You might think you have to travel from place to place in order to experience all of the world’s natural wonders. But there’s one destination where the majesty and power of nature is not only shared by two cities, but by two countries. And that spot is Niagara Falls. Created as water flowed into the Niagara River from the North American Great Lakes 12,000 years ago, these three spectacular waterfalls form the hub of a sightseeing and recreational area with enough outdoor and indoor activities to make a great weekend getaway or an extended work/play stay.
Niagara Falls is actually two cities with the same name, divided by the international border between the United States and Canada. The American part is in the state of New York, and the Canadian part is in the province of Ontario. Good neighbors as they are, they share the beautiful river that connects the American Falls and Canada’s Horseshoe Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.
The first thing to do when planning a trip is to decide where to stay. You’ve got lots of options here, because Niagara Falls hotels run the gamut from luxury accommodations to very affordable short- and long-term choices. There are top-of-the-line hotels as well as dozens of motels and bed and breakfast inns on both sides of the international border. There are also a generous number of campgrounds and RV parks in the area, including some with cabins and resort features. Almost without exception, you’ll find them equipped with reliable Wi-Fi and all the amenities you’ll need to work on the road.
And when you’re not working? You can fill up every day and night with activities or you can kick back and chill. Here are just some of the things to do:
Explore the Falls
This is the don’t-miss reason for the trip. There are two ways to see the falls up close from different perspectives.
From the U.S. side, board the Maid of the Mist for a cruise past the base of the American Falls and onward into the basin of the magnificent Canadian Horseshoe Falls. You might get a little wet, but that’s part of the experience. In operation since 1846, and the oldest tourist attraction in North America, the Maid of the Mist operates from about late May to late October/early November every year, depending on the weather. The schedule changes every year, so be sure to check when it’s running before going.
At Niagara Parks Journey Behind the Falls, you’ll take an elevator 150 feet down to a series of tunnels that open your view to the astonishing wall of water crashing down from the top to the basin of the Horseshoe Falls. This attraction is open all year except on Christmas Day.
The Niagara Region is known for its award-winning wines including the unique ice wine, made from grapes harvested in the winter when temperatures are way below freezing and sugar content is highest. The Niagara Wine Route on the Canadian side, and the Niagara Wine Trail on the American side feature dozens of wineries with tasting rooms set amid acres of gorgeous vineyards.
Find out more about Ice Wine in this handy video guide
Hit the Trails
If you’re a runner, you’ll enjoy the Niagara River Recreation Trail where you can access a stairway that takes you down to Niagara Glen for a two-and-a-half-mile run through prehistoric geological formations in a pocket of pristinely preserved Carolinian forest. If you’re not up for running, take it a bit easier on a guided hiking tour.
Experience the natural beauty of the region on one of its many cycling trails. There are more than 200 trails, catering to riders of every level. Niagara Parkway has been named one of the top 10 cycling routes in the world, stretching 58 kms along the Canadian side of the Niagara River. For more serious trekkers, the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail stretches 780 kms, following the shores of Lake Ontario from Niagara-on-the-Lake to the Quebec border.
Take It to Greater Extremes
For more adventure, take a kayak trip on a fast one-way current, go all out on the challenging Niagara Glen Bouldering Trail, or buckle up for a breathtaking zipline to the falls. Depending on your notion of extreme, there’s also a bounty of duty-free shopping on both sides of the border.
Check out this awesome video of the Niagara falls zipline
Enjoy the Night Life
If you’re not totally worn out from the days, you can visit one of the two action-packed casinos offering blackjack, roulette, poker, slots, and sports gaming along with comedy shows, and live entertainment with headline stars. There’s also a wide variety of dining choices in Niagara Falls, or you could take a scenic 17-mile drive to Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, founding home of the the spicy and addictive namesake Buffalo wings.