Most people tend to overlook Niagara Falls, Ontario, as merely the city that bears the same name as the famous waterfalls, which is quite unfortunate. Of course, visiting the three immaculate cascades that straddle the border between southern Canada and upstate New York is an absolute must while visiting the city, but there's more to the area than this natural landmark.
For starters, Niagara Falls is a region with extensive history, that's been explored by the likes of numerous icons ranging from French missionary Louis Hennepin (often credited as being the first European settler in the area) to the charming Marilyn Monroe, whose 1953 film "Niagara" boosted the city's fame, as well as her own. It's a metropolis that features culture nearly as beautiful as the nature surrounding it, eliminating boredom as a potential holiday option. Above all, Niagara Falls is a city that's geared toward the traveller whose open minded, with an imagination that's as vast as the waters are deep.
Chasing The Waterfalls
It's downright absurd to visit Niagara Falls without seeing the magnificent glistening falls up close and personal. That being said, there are right and wrong ways to go about touring the towering cascades. Make sure your visits to the Horseshoe, American and Bridal Veil Falls don't end in anything other than astonishment.
Marvel The Mist
If hearing the booming roar of more than 600,000 gallons of water crashing against the surface of the river sounds intriguing, then booking a boat cruise with the legendary Maid of the Mist tours is your source for marveling the waterfalls in person. Since 1846, Maid of the Mist has been bringing visitors almost as close as possible to Niagara Falls, where professional tour guides maneuver their way through the choppy tides for a rushing panoramic experience almost unparalleled to anywhere else in the world. A boat excursion through Niagara Falls is quite the thrill, but be forewarned, wearing a rain poncho or jacket is highly advised.
Underneath It All
While the cruise tour gets you nearly an arm's length away from the raging falls, signing up for Journey Behind the Falls takes you through the heart of the cascades. Here, you're expedition will start at the Horseshoe Falls, where visitors are led down a 45 metre elevator through the tunnels and caves that are hidden behind the rushing waters. From there, you'll be able to navigate through multiple observation decks with views ranging from the base of the waterfall to actually right underneath the falls, immersed in the tunneling cavern.
Cave of the Winds is another spectacular walking tour of the waterfalls that is also arguably the most wettest of the aforementioned expeditions. The guide starts off right at the foot of the Niagara Gorge, where guests can overlook the waters from the Hurricane Deck, which gets its name from the sheer lack of distance between the patio and the falls. Cave of the Winds is for those who choose to accept their fate of getting drenched while marveling in awe of these colossal displays.
Brighten Up Your Night
While most of the tours conclude after the sun is going down, one spectacle can only be achieved in the evening. After you've taken in an ideal Niagara Falls sunset, watch as the Illumination of the Falls begins (see schedule), and a dazzling array of colours are enhanced through the glimmering cascades. The show has been operated by the The Niagara Falls Illumination Board since 1925, and unravels every evening, occasionally lasting until midnight on the weekends.
Cultivate Your Senses
As stated earlier, there's more to the city then merely the waterfalls. After you've completed witnessing the majestic beauty of the cascades, your real journey into exploring the appeasing qualities of Niagara Falls truly begins.
Meet The Neighbours
An overlooked quality to the Niagara Falls area is the eclectic neighbourhoods and districts that produce a welcoming environment rich in vast history and culture. If it's more bright lights and countless attractions you're seeking, spend some time over in Clifton Hill, one of the more popular areas in downtown Niagara Falls. There's always presence of bursting energy taking place in Clifton Hill, where an afternoon spent here can entail everything from touring wax museums, playing a round of mini golf to getting spooked at year-round haunted houses. The days at Clifton Hill are more geared toward younger crowds, especially video game lovers, who can check out the The Great Canadian Midway arcade, featuring more than 20,000 square metres of everything from skee-ball to 3-D motion simulators.
When you need a break from the bright lights and busy streets, take a trip through Fort Erie, a small town that rests directly across the river from Buffalo, New York. History runs deep in Fort Erie, with inhabitants in the area being traced all the way back to the 16th century. Fort Erie was the site for multiple battlegrounds, such as the Beaver Wars in the mid-17th century between the Iroquois Native American forces and the local Algonquian tribes, or the War of 1812, where American soldiers attacked Fort Erie and eventually seizing the land from British troops. There are plenty of chances to tour the actual grounds where these landmark battles took place, especially at Old Fort Erie, where you'll feel you travelled back in time after watching recreations of actual battles often take place.
For a strip that's bursting with more cultural opportunities, spend the night wandering down Queen Street in downtown Niagara Falls. This is the premiere place to shop, eat and explore Niagara Falls, and get a better grasp of the laidback environment practised by the locals. Stop by for some tasty locally produced beers at TAPS Microbrewery, where you can see in person where the all the brewing magic takes place.
For an experience that's as challenging as it is captivating, head over to the Escape Room, where visitors can take part in a variety of interactive games ranging from solving giant puzzles to figuring out how to exit a locked room. That's right, visitors have their pick of multiple problem-solving challenges, such as The Attic, The Bunker and Trapped in the Carnival, where you and your holiday party will put each other to the test, solving riddles and finding clues to make your way out in less than 60 minutes.
Music aficionados will find it hard to leave Ragged Glory record shop after setting foot within the store. This is the go-to outlet for finding rare and popular vinyl albums alike, not to mention scrolling through extensive collections of movies, posters and other pop culture collectibles that will serves as a great Niagara Falls souvenir.
Break Off The Beaten Path
The main activities and attractions of Niagara Falls tend to stand out due to the utter range of experiences one can encounter throughout the city. From hearing the sounds of the world's most exotic birds, catching a concert of today's biggest bands to being completely engulfed by tropical butterflies, the options are practically infinite here in Niagara Falls.
Conquer The Kingdom
Multi-coloured toucans and loud-mouthed parrots may not be the first animals to spring to mind when thinking of Niagara Falls, but thanks to the Bird Kingdom just east of Rainbow Bridge, seeing these exotic birds firsthand is possible. This massive indoor aviaries is the largest of its kind in the world, measuring at more than 4,000-square metres and serving as home to more than 300 species of birds. From squawking African grey parrots to hooting boobook owls, you'll be simply stunned at the sheer quantity of birds from all around the globe. There are even plenty of other types of exotic animals on display as well, such as bearded dragons, Burmese pythons and even emperor scorpions.
Your heart will start to flutter when you take a stroll through the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory. A trip to this incredible butterfly zoo will allow you to walk around tropical settings as more than 2,000 different butterflies zoom all around you. You'll also have a chance to learn more about each distinct species that soar around the facilities, and for groups carrying around youngsters, the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory is free for guests aged five and under.
Face Your Fears
It's not often you'll find an establishment that prides itself on freaking out its customers, but that's exactly what the spooky people behind Nightmares Fear Factory strive for. Definitely not for the faint of heart, this frightening attraction is renowned as the oldest haunted house in North America, spreading terror in the minds of customers for more than 30 years. If you visit their Website, you'll actually find a running meter that tallies up how many people have "chickened out," with the figure slowly approaching 130,000 people who have had to leave the premises because they couldn't handle the horror.
According to the owners, the actual site of the location was once the home to the Cataract Coffin Factory, where it's believed that the owner of the business was actually crushed by one of his own coffins. On top of the eerie history, after you've endured all the scares within the haunted house, you'll be provided with a video and picture of yourself reacting to all the mayhem within!
Rush The Rapids
A venue that's bursting with history, as well as the occasional guitar solo, The Rapids Theatre is the place to go for catching local concerts in Niagara Falls. The building first opened in 1921 as a vaudeville venue with lavish ceilings and wide balconies, and still possesses an impressive interior design to this day. Countless of legendary acts have made their way to the stage of The Rapids Theatre, ranging from Parliament Funkadelic, Primus, Snoop Dogg, Fall Out Boy and Morrissey, and the weekends are always packed with patrons getting their groove on.
Fun For Free
Touring everything the Niagara Falls area has to offer can get somewhat expensive overtime. Keeping an eye out for free activities is always a plus, and most of the time you'll find that these endeavours are practically priceless. You won't need your wallet while hiking up the hillsides of Niagara Glen, an official nature reserve in the region that's filled with dozens of trails leading you through the thick of immaculate evergreen forests.
Vibrant colours and elegant scents await you at the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, where you can spend an afternoon strolling amongst 40 hectares of beautiful plants ranging from perennials, rhododendrons to azaleas. You also can't miss out on snapping a picture of their world-famous rose garden, which holds an estimated 2,400 roses that all range in dazzling shades.
If you're still in pursuit of some educational enlightenment, the Niagara Falls History Museum offers free admission for guests between the hours of 5p.m. and 9p.m. This is a great opportunity for your holiday part to get a better understanding of the history behind Niagara Falls, such as learning the dramatic details of the War of 1812 to examining hundreds of rare artifacts and items dating back from centuries ago.
Find your inner Buddha by exploring the famous Cham Shan Temple, an $80 million facility that contains countless numbers of authentic Buddhist arts and objects. They also provide free guided tours, that help explain their philosophy as you walk around the grand interior decorations that are abundant throughout the building's seven levels.
Find Your Home
To make your visit all the better, take your pick at selecting the ideal type of vacation rental home of your dreams. There are plenty of selections available to rent, that will easily accommodate everything from large holiday groups to intimate couple rendezvous. Whether it's a secluded cabin near the confides of nature or a ritzy condo that's close all the downtown action, choosing a Niagara Falls rental home has never been easier.
Simply put, Niagara Falls is a holiday destination for travellers who want to experience a bit of everything. From the roars of the famous waterfalls to the metropolitan sounds of downtown, make your next adventure unforgettable in Niagara Falls.