Visiting Niagara Falls has always been a wonderful experience for couples, friends, and families. Its stunning beauty has always attracted millions of tourists who are looking for a connection with nature every year.
The feel of the misty fog on your face, the loud roar from the fall, as the water comes crashing down from a height of 187ft at a speed of 20 to 30mph are both jaw-dropping and amazing experiences to have in person.
Niagara Falls is a combination of three waterfalls stretching the border between the United States (New York specifically) and Canada (Ontario). The Canadian fall (Horseshoe Falls), the American Falls, and the Bridal Veil Fall together form the Niagara Falls.
Around Niagara Falls is a 400 acre of green landscape with different species of protected wildlife and collections of exciting recreations and incredible attractions.
This is the Niagara State Park and it is also home to the five islands on the Niagara River and all three waterfalls. Established in 1885, Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in New York City.
Experience the magnificence of Niagara Falls and Niagara State Park, its natural beauty, outstanding historical sites, and different educational activities.
Niagara Falls Tourism and Attractions
With Niagara Falls located between the borders of two countries, there are plenty of activities to be experienced on both sides of the border. On the New York side of the border, here is a list of activities you can enjoy together with your family.
1. Adventure Theater
Grab a seat for one of the most incredible film experiences that explain the history of Niagara Falls in a blockbuster. The theatre brings an incredible film experience to tourists, exposes visitors to amazing stories and histories about the falls and also about the histories of daredevil adventures.
The theatre is located at Niagara Falls State Park Visitor Center and features a stadium seating with a capacity of 314.
The documentary airs every 45 minutes with Mandarin, Spanish and Korean being the only three different translations available via headsets.
Hours of operation
Sunday – Friday: 9am – 5:15pm
Saturday – 9am – 8:15p.m
Children ( 6 – 12 years): $9
Children (5years and below): Free but must be followed by a guardian
Youth: $6 per person
Adult: $8 per person
2. Aquarium of Niagara
The Aquarium of Niagara is also an excellent place to visit during your trip. The Aquarium of Niagara takes pride in its high biodiversity of aquatic animals having over 200 species of aquatic animals and 30 exhibits.
The aquarium represents different ecosystems varying from the Great lakes to the coral reefs. Penguin feeding, sea lion shows, and harbour seal presentations are also put up for the show for tourists.
Before entering into the aquarium, visitors are greeted with the vibrant life-size painting of a whale called the Whaling Wall. The Whaling Wall gives a peek of what to expect inside the Aquarium Falls of Niagara.
Also, one of the interesting things to see at the Aquarium Falls of Niagara is the Penguin Coast Exhibit which was added to the aquarium in 2018.
3. Penguin Coast Exhibit
Penguin Coast is known to exhibit the Humboldt penguin; a threatened species of the penguin family. The aquarium provides a simulated natural habitat for the colony while at the same time, adding interesting features to improve its attraction.
The penguin Coast is a 3,500 square foot exhibit which makes it 4 times bigger than the previous penguin exhibit.
Features of the Penguin Coast Exhibit include:
1. Nesting regions
2. The pool of about 15,000 gallon
3. Room for a personal penguin encounter
4. Amazing viewing space for both above and below water views
5. Living space of more than 1000 square feet designed after the Peruvian coast (their natural habitat)
Daily activities at the aquarium include:
1. Penguin feeding
2. Sea-lion show
3. Rescue Harbour Seal Presentation
4. Meet the Expert at the Discovery Cart
Senior (60 years and above): $13
Children (3 – 12 years): $11
Infants (2 years below): Free
4. Discovery Center and Hiking Trails
The Discovery center presents both the natural and local history of Niagara Falls and its immediate areas. Varieties of interactive displays, a 180-degree multi-screen, and a towering rock climbing wall with fossils and geological formations are all to be experienced at the discovery center.
The Discovery Center is always open every day from 9 am – 5 pm.
Children (6 – 12 years): $2
Children (5 years and below): Free
Non-profit groups: $2 per person
Education groups: $2 per person
Commercial Tour: $3 per person
Niagara Falls Adventure Pass
With The Niagara Falls Adventure Pass, you’ll get a one-time admission to the selected attractions (details below in the screenshot) and two consecutive days of WEGO bus transportation and many of the bonus perks at other Niagara Parks.
The adventure pass includes all of the Niagara Falls attractions, shops, restaurants, golf courses and much more!
Simply put, The Niagara Falls Adventure Pass is your ticket to experience the best of Niagara Falls with ease and convenience.
You have two options to choose from – the first is $67 CAD and the second for $90 CAD. Even though the second option is worth the extra buck, I’ll leave the choice to you to decide.
Niagara Falls Hiking Trails
For all hiking trails, the starting point is always at the Niagara Gorge Trailhead Center. Hikers are always offered either the easy trails or the more challenging ones with steep stairs and rocks to climb.
If you are interested in hiking, you should come prepared with sturdy boots to avoid slipping as the conditions of the gorge are ever-changing.
Here is the list of trails hikers can decide to go for:
1. Great Gorge Scenic Overlook Hike
This is the easiest hike you can get at the Trailhead center. It is a one hour trip that starts at the Trailhead building. This is highly recommended for beginners and there’s no age requirement for this trail.
2. Upper Great Gorge Hike
This is another easy trail except for the time duration of 2 hours. This trail is also recommended for beginners and no age barrier whatsoever. The hike starts from the Trailhead building and follows the Great Gorge Railway path.
3. Devil Holes Rapids and Giant Rock
Even though the name is quite intimidating, the trail is more or less moderate. The trail is a round trip of about 2 ½ hours that starts at the Devil’s Hole State Park. The age requirement is a minimum of 8 years.
4. Whirlpool Rapid Adventure Hike
This is the most challenging trial the park has to offer. If you are a daredevil yourself, this is the right hike for you. Only experienced hikers with a minimum age of 8 years are allowed on this trail. The trail is a 3-hour hike round trip that begins at the whirlpool state park.
Niagara Falls Tourist Attractions & Fees
1. Maid Of The Mist
The Maid of the Mist started its operation in 1846 making it the oldest-running boat tour of the fall. The tour begins from the base of the observation tower and set out in the river into the Niagara Gorge.
Tourists are conveyed in a double-decker boat on a 30-minute tour visits to both the American Falls and the Horseshoe Falls. The boat travels up close to the base of the fall, giving tourists the opportunity to witness thousands of gallons of water rush down each second.
Tourists return to shore with a newfound love with nature and the beautiful essence of Niagara Falls.
Children (6 – 12 years): $13
Children (5 years and below): Free
2. Niagara Falls Observation Tower
The observation tower provides a breathtaking panoramic view of all the three Niagara Falls. Tourists can always climb to the Crow’s Nest the Observation Tower to get a great view of the fall. The view is also complimented with blasts of mist and cold air conditioning from the Niagara spray.
Bird watching is also one of the things to do at the top of the Observation Tower. If you are a bird enthusiast, the tower presents a great opportunity to see the bald eagle, peregrine falcons, and different species of the gull.
Hours of Operation
Sunday – Thursday: 8:30 am – 7 p.m
Friday and Saturday: 8:30 am – 8 p.m
No admission fee is required!!
3. Schoellkopf Power Plant Ruins Site
The power station was established between 1905 and 1924. The construction started in 1905 but never got completed until 1924. The completion of this project saw it to be the largest hydroelectric station in the world. Water from Niagara River was channelled from above through a 4,600’ canal and was used to power the station.
The construction of Maid of the Mist duck-yard to store boats during the harsh winter months gave access to the Schoellkopf Power Plant Ruins. The original elevator was repaired giving access to both the Gorge and Schoellkopf Power Plant site. The Schoellkopf site is now closed until further notice.
4. Niagara Falls Cave of the Winds
This trip exposes tourists to waters of the falls at the safest closest distance possible. An elevator at the base of the Observatory Tower grants accesses to the trip.
Before going down into the Niagara Gorge, visitors are gifted with bright yellow ponchos and sandals to help keep you dry during the trip. You can also take the sandals and ponchos home as souvenirs or recycle them.
Descending 175 feet into the Gorge (with a tour guard of course) brings you over a series of wooden walkways and then to the popular Hurricane Deck.
The Hurricane Deck exposes tourists to the Bridal Veil Falls and its surrounding windy weather at the closest distance possible.
Children (6 – 12 years): $16
Children (5 years and below): Free
Hours of operation 2020
Cave of the Winds opens the last week in May
Memorial Day Weekend: Friday, 22nd of May to Sunday 24th of May 9 a.m. – 9:15 p.m
Monday, 25th of May 9 a.m. – 6:15 p.m
Independence Day Weekend: Thursday 2nd of July Saturday to Sunday 5th of July 9 a.m. – 9:15 p.m
Labor Day Weekend: Friday 4th of Sept to Sunday 6th of Sept 6, 9 a.m. – 9:15 p.m Monday 7th of September 7, 9 a.m. – 8:15 p.m
Columbus Day Weekend: Saturday 10th of October 10 and Sunday 11th of October 9 a.m. – 8:15 p.m Monday 12th of October 9 a.m. – 4:15 p.m
Thanksgiving (Thursday 26th of November 26): Closed
The Canadian side of the Niagara Falls
On the Canadian side of the falls, there are also lots of activities you can enjoy. The carnival atmosphere of the city itself gives more attraction to fall making it a top tourist center in Canada. Special activities to enjoy on the Canadian side of the fall include
1. Journey behind the falls
Just like the Cave of the Winds, Journey behind the falls gives a close view of the falls but instead from the base of Horseshoe Falls.
Tourists are lowered 45 meters down by an elevator from the Table Rock Welcome Centre. The elevator opens up to viewing entrances just behind the falls with an observation deck very close to the verge of the falls.
The view offers a different but extraordinary perspective from the bird’s eye view of the fall. From the entrances, tourists can see the wall formed by the falls as millions of gallons of water keep crashing down. The feeling of mist on your face and the roar of the waterfalls are extraordinary experiences to have.
Before going on the trip souvenir ponchos and rubber boots are given out to tourists to keep them safe and dry during the trip.
Monday – Thursday 9:00am – 8:00pm
Friday – 9:00am – 10:00pm
2. Hornblower Cruises
This shares similarity with the Maid of the Mist on the New York side of the border. The Hornblower Cruises involves a 700-passenger catamaran boat tour exposing tourists to an up-close experience to the base of all three falls.
Rain jackets are provided at the beginning of the tour as it’s a wet experience. The Hornblower Cruises comes with different options to choose from, however, all your ends in the evening.
Hornblower Cruises is the only available boat tour option from the Canadian side of the Fall that conveys tourists to the base of the Niagara falls
3. Whirlpool Aero Car
The Whirlpool Aero Car is suspended above the roiling waters of the Whirlpool Rapid and has been in operation since 1916.
The Whirlpool Aero Car only accommodates 35 standing people per tour travelling approximately 1km from one side of the gorge to the other.
You can enjoy a ten-minute voyage Visitors over the Whirlpool Rapid portion of the Niagara River. This trip gives a unique birds-eye view of the strong currents wobbling around in a massive whirlpool just below.
Children: (5 – 12 years): $10.75
Children: (4 years and below): Free
Monday – Thursday: 10:30am – 7:00pm
Friday – Sunday: 10:30am – 9:00pm
4. Butterfly Conservatory
The Butterfly Conservatory is located along the Niagara Parkway. It is home to over 1,500 free-flying butterflies of about 40 different species.
It is a glass-enclosed conservatory with waterfalls and different tropical plants to help simulate a natural environment for these species of butterflies.
This allure opens all year round and it is quite popular in the winter months when the yards are not in bloom.
Seeing thousands of colourful butterflies in a tropical paradise is an experience you really want to have.
Adults: (13 years and above): $16.50
Children: (5 – 12 years): $10.75
Monday – Friday: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday and Sunday: 10:00am – 6:00pm
5. Zipline To The Falls
The Zipline to the Falls is an awe-inspiring 670 meters (2,200 feet), ride into the gorge. The ride starts at the Grand View Marketplace and journeys through the American Falls and lands at the base of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.
Niagara Zipline to the Falls ride is also available in the winter months giving you a glimpse of the spectacular beauty of the snow and ice enveloping Niagara Falls
Single ride: $60
Monday – Friday: 10:00am – 4:00pm
Saturday: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Sunday: 10:00am – 8:00pm
5. Niagara Falls Illumination and Fireworks
What is better than seeing Niagara Fall during the day? Seeing Niagara Falls at Night!! Hundreds of LED lights are installed in different sites across the Niagara Gorge in Ontario. The wide spectrum of colour provided by the LED lights around the fall gives a breath-taking view at night.
However, Niagara Falls is only illuminated during special occasions and holidays or as directed by the Niagara Falls Illumination Board. Also, you can send a special lightning request to celebrate your loved ones.
The Falls are always lit at night creating a serene and beautiful atmosphere. Firework presentations are also included all year round.
Where To Stay In The Niagara Falls?
There are wide varieties of hotels in Niagara Falls so it shouldn’t be that hard finding one that fits your budget. However, prices of hotels tend to increase during the summer as it is the peak season.
Standard American hotels are readily available on both sides of the falls. The Marriott on the Canadian side offers a stunning view of the falls. Also, if you are considering a five-star experience, Sterling Inn & Spa is the right place for you. Some elegant ‘50s motels are also available in Ontario if you would rather stay in a cheap motel.
Niagara Falls Safety Tips
Your camera and/or phone should not be dangled over the edge. This doesn’t end well most times. Your phone should be kept in your pocket after use and held firmly when taking pictures, especially in the winter.
You have to be very security conscious in Niagara Falls; the American side especially. Niagara Falls is known to have one of the highest crime rates in the United States.
Do not plan for the Niagara Falls trip if you’re broke. The fees are quite high and you will definitely pay tourist prices. Having a full stomach before your trip is a good idea.
Firm sneakers should be worn as footpaths closer to the falls can be extremely icy in winter or slippery in summer.
What time of the year is best to visit Niagara Falls?
Summer definitely is the answer. Excluding all the fun, the windy and misty nature of Niagara Falls feels so great on the body on a hot summer day.
What is quite discouraging during summer is the crowd in the Fall at this time of the year. The long lines at each attraction can be sometimes tiring.
Visiting during the winter is also fun and if you’re lucky enough, you might get to see the falls frozen (a very rare occurrence though).
If you decide to visit during the winter, a cup of hot chocolate shouldn’t be far away from you. Niagara Falls’ average temperature during winter is around 20 – 21 degrees F or -6 degrees. The cold misty and windy nature of the fall by this time of the year isn’t a good feeling.
Frequently Asked Questions About The Niagara Falls
To help you maximize your time and fun at Niagara Falls, we will be answering some questions which might still be lingering on your mind and even those you might not have thought about.
What side offers the best experience?
Going by popular opinions the Canadian side offers a lot of breathtaking experiences; the panoramic views, lighting, and cable rides.
People tend to only visit the Canadian side because of this. However, we recommend taking a tour on both sides of the fall will be a great idea so as not to deny yourself of any experience.
How much time do you need to spend at Niagara Falls?
If you are just going to stay at one side of the fall a day is all you need to savour the essence of Niagara Falls.
However, if you’re going to do both sides, two days is definitely enough for you except if you want to take a break in between making it 3 days at maximum.
Niagara falls will always remain as one of the most beautiful and romantic places on planet earth.
It is easy to see why Niagara Falls is one of the top natural wonders of the world. If you are a lover of nature, Niagara Fall is always a place you should visit.
Whether you are planning a romantic trip or a family getaway, Niagara Falls has the scenery and activities for both. However, while in Niagara Falls, you should be careful of tourist traps as they try to take you on tours mostly unrelated to the falls.
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Sagar Sridhar is a personal finance blogger from Canada. His genuine passion for personal finance coupled with his unique style of writing is what stands out. Professionally, he is a computer engineer, agile certified and has a master’s degree in Project Management. His writing has been featured or quoted in the leading Canadian publications such as Credit Canada and many other personal finance publications. While he is juggling between his day job and blogging, he is the main author on this blog and has miles to go before making the final pit stop.