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What to see and do in Niagara – an overview of notable attractions and landmarks

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Niagara lets visitors strike their own balance between high-octane sightseeing and laid-back leisure. In Niagara Falls, the year-round rush of visitors has inspired a bevy of entertainment options in addition to the falls, themselves, from museums to amusement parks. In Niagara-on-the-Lake, the must-see spots are comparatively low-key and largely nestled within a few scenic blocks.

Frank Bella

My Destination local expert on

Niagara (Ontario)

The Falls


Breath-taking, massive, thunderous: the falls that put Niagara on the map have been paired with endless adjectives, but ultimately require seeing to believe. On weekend evenings, the Illumination of the Falls has cast a colourful glow since 1925. On select nights, fireworks illuminate the falls from above. By day, you can get a birds-eye view of the falls from the SkyWheel or from Skylon Tower, where the Revolving Restaurant offers panoramic tableside views. The Maid of the Mist cruise provides a closer view of the falls, and Journey Behind the Falls offers an unusual perspective.


Clifton Hill


The Clifton Hill district in Niagara Falls is a wonderland for young visitors and the young-at-heart, with dozens of attractions densely packed into a few blocks. Gawk at the weird and marvellous exhibits at Ripley’s Museum or Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks, or get in some mini-golf amid life-size dinosaurs. The SkyWheel overlooks the area and offers views of the nearby falls from 175 feet in the air. The Canadian Midway boasts 70,000 square feet of arcade and fun-fair style amusements, while Marineland offers a balance of science and showmanship, with daily aquatic shows.


Winery tours


In well under an hour, you can go from the foot of the falls to any one of over 100 Niagara vineyards. Many wineries are clustered around Niagara-on-the-lake, with still more scattered around the scenic Niagara Escarpment, and further west to Grimsby. The region specializes in a range of cool-weather wines, with Cabernet Francs, Chardonnay, Rieslings, Gamays and icewines increasingly gaining international attention. Three seasonal wine festivals are ideal times for a visit: the Icewine Festival in January, the New Vintage Festival in June, and, most impressively, the Niagara Wine Festival in September.


The Shaw Festival


Besides its tidy, quiet charm, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a major hub for theatre for eight months of the year. Since 1962, the Shaw Festival has shown off a range of works from the second largest repertory company in North America. The unifying theme is “plays about the beginning of modernity,” with the sole requirement that all plays performed were written during Shaw’s lifetime (1856-1950). The festival’s broad scope makes for a wide-ranging slate of shows, from George Bernard Shaw’s own works to musical theatre.


Downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake


For quaint atmosphere and good shopping, too, simply stroll the historic centre of Niagara-on-the-Lake, or perhaps ride in a horse-drawn buggy. From Queen Street, you can see the landmark façade of the Prince of Wales hotel, facing lush Simcoe Park. Right across the street, the Niagara Apothecary Museum brims with old-timey curiosities. Within just a few blocks, the Niagara Historical Society and Museum features permanent and changing exhibitions, as well as serving as a departure point for regular walking tours around town. From there, it’s worth letting yourself get a little lost, as well, with numerous historic homes and inns lining the blocks of the downtown core.


Extravagant entertainment


While the Niagara area may make an ideal family destination, it also offers plenty of adults-only destinations for romantic escapes or kid-free relaxation. In the evening, head to Casino Niagara or Fallsview Casino for a night of gaming. Both casinos feature multiple restaurants, theatres, and a range of gaming tables as well as crowd-pleasing slot machines. At Fallsview Casino Resort, you can even stay the night, with many of the rooms offering views of the falls. For recuperation after a long night, Niagara’s many spas offer a range of massages and wellness treatments. Choose from White Oaks Resort and Spa in Niagara-on-the-Lake or Senses Spa & Boutique in Niagara Falls, as well as many smaller spas tucked among local inns and boutique resorts.