10 Unique Things to Do in Niagara Falls
Figure you’ve seen everything Niagara Falls has to offer? Think again! Here are 10 hidden gems that are well worth adding to your next Niagara Falls itinerary.
Photo: Niagara Parks Power Station
Niagara Parks Power Station
Massive bronze doors surrounded by Queenston limestone welcome you to the Niagara Parks Power Station, the first hydroelectric plant in Canada. For 115 years, this Romanesque building provided power for Niagara Falls and the surrounding area, including neighbouring Buffalo. Although it was decommissioned in 2006, it’s recently been restored—and transformed—as one of Niagara Falls’ newest tourist attractions. Here, visitors learn how the power of Horsehoe Falls was harnessed to generate electricity, while marvelling at the multi-storey blue turbines, repurposed machinery and interactive exhibits showcasing industrial ingenuity and the generations of people who worked here. Every evening the station hosts Currents: Niagara’s Power Transformed, an immersive light and music show paired with 3D projections highlighting the power plant’s history.
Photo: Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservatory
Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory
Looking for an incredible new profile pic? How about a selfie surrounded by hundreds of butterflies! As one of the largest glass-enclosed habitats for butterflies in North America, the Niagara Parks Butterly Conservatory provides the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with 45 species of winged wonders. Fluttering within a climate-controlled tropical rainforest, the colourful creatures welcome visitors year-round—although you might appreciate the heat and humidity most during the winter months. Take a self-guided tour through the lush plants and water features, while learning about the insects’ life cycle at the conservatory’s fascinating emergence window, where you’ll see butterflies in various stages from pupae to baby to adult—around 45,000 of them hatch here each year.
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Photo: NPCA / Rob Petrullo
In a country symbolized by the maple leaf, the Comfort Maple is truly something special. Not only is this specimen of “acer saccharum” absolutely massive, standing 24.4 metres high, with a circumference of six metres; it’s also ancient, thought to be around 500 years old. Designated as a heritage tree, it’s widely regarded as the oldest living sugar maple in Canada, and actually predates the town of Pelham which grew up around it. Although it’s well worth a visit, you’ll have to search elsewhere for maple syrup—the vintage tree is protected as part of a conservation area and isn’t tapped for its sap.
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Photo: Niagara Parks
The Greater Niagara Circle Route
The Niagara River Recreation Trail is the perfect option for those who prefer to explore the region by two wheels. Offering 56 kilometres of pathways, the trail connects the region’s canals, vineyards and historic sites. The popular Friendship Trail follows an old railway route between Port Colborne and Fort Erie, a relatively flat ride of 24 kilometres passing by farms and residential areas along the north shore of Lake Ontario. Avid cyclists seeking a challenge can explore the Waterfront Trail, which begins in Niagara and extends to the Quebec border, linking more than 600 kilometres of paved biking routes. Not up for the multi-day itinerary? Day trippers can cycle a 15 kilometre portion of the Waterfront Trail, with plenty of bike rentals available throughout the region.
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Photo: Fort George / Kurt Bickell
Fort George Historic Site
As one of the key historic sites of the War of 1812, Fort George was integral to the defense against American attacks, as well as serving as a training ground for Canada’s military as recently as the Korean War. Restored to its 1812-era appearance, visitors can wander through the eight military structures, brought to life by guides in period costume who recount the fort’s fascinating role in Canadian history, and the lives of the soldiers stationed there.
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Photo: Niagara Glen Nature Centre
Niagara Glen Nature Centre
A 20 minute drive north of the Horsehoe Falls on the Niagara Parkway will bring you to the Niagara Glen Nature Centre and the Niagara River’s famed whirlpool. Less well-known—albeit just as spectacular—is the Niagara Deep Gorge’s impressive Carolinian forest, with its canopy of ever-changing colours, from the first pale green leaves of spring to the brilliant hues of autumn. A walk along the gorge’s four-kilometre loop trail offers unforgettable vistas with a soundtrack provided by the nearby waterfalls. You’ll be amazed at the rock formations on the route; a result of thousands of years of erosion that have made the landscape ripe for “bouldering,” a type of freeform climbing that’s popular among adrenaline junkies.
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Zipline to the Falls
Speaking of adrenaline junkies, what would you say to soaring 2,200 metres above the Horseshoe Falls? On the Mistrider Zipline, riders aged seven and up can put their nerves to the test on one of four parallel ziplines that offer an enviable view of the Falls at a pulse-pounding speed of 70 kilometres an hour. Kick it up a notch by scheduling your ride at night, when the waterfalls are illuminated by a rainbow of colourful lights. Better yet, plan for a holiday weekend when you’ll be joined on your journey through the night sky by a brilliant fireworks display.
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Photo: Alex Heidbuechel
Indigenous Niagara Living Museum Tour
A new half-day bus tour debuting in Spring 2022, the Indigenous Niagara Living Museum Tour takes visitors on a fascinating history lesson they didn’t teach in school. Led by Indigenous historians and artists, the route includes popular historic sites as well as new Indigenous murals and sculptures that tell the stories of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabek peoples, the War of 1812, and the geology and ecosystems of Niagara Falls. You can take a self-led preview of the tour by making a trip to the Indigenous Living Memorial at Queenston Heights (above), featuring sculptures of Six Nations leaders John Brant and John Norton.
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Niagara’s Virtual Wineries
With more than 50 wineries operating in the Niagara region, choosing where to book a tasting can be tough. Consider tailoring your search to the newest additions to Ontario’s wine country: “virtual” wineries. Not to be confused with an online operation, virtual wineries are essentially wineries within wineries, in which a winemaker uses another winery’s facilities (and grapes) to produce their own vintages. One of the first—and most successful—of these virtual wineries was 2027 Cellars, which made a splash with its Fox Croft Blanc de Blancs 2016 sparkling wine. Another label popular with wine critics, Charles Baker Wines, produces its Riesling Vinemount Ridge VQA at the Picone Vineyard, a 10-acre estate on the Niagara Escarpment. Leave the details of your tasting route to the excellent Wine Country Ontario trip planner, which can help plot out wineries, dining, picnic areas and accommodations.
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Photo: Long Beach Conservation Area / Rob Petrullo
Long Beach Conservation Area
A 45-minute drive southwest of the Falls, this breathtaking beach is one of Niagara’s best-kept secrets. The expansive sandy shoreline encourages a wide range of water sports on Lake Erie, including swimming, stand up paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking, sailing and fishing, and the relatively shallow waters ensure the lake temperature is warm and welcoming throughout the summer. Located along a main migratory route, this park is a haven for birdwatching year-round, while hikers will appreciate the nearby forest and lake habitats along the 20-kilometre Long Beach Conservation Area Trail. Although day passes are available, it’s also a popular campground, with more than 200 sites available for reservation from May to October.
Now that you know the most unique things to do in Niagara Falls, discover 12 hidden gems across Canada.