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 them into a building, their size would be equivalent to one floor with 15 floors. Almost nothing!
Their beauty has made them a natural setting for the filming of movies such as '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, pack your backpack, raincoat and hiking boots and write down the top 10 things to see and do in Niagara Falls.
1. Go boating and... feel the water fall
If you're a thrill-seeker, get ready to experience an adventure of the good kind. One of the attractions at the falls that impressed me the most was to get 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?
Don't worry! 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! The company has been offering tourists an adrenaline-filled festival of sound, water and nature for 175 years.
Route taken by the boat
Niagara means "thunder of water" in the Iroquois language and it's worth it to immerse yourself in the inner roar of its three famous waterfalls. 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.
Which excursion to take?
If you are spending your stay in New York, you can take an excursion to the falls from there, how? Doing one of these plans that I propose you:
- 3-day tour: you can book this tour that includes a visit to the Falls, as well as Toronto and the 1000 islands, both on the American side and the one adjacent to Canada.
- 2-day tour: if you prefer, you can book the 2-day option and visit the Falls with 1 night hotel accommodation with continental breakfast included.
- 1 day tour: if you have little time, you can opt for a 1 day tour, and have a bilingual guide if you wish.
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? Well, some of these excursions include a ride on this mythical ship, are you in?
2. Enjoy the Cave of the Winds 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 the Cave of the Winds, where as its name suggests you will live an epic experience.
To get to this enclave, you will take a hike along a wooden walkway that allows you to reach the base of the Bridal Veil 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 Cueva de los Vientos
In my case, I chose to take this excursion with a guide so that I would not 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 cameras though.
3. Climb the Skylon Tower, the highest lookout point in the world
If you are not afraid of heights and you want to see the falls from an eagle's eye view, you must 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 funny 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 can see 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 Skylon Tower:
- Family Fun Center: an interactive play area where kids and teens 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. Dinner and toast on the heights with the waterfalls in the background
If you go to Niagara Falls in winter, an excellent option to enjoy the views without getting cold is to sit for dinner or lunch at the Skylon Tower while enjoying a magnificent view of the falls from the heights. Don't forget to 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 an altitude of 236 meters above the falls!
-Lunch (11:30 am - 3:00 pm) -Dinner (4:30 pm - 9:30 pm)
And if after the day's adventure you're left with an appetite or prefer other options, take note of the best restaurants near Niagara Falls. Enjoy your meal over water!
Nuria's Traveller Tip
If you dine at one of the restaurants at the Skylon Tower, you won't have to pay the entrance fee to go up to the observation deck - the views at night are romantic!
5. Cross the Niagara in a cable car... invented by a Spaniard!
One of the most iconic activities you can do in 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 going on 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 falls, you will feel the adrenaline of traveling over the river. You will feel your hair 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 around 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 skies
Can you imagine crossing the Niagara Falls sky in a helicopter? Well, it is 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 recommended 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 Niagara Falls that you will not find anywhere else. Its decor and lights transport you to a dream world. It's jaw-dropping.
What's 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 main tourist districts of the city. 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 diary, you have 101 nights to see the lighting of the festival. 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 this enclave is well worth exposing yourself to 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. Take a hike in the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve
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 reserve, 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 a morning hike 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 village of Niagara-on-the-Lake
Around the falls and Niagara River Gorge you'll find incredible views, lush gardens, more than 15 miles of trails and historic sites. One of my favorite discoveries, just 20 minutes from the falls, was to visit Niagara-on-the-Lake, a cute little village located at the corner of the mouth of the Niagara River in Lake Ontario. You can book your visit to the falls now to not miss this amazing trip.
This town, famous for its vineyards and wineries, is full of picturesque 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 Theater Festival
Also, 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 good 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 drink. 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 afterward.
Try a glass of ice wine
Specifically, I recommend that if you 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 it 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, which will 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 that 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!
Practical tips for surviving Niagara Falls
If you have time, don't miss some of my tips for visiting Niagara Falls from the Big Apple either! 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 see 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 mansions 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!