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I remember road tripping to Niagara Falls as a child and having had about a 30 second attention span of looking at the waterfalls before wondering what was next. To my surprise, something was next – something that would leave me traumatized and repulsed by Niagara Falls for many years to come: the Maid of the Mist. Looking back now, it is no surprise that a super touristy activity left me feeling cold, wet, and utterly miserable, but at the time I chalked it up to Niagara Falls being not my cup of tea. Fast forward 20 years or so and at least 30 return trips later, and I absolutely love visiting Niagara Falls. Over the years, my family and I have discovered a plethora of fun activities to do in Niagara Falls that have nothing to do with the Falls themselves. If you are visiting Niagara Falls for the first time or finding yourself dreading yet another trip to the Falls, our guide to 8 fun things to do in Niagara Falls is for you.
1. The Falls
If you’re visiting Niagara Falls for the first time, you obviously have to make a stop to see the Falls. After parking your car in Clifton Hill or near the Niagara River, you can walk the 2.5 km stretch between the Rainbow Bridge and Horseshoe Falls. Along this stretch, you’ll first come across Niagara Falls, and if you look further south, you’ll see Horseshoe Falls, which gets its name from its horseshoe shape. Try to get there as early as possible, so you won’t be fighting the crowds for a photo in front of the falls.
2. WildPlay Niagara Falls Zipline To the Falls
Now that you’ve seen the Falls, it’s time to explore the other fun things to do in Niagara Falls, but if you’re an adrenaline junkie, you’ll want to check out one more thing before leaving the Falls. Near the intersection of Falls Avenue and Clifton Hill, just south of the Rainbow Bridge, you will find the WildPlay Niagara Falls MistRider Zipline To the Falls, where you can zipline 670 meters (2,220 feet) at speeds of more than 70 kph (40 mph) over the Niagara River and to the Falls observation landing. WildPlay recently opened a nighttime zipline as well, which allows you to zipline over the Falls while they are illuminated in color at night. You can see their full price sheet and hours on the WildPlay Niagara Falls website here.
3. Clifton Hill
Clifton Hill is the name of a tourist area and of the street that runs perpendicular to Falls Avenue, right around the Rainbow Bridge. Here, you’ll find gimmicky attractions like the Guinness World of Records Museum, a wax museum, a mirror and laser maze, mini golf, and go karts. You’ll also find lots of souvenir shops, carnival snacks, and a big ferris wheel, where you can have a nice overhead view of the Falls from the top.
If you are visiting the Falls with young kids, they’ll likely want to drag you into every building at Clifton Hill, but if you are kids-free, you’ll probably find yourself without much of a reason to stay here long. If you do find yourself stuck in Clifton Hill, or if you just want to rest for a bit after walking around the Falls, I would recommend heading over to Niagara Brewing Company for some beers and snacks.
Clifton Hill is also a good place to park your car if you’re visiting the Falls on a weekend or holiday. There is a large outdoor paid parking lot on Oneida Lane between the Dinosaur Adventure Golf (you can’t miss it with all the large dinosaurs outside) and the Niagara Speedway (looks like a multi-level parking garage with go karts) that always has empty spots, even during busy weekend hours.
4. Niagara Glen Trails
Once you’ve left Clifton Hill and the Falls, drive north on Niagara Parkway until you reach Niagara Glen Nature Centre. Niagara Glen was designated a nature reserve in 1992 and contains 4 km (2.5 miles) of paths that wind up and down through forests lining the Niagara River. There are also a number of boulders here that were left behind when the Falls eroded through the area thousands of years ago. Today, the area is a hot spot for bouldering, though you do need to obtain a permit in advance to do so. In the fall months, you can witness the beautiful red and orange colors of the leaves that cover the gorge. Of all the things to do in Niagara Falls, this might be my favorite.
If you are an avid hiker who is looking for more than a mere 4 km (2.5 miles) long hike to occupy your afternoon, you’re in luck because Niagara Parks contains 15 km (9.3 miles) of hiking footpaths through six nature areas that will surely keep you active and entertained all day. If that still isn’t enough for you, there is also a 56 km (34.8 miles) long paved trail that you can run or bike on, which leads from the Falls all the way to Niagara-on-the-Lake.
5. WildPlay Niagara Falls Whirlpool Adventure Course
On the south end of Niagara Glen is WildPlay Niagara Falls’ other main attraction, the Whirlpool Adventure Course. This is essentially an obstacle course that’s suspended high in the air above the whirlpool and Niagara Gorge. There are three different courses you can try at your own pace that involve climbing, zip lining, jumping, and swinging. One of the courses is a kids’ course for children ages 5-12 years old, so this would be a great place to bring your kids and let them run around and release some energy. All participants are strapped onto the course with a rope, so you can rest assured it is perfectly safe. You can see their full price sheet and hours on the WildPlay Niagara Falls website here.
6. Botanical Gardens/Butterfly Conservatory/Floral Clock
If you’re looking for something a little more relaxing than the multitude of hikes discussed above, check out the Botanical Gardens and the Butterfly Conservatory for some natural beauty that’s a bit more laid back. The Botanical Gardens consist of 40 hectares (99 acres) of perrennials, rhododendrons, azaleas, formal parterre garden, shade, herb and vegetable plantings, and a rose garden featuring over 2,400 roses. Best of all, admission is free! Do note, however, that parking costs $5.00 CAD.
The Butterfly Conservatory is located on the grounds of the Botanical Gardens and contains over 2,000 butterflies from 45 different species. You can walk around the Butterfly Conservatory via 180 meters of winding pathways through a tropical environment. There is an admission fee of $16.00 CAD for adults and $10.25 CAD for children (children 5 and under are free), and parking is again $5.00 CAD, but you will only need to pay the parking fee once for both the Botanical Gardens and the Butterfly Conservatory.
Further down the street is the floral clock, a timepiece made up of 16,000 carpet bedding plants. The design is changed twice a year and features viola in the spring and alternanthera and santolina sage in the summer and fall. Admission to the clock is free as well.
7. Niagara Wineries
Unless you’re already familiar with the Niagara region, you might not immediately associate a cold place like Niagara with wine country. Many visitors are surprised to learn that the Niagara peninsula is one of the primary wine producing regions in Canada and produces much more than just ice wine (a dessert wine that is only produced in Canada and Germany). In fact, a variety of wines are produced in the region, including chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet franc, and syrah.
There are over 100 wineries in the Niagara region, so it can be overwhelming to decide which wineries to visit. You could easily spend an entire day hopping from one winery to the next, or book a tour in advance if no one in your group wants to be the designated driver.
If you only have a couple of hours or a day to explore Niagara’s wineries, we would recommend the following:
- Inniskillin Wines: one of the oldest wineries in Niagara that has won major awards for its ice wine | 1499 Line-3, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0
- Konzelmann Estate Winery: very good tours and the only lakefront winery in Niagara | 1096 Lakeshore Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0
- Trius Winery & Restaurant: largest underground sparkling wine cellar in Canada and very good food | 1249 Niagara Stone Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0
- Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery & Distillery: Niagara’s newest winery with a whisky bar patio and ice skating rink out back | 1219 Niagara Stone Rd, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0
- Reif Estate Winery: one of the founding family wineries in Niagara with all around quality wine | 15608 Niagara Parkway, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0
- Peller Estates Winery and Restaurant: barrel cellar and -10 degrees ice bar for tasting ice wines available here | 290 John St. E., Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0
Finally, you’ve made it to Niagara-on-the-Lake, one of the cutest little towns I’ve seen in North America, with historic sites, shops, parks, and a marina. In fact, it’s often called the loveliest town in Ontario, and it’s easy to see why.
Settled at the end of the American Revolution by Loyalists coming to Upper Canada, the town was subsequently purchased by the British Government in 1781. By 1796, 70 new homes were built, and the town had become the economic, administrative, and judicial center for the Niagara Peninsula. However, everything changed in 1812 when the entire town was burned down by the Americans during the War of 1812. Obviously, the town was eventually rebuilt, and today, over 200 years after its founding, this town contains quaint houses, shops, lots of nature, and my favorite ice cream shop, Cows.
Hopefully our guide to these 8 fun things to do in Niagara Falls has inspired you to visit – or revisit – Niagara Falls and its surrounding regions. Even after all these years, I still look forward to visiting the Falls every time because there is such a variety of activities for every taste and mood.
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I have always liked going to Niagara Falls. Perhaps one thing that you can add to your list, is crossing the Rainbow bridge by foot to go to the American side of the falls. From the NY side, it’s a great view.
AJ – That’s a great tip, thanks! I’ve seen people do that before but never done it myself because I always forget to bring my passport with me. Will have to check it out next time!
Yes, you should try it. Funny thing is, you don’t need your passport to get on the bridge and cross over to the point were you enter the US. However, you need your passport to come back, despite not even entering the US. I am sure allot of people get into some major issues because of that.
I absolutely love visiting Niagara Falls. I used to live in Ontario a few years ago and would visit Niagara every few months. My favourite thing to do outside the falls is Niagara on the Lake too. The wine tasting was so much fun. I remember visiting the Jackson Triggs winery, which was really fun…as well as some of the smaller ones. The ice wine is always delicious to try!
Soraya – I don’t think we’ve ever been to Jackson Triggs! Thanks for the tip – we will have to check that out next time we go.
I absolutely agree about hiking around the falls. We grew up in Montreal and have been a few times and I always look forward to the hike rather than then falls…
I completely agree! Now, we will go see the falls for a few minutes maybe, and then go straight to the hikes. It is a lot more fun!
I was in Niagara Fall about 5 years ago and loved it. Your photos are just stunning. I really wish I had read your post before I visited as I’m sure I would have loved the wineries 🙂
Thanks so much! Hopefully you get a chance to go back and check out some of the wineries!
LOVE your photos
I have been to Toronto last year for a day only, in between planes, and I really, really wanted to visit Nigara falls. Unfortunately, the timings weren’t right and I ended up just enjoying Toronto. I didn’t know that there is an entire natural park that you can explore there, and not only the fall itself, which for me is amazing, as I love hiking and exploring. I did try ice wine while I was in Toronto, but I’m afraid it was way too sweet for me. 🙂
Joanna – glad you enjoyed Toronto! It’s a great city. We didn’t realize there was a park there either until we went there many times. And I agree about the ice wine – it is more a dessert wine to be had in small quantities, but it’s pretty difficult to down a whole glass of ice wine because of how sweet it is.
I sat through a 14 hour bus journey to make it to Toronto but never quite made it to the falls unfortunately – we’ll definitely have to go back one day! I love the look of the hike that you’ve recommended! Would you recommend the Maid of the Mist too or is it not top of your list?
Sarah – thank you! To be honest, I’ve only been on Maid of the Mist once, and it was when I was a child. I remember the day clearly because it was cold and rainy, and I got soaked from the ride, even with a poncho on. So needless to say, I did not have a good experience. But that was so long ago, it may be worth a shot. I just think there’s so much other fun stuff to do around the Falls so I’ve never had a huge interest to try it out again.
I lived here for a while! You just brought back some wonderful memories 🙂
I loved Niagara when I was there! I really liked the wineries – my fav was the ice wine; I’d never had any before 🙂
I’ve always been hesitant to visit Niagara Falls for the same reason: I had no idea that there were other things to do, other than stare at the Falls. The WildPlay Niagara Falls MistRider Zipline To the Falls looks like it would definitely get my blood pumping and would be worth a trip! Also that cute little town Niagara-on-the-Lake would be right up my alley. I love history and am fascinated by the Loyalist angle!
Zip lining, Nature reserve, wineries. Oh my! I would have never of guessed. I have yet to visit Niagara Falls but now I have more of a reason. Fantastic post with tons of valuable information. Great share!
Have never been to Niagara Falls, and finding out that there are more fun things to do too, makes me wanna go even more. I love the recommendation of a quiet walk at the Botanical and Butterfly garden 🙂 sounds romantic!
It’s amazing that you have been to Niagara Falls 30 times! I still need to go my first time 🙂 I am also surprised to hear that there are wineries near Niagara Falls. I would definitely spend a couple days extra to try some of the wineries you suggested. They sound sooo amazing. I would especially like to try the ice wine.
Wow that is a whole lot of stuff to do at the Niagara falls. We were there a couple of years ago on the NY side and enjoyed the falls and the natural beauty around it. That zipline looks a lot of fun though. I am not sure I would ever gather courage to do it. But I would if I could! And I would love the Botanical Gardens too. They look so peaceful and serene.
Hey Diana, wow those ziplines….YIKES…lol! I’d love to do that but too chicken..its a shame I am Canadian and have never been to those falls..so beautiful!
Have a great day! Hopefully we can meet up again soon!
It’s amazing that there are so many thrilling outdoor activities at Niagara Falls. There seems to be something for everyone: hiking, wine tasting, zip lining or simply strolling in the botanical park…. the latter sounds very appealing to me.
I haven’t been to Niagara Falls and I have always wanted to do zipline. I think the ambiance is just amazing! Also, I want to try that cowsicecream! It looks so good! I love a good cone of ice cream. Apart from these reasons, it’s in my travel bucket list for a long time. I was jealous of my sister since she went here last year! I hope I can do the same.
This is a pretty extensive list of things to do in Niagara Falls! The zip line was closed when I visited due to high winds, so visitors might want to keep that in mind. I loved the ice wine so much I’m planning on a return visit in winter! I may have to explore some inside places like the butterflies.
I haven’t been to Niagara Falls unfortunately. I would love to go. So much to do and see. The hiking sounds pretty intense, so I would probably enjoy the butterfly farm and gardens, and of course try a couple of wineries too. Are there really over 100 wineries? Wow!
I didn’t know that there are so many things to do around Niagra. The falls are glorious to say the least. I’d love to visit the wineries and the picturesque Glen trails.
Seeing the Niagara Falls is still so high on my wishlist. I didn’t know there are so many things to do there! The zipline looks fantastic and I would love to visit the wineries too!
I have a healthy fear of heights but seeing Niagra falls from the zipline would be absolutely amazing. Great to see there are so many things to do around the falls.
Whenever I go to a hot tourist destination I love to indulge in a few gimmicky attractions. I think Clifton Hill would make for a great Instagram shoot. I would be most at peace at the Niagra Falls Glen Trails and other parks in the area. I do love nature and feel most connected to a destination if I go hiking and explore their green spaces. Great photos and suggestions!
I visited Niagara Falls but could not see other attractions nearby due to lack of time. But I would love to go for Botanical gardens, Niagara wineries during my next visit to Niagara Falls. Those zip lines over the falls must be a real adventure thing to do here.
I have heard so much about Niagara falls. It is absolutely stunning and now there is so much to do around it. I would love to go for the hikes and explore the surroundings. Botanical Gardens, Butterfly Conservatory and Clifton Hill are my kind of things.
Oh my lovely Niagara Falls. I have family around this area and have visited countless of times, regardless, I can never get sick of this place. Seems like you had such a nice time and no wonder, this place is amazing! The WildPlay Niagara Falls Treetop Course is one of my all time favorites and I always recommend this to friends and family.
When people think of going to Niagara falls they think of the falls but not all the other things to do in the area. I didn’t know there were wineries nearby. Thanks! We will check them out if we visit again!