Whether you’re there for the natural spectacle, the bright lights or the quaint village atmosphere, Niagara isn’t easily forgotten. The magnificent Niagara Falls, straddling Canada and the US, live up to their reputation as the eighth natural wonder of the world, offering countless opportunities for everything from relaxing scenic tours to adrenaline-filled adventure activities. The famous Falls might be the star of the show, but the supporting characters are far from secondary. The charming town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is only a 25-minute drive from the Falls and offers world-class wineries, incredible local cuisine and an acclaimed theatre festival. From the thunderous roar of the namesake Falls to the kitschy attractions of Clifton Hill and the bucolic vineyards of Niagara-on-the-Lake, there’s something for every taste and interest in this remarkable region. Get soaked on a white water rafting trip in the morning, relax and eat a delicious lunch at a local winery in the afternoon, and indulge at a casino in the evening. Without further ado, these are the 10 best things to do in Niagara Falls, Ontario– and nearby. Let’s go!
1. See The Falls by Cable Car
The Falls are breathtaking – no doubt about that. With so many perspectives of it to choose from, it’s hard to know where the best viewpoint is. You can’t go wrong with the Whirlpool Aero Car, an antique cable car that has been traversing the Falls since 1916. This hundred-year-old aerial cable car provides incredible views of the churning Niagara Whirlpool and whitewater rapids. While the debate rages on whether Canada or the US offers a better view, you can get the best of both worlds riding this cable car, which crosses the international border four times during the journey (no need to bring your passport – the journey starts and ends in Canada!)
For a bit of inspiration, watch the video below– you can practically feel the cool breezes and mist rising up from below.
Ready to try it out for yourself? Click here for information on tickets and times.
2. Experience The Falls by Trail
Fancy some exercise or want to get away from the swarming crowds at the Falls? Lace up your shoes and get walking on the Niagara Glen Trail. Skirting the rim of the Niagara Gorge, these beautiful and accessible wooded trails take hikers right up to the edge of the Niagara River. Many of the trails also provide scenic views of whirlpools and rapids – just be careful not to fall in! The trails are clearly marked and are pet- and child- friendly. They’re perfect for active visitors looking to explore the region on their own as well as families looking for an all-ages outdoor adventure.
3. Take in The Falls by Boat
It’s hard to visit Niagara Falls without feeling the urge to get as close as possible to the enormous wall of mist billowing from the natural wonder. While Annie Taylor famously rode over the Falls in a barrel in 1901, you don’t have to risk your life to get up-close and personal with the waterfall itself. The world-famous Maid of the Mist on the New York side of the Falls and Hornblower Niagara Cruises on the Canadian side allow visitors to get intimate with the falls – so much so that they provide a poncho to every guest for the inevitable spraying they’ll experience by getting so close! This is as close as you can get to the Falls, so pull on your poncho and get ready for mesmerising views of the Horseshoe Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and American Falls. For details and to book your tickets for this adventure, see this page.
Also make sure to see our guide to the Niagara Falls Adventure Pass for information on how you can save on this popular attraction, as well as others.
4. See The Falls from Above – WAY Above
For the ultimate view of the Falls, you’ll have to go up – way up. Niagara Helicopters delivers on an adrenaline-fueled adventure with a truly one-of-a-kind view of the Falls. Board a helicopter with extra-large windows for a breathtaking aerial tour of all of the top Niagara Falls highlights, following the path of the Niagara River towards the whirlpools and American Falls before turning around above the Horseshoe Falls. Wide views allow all passengers to see as far as Toronto and Lake Erie, making this the perfect activity for photographers looking to get their best shot of the Falls. Your ride also includes running commentary for a true guided tour experience in the air. If all this helicopter travel makes you thirsty, it’s even possible to book a helicopter wine tour! Your flight will take you on the same guided tour of the Falls, but will then continue to Niagara-on-the-Lake, flying over picturesque vineyards and countryside before dropping you off at a winery for wine tasting and dinner. This truly is the most romantic way to spend a day in Niagara!
There are several companies providing this enjoyable and thrilling experience. Here’s one that we’ve personally tested out and can recommend.
Did you know that you can even get married high above the Falls, should you so desire? Now that’s what we call high romance…
5. Enjoy an Enchanting Light & Water Show at Fallsview Casino
When the sun sets, the Falls light up– dramatically. Every evening, multicoloured lights hidden throughout the Falls are illuminated, turning the already-dramatic waterfall into a theatrical spectacle. View the light show from the many viewpoints along the Falls or from the aptly-named Fallsview Casino. The vast entertainment complex houses bars, restaurants and a theatre featuring big-name music acts performing throughout the week.
Read related: The 5 Best Restaurants at Niagara Falls Parks
Although Fallsview houses over 20 restaurants, the real draw card of the casino are the views from the dining room over the Horseshoe Falls. For a full listing of world-class shows at Fallsview Casino, see this page.
6. See “The Vegas of the North” at Clifton Hill
Niagara’s infamous Clifton Hill entertainment complex has been described by many as “The Las Vegas of the North”. Although the Clifton Hill website does claim that an Elvis impersonator is available for photos, we recommend taking in the uniquely Niagara-related sights instead. A walk up Clifton Street offers the opportunity to indulge in charmingly tacky attractions often worth a visit– at least for the nostalgia factor. Stop by the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, Movieland Wax Museum, the Upside-Down House or the Nightmares Fear Factory haunted house for some old-fashioned, campy fun. This is a great way to stay entertained once you’ve seen the main sights around the Falls, no matter what time of year or season you visit Niagara.
7. Sip Local Wines at Niagara-on-the-Lake Wineries
The Niagara Region isn’t all white-water adventure and after-hours excitement. Make the short drive to the neighbouring town of Niagara-on-the-Lake for a day of good food, good wine and a pleasant, rustic atmosphere. The Niagara region is renowned worldwide for its wines, and the ample supply of award-winning wineries in the area is proof of that. Not only are the wines spectacular, but the setting is too – the rolling hills of the area are the perfect cure for stress. The wineries are as varied as the bottles they produce, meaning every visitor is likely to find something to suit their tasts.
Visit the sleek and modern Stratus, the palatial grandeur of Chateau des Charmes, or the rustic-chic 13th Street Winery. Even better: Why not visit all three? Wine tours of Niagara-on-the-Lake are widely available. Choose the VIP treatment with a limo tour, or opt for a guided or self-directed bike tour of the area.
For all the details on Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries, tours and events, see here. See the “Winery Events” and Winery Tour and Tastings” tabs at that page for up-to-the-minute information at the time of your visit. Please do note that some of these events require advance booking and ticket purchases.
More on Wine & Shopping in Niagara-on-the-Lake
For some in-depth inspiration, also make sure to browse our in-house reviews of some of the best wineries in the region, and our feature on tasting Icewine during a winter trip to Niagara.
Up for a shopping spree or window-shopping session? See our complete guide to the 18 best shops in Niagara-on-the-Lake: a perfect list for stocking up on gifts, memorable home items and souvenirs during your next trip.
8. Take in Theatre Performances at The Shaw Festival
There’s no need to head all the way to Toronto to get your theatre fix. Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to the acclaimed Shaw Festival, held annually from May to October. While it got its name showing plays by playwright George Bernard Shaw, the festival now features both plays and musicals from a diverse roster of playwrights. Shows include ones from debut writers as well as time-honoured classics like An Ideal Husband and My Fair Lady. While the festival’s headquarters are a large, purpose-built theatre with beautiful backyard gardens, performances are also held in creative venues like the local Courthouse (now converted into a permanent theatre space) and a historical antique theatre.
In short? The Shaw Festival is the perfect destination for some lively arts and culture after an active day at the Falls.
9. Visit the Quaint Town of Jordan
Niagara-on-the-Lake is known across Canada as a quaint destination offering the slow pace of village life, with good food, wine and theatre being the main offerings. However, if you’re after a quiet weekend in the countryside away from the theatre crowds and limo wine tours, the sleepy town of Jordan delivers. Small but welcoming wineries, highly acclaimed restaurants and boutique spas make this town one of southern Ontario’s best-kept secrets, nestled in the area known as “Twenty Valley”. The charming and elegant Cave Springs winery hosts Jordan’s acclaimed restaurant Inn on the Twenty, the perfect place for a romantic meal after an afternoon touring the region. Along with the Falls, this might be the ideal place to celebrate your honeymoon in Niagara.
10. See the Botanical Gardens and School of Horticulture
If you prefer your natural beauty on the more cultivated side, the Niagara School of Horticulture– just nine kilometers from the Falls– provides many opportunities to learn more about the beautiful gardens of the Niagara region. The school houses a sprawling hundred-acre Botanical Garden which is free to visitors year-round. A stroll through the arboretum, aviary and seasonal flower displays is the perfect way to relax on a sunny afternoon. The gardens also host a butterfly conservatory, a favourite of kids across Ontario. If you stay still enough, you might become a perch for curious butterflies! This attraction offers nothing short of natural enchantment.
Read related: 3 Famous Niagara Flowers– and Where to See Them
For an even better idea of what to expect at any time of year at the Botanical Gardens, see this page for “What’s In Bloom”, kept up-to-date by the Niagara Parks Commission.
What are Your Favourite Niagara Attractions?
Feel free to leave your comments below to share your own favourites, or to ask us any questions about the Niagara region. Also make sure to stay connected by following us on Facebook and on Instagram. We hope to have inspired you ahead of your next trip, and to be in touch!
About the Author
Jaclyn Gruenberger is a Canadian writer and travel enthusiast. She loves hiking, photography, the ocean and a good road trip, which is why she moved to British Columbia and then Australia before returning to her home city of Toronto, where she lives now. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.