Mighty Niagara Falls is a natural wonder, no doubt about it. The towering cascade straddling the U.S.-Canada border between New York and Ontario is North America’s most powerful waterfall — and an easy day trip from Toronto. You’ll want to take it in up-close, whether from a helicopter, trailside, or jet boating by the blasting spray of mist at the base of the falls.
After you get to know this landmark, don’t miss the many things to do and see nearby: Theater, wine tasting, food tours, historical sites, cocktails with a view, and fine dining. Here are the top 10.
Hornblower’s Voyage to the Falls
Visitors have been touring the falls by boat since 1846 for a reason: It’s absolutely thrilling. And Hornblower Niagara Cruises is the pro. Hornblower’s catamaran takes you right up to the base of the falls where you can feel the thundering of one-fifth of the world’s fresh water pounding from 13 storeys above down onto the Niagara River. The 20-minute Voyage to the Falls gets you a look at the whole spectrum: Horseshoe, Bridal Veil, and American Falls, plus the Great Gorge. There’s a nighttime version that’s especially impressive where the falls are illuminated in a rainbow of colors.
Wine tasting and touring
The fertile Niagara Peninsula is one of Canada’s top three wine-growing regions, renowned as the world leader in Icewine. Cycle the green, gently rolling countryside on your own or join a guided tasting tour stopping in at some of the nearly 100 wineries, meeting the vintners, and tasting their best.
Journey Behind the Falls tour
Niagara Parks Commission hosts the self-guided Journey Behind the Falls, a tour that takes you to the other side of Canada’s Horseshoe Falls. Starting at the Table Rock Centre, you can view the falls from the upper and lower observation decks, then take an elevator 150 feet down to two bedrock portals leading to open caves right behind the roaring cascades. You’ll need that plastic rain poncho!
Prince Edward County foodie trail
Harvest raspberries and peaches, visit produce and lavender farms, and eat, eat, eat in Prince Edward County. This locavore paradise on Lake Ontario’s shore is a short jaunt from the falls, but it’ll be hard to keep your visit to just a day trip. There are 40 wineries, plus breweries and cideries, cheese makers, artisan producers, charming farmer’s markets, and outstanding restaurants, most farm-to-table-focused. Follow the Taste Trail — or Arts Trail — for top stops.
You can really get a sense of the falls’ grandeur from the air. That’s what a Niagara Helicopters’ 12-minute classic flightseeing adventure is about. The chopper hovers right above the falls and its elusive rainbows, the Niagara River, and Rainbow Bridge, all with views of the Toronto skyline and Lake Erie. You’ll learn about the area and history via commentary on headsets. Or, combine the best of both in a falls-plus-wineries tour.
Dinner with a legendary view
Another bird’s eye option is the Skylon Tower, an indoor-outdoor viewing area and platform 775 feet up with vistas of the American and Horseshoe Falls, plus a 3D/4D movie theater screening “Legends of Niagara Falls.” Even the glassed-in elevator ride up is fun. For a special occasion, book a table at one of two dining rooms, The Summit Suite Buffet or table service Revolving Dining Room. The later of which makes a 360-degree rotation every hour for a date with a fabled view.
See a play
Many fans go to Niagara solely for the Shaw Festival, an internationally acclaimed series of productions — from avant-garde to popular crowd-pleasers — each year from April to November. You can get tickets to just one or several theater performances by famed playwright George Bernard Shaw and his late 1800s-era contemporaries. Resident and visiting leading directors from around the world make this a must-do for any aficionados of the stage.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is a leafy fruit and wine-growing area worth exploring by car or bike, or from your base at a serene vineyard-surrounded inn. The town itself is celebrated as a romantic getaway destination due to it being a 19th century village of handsome heritage buildings and Victorians, dating back to 1781. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride, stroll, shop, and browse some of the charming small-town restaurants serving big city-worthy fare.
Learn about the history
Military post Fort George National Historic Site in Niagara-on-the-Lake played prominently as a battle site in Canada’s War of 1812. The British fought here defending Upper Canada against American attacks, and lost, and you can watch reenactments of red-coated soldiers firing muskets to Fife and Drums Corps music, plus sample 19th century vittles cooked over an open fire.
If you want to get into the falls, literally, you’ll love the one-hour, high-speed up-river ride with Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours. This invigorating approach takes you through the Niagara Gorge to Devil’s Hole class 5 whitewater rapids on a 45-minute out-and-back. You also get to peek over the edge of the giant Whirlpool. Hop on on the U.S. or Canadian side to start, and either take the dry JET DOME version or bring a change of clothes and prepare to get soaked.
Plan your itinerary at the Visit Niagara Canada website.