Niagara Falls’ biggest claim to fame is, of course, the eponymous waterfall. But go a little deeper and you’ll discover a city and region with fascinating geography, a unique place in Canadian history, and world-class wining and dining. Here are five things to do in Niagara Falls that go beyond the lure of the falls.
Experience a whitewater rush
More than 168,000 cubic metres of water pour over Niagara Falls every minute during peak daytime tourist hours in an awesome display of nature’s power. But equally impressive is what happens when all that water is forced through the steep, narrow Niagara gorge. The White Water Walk, a 300-metre boardwalk along the bottom of the gorge, about four kilometres north of the falls, gets you close enough to feel the spray from a breathtaking stretch of Class 6 rapids — considered unnavigable by even the most experienced whitewater paddlers. Here, the Niagara River thunders through the canyon at nearly 50 kilometres per hour, and the powerful flow creates standing waves three to five metres in height. Interpretive panels along the boardwalk offer more insight into the flora, fauna, and geology of the Niagara region, but prepare to be mesmerized by the rushing waters.
Brush up on your history
Some events from the War of 1812 have become the stuff of legend, like Laura Secord’s midnight flight to warn the British of impending American attack and the torching of the U.S. Capitol. Less well known is the crucial role played by Indigenous allies in securing the British victory — and the fate of Canada as we know it. The Landscape of Nations memorial in Queenston Heights Park honours the Six Nations warriors and other Indigenous allies who turned the tide in favour of the British in several key battles. “Most historians agree that were it not for First Nations involvement, Canada would likely have been absorbed into the United States,” says Tim Johnson, a historian from Six Nations of the Grand River and co-chair of the working group that created the memorial. True to its name, the Landscape of Nations is laden with symbolism, from the granite flagstones in the shape of a giant turtle at the entrance, to the walkway designed to resemble the Two Row Wampum, to the bronze medallions for each of the Six Nations set in slabs of Queenston limestone at the heart of the memorial. For Johnson, even its positioning just south of the towering Brock’s Monument is significant: “It creates this dialogue that I think is really fascinating,” he says. “You can look up and see the top of Brock’s Monument and have a conversation about what that relationship was like between the British and First Nations.”
Take Canada’s most Instagrammable wine tour
Trius Winery in nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake has taken the trend of social media-ready experiences and elevated it to an art form with their “Most Instagrammable” tour. Climb the pink stairs of the rosé tower and take in views of the vineyard as you sip the preferred patio drink of millennials everywhere, then descend to the sparkling cellar and let your guide teach you the proper technique for sabering open a bottle of bubbles. Then, once your inhibitions are good and lowered, pose for photos on the indoor swing in the shape of a muselet, inside the secret closet of infinite mirrors, or beneath one of the many neon slogans posted around the property.
Tip: To make the most of your day in Niagara wine country, let someone else do the driving: myWineCountry offers a variety of tour and tasting packages to suit your preferences.
Taste the Niagara terroir
Sandwiched between two Great Lakes and the Niagara escarpment, the Niagara region boasts a temperate microclimate and a long growing season, making it an agricultural powerhouse in Canada and a leader in the farm-to-table food movement. Not content to let Niagara-on-the-Lake steal all the glory, Chef Cory Linkson started AG Inspired Cuisine to showcase the produce from his small farm and apiary in Niagara Falls proper. The three-course prix fixe menu changes weekly and only features what’s in season, so the ingredients are never frozen and practically as fresh as they come. “You’re having an experience of Niagara today,” says Linkson.
Flow with the current
The story of how the falls were harnessed to generate electricity is one of human ingenuity and daring. In 2021, the long-dormant Canadian Niagara Power Company generating station was brought back to life as a museum to share that history through lovingly restored artifacts and interactive exhibits. Visit the Niagara Parks Power Station during the day to marvel at the soaring century-old architecture, then return in the evening for Currents, an immersive sound and light experience that traces the water’s journey from a droplet to the device in your hand.
Bonus: Seeing the falls
Of course, no trip to Niagara Falls would be complete without seeing the falls. Rise above the crush of sightseers on the parkway on a semi-private flight with Niagara Helicopters and soak in unforgettable views of the river, falls, gorge and Lake Ontario. On a sunny day, the skilled pilots will approach the falls at just the right angle to cause a rainbow to appear, giving you the chance to capture a special souvenir of your visit.
For a similarly elevated experience at a fraction of the price, take a spin aboard the 53-metre Niagara Skywheel at the top of Clifton Hill and gaze at the falls in climate-controlled comfort. Or better yet, book a fallsview room at the recently renovated Sheraton Fallsview Hotel and watch the nightly illumination of the falls, then drift off to the soporific sound of the rushing water.