8 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Niagara Falls
The Niagara Falls are among the most impressive and best known falls in the world. They lie in the extreme north-west of New York State. Here masses of water from Lake Erie plunge over an almost 200 ft drop to flow into Lake Ontario.They attract over 12 million visitors a year. The falls consist of three separate sections; Horseshoe Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and the American Falls.
See also: Where to Stay in Niagara Falls
1 Maid of the Mist
The Maid of the Mist is a long running tour boat, and one of the most popular ways to experience the falls. The boat takes visitors up close to the base of the falls. So close in fact, passengers are given raincoats to protect against the heavy mist and spray from the falls. It passes directly in front of the falls and enters the Horseshoe Basin. White water surrounds the double-decker boat while the water plunges down right in front of you.
2 Goat Island
From Prospect Point a path crosses a bridge on to little Green Island, in the middle of the rapids just above the American Falls, and then over another bridge on to Goat Island, between the American and the Horseshoe Falls. From the northern tip of this wooded island a gangway leads on to little Luna Island, beyond the narrow Bridal Veil Falls, which are separated from the American Falls by Luna Island. On Goat Island, at the foot of the American Falls, is the entrance to the Cave of the Winds (elevators and tunnel), from which boardwalks lead to just under the falls. From the end of the tunnel under the American Falls the Horseshoe Falls Lower Gorge Walkway leads to the foot of the Horseshoe Falls.
3 Cave of the Winds
Located on Goat Island, the Cave of the Winds offers a close up, and somewhat wet, look at the falls. Visitors descend into the Niagara Gorge and walk up several sets of stairs to the Hurricane Deck. From this lookout platform you are only 20 ft from the tumbling water of Bridal Veil Falls. Massive amounts of water are falling above you while smaller streams run below the lookout deck. This is one of the most popular activities for tourists in Niagara Falls. It is one of the few ways to see the falls from below, rather than the traditional view from the waters edge at the top of the falls. Participants on this tour are given rain jackets to wear and should expect to get wet.
4 Whirlpool Rapids Bridge
Three miles below the American Falls the river changes course again, forming the Whirlpool in a great cauldron originally created by tectonic movements and turning northeast over the Lower Rapids towards Lake Ontario.
5 Niagara Falls State Park
Niagara Falls State Park is New York's oldest state park, opened in 1885, and home to the three famous sets of falls that it is named after. The parks is composed of an area on main land, and five islands on the Niagara River. It offers over 400 acres with nature and bike trails, paths, picnic facilities, and all kinds of activities and attractions.
6 Aquarium of Niagara
The Aquarium of Niagara offers a variety of marine animals, including sea lions, penguins and otters. Some of the highlights include seal, shark, and penguin feedings, and the sea lion training sessions.
Address: 701 Whirlpool Street, Niagara Falls, NY 14301-1094, United States
7 Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University
The Castellani Art Museum features a permanent collection that includes contemporary and 20th century artwork as well as folk art that dates back to the 1850's. Paintings, drawings, photographs and pre-Columbian ceramics are on display. The museum also focuses on presents works by well known and emerging contemporary artists.
Address: Niagara University
8 Niagara's Wax Museum of History
Niagara's Wax Museum is a good option on days when the weather is cold or rainy and outdoor options are limited. Unlike most wax museums which are strictly designed for entertainment, this museums is both fun and educational, presenting historical facts related to the falls, along with the wax figures. Some of the displays are a little dated but interesting nonetheless.
Address: 303 Prospect Street, Niagara Falls
Where to Stay in Niagara Falls for Sightseeing
While there are several things to see and do in Niagara Falls, the main attractions are the waterfalls themselves, so the best option is to find a hotel within walking distance of the falls and Niagara Falls State Park, or along the river gorge. This is where most of the best hotels are found. Below is a list of some highly-rated hotels in convenient locations.
- Luxury Hotels: The Red Coach Inn Historic Bed and Breakfast Hotel is a charming and romantic 1923 English Tudor style inn, with a fantastic location overlooking the rapids, and just a short stroll to the edge of the falls and Goat Island. With a more modern feel, The Giacomo is a boutique hotel set in a 1923 Art Deco tower, and is within easy walking distance to the falls and the Cave of the Winds. A little further back, but still within walking distance, the Sheraton at the Falls has an indoor pool and is close to several good restaurants and cafés.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Just a short distance upstream from the falls and Goat Island is the Hampton Inn Niagara Falls, with an indoor pool and a complimentary breakfast. The Comfort Inn The Point is in a great location, just steps from Niagara Falls, and close to the aquarium, and Rainbow Bridge. For something a little more quaint, the Hillcrest Inn is a bed and breakfast in a Georgian mansion on a quiet street, near the river and about a mile from the Falls. All rooms are tastefully decorated and have private baths.
- Budget Hotels: Within walking distance of the falls, Rodeway Inn Niagara Falls is a good-value hotel, with some rooms offering a microwave and fridge. In a little better location, closer to the falls, the Howard Johnson is a pet-friendly hotel with a pool and complimentary breakfast. Further downstream, the Gorge View is a popular hostel with a variety of accommodation options for those who are on a tight budget.