8 things to see and do around Niagara Falls

People from all over the world flock to Canada to experience the mighty Niagara Falls for themselves. But what else can you do in the area? From the region's fabulous icewine to the top historical sites, we look at how to spend your time around the famous falls.

By Kieran Meeke

Published 17 May 2024

Almost everyone visiting Toronto for the first time heads off to see the mighty Niagara Falls. A visit is a chance to explore the many attractions along the Canadian shores of both Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.

The water flowing over the falls starts as rivers and streams into four of the Great Lakes: Michigan, Superior, Huron and Erie. From Lake Erie, it flows into the Niagara River, part of the border between Canada and the USA.

It passes over the falls at a speed of almost 70 mph, heading north towards Lake Ontario. From there, the water makes its way to the Atlantic through the St Lawrence River.

Like the Niagara River, the Niagara Falls also straddle the border between Canada and the USA. Going to see the ‘other’ side helps makes this one of the busiest border crossings between the USA and Canada. It's no wonder there is so much to see, do and experience at one of the world' most popular tourist destinations.

The three falls that make up Niagara – Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls – can only be seen as a whole from the air but their power is maybe best appreciated from below on one of the tour boats.

Niagara Falls have even been enhanced with a multimillion-dollar investment in computerised lighting for the evening light show.

The Falls are famous as a honeymoon destination and there are a large number of hotels, a casino, Vegas-style shows and an IMAX Theatre.

Other entertainment options range from viewing tunnels that go under the Falls to golf courses.

Photo tip:

The Skylon Tower has the best views of the falls, short of taking a helicopter ride. The lower viewing platform from the observation deck of the Journey Behind the Falls is also an incredible sight - but you might want to use a waterproof camera.

Where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario is this pretty town that thrives on the number of tourists who pass through.

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s central Heritage District is filled with well-preserved 19th century houses that are now shops, cafes, restaurants, hotels, upmarket spas – and fudge and ice cream shops.

The strategic location of Fort Erie means it has a rich history. In 1812, more than 3,000 troops were killed and wounded in a siege during the War of 1812, events commemorated in re-enactments at the Old Fort every summer.

And in 1866, a Fenian invasion from America was beaten off here during an attack on Canada designed to force Britain to grant Irish Independence.

Lying so near Buffalo, NY, the town was also an important stop on the Underground ‘Railway’ that helped fugitive slaves flee America at the time of the Civil War. The town’s Historical Museum and Railway Museum are both worth a visit to learn more about its past.

Its major tourism draw, however, is Crystal Beach which draws visitors from both sides of the border to its sandy beaches, warm salt-free water and all kinds of water sports.

Between the lake and the Niagara River, there are some 20 miles of waterfront and the calm waters and mild winds are ideal for sailing.

The highlight of this resort town – named for the English original – is its pretty sandy beach, which even sports a set of palm trees that, happily, spend the winter under cover.

The long pier, with a quaint lighthouse on the end, is also a place to stroll with an ice cream and watch yachts putting out to 'sea' on Lake Erie or fishing boats return.

The Port Dover Harbour Museum is a fascinating place, jammed with nautical artefacts that telling the story of the fishing trade and boatbuilding.

This town has several beaches and is popular with windsurfers and kite surfers, as well as families. Its twin piers protect Kettle Creek and its harbour, still a busy commercial fishing port, with the river crossed by the King George VI Bascule Bridge.

This is so finely balanced that it could be opened by hand in an emergency. There are four local golf courses and the 25-mile Elgin Hiking Trail.

Must-do: Ride the restored 1850s railway to St. Thomas and back.

Jutting out into Lake Erie, Long Point Provincial Park has one of the largest bird and waterfowl migration populations in North America. Of as much interest to many visitors, however, is the wide, mile-long, sandy beach just outside it that runs to Port Rowan.

The warm waters of the lake shelve gently offshore and the beach is lined with attractive holiday cottages, shaded with trees. So far, the whole is mercifully free from commercialisation.

Take a kayak trip through Big Creek National Wildlife Area, which has been called 'Canada’s Amazon' for its thick forests and diversity of wildlife.

Elsewhere, Point Pelee National Park attracts birdwatchers from around the world in spring. This area of marsh and woodland is a designated Ramsar site. More than 300 different migratory birds species have been recorded, with some 100 resident species.

Perhaps surprisingly, Ontario is famous for its wine, with most of the province’s wineries being found on the Niagara Peninsula.

The region is famous for its unusual icewines, a wine made from grapes left on the vine until they freeze before being harvested and processed immediately – often overnight. The result is a sweet, flavourful wine that’s often compared to a dessert wine, as the freezing concentrates the sugar in the grapes.

The roads that wind along the northern shore of Lake Erie are particularly scenic and popular with both drivers and motorcyclists. They are also lined with pretty wineries that encourage tastings. There are dozens in this region, part of the largest wine-growing area east of the Rockies.

The intense summer heat from southern exposure and moderating lake breezes create full-bodied wines, and particularly good whites.

Food tip:

Enjoy a glass of icewine with cheese or rich foods such as pate.

Good news, foodies – there are plenty of culinary treats to enjoy that might just match the jaw-dropping backdrop. The region is famous for its freshwater fish, with lake-caught perch or pickerel being a particular favourite with tourists.

Poutine, a dish made from chips, gravy and cheese curds, is also a menu staple. The recipe originated in Quebec in the 1950s and has gone on to become a favourite across the country.

That depends on whether you’re talking to the Canadian or New York State tourist board.

Although Niagara Falls is seen as one natural phenomenon, it is, in fact, made up of three different waterfalls.

Canada boasts the biggest in Horseshoe Falls, while on the USA side there are the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.

The Canadian side appears to have taken the Falls more to heart as a tourist attraction. You can view the Falls free at Table Rock Welcome Centre, while paid-for attractions include the Journey Behind the Falls and Niagara’s Fury, a multi-media history of this geological wonder. There are restaurants, hotels, parks, walks, a casino and helicopter excursions.

On the US side, Niagara Falls State Park takes in 400 acres of woodland, gardens, restaurants and viewing platforms, plus an Adventure Theater and the Cave of the Winds.

And if you want to get up close, both sides offer boat tours: Maid of the Mist from the US side and Hornblower on the Canadian.

Of course, you could always visit both sides but you’ll need your passport. There may be one Niagara Falls, but it’s in two different countries!

Experience the astonishing Niagara Falls for yourself on one of our touring holidays in Canada, or choose to stay in Toronto and get to know the area

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