7 things to do in Niagara Falls if it’s your first visit
March 20, 2020
Niagara Falls is a dream destination for many people and rightfully so. There is something profoundly beautiful and magical about it. It just leaves you speechless and lost in thought.
If you are heading over there for the first time, this blog post contains 7 things to do in Niagara Falls if it’s your first visit.
Before we get into it, there is something to keep in mind. The Niagara River is an international border between Canada and the US. The American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls belong to the US and are located in Niagara Falls (city), New York (state).
On the other side of the river, you can see the Canadian Horseshoe Falls which is located in Niagara Falls (city), Ontario (province). So essentially, the two countries share this amazing natural wonder.
Hope this picture explains a bit better what I mean.
Here is a video of me explaining this in person.
For the purpose of this article, we are going to focus on the Canadian side only.
- Visit Niagara Falls in the summer, as pretty as it is during wintertime, it is very, very cold
- If you are planning to see the falls from the US side and the Canadian side, make sure you have American dollars and Canadian dollars respectively. On the Canadian side, they might accept American dollars depending on the place, but both countries have different currencies.
- Keep in mind that you can cross from one country to the other over the Rainbow Bridge but remember to bring your passport as there is a border control facility that checks pedestrians and cars that go over the bridge.
1. The Falls
If you want the best view of the falls, it will be best to see it from the Canadian side. I have had the opportunity to see the falls from both countries and you do get different vantage points.
However, if you don’t have a lot of time, definitely visit the Canadian side.
For me, the most interesting thing to do here is seeing this amazing natural phenomenon – over 3,000 tons of water cascade over the Niagara Falls every second.
There is a very nice park on both sides of Niagara Falls where you can take pictures, sit on a bench or just people watch.
I cannot explain the feeling I got when I first laid eyes on Niagara Falls when I first saw it over 10 years ago. Looking at it made me feel small and powerless compared to the power of nature.
Here are two videos of the falls:
The beautiful falls
2. The Maid of the Mist/The Hornblower
The Maid of the Mist and the Hornblower are boat tours, which are essentially identical to each other.
The only difference is that the Maid of the Mist operates from the US side and the Hornblower operates from the Canadian side.
This attraction is a must!!
You get so close to the falls it feels like the water is going to fall on your head. But don’t worry – both companies provide passengers with raincoats.
So you don’t have to worry about getting wet [because you will get soaked from the mist].
You also get to keep the raincoat which is a really unique souvenir as it says Maid of the Mist or the Hornblower on it and of course Niagara Falls. I still have mine.
Because the boat cruises are very popular, if you’re going in the high season I would recommend booking in advance.
I went a long time ago and we just walked to the boat and hopped on it but more and more tourists come every year and the last time I went it was very, very busy.
Travel Addicted Unicorn Tip: be careful with bringing electronics onboard the boat because unless they are waterproofed, the chances are they will get damaged from the mist.
I broke my camera when I was trying to take photos because all the mist drops got inside of it and damaged it.
View from the boat tours – you can see how close it gets to the falls
3. Clifton Hill
Clifton Hill is the major street in the city of Niagara Falls and is full of different attractions, restaurants, and arcades.
Some of the attractions you can find are Dinosaur Adventure Golf, Movieland Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Mystic Maze of Mirrors [this was a really cool one], Guinness World of Records, etc.
If you are traveling with children or teens, this is the place to be for some family fun.
Some of the restaurants to try are Boston Pizza, the Keg Steakhouse and Bar, Milestones and The Rainforest Café.
I don’t know if you have been to The Rainforest Café [it’s a food chain] but if you have never been you must go and see it.
It looks like you are sitting in the middle of a rainforest and there are all these mechanical animals that move and make noises.
Below are three videos from there:
And for all of you who are crazy about Hard Rock Cafe, yes there is one in Niagara Falls!
The newest addition to Clifton Hill is the Niagara Speedway, which is a go-kart elevated track. Check out a video of it.
For breakfast, I recommend going to one of the IHOP restaurants (I believe there are 3 now, including a new one, located on Clifton Hill). Their pancakes are the best.
Here is a video of Clifton Hill.
They have a pass that includes six of the attractions for a combo price. You can find the link here.
4. Journey Behind the Falls
I absolutely love this attraction!! You need to be on the Canadian side to enjoy it.
You will need to take an elevator from the walking area above [called Table Rock Center] to the base of the falls. The elevator is inside the bedrock.
Once you get to the bottom, you can stand on these small observation terraces right at the foot of the falls. Again, you are going to get soaked in the mist [I believe they also provide a raincoat].
Once you check out the terraces, you continue walking in the tunnels [2 of them] which are also in the bedrock that goes behind the falls.
The whole journey takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour. The tour is self-guided and the attraction is open year-round.
You don’t go all the way around the Horseshoe Falls though, you can only go behind a small portion of the falls but even that is really cool.
There are little windows along the tunnels and one bigger opening [below] where you can see the water and can hear the vibrations and loud noise coming from the immense power of Niagara Falls.
It really gives you a different perspective of this natural wonder.
If you want to learn more about the Journey Behind the Falls, check it out over here.
Kinda blurry but it’s the only photo I could find
5. Niagara SkyWheel
Niagara SkyWheel is a 175-foot tall Ferris Wheel which is located in Clifton Hill [there is no way you would miss it].
The ride gives you amazing views of the area and yes! you can definitely see the falls from it. From this vantage point, you can see mesmerizing views in every direction.
The cabins are fully closed and can fit 8 to 9 people [so you might have to go in with strangers, it depends on how busy they are].
Niagara SkyWheel is open year-round but don’t worry in the winter the cabins are heated [there is air-conditioning in the summer].
The ride takes approximately 10-15 minutes. The good news is that Niagara SkyWheel is open very late at night, so if you are busy all day it can be one of the things you do at the end of the day.
You don’t have to book this in advance but if you are an over-planner like me here is a link to buy your tickets here.
Niagara SkyWheel at night
6. Fireworks/Illuminations [at night]
Don’t forget to check out the falls at nighttime. They are always changing the frequency and type of entertainment so you are best off checking online before you go.
Usually, in the summer months, they have fireworks every day but sometimes they have fireworks only Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Sometimes they have a light show [Illuminations] with a bunch of different colors changing over the falls.
For special events, they have only certain colors illuminating the falls [red for Canada day] or they have a combination of fireworks and light show.
Either way, before you go to Niagara Falls, check online for their most current schedule. It’s really worth it.
Travel Addicted Unicorn Tip: the last time I went you could also see the fireworks from the boat tours [see above]. It will be really cool to see the fireworks from the water.
If you choose to do that, book early because the tickets were sold out when we tried to buy them.
Night view of the falls
7. Skylon Tower
The Skylon Tower is a tower very close to the Horseshoe Falls.
It has an observation deck on the top as well as two restaurants. One of them is the famous Revolving Dining Room Restaurant which offers high-end continental cuisine.
The second one is the Summit Suite Buffet Dining Room Restaurant which is the more budget-friendly option.
Did I mention that the first one rotates 360 degrees every hour?
I would recommend making a reservation ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
The observation deck provides indoor and outdoor views of the beautiful falls and since it is really close to it, it seems as if it is right underneath the Skylon Tower.
If you’re only going to the observation deck, I would say you would need 30 to 45 minutes.
There are a bunch of stores at the base of the Skylon Tower, amusement area and a 4D theatre.
There is plenty of parking on site. I really like the “yellow bug” elevators which are mounted on the outside of the tower.
Travel Addicted Unicorn Tip: try and coordinate your dinner plans or simply your visit to the observation deck with the fireworks/illuminations schedule.
If you want to know more, here is the link.
The Skylon Tower
All the things mentioned above are very close to each other. You don’t need to use a bus or a car, just walking is fine.
You would need about two days to see them all.
Especially if you have pre-booked tickets you can skip the line and save time. I hope this blog post will help you plan your first trip to Niagara Falls.