Course
For those into golf, you’ll want to check out the top-rated public Whirlpool Golf Course, which as you may have guessed, is located right next to the famous Niagara River Whirlpool.
In addition to the beautiful course, you’ll also find a popular clubhouse where you can enjoy a nice meal or a drink.
Where else can you find a colourful clock made with flowers?
At first, it might not seem like a worthy attraction, but once you see it, you’ll realize how big it really is and the amount of work it takes to create and maintain.
Located north of the Botanical Gardens, this clock made of flowers actually works! The clock’s face is made up of roughly 16,000 small flowers and is very colourful and beautiful. It chimes every 15 minutes and the back door to the clock might be open for you to see the clock mechanisms and old photos from previous clocks (if you’re lucky!).
There’s lots of parking at the site and it can be a good spot to enjoy a picnic as well.
Queenston Heights Park
If you’re already visiting the Floral Clock, you may as well pay a visit to Queenston Heights Park, which is home to a beautiful green space, monuments, and more. Two of the popular monuments are the Brock monument and the Laura Secord monument.
This place offers very nice views, picnic areas, and a lovely dining experience at Queenston Heights Restaurant.
Take a Niagara-on-the-Lake Wine and/or Food Tour
If you have the time, we highly recommend driving out to Niagara-on-the-Lake, which is famous for its wineries and also for its history. Since this region is one of the top regions in Canada for wine, it makes sense to do a wine tour. There are organized tours that take you around or you can simply drive to the wineries you wish to visit.
The region itself makes for a beautiful road trip but the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is also beautiful and is home to a great food tour as well, which we took back in 2017.
Some of the popular wineries include Inniskillin, Reif Estates, Ravine, and Chateau des Charmes, just to name a few. The drive is only 20-minutes or so from Niagara Falls, so it really does make sense to go if you have an extra day or two.
Best Time to Visit Niagara Falls
Like most of Canada, the best time to visit Niagara Falls is during the warmer summer months. However, spring and fall can be great times as well, and usually a little less busy. The winter is also beautiful but there are fewer attractions to enjoy and the weather can be quite cold. In addition, there is a lot more daylight in the summer months, so you can really milk a day for all its worth.
The summer months in Ontario are hot and humid, which is why this is the prime time to visit Niagara Falls. The sun is out, the sky is blue, and the weather is nice and hot. However, it’s also incredibly busy from mid-June until September, so if you’re visiting this time, you should book well in advance and expect higher fees for hotels.
As we mentioned, spring and fall are great times as well. May and June, September and October, offer nice weather that is still warm but not hot, and also fewer crowds.
Winter in Canada is a beautiful time for snow-covered scenery, but as mentioned, outdoor attractions are limited (or just different) and you will need warm clothes to really enjoy it. However, Niagara Falls is one of the top destinations for New Years Eve parties, typically with big outdoor concerts, fireworks, and more. So, it all depends on what you’re looking for!
Getting Around Niagara Fall
Niagara Falls is relatively small and easy to get around. The main area, including the falls themselves, many of the attractions, Clifton Hill area, and downtown are basically within walking distance. For many of the other attractions slightly further away, such as the Whirlpool Aero Car, there are WEGO buses everywhere, which are buses created to help tourists get around.
Most people visiting Niagara Falls stay downtown or next to the falls, so walking to most attractions is totally feasible.
WEGO runs three coloured lines with routes that cover downtown Niagara Falls, the attractions that run along the river north towards the Floral Clock, Lundy’s Lane, and an extension shuttle service from April to October that takes you to Niagara on the Lake.
The three lines conveniently meet around the Table Rock Visitor Centre at Horseshoe Falls. You can learn more about the routes and prices here. In addition, you can always snag a taxi or an Uber as well.
If you want maximum convenience or plan to travel further, we can certainly recommend a rental car as well. We’re almost always on some sort of Canada road trip, so we love to travel with our own vehicle.
TIP: For those travelling between downtown and the falls, it can be quite hilly. Those looking for a workout will be pleased but if you have mobility issues or just don’t feel up to it, there’s an Incline Railway that goes from the Fallsview downtown area to the Table Rock Welcome Centre (more or less).
Where to Eat in Niagara Falls
There are hundreds of restaurants in Niagara Falls to choose from. Whether you’re looking for fine dining or casual food, there’s something for everyone. We’ll simply list a few options below to give you some ideas.
Prime Steakhouse: I’m not sure if we’ve ever seen such a perfect rating for a restaurant. According to TripAdvisor, this restaurant has more than 1,600 reviews, with an average of 5-stars! We love a good steak, so if that’s what you’re after, and you don’t mind paying for it, this is the place to go. There are also fantastic views of the falls.
Queen Charlotte Tea Room: For lunch, another 5-star heavily-reviewed restaurant in Niagara Falls is the Queen Charlotte Tea Room. They’re popular for their High Tea but they also serve classic meals such as Fish N Chips and Roast Beef Dinner.
Doc Magilligan’s Restaurant & Irish Pub: Located within the lovely Best Western Plus Cairn Croft Hotel, this is one of the best Irish Pubs we’ve had dinner at. Whether you opt for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, they have something great on the menu. For us personally, we loved the Bangers & Mash, the Taste of Ireland sampler, and the Shepherd’s Pie.
Where to Stay in Niagara Falls
As one of Canada’s prime tourist destinations, there’s no shortage of hotels and accommodation options.
If budget is no issue and you’re looking for beautiful views of the falls right from your bedroom, there are a few options such as:
– Embassy Suites by Hilton
– Tower Hotel at Fallsview
– Niagara Falls Marriott Fallsview Hotel & Spa
– Radisson Hotel & Suites Fallsview
– Marriott on the Falls
If you don’t care about the view, don’t like the prices, or there’s simply no availability, the next best option is to stay somewhere downtown. As mentioned earlier in this travel guide, most hotels, motels, and BnBs are within walking distance of most of the attractions.
Some cool options that also have views of the American Falls include the Sheraton on the Falls and Quality Hotel Fallsview Cascade, which is actually more towards the budget side of Niagara Falls hotels.
During our stay, we stayed at the Best Western Plus Cairn Croft Hotel, which is a little further out of the way but has all the comforts and amenities that Best Western is known for, as well as a popular Irish Pub, which is great for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
In addition, there are quite a few Bed and Breakfast Guesthouses in quieter parts of the city where you can feel more like a local and stay in a charming cosy place rather than a big hotel.
For more things to do in Ontario, check out our other travel guides below:
samantha s says
I love Niagara <3 I've never been to the Bird Kingdom, but it sounds like it's a lot of fun!
We have been so many times and there is always something new to do or try! My kids love going and I love seeing their faces light up! We are already discussing our next visit!
Betty S says
This is a great comprehensive Guid to Niagara