7 best things to do in Niagara Falls – American side

by Jun 3, 2019New York

Niagara Falls Illuminated From Prospect Point American Side

Situated along the U.S. / Canadian border, Niagara Falls State Park (the American side of Niagara Falls) is open 365 days a year. It is from this side visitors can experience the Maid of the Mist Boat Tour, Cave of the Winds, and get a spectacular view of Horseshoe Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and the American Falls.

While Niagara Falls is not listed as one of the seven official natural wonders of the world, those who witness the sheer power and majesty of these massive waterfalls are, as I was, left in awe. Niagara Falls is arguably the most famous natural landmark in New York State, and certainly among the most famous in the United States and Canada.

Niagara straddles the border between the United States and Canada and consists of three waterfalls: Canadian Falls (also known as Horseshoe Falls, located in Canada); American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls (both on the American side).

While a visit to the waterfalls is a must, there is so much more to do in and around the falls and the Niagara River. Here is a quick guide to the seven best things to do in Niagara Falls (American side).

Niagara Falls State Park

This is the center point of any Niagara Falls waterfall viewing experience. Designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the United States. Its creation in 1885 helped inspire the establishment of the National Park Service. In this 400-acre park, you can walk right alongside the American Rapids just above the waterfalls, take a “Maid of the Mist” boat ride, walk along the wooden walkways at Cave of the Winds Mountain Park to “Hurricane Deck” (you will absolutely get soaked since Bridal Veil Falls pounds down above you), and view the falls from Prospect Point. Prospect Point is also where you will find the observation tower and the park visitors center. Enjoy lunch at Top of the Falls restaurant for an amazing view.

Niagara Falls From Prospect Point

One thing you absolutely must not miss doing is viewing the falls from Prospect Point at night to witness the Illumination of the Falls (see cover image). I guarantee it will take your breath away.

The park is open 365 days a year, 24-hours a day.

Book a Niagara Falls TourPass here. Includes a 1-hour guided tour of Niagara Falls State Park, and tickets to three of the top attractions on both the Canadian and USA sides — Maid of the Mist, Journey Behind the Falls, and White Water Walk.

Old Fort Niagara

Upon discovering this fort for myself, I was stunned at the quality of the living history – some of the very best demonstrations on how to use traditional weapons and how soldiers and Native Americans lived I have seen in any park.

Old Fort Niagara Musket Firing Demonstration

Wander the grounds of this 18th Century fort to learn how French, British and American soldiers traded ownership of the fort in a struggle over the region. It is open year-round, and there is an admission fee. Book a guided tour of Old Fort Niagara.

Old Fort Niagara Ramparts

Wine Tasting

Thanks to the lake effect climate of Lake Ontario and the rich soil in the area, Niagara Falls region is becoming known for its wines – especially ice wine and Riesling. Officially recognized in 2005 as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) and one of the fastest-growing wine regions in the state of New York, the Niagara Wine Trail allows you to experience all of the various varietals.

Save on wine purchases and wine tasting with a Vino Visa Passport – available for sale through the website above or at wineries on the wine trail. I personally fell for an ice wine at Schulze Vineyards & Winery and, yes, Chocolate Ecstasy red wine (surprisingly delicious) at Victorianbourg Wine Estate.

Street Art at Art Alley

If you are a fan of street art, as we are, you have to check out Art Alley. The installation was completed in October 2016 and is a public mural project located at 425 Third Street in Niagara Falls. The 19 colorful wall murals have transformed a pedestrian walkway between the street and a parking area into a wonderful outdoor urban art gallery.

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Art Alley In Niagara Falls

If you are into Instagram, then take the mandatory selfie in front of the “Greetings From Niagara Falls New York” art.

Lockport Cave & Underground Boat Ride

It was raining when I arrived for my tour, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of our group or guide who led us on a walk beside the Erie Canal, regaling us with the history of the era of Industrial Revolution.

Lockport Cave Entrance

Walking along the canal is one thing, but the main attraction is entering into a tunnel that was blasted out of the rock in order to channel water from the canal to provide power for factories above. On the walk you see artifacts from miners, and then, indeed, you get to go on an out-and-back boat ride inside the Lockport Cave (really just a tunnel but who’s quibbling). Book a tour of Lockport Cave here.
Lockport Cave Stalactite

Niagara Power Vista – NYPA Niagara Power Project

This is an amazing museum, and I’d rank it on par with any other science museum anywhere in the world — and it’s free. The Niagara Power Vista Center uses interactive exhibits that will allow you (as a power user) to design your own dam (oops, mine failed tragically), operate a power grid during a huge storm (I earned maximum points here to make up for my dam failure) among other activities. It is fun and, excuse my poor pun, rather energizing. Get your own power user badge to keep afterward. You also get an amazing view of the Niagara River Gorge from here.

Niagara Power Vista

Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center

Located inside the former U.S. Custom House inside the Niagara Falls Amtrak Station, this relatively new experiential museum (opened on May 4, 2018) offers an eye-opening trip back in time through stories told via audio and film by both Underground Railroad freedom seekers and abolitionists from the 1850s. The “One More River to Cross” permanent exhibition showcases the important role Niagara Falls played as the place so many escaped slaves came to find their freedom by crossing the river into Canada – or lose their lives or freedom by trying.

Niagara Falls Underground Heritage Center

HITT Tip: Where to eat in Niagara Falls. I can personally recommend Top of the Falls Restaurant, Red Coach Inn Restaurant, Chill 443 (a most amazing bartender!!!), New York Beer Project, and for a quick breakfast and coffee the Orange Cat Coffee Company.

Where to stay in Niagara Falls. During my three days visiting the area, I stayed at The Giacomo – an amazing boutique hotel with a very cool history and a wonderful view of the falls from the 19th floor.

Niagara Falls View From The Giacomo Hotel

View of the falls and night lights of the Canadian side from the 19th floor of the Giacomo Hotel.

Find more things to do at Niagara Falls

Discover other great things to do in New York State.

New York is such a beautiful state and Niagara Falls is but one small part. Head east and discover the amazing Adirondacks. Start your tour by visiting Albany, the state capitol. Read our story 24 hours in Albany – fascinating walk through time. From there head north toward Plattsburgh. To discover things to do, read The best of the Adirondack Coast – top things to do in the Adirondacks. Do you like food? We certainly do and there is no better way to experience great food than with a cooking class where you get to eat what you make. Read The Art of Pi: Making pizza at Carriage House Cooking School. Of course, you’ll want to visit New York City, but did you know some of the best views of Manhattan are from New Jersey? Read Great things to do in New Jersey + best views of Manhattan.

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Best Things To Do In Niagara Falls

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Heads up! This information on the 7 things to do in Niagara Falls was accurate when we published it on HI Travel Tales, but, as we know, traveling is all about changes (and inflation, sadly). It is your sole responsibility to confirm prices, transportation schedules, hours of operation, safety and health considerations, and any other important details before your adventure.
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22 Comments

  1. This is so timely, as we were just invited to a wedding in Buffalo and would love to get to Niagara, too. The Power Plant museum sounds fun! I bet my dam would fail, too. Haha!

    Reply
    • Noooooo … don’t let your dam fail. 😉 The Niagara Power Vista is super cool!

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  2. The American side needs love too. I applaud the research in this piece. You came up with some cool legit fun things to do. (other than gamble or cross over to Canada (and gamble)). For us, we had eat Buffalo Wings on this list, since the Anchor Bar has a location in Niagara and they have claims to have originated the dish.

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    • Yes, the American side is often overlooked and that is too bad! There is so much to do … or you just stare at the falls for hours like I did. Buffalo Wings…well who knew about the invention of this dish, though it is not one, unfortunately, I fancy.

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      • Sorry to hear you don’t like wings. I guess we can’t be friends after all – LOL.

        There’s just so much staring at the falls to be done. Lots of different viewpoints and angles.

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        • LOL … I like buffalo wing sauce, does that count? I could stare at the falls for eternity.

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  3. I’m amazed that the park is open 24/7, 365 days a year. I cannot think of any other park that is perpetually open. And, thanks so much for the tip about the Illumination of the falls. That photo is truly breathtaking and something I’ve never seen before! ~ Sage Scott, the Everyday Wanderer

    Reply
    • It is such an amazing park and the illumination of the falls will, absolutely, take your breath away.

      Reply
  4. Holy cow that cover image is fantastic!! Instantly made me insanely jealous. I went to Niagara Falls back in 1999 or 2000 and I didn’t get much time there. Didn’t get to do Maid of the Mist boat ride or see it light up at night. Did you feel 3 days was adequate? Your hotel view is amazing and I would definitely consider staying there for that reason. I also LOVE street art so Art Alley would definitely happen!

    Reply
    • Thank you Heather! Played with a lot of settings and needed a lot of patience to capture that image. So happy you appreciated it. Three days was fine … though if you really want to enjoy some of the other things there are to do AND enjoy a full day on a wine tour, I might recommend 4 days.

      Reply
  5. We visited both sides in April 2012 (or 2011?) and there were still car-sized chunks of ice flowing, clinking and then tumbling over the falls. Sadly, that trip was a fleeting one and we never did see the sights you mention, nor did we know they existed.

    Would love to see Lockport Cave and more of the Erie Canal, as the largest surviving lock of that canal is back in my hometown in Pennsylvania.

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    • Seeing the falls with ice would be amazing as well!! Each season a different feel. I would LOVE to photograph the falls with ice chunks tumbling over them, at night, illuminated. My next goal and challenge. 😉

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  6. While Niagra Falls itself is such an awe inspiring destination, what I love is how you have also given attention to these lesser known little things and places we all can visit and experience. Loved your photographs too. Thank you for sharing 🙂

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    • Thank you for your appreciation of the photos. There is so much to do around Niagara Falls, though there is no doubt the falls themselves are a centerpiece attraction.

      Reply
  7. I never knew there was so much to do around Niagra Fallas! I love that streety art alley, it looks right up my… well you get the point, haha. Great cover image, love the way the light hits the water – gorgeous!

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    • The street art alley is very cool. And until I visited, I had no idea all that there was to do either!

      Reply
  8. Love that first photo of the falls. Absolutely breathtaking! I’ve only visited the Canadian side and I never knew about Niagara Falls being a wine region! You had me at wine and I defs need to plan a visit over now.

    Reply
    • Thank you for your kind comment regarding the first photo … had a lot of fun working to get that shot. And yes, the wine in the region is outstanding!!!

      Reply
  9. We visited the Iguazu Falls, but not yet Niagara. There is so much more to do and see than just the Falls! But indeed, the Niagara Falls are such a massive attraction. I love the night shot, I did not know they were illuminated, totally give a different feel.

    Reply
    • Seeing the falls during the day AND at night are totally different experiences and ones every visitor MUST do.

      Reply
  10. I never knew there was so much else to do around here. It’s somewhere we’ve not managed to visit just yet but its high on our bucket list and its cool to know that when we do visit there is a lot more else to do too. I really love that street art too, that’s something we would love.

    Reply
    • And there is more to do than I even mentioned. Such a very cool destination.

      Reply

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