Believe it or not, Niagara is much more than just the falls.
In addition to its incomparable natural wonder, the Niagara region is home to tasty modern cuisine and award-winning vineyards; it’s home to world-class entertainment and casinos; and it’s home to outdoor and historical experiences.
Whether you’ve never visited Niagara or have seen the falls before, there’s always something new to explore. We’ve put together a quick guide to help inspire your next trip to Niagara.
While there is more to the region than the falls, a trip to Niagara still wouldn’t be complete without visiting them. And why wouldn’t you? The roar of the water as you approach it, the mist you feel on your face as you look up 50m at a true natural wonder, and the sheer power of the falls that you can feel to your bones… you’ll never get tired of that!
When it comes to experiencing Niagara Falls, there are plenty of options to choose from.
For a classic way to view the falls from below, take a boat cruise for an up-close and soggy view. Don your mist poncho, climb up to the observation deck of a Hornblower Catamaran, and take in that view as you tour the Great Gorge, American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls. Wait until night time, and watch the falls light up in colour, on a special “Illumination Night Cruise.”
Take an exhilarating ride on the new MistRider Zipline to the Falls. Be one of the first to experience this new attraction! It’s an amazing rush to soar high and fast toward the breathtaking natural Niagara Falls phenomenon. On four parallel ziplines, travelling 670 metres through the wide river gorge, guests get picture-perfect views of the American and Canadian Horseshoe Falls – an exclusive Niagara experience! This guided, gravity powered Element is an incredible, unforgettable flight.
If you enjoyed the view from the front of the falls, why not head behind them? On your Journey Behind the Falls, step into an elevator and descend 45m through bedrock to your destination below the rim of the gorge, right into the heart of Niagara Falls. A quick walk through a tunnel and you’ll be standing behind a wall of water free-falling more than 13 storeys– it’s a view like no other.
After seeing it from the front and the back, what’s left? How about from above? You won’t find a more exciting way to experience Niagara Falls than from the cockpit of a helicopter. Take off in a Niagara Helicopter and fly as close as possible to the thundering water on your personal tour. You’ll definitely want to bring your camera to this one.
If a great view of Niagara Falls is your ultimate goal, the remarkable Skylon Tower allows you to take in the scenery from almost 240 metres above the action. Choose from the indoor and outdoor observation spaces or two separate dining rooms which all provide a fantastic look at the natural wonder and beyond, with views stretching for 128 kilometres.
Beyond the falls, the Niagara region is full of great reasons to get outdoors.
If you love to get out on the links, the area is home to Canada’s largest collection of golf courses. There are 48 courses to choose from, so you’re guaranteed to find one that you love. If you don’t know where to start, tee off on the Niagara Golf Trail, a route bringing you around seven of the region’s top courses.
For a relaxing outdoor experience, head to the South Coast region of Niagara and top up your tan on one of the eight beautiful, sandy beaches of Lake Erie. Water lovers might also pay Port Colborne a visit. Named the World Fishing Network’s Ultimate Fishing Town in 2013, it’s a great place to hook trout, salmon, walleye, and perch, or just relax with a line in the water.
Want to get your heart rate up? Hundreds of miles of cycling trails can be found in Niagara, from winding roads to challenging hills and everything in between. Take an easy cycle along the Welland Canals Parkway Trail, passing vineyards as you ride the Niagara River Recreation Trail, or take on sections of the lengthy Greater Niagara Circle Route — a popular destination for keen cyclists.
From biking we turn to hiking. The Niagara Escarpment — a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve — is a fan-favourite for hiking and nature walks. Head out on the Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest and longest footpath, to immerse yourself in nature at your own pace.
While it isn’t necessarily a hike, the White Water Walk is an incredible way to experience one of the world’s wildest stretches of whitewater. Walk along a boardwalk to take in the incredible Whirlpool Rapids swirling below, where the fast-moving water creates standing waves.
Wining and dining Niagara
Do you like to visit wine cellars, sample vintages and discover the perfect pairings? A wine-lover’s paradise, over 80 vineyards call the Niagara region home. Of those, nearly 30 can be found in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area — named TripAdvisor’s #1 food and wine destination in Canada. The area is also home to the Icewine Festival, an annual two-week celebration of this quintessentially Canadian drink. Give it a try, enjoy it paired with the local cuisine, and learn how it’s made.
Speaking of local cuisine, Niagara is full of great eats sourced from local ingredients. Whether you’re walking through town in search of a quick bite, celebrating at an upscale restaurant, or just want a bite to pair with your wine, you won’t have trouble finding somewhere to fit your tastes.
As mentioned, Niagara-on-the-Lake has a reputation for fine food, and 14 of the region’s restaurants have come together to form Signature Kitchens: “a culinary group celebrating the joys of local, artisanal, and seasonal cuisine.” Drop by the Riverbed Inn for country cooking with views of local vineyards, have your pick of steak and seafood at the Cannery Restaurant, or try out the menu at the Epicurean’s dinner bistro.
Hungry after a day spent around the falls? For a meal with a view, score a seat almost on top of Horseshoe Falls at Elements on The Falls. Directly across from the natural wonder, indulge your senses with a meal from renowned chef Massimo Capra at the Rainbow Room. Or head to Windows by Jamie Kennedy, where farm-to-table cuisine can be enjoyed with a 13th floor view of the falls.
Want fine dining at a great price? Head to Benchmark, where students of the Niagara College’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute hone their skills. Or, slip on an apron and learn to cook your own fantastic meal at the Wine Country Cooking School.
Finally, if you’re planning a picnic, head to one of the many farmers’ markets scattered throughout the region for the best in local produce, baking and ingredients.
Never a dull moment
Now that you’re well fed, what kind of entertainment are you in the mood for?
Passionate about performing arts? Head to the Shaw Festival, a production company that creates a steady stream of musicals, dramas, and comedies you won’t want to miss. For an all-season mixture of theatre, dance, music, and comedy head to St. Catharines’ First Ontario Performing Arts Centre. Or for a bit of a lighter entertainment experience, take in a comedy show at Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club, or dinner theatre at Oh Canada Eh?, a frothy musical focused on Canadian icons and stereotypes.
Like to learn? Step back in time at the Niagara Falls History Museum. Visit Fort George, the headquarters for the Centre Division of the British Army during the War of 1812. Watch soldiers in red coats fire muskets, or learn to fire one yourself. Or follow Niagara’s South Coast Arts & Culture Route and jump from gallery to studio to museum.
Enjoy a good card game? Niagara has two world-class casinos, one of which, the Niagara Fallsview Casino, is the largest in Canada, so you’ll always be able to find an open seat at the table. You can also head down to the Fort Erie Race Track and try your luck on the horses.
Originally published by Destination Canada.