Niagara Falls. It’s not one of the seven wonders of the world – but it should be!
What we know as Niagara Falls is actually three distinct waterfalls on the southern end of the Niagara Gorge: the American Falls, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls. This natural wonder attracts more than 12 million visitors a year – and now we know why. They’re INCREDIBLE.
We’d never been to Niagara Falls, so we were both super excited to visit after the TBEX Conference in the Finger Lakes and our mini road trip to Scranton, Pennsylvania. While planning the trip, I told Angie I wanted to do all the adventurous activities available. (Aside from going over the falls in a barrel, which is ridiculous and fortunately not something on offer.)
In theory, I was ready to be a bada$$ adventurer, and I figured if I planned ahead I couldn’t back out.
Ready to check Niagara Falls off the bucket list? Let’s go!
7 Things to do in Niagara Falls to Have the Most Epic Adventures!
1. Take a Helicopter Tour (U.S.)
Where can you get the best view of the falls? How about directly above them!?
We decided to get our very first look at the falls in the most epic way possible – via helicopter! We didn’t even take one peep until we were flying toward them with Rainbow Air Helicopter Tours.
And that was a great decision because WOW. WOW. WOW. I’m so glad I didn’t chicken out because I must’ve said WOW 1,000 times during the flight.
This 10-minute ride over Niagara was the most incredible way to get a first look at all three waterfalls. You can book this tour or an extended version which offers views of all three falls, the lower Niagara River including class V rapids, two of the world’s largest hydroelectric power plants, Fort Henry and Fort Niagara where the river meets Lake Ontario.
Rainbow Air is on the American side and is open daily May through October, with weekend openings in April and November. You can also take a helicopter tour departing from the Canadian side. For more info, click here.
2. Explore Niagara Falls State Park (U.S.)
After getting a birds-eye view of the falls and the surrounding area, we made our way to the Niagara Falls State Park. Open all year, 24-hours a day, the state park is the best place to learn how the falls formed, explore hiking trails, take guided tours and get up close to the falls.
This is a good place to pick up a Discovery Pass, a self-guided ticket including admission to all the major activities on the USA side like Maid of the Mist, Cave of the Winds, Niagara Adventure Theater, Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, Aquarium of Niagara and rides on the Niagara Scenic Trolley. There’s so much to see and do on the U.S. side!
Should you want to spend even more time outdoors, you can rent an RV and set up camp and any of the nearby campgrounds. A great way to enjoy even more time in this area.
We loved learning the history of the area at the Discovery Center through interactive displays. This is also where you start to explore all the Niagara Gorge hiking trails. Sadly we didn’t have time for all of that!
The hiking trails vary between an easy one-hour stroll to a three-hour boulder-hopping hike for experienced hikers only. As Floridians, we passed on the hills!
3. Sail into the Mist on the Hornblower (Canada)
After spending an active morning on the U.S. side of the falls, we drove over the Rainbow Bridge into Canada. It was super easy and only took about 10 minutes – but you definitely need your passport so don’t forget it!
We grabbed bright pink/red ponchos and sailed right into the roar of the falls on the Hornblower, Canada’s version of Maid of the Mist. The 20-minute river cruise put us up close and personal with thundering Niagara Falls.
WARNING: YOU WILL GET WET.
There’s never a bad time to book a river cruise. We took the Voyage to the Falls tour, which runs during the day. In the evening, special lights are projected onto the falls, so evening cruises are another option.
4. Zipline To The Falls (Canada)
There’s zip lining, and then there’s zip lining at Niagara Falls. The MistRider Zipline to the Falls is an exhilarating ride towards the base of Horseshoe Falls.
We started getting nervous at the top – it didn’t seem so steep from the ground!
We soared right past the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls on the left and landed on the observation deck at the base of Horseshoe Falls. The ride took less than a minute, but it was 60 seconds I’ll never forget.
5. Journey Behind the Falls (Canada)
So far, we’ve seen Niagara from the sky, from the deck of a boat and from a zipline. What other vantage point could there be?
“Hold my beer,” said Canada.
You can get behind Niagara Falls using 130-year-old tunnels in the bedrock. Journey Behind the Falls lets you walk behind Horseshoe Falls. Can you believe that’s a thing?!
First, you take an elevator down 125 feet to an observation deck next to crashing Horseshoe Falls.
We wandered through the damp tunnel and stood right behind the water rushing down past the rocks. When I say rushing, I mean it. It was like peeking out a porthole on a pirate ship in a hurricane – just a torrent of water, occasional gusts and not much else!
Back in the day, if you wanted to get this close to the falls you had to descend down the steep bank and over giant rocks. The first staircase wasn’t even built until 1818 and for just $1, visitors could enter the “Sheet of Falling Water.” The first tunnels were built in 1889, and in 1925 dressing rooms were installed for guests to change into heavy rubber rain coats and boots.
In 1944, they carved a new tunnel behind the original, and these are the tunnels we use today. Except we get biodegradable ponchos instead of the rain coats and boots!
The only thing we didn’t do at Niagara Falls was swim. And who knows – maybe that will be the next big thing!
6. Have Dinner on the Edge (Canada)
It’s not hard to find somewhere to eat on the Canadian side of the falls, but for the most unbelievable view, check out Elements on the Falls.
It’s about as close as you can get to standing on the edge!
With an extensive menu, front row seats of Horseshoe Falls and specialty cocktails – it’s the most delicious and beautiful way to dine at the falls.
7. Catch the Fireworks in Style (U.S.)
After a magical day criss-crossing up, over and behind the falls, we drove back over the border to the U.S. to check into our hotel for the night, The Giacomo. The art deco-inspired property is within walking distance to Niagara Falls State Park, so it’s super convenient. And it’s so schwanky and comfortable! We were bowled over when we checked in after such an exhausting day to find an enormous 2-bedroom suite.
We were so sad we only had one night at this gorgeous hotel!
We grabbed drinks downstairs at the bar and made our way up to the Skyview Lounge to watch the fireworks over the falls. Sure, we could’ve gone back out and seen them a bit closer, but we’d had quite the day. We toasted to an truly epic adventure in Niagara Falls and promptly fell asleep!
We did it! I finally faced my fear of
helicopters, ziplining literally anything off the ground. Many thanks to Niagara Parks and Niagara Falls USA for hosting us and showing us the “8th wonder of the world”!
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Have you been to Niagara Falls? What activity would you most like to try? Tell us in the comments!
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