Niagara Falls vacations are about more than just seeing the Falls, although that’s certainly the highlight of any trip here! But when you’ve admired the mighty cataract from the edge of the Table Rock, from the prow of the Maid of the Mist boat, from the height of the helicopter, the aero car, the Skylon Tower or the Niagara SkyWheel – what else is there to do at Niagara Falls Canada?
I take this question seriously, since I’m a frequent visitor to the area. I grew up within spitting distance of the great waters. Even though I now live about an hour’s drive away, I often return on the weekend to indulge in all the local attractions. Here are a few of my Top 10 suggestions to make the most of your Niagara Falls vacations:
1. IMAX Theatre and the Daredevil Gallery – Experience the thrill of going over the Falls in a barrel without leaving your comfortable theatre seat! This is the best IMAX film I’ve ever seen for realism. The adjacent museum featuring daredevils’ equipment, which is small and quirky, is also worth a visit.
2. Niagara Parks Gardens – Thanks to the Niagara Parks Commission we have the most beautiful gardens lining the Niagara River. Enjoy them as you drive along or stop and smell the flowers in Queen Victoria Park or admire the elegant fountains in Oakes Garden Theatre. Just a 10 minute drive north of the Falls you’ll find the world’s largest Floral Clock and the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens where tomorrow’s gardeners train at the School of Horticulture (I actually toyed with the idea of applying when I was a kid and kind of regret that I didn’t).
3. A Great Greenhouse – If you haven’t had enough flowers, or if it’s winter, try the Floral Showcase (its new name … most people still call it the Niagara Parks Greenhouse). I love to visit this exotic tropical paradise at Christmas when it’s full of splendid trees made of Poinsettia plants! The chirping birds add to the beauty of the experience too.
4. Elements on the Falls Restaurant – This is as close as you can get to the Horseshoe Falls while eating your dinner without actually taking your lunch in a rain barrel and going over the edge. What a view! Perfect for a special occasion.
5. Niagara Parkway – It’s not often that a road is a tourist attraction but the view of the river on one side and the gorgeous landscaping, heritage homes and wineries on the other side make a drive along here a special treat. Fantastic in the fall when the leaves are changing colour.
6. Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservatory – Walk among over 2,000 free-flying butterflies in a pyramid-shaped conservatory. Visit your own mini-rainforest.
7. Bird Kingdom – Another rainforest! Definitely one of my favourite spots in Niagara. Hundreds of tropical birds and plants and even a Javanese house transported from the jungle and rebuilt piece by piece inside this huge former corset factory.
8. Queenston Heights Park – Fifteen minutes by car from Niagara Falls, this park is a peaceful place to enjoy a picnic or dine in another restaurant with a great view of the river. If you have the energy you could burn some of those calories off by climbing the monument to General Brock, hero of the War of 1812.
9. Entertainment – What’s there to do in Niagara Falls at night? If you’ve seen the Nightly Illumination of the Falls, or the Fireworks, then you might want to check out the Greg Frewin Magic Show, the Oh Canada Eh dinner theatre, and outside of town, just up the parkway in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the famous Shaw Festival theatre.
10. Who goes to Niagara Falls in winter? Smart people who enjoy the smaller crowds and the gorgeous Festival of Lights with all the sparkling animated creatures along the river and in Dufferin Park.