It’s hard to describe the thunder and wonder of Niagara Falls. There’s something about witnessing the equivalent of a million bathtubs of water per second crashing down into a steep basin. It makes you feel pretty small in the scheme of things. As amazing as this waterfall is, there’s plenty of other fantastic things to do in Niagara Falls, Canada.
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Things To Do In Niagara Falls Canada
While Niagara Falls is indeed a town in Canada (and the U.S.), the actual big deal falls – Horseshoe Falls lies on the Canadian side of the border. On the US side, you’ve got Bridal Veil Falls and American Falls. But besides gazing in awe at these wonders of nature (best viewed from the Canadian side), there’s plenty of other things to do in Niagara Falls Canada.
Taking in Niagara Falls is absolutely free. You can walk right up to the railing that separates we mere mortals from the fury and beauty that is Horseshoe Falls. This is a site that begs to be seen, being one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and all.
But you won’t be alone. This is Canada’s top tourist attraction, receiving over 10 million visitors a year, with the majority visiting in July and August. There’s a carnival-like atmosphere at the Clifton Hill attractions, but don’t forget the main attraction is a natural one. With world renowned gardens to golf to a myriad of hiking and biking trails, there’s plenty of opportunities to get grounded in nature
Note: Some attractions may be closed during COVID restrictions. Please check in advance and maintain proper public health protocols.
Tip: Niagara Parks has an annual parking pass, which offers one full year of unlimited parking at most Niagara Parks lots for up to two vehicles for only $40 CAD. Get it here. If you plan on only coming once (shame), check out this list where to park near the top sites.
Niagara City Cruises
Venturing into the heart of the Niagara Great Gorge is pretty incredible. You’ll probably kick yourself if you don’t step aboard one of these two purpose-built catamaran boats aptly named Niagara Wonder and Niagara Thunder operated by Niagara City Cruises. Sometimes it pays to do the obvious tourist activity and this is one of those times.
Hoping on one of these 700-seat tour boats takes you as close as possible into the basin. Sailing past American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and into the heart of the infamous Horseshoe Falls, this is your opportunity to experience the famed waterfall in a way that just wasn’t feasible until these boats came into existence.
The sheer volume of water that pounds into the basin produces a lot of spray. And I mean a lot. (20% of the world’s freshwater cascades into this gorge.) It’s that spray that’ll douse you, so be sure to wear waterproof mascara and not worry too much about your hair frizzing.
Walk Behind the Falls
Besides the boat cruise and the viewing decks, you can also take in the falls from behind. Located in the Table Rock Welcome Centre, Journey Behind the Falls is one of the most interesting ways to get up close and personal with this feat of nature.
You begin by taking an elevator down 45 metres (150 ft.). Interestingly, this elevator was carved through the bedrock over a century ago. It deposits you at the foot of several tunnels that lead 1/3 of the way behind the mighty Horseshoe Falls.
The waterfall begins 13 storeys above where you’ll stand. Along viewing platforms, you can take in these massive sheets of water as they tumble down (over 2,800 cubic meters of water every second), traveling 65-kilometres per hour!
Be sure to check out the history of how this attraction came into being via the exhibits lining the cavernous tunnel walls. Here’s a tour you can take from the American side – that includes Journey Behind the Falls.
Tip: It’s quite cool down here, so it’s wise to bring a sweater.
This sensory experience tells the story of the fall’s creation from the last Ice Age. After stepping into a chamber encircled by a 360-degree screen, the multimedia show begins with temperature drops, a simulated blizzard, and plenty of water – just in case you didn’t get soaked on the Hornblower Cruise.
Luckily, rain ponchos are handed out before Niagara’s Fury begins, but wearing them is up to you. If you’ve got kids, they’re sure to get a kick out of the animated beaver who narrates the story behind this natural history phenomenon. They won’t even realize they’re getting an educational experience.
Fallsview Indoor Water Park
When you want to purposefully get wet, head to Fallsview Indoor Water Park. Boasting 16 waterslides (some 6-stories high), a wave pool, outdoor activity pool and two adult’s only supersized Jacuzzis, there’s truly something for all ages here. For kids, there’s a play area and jungle beach playhouse.
An annual summer fireworks display is the highlight of each evening. The festivities begin around 9pm, and if you’re not zip lining, your next best observation point is along the Niagara Parkway railing.
Note: Fireworks may be on hold due to provincial restrictions limiting social gatherings during COVID-19.
You may want to avoid it or you may wish to run straight towards this tourist promenade. If you’re looking for souvenirs, carnie food and games or general all round entertainment, you’ll want to make a beeline for Clifton Hill. Here’s its top attractions:
Note: Some attractions may be closed during COVID restrictions. Please check in advance.
You’ve likely looked up at or across to the falls, but seeing them from above literally takes it to new heights. While it may look like a ferris wheel, the SkyWheel is actually 42 climate-controlled gondolas that rise 175 feet above the Falls, delivering some pretty epic views.
Spread out over 4-acres, you can go up to 32 km/hr at this go-kart course. Unlike your typical go-kart course, this one is elevated and is the largest elevated coaster-styled track in North America. Elevated ramps and hair-pain curves are sure to get the adrenaline pumping.
Dinosaur Adventure Golf features two 18-hole courses. It sports some pretty cool features like a 50-foot high steam-erupting volcano, life-sized dinosaurs and a sound system pumping out jungle and nature effects.
There’s also Wizard’s Golf Mini Put – an 18-hole course with glow in the dark features.
Movieland Wax Museum
Like Madame Tussaud’s, but filled with more recognizable stars, this wax museum includes a House of Horrors. Better yet, you can make a wax replica of your own hand in the gift shop.
You can find 14 full size 10 pin bowling lanes at BP Bowling & Games. They’ve also got billiards, pin ball and other arcade games. Hungry? Order off the Boston Pizza menu.
Over 500 odd, creepy and amusing displays are found at this Ripley’s Believe It or Museum.
Great Canadian Midway
What’s a tourist zone without carnie games? Boring, that’s what. Here, you’ll find over 300 games to dazzle, entertain and quickly empty your wallet.
Amusement Park Rides
Throughout Clifton Hill, there’s several amped up theme-park style rides to tempt thrill seekers. There’s Ghost Blasters, a mild, haunted amusement ride. Zombie Attack is an apocalyptic interactive adventure that gets good reviews. Rollercoaster fans will want to get whooshed along Wild West Coaster – reaching 2 G’s of acceleration.
Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens
The falls aren’t the only impressive bit of nature you’ll find in this lush pocket of Ontario. After the sensory overload of Clifton Hill amusements, go ground yourself at Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens. This serene setting, comprised of beautifully maintained gardens and ponds is set over 100 acres – plenty of room for a physically distanced stroll.
The region is considered to be the daffodil capital of North America. Each year Niagara Parks plants thousands of those sunny flowers. As the bulbs have naturalized, it’s now estimated there’s millions of daffodils blooming throughout the Park.
If the kids are hyped up, make a beeline for the Butterfly Conservatory. Here, they’re sure to calm down within a matter of minutes, as they meander through the rainforest setting.
Hundreds of colourful butterflies dance in the air and are apt to take a fancy to one of your lot, landing right on their shirts or hands or hair. Along the self-guided walking tour, you’ll come across over 2,000 butterflies, made up of 45 different species floating freely in this enchanted space. Exotic, tropical greenery and flowers line the paths that wind past a pond and waterfall.
The world’s largest free-flying indoor aviary, Bird Kingdom is home to hundreds of tropical birds. Sporting several aviaries, you can meet parrots, rare and endangered small birds and even feed colourful Lorikeets (Australian parrots). Be sure to suss out the Night Jungle to learn more about owls, bats and other creatures of the night.
Situated at Thompson Point, Whirlpool Adventure Course offers zip lines and suspended obstacles in the great outdoors. Daredevils can tackle the 40-foot “What’s to Fear Jump,” while the rest of us can attempt the 3 self-paced adventure courses.
Zipline to the Falls sounds scary, but it’s actually an invigorating, guided zip line tour that descends 670 metres (2200 feet) into the Niagara Gorge. All the while, you’ll be taking in sweeping views of the gorge, plus the American and Horseshoe Falls.
Tip: Try this zip line at night and you’ll get to watch the falls get illuminated with coloured lights. It’s an experience you’re not likely to forget.
White Water Walk
This refreshing walk is the perfect tonic for a change of pace on a sweltering summer’s day. At 1,000 ft (¼ mile), the boardwalk that runs along the rapids isn’t long, and is suitable for grandparents, toddlers and strollers.
The path leads to two observation areas at the edge of the river and is strewn with lots of interesting factoids along the way. It’s pretty incredible witnessing how fast the water surges through the gorge. The Class 6 Whirlpool Rapids it creates combined with the cool breezes that float off the water ensure you’ll leave this walk rejuvenated.
Where to Stay in Niagara Falls
If you are keen to stay within walking distance of the falls, consider splurging on one of the three hotels connected to Fallsview Indoor Waterpark: Sheraton Fallsview, Crowne Plaza Niagara or the Skyline Hotel & Waterpark. Naturally, the tricked out waterpark will amuse the kiddies if navigating the streets is too much, but if you’re lucky enough to score a room facing the falls, the nighttime illumination the perfect prelude to dreamland.
A short drive away from the falls, Great Wolf Lodge is an attractive option that was built with families in mind. The all-suite property offers a variety of room styles – many of which are themed. Kitted out with bunk beds and a TV just for kids, it’s the ultimate sleepover space.
To keep the kids entertained, there’s a game room, ice cream-themed spa, plus supervised children’s activities. Your biggest challenge could very well be deciding what to hit first: the massive indoor water park or the child-friendly bowling alley. For mom and dad, there’s a 24-hour fitness centre and a spa.
How to get to Niagara Falls
If you’re heading out from Toronto, how you get to Niagara Falls couldn’t be easier. It’s an easy day trip and during the summer months, VIA Rail offers several departures each day, as do GO train and bus services from several city locations.
Books about Niagara Falls
There are several books about Niagara Falls that are suited for kids and will help them get excited about their trip. First up, I have to be cheeky and recommend my book: 25 Places in Canada Every Family Should Visit.
Both are illustrated history books that will make young children even more eager to visit. The Niagara Falls Mystery is a Boxcar Classic, suitable for young readers.
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