Visiting Niagara Falls is on our list as one of the must-do activities in Canada, and it’s not hard to see why. The world-renowned waterfall has so many things to see and has countless memorable experiences to enjoy.
Holidays and trips to Canada just wouldn’t be the same without making the effort to see Niagara Falls and that’s why over 12 million holidaymakers from across the world visit every summer.
Although the breath-taking falls are the main event, the area’s allure doesn’t end there as it boasts a number of other attractions to visit and activities to try. There are so many Niagara Falls attractions that a day just isn’t enough – here we take you through some of the best things you can do during a visit to the falls.
Cycling at Niagara Falls is definitely one of the top things to do and offers visitors the chance to have a fun, active day while also benefitting from some of the best views of the falls.
Ontario By Bike is a useful resource to use when cycling around Niagara Falls and the Niagara area. You can find information and maps on local trails, and they list popular cycle routes that take visitors to some of the top sites in the area.
There are plenty of bike tour operators offering guided tours into wine country, plus over 160 certified bicycle-friendly businesses. Ontario By Bike suggest following the 140km Greater Niagara Circle Route if you are looking for a multi-day tour. With this route you can enjoy an off-road experience from the falls to Lake Erie, along Welland Canal and on to Lake Ontario’s Waterfront Trail.
Ontario By Bike added, “The best way to really discover Niagara, the falls and beyond, is by hopping on two wheels. The bike path that runs alongside Niagara River is a real treasure. With plenty of scenic lookouts, parks and forested glades, winding the way into wine country and Niagara-on-the-Lake is really just a short ride away, but better stretched into a whole day.”
On summer weekends visitors can get from Toronto to the Niagara Falls via the regional train, Go Transit. Or you can check out Canada car rental and drive from Toronto. To find out more about cycling in Ontario you can check out Ontario By Bike’s magazines.
The Skylon Tower is an iconic site at Niagara Falls. In just 52 seconds visitors can ascend to the top of the tower and get magnificent views of the Horseshoe and American Falls, Great Gorge and Niagara River.
As the tallest freestanding structure that is closest to both falls, the Skylon Tower offers unmatched panoramic views of the city, the surrounding wine region and the skyscrapers of Toronto and Buffalo.
The indoor/outdoor Observation Decks of the Skylon Tower stand an impressive 775 feet (236 metres) above the falls. On top of giving visitors views that will not be forgotten for the rest of their lives, the tower has two restaurants at the top of the building: the famed Revolving Dining Room and the Summit Suite Buffet.
There is also a Family Fun Centre at the base of the tower that is Niagara’s largest entertainment complex. Here families can find interactive games, rides for all ages, 3D/4D theatres and a range of speciality Niagara Falls shops. The Skylon Tower is open all year from 8am-midnight.
Aquarium of Niagara
The Aquarium of Niagara is home to over 150 aquatic animals, including sharks, octopus, lionfish, seals, sea lions and penguins.
This is a must-visit for animal lovers as visitors can watch sea lion shows, seal shows, penguin feedings and shark or tidal pool feeding sessions.
With a strong focus on conservation, the aquarium’s animals are all rescued marine mammals that have been rehomed in the aquarium after being deemed non-releasable. The Aquarium of Niagara is also one of only 20 establishments in the US and Canada to house and care for the threatened Humboldt penguins and one of 10 to house grey seals.
If you save this image to your smartphone and show it to the staff at Aquarium of Niagara you can get a child in free with a paying adult from now until May 15th. Entry costs for adults are $14 per person and child tickets normally cost $9 per child.
Niagara Falls History Museum
To truly understand the greatness of Niagara Falls visitors should head to the Niagara Falls History Museum, which is one of the best, most affordable attractions for people of all ages to visit.
Visitors to the Museum in the heart of Niagara Falls will learn about the history surrounding the falls. In a hands-on approach, visitors can try on a replica wool uniform from the War of 1812 and feel the weight of a musket, build a bridge to span the Niagara Gorge, or walk the tightrope like the daredevils from the past.
Located in the 1874 Stamford Town Hall, the museum has a huge collection of Niagara Falls history and memorabilia. The museum’s recent $12 million renovation and expansion has created a dynamic space to examine and explore the region’s history.
You will also be able to visit the battlefields of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane, one of the bloodiest battles during the Anglo-American War of 1812.
Bird Kingdom Niagara Falls
A great adventure that is fun for all ages is the Bird Kingdom Niagara Falls. Intrepid explorers can journey to find the legendary Lost Kingdom, whilst encountering exotic birds, animals and reptiles along the way.
Visitors can walk into a Small Bird Aviary where winged wonders fly freely around you, while the Night Jungle promises close encounters with owls, bats, reptiles and more. There is also an old museum and an explorer base camp where visitors can meet parrots, exotic birds and animals.
The attraction is home to the world’s largest free-flying indoor aviary where visitors can watch exotic birds fly and play, and visitors can even get interactive by feeding and interacting with colourful lorikeets.
Round off your visit at the Macaw Market and pick up a souvenir or gift. Bird Kingdom Niagara Falls is open from 9:30am-5pm from September to June or 9am-6.30pm in July and August.
World Famous Nightmares Fear Factory
The Nightmares Fear Factory at Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls is not for the faint hearted, but is perfect for anyone who wants a thrill and some excitement.
The World Famous Nightmares Fear Factory is the most terrifying haunted house experience, that only a handful have fully completed. The attraction is housed in an abandoned Cataract Coffin Factory which comes with a grisly past. Proprietor Abraham Mortimer was murdered after being crushed to death by oak coffins that were pushed onto him by a group of youngsters, who were never found.
The legend goes that Mortimer’s coffin was unearthed and discovered to be empty, and that he now walks the halls for revenge on those who trespass his abandoned factory.
The Nightmares Fear Factory’s ‘Fear Pics’ are so hilarious that they have been shown all over the planet and have featured on BuzzFeed, Mashable, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Good Morning America, The Huffington Post, CNN, Wired, The Today Show! Show and lots more.
Thrill seekers enter the pitch black factory and follow a trail of red lights. While there are no ‘live actors’, grotesque scenes, blood or gore, the experience is said to “mess with your mind”. The Nightmares Fear Factory has seen over 135,000 people chicken out and not complete the haunt.
So if you are visiting Niagara Falls and fancy being one of only a few to complete the course, then why not test your metal?
Clifton Hill Fun by the Falls
Also on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls – and mercifully terror-free – is Clifton Hill Fun by the Falls that offers an array of attractions, restaurants, shops and nightclubs.
Here you’ll find a giant wheel that rises 175 feet above Niagara Falls, life-size dinosaurs in a 36-hole mini-golf course and over 300 interactive games in this entertainment complex.
Niagara’s best themed restaurants, dining chains and nightlife outlets are located at Clifton Hill. If you want a bit of retail therapy after an active day, then there are lots of gift shops, confectionery stores and more for shoppers to browse through.
Eating and drinking at Niagara Falls
Whether you have been up Skylon Tower, walking, cycling, been scared half to death or ridden the big wheel during your day at the falls, you will need to grab some good grub to keep you going.
Eating Niagara, a blog about local eating and agriculture in Ontario’s Niagara region, has plenty of recommendations and tips for visitors to keep note of.
For Italian – Napoli Ristorante and Pizzeria
Tiffany Mayer from Eating Niagara said, “One of the longest-running Italian eateries in the region, everything here is fantastic but the Napolitano pizza will make you swoon (or is the one to avoid if you are fussy about anchovies). Service is wonderful, too.” Check out the Napoli Ristorante and Pizzeria website here.
For Vietnamese food – Pho Xyclo
Eating Niagara recommend Pho Xyclo as the “perfect stop for Vietnamese” food with steaming bowls of noodle soup and fresh spring rolls ruling supreme.
Mayer adds, “The service is great, and very accommodating for vegetarians and vegans.”
For local foods – The Sterling Inn
Mayer advises, “AG Cuisine at The Sterling Inn will give diners a taste of regional seasonal fare. This white linen establishment has a boudoir feel to it and is a great place for a romantic dinner.”
For seafood – Tide & Vine Oyster House
The Tide & Vine Oyster House has been dubbed perfect for people who love oysters and seafood by Eating Niagara as they cook and present their dishes in creative ways.
The restaurant also serves food from the land as well as the water, and local craft beers and Niagara wine will help you wash down your delicious meal.
For Greek food – Koutouki, for Indian food – Moksha and Passage to India
Mayer recommends the following restaurants should you want to try dishes from India and Greece: “Koutouki has thoughtful service and impressive Greek fare while Moksha Indian Cuisine offers upscale curries. Passage to India offers a more casual buffet with the option of ordering off the menu. It’s reasonable and wonderful.”
For great food and views – Elements on the Falls
According to Eating Niagara, the Elements on the Falls offers the best views of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls whilst dining. The menu won’t disappoint either as it appeals to both those who are after fine dining and those who are after something more casual.
For local favourites – Backhouse and Garrison House
Eating Niagara writer Tiffany Mayer also highly recommends the Backhouse restaurant. She said, “In nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake, Backhouse is both beautiful in setting and food. Chef Ryan Crawford really brings out the best in the food he serves. There’s a farmer on staff and these guys can make kohlrabi sound sexy on a menu. Bespoke cocktails, pizza and regional fare are its claim to fame.”
Garrison House is a local favourite in the Niagara region as it is a great place to split some fries and drink local brews.
For drinks – Silversmith Brewery
If you are after a drink rather than some food, then Silversmith Brewery is the place to go as Mayer explains, “Their flagship brew is a German-style black lager. It’s my favourite local beer. I could drink it like water but don’t. Tide and Vine also serves here, too, so you can get a quick nosh with your pint.”
For a variety of international foods – Oast House Brewers
Nearby to Silversmith Brewery is Oast House Brewers, where hugely popular chef and author Adam Hynam-Smith of El Gastronomo Vagabundo serves globally inspired food on an ever-changing menu. What started out as Ontario’s first gourmet street food truck now has a regular home at Oast House Brewers.
Eating Niagara add, “This guy (Adam Hynam-Smith) is an ace with flavours, having learned in the kitchens of Australia, Thailand, Morocco, and elsewhere. I’ve never had anything that I haven’t loved. On Friday nights, they have live music. But again, Adam is only there on weekends.”
Image Credit: Niagara Cycling Tourism Centre, Skylon Tower, Aquarium of Niagara, Niagara Falls History Museum, Bird Kingdom Niagara Falls, World Famous Nightmares Fear Factory.