Niagara Falls is one of the most emblematic places in the U.S. and Canada and also one of the great wonders of the planet that nature has given us. If we were to turn the falls into a building, it would be the equivalent of a 15-story building, which is almost nothing!
Their beauty has turned them into a natural setting for the filming of movies like 'Pirates of the Caribbean' (2007), 'Superman II' (1980) and 'Niagara' (1953), which elevated Marilyn Monroe to stardom. If you already have the necessary visa and are convinced to visit these movie waterfalls, prepare your backpack, raincoat and hiking boots and write down the top 10 things to see and do in Niagara Falls.
1. Sail a boat and... you feel the water falling
If you're a thrill-seeker, get ready to experience a real adventure. One of the attractions at the falls that impressed me the most was getting on board the Maid of the Mist boat that sails down the river and goes as deep as possible into the frothy water that falls with a lot of force.
Is this vessel dangerous?
Take it easy! This electric boat, which has been in service since 1846, is very safe and its captain is a very experienced professional. There is nothing to fear, as it has established itself as one of the oldest active tourist services in the world. As you read it! The company has been offering tourists an adrenaline-pumping festival of sound, water and nature for 175 years.
Route taken by the vessel
Niagara means "thunder of water" in the Iroquois language and it is worthwhile to immerse yourself in the inner roar of its three famous falls. The boat tour starts at the American Falls, then the Bridal Veil Falls and finally enters the dense mist generated by the Horseshoe Falls, to finally return to the starting point.
Among the famous visitors that this boat has had are from the British royal family (Lady Di and her two children) to the great Hollywood actors such as Marilyn Monroe, Robert Redford, Denzel Washington and Al Pacino, among others. The list of celebrities is endless. If they dared, you can too. If you don't mind taking a dip, the best place on the ship is the second floor, bow and starboard.
Did you know that the first Maid of the Mist ship was a steam ferry with twin funnels and was large enough to carry people, goods and horses?
2. Enjoy the Cueva de los Vientos and its free shower!
If after the boat ride you are left wanting more adventure, and you are an intrepid like me, you will love La Cueva de los Vientos (Cave of the Winds), in which as its name suggests you will live an epic experience.
To reach this enclave, you will hike along a wooden walkway that allows you to reach the base of the Velo de Novia waterfall, where you will enjoy one of the most impressive perspectives of the force of the falls, which will fall directly on you. Of course, you'll get a free shower! As you can hear. My advice is that, even if they give you one of those yellow Captain Pescanova-style raincoats, take your own. You will avoid a good soaking and a lot of unpleasantness.
Excursion with a guide in the Cueva de los Vientos
In my case, I chose to take this tour with a guide so I wouldn't have to buy the entrance ticket on my own and thus avoid the long lines that form in one of the busiest places in the world. Nearly 8 million visitors come to this place every year - imagine the crowds!
Did you know that Niagara Falls State Park was designed by the same landscape architect who created Central Park in New York? This and other curiosities I discovered on my one-hour tour of the grounds with a professional guide, who explained the history, secrets and heroic rescues that have occurred here.
Nuria's Traveller Tip
Don't miss the rainbow that forms all day long around the falls, a spectacle worth admiring and photographing! Be careful with the cameras though.
3. Climb the Skylon Tower, the highest observation deck in the world
If you are not afraid of heights and you want to see the falls from an eagle's eye view, you should climb the Skylon Tower, the highest viewpoint in the area with a height of 160 meters. That is, it measures three times more than the waterfall, so the panoramic views are impressive.
The curious thing is that in less than 1 minute you will be on its 360-degree rooftop. Specifically, the exterior transparent glass elevators take only 52 seconds, so you don't even have time to blink! From the top you will be able to contemplate the Niagara wine region and the silhouettes of the cities of Buffalo, New York and Toronto on the horizon. A unique experience!
If you visit the falls as a family it is a perfect place to take the kids because it has a lot of activities inside for them to have fun. Here are some other things you can do with the kids at Niagara, read on!
Skylon Tower Attractions
Discover the main activities you can do at the Skylon Tower:
Family Fun Center: an area with interactive games where children and teenagers will have a blast.
Battle of Titans: an exhibition of dinosaurs with fossils.
Watch the movie 'Legends of Niagara Falls' in 3D.
Angelo Rossi Galleria & Studio: a large gallery of the artist's works made with glass.
Skylon Tower Mall where you can buy a souvenir.
4. Dine and toast on the heights with the falls in the background
If you go to Niagara Falls in the winter, a great way to enjoy the views without getting cold is to sit for dinner or lunch on the Skylon Tower overlooking a magnificent panoramic view of the Falls from above. Don't forget to drink a toast!
The Skylon Tower offers two excellent gastronomic alternatives for all budgets and palates. Those who want to live an exclusive experience can dine at its internationally renowned revolving restaurant and savor its modern continental cuisine. On the other hand, if you want to enjoy the scenery at a good price, the Summit Suite Buffet dining room offers more affordable menus for travelers and families, both at a height of 236 meters above the falls!
-Lunch (11:30 am - 3:00 pm).
-Dinner (16:30 h - 21:30 h)
And if after the day's adventure you still have an appetite or prefer other options, take note of the best restaurants near Niagara Falls. Enjoy your meal!
Nuria's Traveller Tip
If you dine at one of the Skylon Tower restaurants you won't have to pay the entrance fee to go up to the observation deck, the views at night are very romantic!
5. Cross Niagara on a cable car... invented by a Spaniard!
One of the most iconic activities you can do at Niagara is to ride the Whirlpool Aero Car cable car, which opened more than 100 years ago at the falls. Did you know that the attraction was invented by a Spanish genius? Cantabrian engineer Leonardo Torres Quevedo. It seems that the brain drain was already in vogue back then.
Why should you take this cable car? Because you will experience a unique moment where, in addition to the beautiful views of the waterfalls, you will feel the adrenaline rush of traveling over the river and your hair will stand on end!
Is it safe? I asked myself this question too. But don't worry, because since its inauguration in 1916, it has transported more than ten million tourists without a single accident. You won't have the first one! What's more, cable cars all over the world still use this century-old technology today.
Nuria's Traveller Tip
Check the fireworks calendar on the official Niagara Falls website to coincide with your trip, seeing the waterfalls in dozens of colors is priceless!
6. Fly in a helicopter over the Niagara skyline
Can you imagine crossing the sky over Niagara Falls in a helicopter? Well, it's possible. If you have vertigo, maybe this plan is not on your vacation agenda but contemplating the immensity of this waterfall from the air is one of the experiences you should live at least once in your life. You will feel like Jesús Calleja.
This is a totally recommendable experience, without a doubt, and one of the ones I liked the most in my trip to the water torrents. If you want to know more about the flights, take a look at the article about flying in a helicopter over Niagara Falls where you will discover all the details to enjoy this unique activity in your trip.
7. Marvel at the winter light show
The OPG Winter Festival of Light is a unique experience at the Falls that you will not find anywhere else. Its decoration and lights transport you to a dream world. They will blow your mind.
What is so special about it? The event transforms Niagara Falls into a wonderland with millions of lights and displays both inside the natural park and in the city's main tourist districts. Find out here the best time to visit the falls, including Christmas.
Experience Christmas at the Falls
This festival is held from November to February. Make a note in your calendar, you have 101 nights to see the festival lighting. An annual tradition that for many Canadians and tourists is the perfect getaway to get into the Christmas spirit. In winter, the frozen falls are even more beautiful with this nighttime illumination - the beauty of the site is well worth the extreme cold!
Nuria's Traveller Tip
Visiting Niagara Falls at Christmas is an ideal plan. There are music shows, storytellers and more than a hundred illuminated trees and reindeer, it will be unforgettable!
8. Hike through the Niagara Glen Nature Preserve
Niagara Falls is a very touristy attraction at any time of the day, where it is a constant sight to see people with their raincoats everywhere. That's why discovering little treasures around, such as the Niagara Glen Nature Preserve, which is not normally listed in travel guides, is always a joy.
This stunning place is full of vegetation and has a great variety of flora and fauna. My advice is to take advantage of a morning to take a walk or bike ride to get in touch with nature and take a break from the tourist attractions, and it's free!
9. Explore the colorful Niagara-on-the-Lake Village
Around the falls and the Niagara River Gorge you will find incredible views, lush gardens, more than 24 kilometers of trails and historic sites. One of my favorite discoveries, just 20 minutes from the falls, was to visit the little town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, a cute little village located at the corner of the mouth of the Niagara River in Lake Ontario.
This town, famous for its vineyards and wineries, is full of quaint and colorful wooden houses of the nineteenth century, tasteful stores, gardens full of flowers and neat architecture. The best thing to do is to wander through its streets full of historical heritage and let them surprise you. Nearby, you can also find a clock made of flowers.
Don't miss the Shaw Theatre Festival
In addition, if you plan to visit the falls between April and October and then tour Niagara-on-the-Lake, you can enjoy one of the most important theater festivals in North America, the Shaw Festival, which has been held for 60 years.
Nuria's Traveller Tip
On Saturday mornings from May to October, come to Niagara-on-the-Lake to the Market At The Village where local farmers and producers gather to sell their handcrafted goods.
10. Enjoy a fine wine tasting
Are you a wine lover? Although France and Italy (especially the Tuscany region) are some of the best known places in the world for their vineyards, Niagara is also a little paradise for this beverage - the region is home to more than 80 wineries!
Would you like to visit one of them and discover the perfect pairings? My advice is to take advantage of your visit to the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, TripAdvisor's #1 wine and food destination in Canada, and venture into one of the 30 wineries in the town. Just don't drive afterwards.
Try a glass of ice wine
In particular, I recommend that if you go to visit a winery you try a glass of ice wine, which is a unique and very original wine that is made from grapes ripened in their first freezing processes, hence the name. It has a very sweet taste and is delicious!
A festival for wine lovers
The area is also famous, in addition to its theater show, as I told you, for hosting the Icewine Festival, to be held from January 6 to 23, 2022, an annual two-week event in which to taste the typical Canadian drink and enjoy the icy landscapes of the area.
Other interesting facts for your visit to the Falls
You already have a complete list of things to see and do that will make your visit to Niagara Falls an experience, but there are still some details to be taken care of, right? Pay attention to these points and round out your visit.
How to get there by bus from the Big Apple
In my case, I chose to go by bus because it seemed the most economical option. I guarantee this trip was not as uncomfortable as you might imagine. However, check out the best bus tours to Niagara Falls from New York.
You will appreciate this excursion even more if you are traveling from the Big Apple and want to escape the hustle and bustle of the 'city that never sleeps'. Here is a guide on how to get to Niagara Falls from New York. Also check out the best one or two day trips from the Big Apple to Niagara, it will be worth the effort!
Tips for surviving Niagara Falls
If you have time, don't miss some of my tips for visiting Niagara Falls from the Big Apple! I'm sure they will come in handy to start organizing your trip.
Finally, if you allow me another tip, stay on the Canadian side because here are the best panoramic views and you will be able to contemplate the three falls: American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls on the American side and Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. However, take note of the tours on the American side of the falls.
Ah! I also recommend that you stay overnight on the road next to the river in one of the old houses converted today into charming houses that offer bed and breakfast. Waking up with these views in the middle of nature is priceless. And now, bon voyage!