Hotels.com asked me to share my favorite things to do and see while traveling in Niagara Falls. Straddling the international border between New York and Ontario, Niagara Falls is arguably one of the most famous waterfalls in the entire world. The section of the falls accessible from the American side (the aptly named American Falls) is separated from its northern neighbor by the uninhabited Goat Island, itself accessible by two bridges carrying foot, car, and train traffic. There are countless things to do and see in the area, however the main spectacle is the falls itself and the best use of one’s time is found in taking advantage of the various methods of observing this extraordinary natural phenomenon.
You will find a large assortment of hotels for every budget in Niagara Falls, but hotels are most expensive in peak season (summer). This destination is extremely popular with honeymooners! Typically, the hotels in Canada are more expensive and the hotels in America are less expensive. If you are interested in saving money, check out nearby Buffalo, New York. Or think about doing a 2-day Niagara falls tour.
If you are thinking that you want to head there, the following are the five best things for you and your family to experience:
Maid of the Mist
The main reason to visit Niagara Falls is to see the falls and one of the most memorable ways to do just that is to sport a poncho and hop on a Maid of the Mist. These boats have been shuttling visitors to and from the base of the falls since the 1840’s. Warning: be prepared to get wet! The Maid of the Mist practically dunks you under the falls, but rain gear is provided and many say that this is one of the best ways to experience the splendor of Niagara Falls. Aside from the gorgeous views, riders were also pleased with the tour length (20 minutes) and the modest ticket price. You should plan to wear waterproof shoes and gear. To beat the crowds, it is suggested to go to the attraction first thing in the morning (trips begin at 9AM).
Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens
To escape the falls and crowds, take an afternoon and wander around the peaceful Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens. If you love nature, this is the place to be. This 100-acre space is home to dozens of meticulously maintained gardens, which are cared for by students at the on-site horticulture school. During the summer, guided horse-and-carriage tours allow you to explore the gardens in style. The gardens are also home to the Butterfly Conservatory, where several thousand butterflies flutter among brightly colored flowers.
Old Fort Niagara
If you are a history buff, make sure to save time for a visit to Old Fort Niagara. Located on the United States side of the falls, this 17th Century fort has changed hands between French, British, and American troops. This site has seen action during numerous wars, including the American Revolution and the French and Indian War, making it the longest operational fort in North America. Today, the fort occupies one of the most scenic areas in western New York, overlooking both Lake Ontario and the Niagara River. Inside, you can explore underground gunpowder rooms, old army barracks, and ancient cannons.
White Water Walk
If you want to view the falls from a more natural setting, then spend some time stretching your legs on the White Water Walk. After taking an elevator 230 feet to the base of the gorge, you will be able to walk along a quarter-mile boardwalk that overlooks the Great Gorge Rapids from the Canadian side of the Niagara River. Along the walk are several observation areas where you can get a great view of the falls and the turbulent whirlpool below.
The Niagara Falls region is known for one other thing then waterfalls: wine. Make sure to take a drive north along Ontario’s scenic Niagara Parkway to Inniskillin Wines in Niagara-on-the-Lake. This winery is known for its delicious icewine, which is made from grapes that are left to freeze on the vine over the winter. Once temperatures drop to -8 degrees Celsius (about 18 degrees Fahrenheit), the grapes are then collected and allowed to thaw, a process that helps intensify their flavor. Remember to bring a bottle or two home as a souvenir.
Please keep in mind that traveling in this moment remains uncertain, thus always make sure your safety and the safety of others is your #1 priority. If you are indeed comfortable with traveling, ensure you travel responsibly and within regulation. You travel at your own risk.
Here are some recommendations should you travel:
- Wear a face mask.
- Bring hand sanitizer and wash your hands on a regular basis.
- Check official websites before your trip for the latest updates on policies, closures, and status of local businesses. Be aware you might have to self-quarantine upon arrival.
- Book a hotel with free cancellation in case you need to change your plans at the last minute.
- Be patient and calm. Remember we are all trying to do our best and are in this together.
Boasting a reputation as one of Earth’s most marvelous natural wonders, Niagara Falls is a dream vacation destination for everyone. Not only do the falls offer an incredible spectacle, but the wider area is jam-packed with countless additional impressive activities. Whether you come from the Canadian or American side, you will be able to find something for everyone!