One of the most stunning and well-known falls in the world is Niagara Falls. They are located along the Niagara River, which forms the border between the United States and Canada, in the far northwest of New York State. More than 12 million people visit this location each year as masses of water from Lake Erie rush over a nearly 200-foot drop.
There are a total of three waterfalls: Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls, which is the widest. In Niagara Gorge, the river rushes through a narrow corridor before churning into a massive vortex downstream. Both on dry land and up close in the spray, there are many different ways to observe the falls.
10 Attractions & Things to Do in Niagara Falls
After taking in the breathtaking falls, you can explore this charming hamlet in upstate New York and Niagara Falls, Ontario, which are located just across the river. Our list of the top attractions and activities in Niagara Falls, New York, might help you plan your next vacation.
1. Old Fort Niagara
Visitors have the chance to see one of the most significant forts from the 18th century, Old Fort Niagara, which was essential in preserving control over access to the Great Lakes during the colonial wars. Exhibits and relics can be found in the visitor centre and the fort’s many restored historic buildings. Living history interpreters portray everyday activities like doing chores and working as artists over the summer.
In-season guided tours are also offered, while off-season guests are welcome to watch an introductory film and wander the grounds at their own pace. There are hourly musket demonstrations all year long, and the fort also hosts special events like re-enactments.
2. Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University
The Castellani family established the Castellani Art Museum in 1976 to advance art education at Niagara University and in the community. More than 5,600 pieces in various media that originate from the 1850s to the present are part of the permanent collection.
Examples include sculpture, photographs, paintings, sketches, and pre-Columbian ceramics. The majority of the museum’s collection consists of works by well-known and up-and-coming contemporary artists that were produced after the 1970s. On the Niagara University campus is where the museum is situated.
3. Aquarium of Niagara
The Aquarium of Niagara is a terrific indoor activity for families on chilly or rainy days. More than 200 different aquatic animal species can be found here, along with 30 educational exhibits. The sea lion display, harbour seal performances, and penguin feeding are aquarium presentations.
The option of an animal encounter with a behind-the-scenes look at the social interactions, training, and care of seals and Humboldt penguins is also available to visitors. The aquarium also acts as a facility for rehabilitating damaged wildlife.
4. Devil’s Hole State Park & Devil’s Hole Rapids
The Devil’s Hole Rapids, which are located downstream from the Whirlpool and Whirlpool State Park, are where Devil’s Hole State Park gets its name. The Devil’s Hole Trail is classed as moderate, but because it travels through the gorge and down an embankment close to the water’s edge, there are many stairs and a small risk of rock falls.
The Niagara Gorge Track (Rim Trail), either immediately at its northern end or through the Whirlpool Rapids Trail to the south, provides access to this 1.25-mile trail. It’s a great place to take in the size and force of the water at Devil’s Hole Rapids because of its proximity to the sea.
The Whirlpool Rapids Path, which features a steep staircase, a few spots with tight spaces, and some rock hopping, is the hardest trail in the system. Its length is 1.3 miles one way, although its southernmost point has no trail connections. Following this route upstream, hikers on the Devil’s Hole Trail can take in views of the Whirlpool and Whirlpool Rapids before turning around and returning to the Rim Trail via the Rapids Trail stairway.
5. Niagara Gorge Trail (Rim Trail)
Along the upper edge of the gorge, the Rim Trail, which runs from south to north, provides a variety of breathtaking views. Although it has a well-kept gravel foundation and is rated as “easy,” there are several sets of rather steep steps. The Niagara Gorge Trailhead Center (near the Discovery Center) serves as the path’s starting point, and it ends at the Robert Moses Power Plant. The trail is 6.2 miles long in total.
The Artpark State Park lies directly north of the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge and can be reached by hiking another 1.3 miles (of easy to moderate effort) on the Artpark Gorge Trail from the trail’s northernmost end.
This park also contains the River’s Edge Trail, which, as its name implies, allows hikers to experience the river at ground level. This short, 1.2-mile simple track is a great option for people who might struggle with the more tough waterside hikes.
6. Whirlpool Rapids
The river undergoes another course change three miles below the American Falls, creating a whirlpool in the enormous crater that was initially formed by tectonic forces, before turning northeast over the Lower Rapids and heading towards Lake Ontario. With 100,000 cubic feet of water flowing down the constrained Whirlpool Gorge per second, these rapids are among the most hazardous in the entire world.
Visitors can descend a set of pathways and stairs from the New York side of the river to an observation platform that was previously a Great Gorge Railway stop. The Whitewater Walk is a more accessible method to see the whirlpool and rapids, but it does necessitate travelling to Canada’s Niagara Park in Ontario.
7. Goat Island’s Cave of Winds
A walkway leads from Prospect Point through a bridge and onto Goat Island, which is situated between the American and Horseshoe Falls and is located in the middle of the rapids immediately above the American Falls. The entrance to the Cave of the Winds, from which boardwalks run directly to the base of the American Falls, is located on Goat Island.
Visitors to the Cave of Winds are given ponchos and souvenir sandals before descending the 175-foot chasm; these items are essential for anyone who doesn’t want to spend the rest of the day in soaked shoes. The wooden platform, dubbed the “hurricane deck” because of its perpetually inclement weather.
8. Maid of the Mist
The Maid of the Mist has been offering boat tours of the falls since 1846, making it the most experienced. For good cause, it is also Niagara Falls State Park’s most visited attraction. Tourists board double-decker boats at the base of the observation tower, don blue ponchos, and travel into Niagara Gorge on the river.
A 30-minute tour stops at both American Falls and Horseshoe Falls, riding up close to the base where millions of gallons of water crash down every second. Tickets for this spectacular tour can be obtained in the visitor centre of the state park. It runs from April through November.
9. Prospect Point Observation Tower
The Prospect Point Observation Tower is the ideal location from which to take in Niagara Falls, New York’s entire splendour of the falls. The tower is accessible through a large observation deck that extends beyond the tower and across the river, and it is situated close enough to the falls to periodically experience their cooling spray. Tourists may see all three falls, including American Falls, and the captivating rapids clearly from this location.
A high-speed elevator connects the observation deck to the boarding station for the Maid of the Mist trips, which is situated at the base of the tower. The Crow’s Nest, a more compact observation tower that is situated much nearer to the falls, is also accessible from the tower’s base. There are stairs and a trail leading up to The Crow’s Nest. Additionally, this quick trip is situated in an Audubon Important Bird Area, which is home to numerous gull species, peregrine falcons, and bald eagles.
10. Niagara Falls State Park
Opened in 1885, Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in New York. It is home to five islands on the Niagara River and three magnificent waterfalls. The park’s 400 acres contain picnic areas, biking and nature trails, as well as breathtaking photo opportunities.
The park’s retro-style trolley transports guests to the park’s main attractions, including the Observation Tower, which offers panoramic views of all three falls, for those who need a respite from walking. Additionally, sightseeing trips are offered, including those on boats like the Maid of the Mist and other up-close encounters.
The park’s visitor centre is home to historical exhibits, a gift shop, a number of dining options, and the Adventure Theater. An immersive experience for the whole family is offered with the 40-minute “4-D” presentation, which combines film with sensory elements like the spray from the falls.