A guide to the best tourist spots in and around Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls – tourist / visitor information (Transport, Hotel, Discovery Pass)

Getting to Niagara Falls –

By Air: Take flight to Buffalo, NY and proceed to take a taxi or shuttle to the falls. It is $60 flat (plus tips) by cab from the airport to the falls. It is about 25 miles away. There is a shuttle available from the airport to Niagara Falls – $30 per person.
One can also hire a car from the airport.

Staying at Niagara Falls area (American side) – 

There a numerous hotels in the area. The closest ones to the falls include Howard Johnson, Days Inn, Seneca, Crown Plaza etc. It is better to stay close to the falls if you do not have your car (or have not hired one here). If you have a car it doesn’t matter where you stay since parking is available within the state park adjoining the falls at more than one location.

Niagara Falls layout –

The falls on the American side is part of the Niagara Falls State Park, the oldest state park in the United States. It is an extended, well maintained green stretch including the islands in the Niagara River.  So to get to the falls actually you get to the state park. There is a trolley which runs across the state park and it stops at all the attractions.

Niagara Falls State Park

A view of both the American falls, the Horseshoe Falls on Canadian side and the islands taken during our helicopter ride is given here. The points of interest are marked. 

Niagara Falls pass (Discovery Pass) –

The first thing to do is to buy a “Discovery Pass” which is a booklet of tickets to 6 attractions. Each booklet costs $30. It is cheaper to buy this than the tickets separately. The pass offers tickets to –
i) The Maid of the mist
ii) The Cave of the Winds
iii) Niagara Adventure Theatre
iv) Niagara Scenic Trolley
v) Niagara Gorge Discovery Centre
vi) Aquarium of Niagara

It also contains some in park and regional discount coupons to some restaurants and other attractions.

Niagara Falls Visitor Center, New York

The pass can be bought at the Visitor centre or at the Information/ticketing booth outside the centre. It is best to start the trip from the Visitor centre. There are restrooms, ticketing booths etc. here and also you can collect maps of the state park and falls from the centre. It is just a few feet away from the American Falls. Once you have the tickets and maps you are set to go.

Niagara Falls – Maid of the Mist, Discovery Center, Aquarium, Prospect Point, Other Attractions

1) Prospect Point : Of course the number one attraction is the Falls which can be viewed from different points. The first viewing point is Prospect point. This is close to the Niagara falls Visitor Centre at the park. From here one can get to view a portion of the Horse Shoe falls (of the Canadian side) and also get a side view of the American falls.
Below: View from prospect Point-

View From Prospect Point, Niagara Falls

2) Niagara Falls Illumination and Fireworks: At night the falls are illuminated in multi colored lights.
Niagara Falls illuminated
Niagara Falls fire worksOn Friday and Sunday nights there are fireworks.

3) The Maid of the Mist: Near the Visitor centre is the Observation Deck and the elevator which takes one way down the gorge height to the edge of the river from where one can board the boat named ‘Maid of the Mist’. The Observation deck affords a wonderful view of both the American Falls and Horseshoe Falls (Canada) of Niagara.
Below: View as seen from the observation deck –
Niagara Falls

Below: Observation deck and the American Falls as viewed during the Maid of the Mist boat tour. Behind the deck a portion of the Rainbow Bridge connecting US and Canada, can be seen.

Obersvation Deck at Niagara Falls as seen from below

All the “Maid of the Mist” boats are named the same with a roman number distinguishing them from one another.
Maid of the Mist boat tour, Niagara Falls

 The Maid takes you to a ride to the falls. One can view the American Falls and the Horse Shoe Falls from the front.
Below: View of the falls up close.

Niagara Falls, American side

As the falls come down and hit the rocks below there is a huge amount of cloud like mist rising up or blowing side wards depending on the direction of the wind. It is wonderful feeling the tiny droplets on your face and hands. A poncho is given to every passenger to avoid getting wet. This is a must see at Niagara.

4) Rainbow Bridge :  This takes one to Canada. You can just walk across – of course you would require your passport. The Bridge is close to the Maid of the Mist station and the Niagara Falls Visitor Centre. P1 (Parking lot) is next to it.
Below: Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow Bridge connecting US and Canada

5) Niagara Scenic Trolley : A ride in the trolley will give an idea about the extent of the park and the available attractions within the park. The tickets cost $2 and are valid for the full day. The ticket is in the form of a paper wrist band so that takes off the hassle of carrying the ticket around. The trolley has a guide who would give details about the park and falls during the ride. It is an attraction in itself.

6) Cave of the Winds: This is on Goat Island which can be reached by a pedestrian bridge or the American Rapids Bridge a little further down. The trolley also stops here. This is a totally amazing experience where one can almost stand under the American Falls.

Cave of the Winds, Niagara Falls, as seen from river

You would get drenched in this though a poncho and rubber slippers are given to each visitor. An elevator takes you down to the spot from where one can walk up the wooden stairs and paths made right beneath the falls. It is exhilarating. If you like Sea Gulls this is the place to observe them up close. They have their nests and chicks on the rocks here. A must visit.7) Niagara Adventure Theatre: This is a movie (40 minutes duration) about the legends of Niagara – from 12000 years ago to recent times. It is quite boring and if you are short of time you can skip it. Most of us go for it since this show ticket is included in Discovery Pass.

8) Niagara Gorge Discovery Center: This is a small exhibit with geological and structural details of the river gorge’s past and present.

Niagara Gorge Discovery Center

There is a 11 minute movie – again quite boring. There is also a 9 minute simulated elevator ride along the different rock strata of the gorge. It was informative. The Trolley can take you here. This is also close to the P1 parking lot.
9) The Niagara Aquarium: From right outside the Discovery Center there is a walkway bridge leading to the aquarium.
Niagara Aquarium
It is a small aquarium but interesting. There are a couple of rescued seals (both blind) but totally loveable. They can be fed by visitors between 12 noon and 2 PM. A bowl of fish for them costs $5. 
Niagara aquarium - penguins

Niagara aquarium
 There are Penguins, sea lions, a variety of sharks, and various other residents of water bodies. It is worth a visit.

Niagara Falls – Islands (Goat, Luna, Three Sisters), Bridal Veil, Terrapin Point, Top of the Falls

10) Goat Island: This is connected to the mainland via a Pedestrian bridge and also by the American Rapids Bridge. One can walk down from Prospect point across the Pedestrian Bridge. It is a great walk. The Trolley also goes there. At the Goat Island the Trolley stops at the Cave of the Winds, the Top of the Falls Restaurant (along with Terrapin Point) and the Three Sisters Islands stop.
View from Goat Island - towards Luna Island, observation tower and Rainbow Bridge
11) Luna Island and the Bridal Veil Falls: At the Cave of the winds stop, on the right is a path to Luna Island and the Bridal Veil Falls. This is a small island which has the American Falls on the right and a small fall on the left. The small fall is called the Bridal Veil Fall. This gives a great view of the American Falls.
 American Falls as seen from Luna Island

From the Luna Island the view of the American Falls is quite incredible. You can actually feel the force with which water is rushing down the edge.
The Edge of the water fall - Niagara Falls

12) Terrapin Point and Top of the Falls Restaurant: A little walk to the left of the Cave of the winds would take you to the Terrapin Point and the Top of the Falls restaurant. The Terrapin Point gives a up close and fantastic view of the Horse Shoe falls. This is a must visit.
Terrapin Point, Niagara Falls
The mist rises so far high up, sometimes it feels like it is raining when the wind direction is towards the point. The Top of the falls Restaurant is reasonably priced with very good food which you can feast on while enjoying the envious view of the Horse Shoe Falls.

13) Three Sisters Islands: These are three very small islands one after the other connected by small bridges to each other.
Three Sisters Island, Niagara Falls
You can stand at the edge of the rapids, touch the busy water and really feel the power of the water. These islands give a wonderful experience bonding with the falls and the wilderness there. It provides good photo-op.
View from the Three Sisters Island, Niagara Falls

View from the Three Sisters Island, Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls – Seneca Casino, Helicopter Ride, 4D Movie, Museums

Outside the Niagara State Park there are some other attractions in the vicinity of the Park. Rainbow Blvd. which leads to the Park has a number of restaurants with seating outside, souvenir shops, ATM, ice cream kiosks etc.

14) Helicopter ride: Just opposite to Days Inn there is a Helicopter ride facility. It is called Rainbow Air Inc (ph. # 716-284-2800) The cost is $85 per person (plus tip for the pilot). It is very close to the State Park. This provides a 10 minute ride over the Falls, the Canada and US sides and covers a little of the river. A ride worth taking. It is available only if weather permits.

Helicopter Ride - Niagara Falls - Rainbow Air

15) Haunted House: This is a small center on Rainbow Blvd. You will complete the round in 5 minutes. It costs $5 per person. It is nothing great. You can take it if you have plenty of time.   Haunted House exhibit (Monster of Frankenstein), Niagara

16) 4D movie at Thunder Theatre – Legends of Niagara: Next to Hard Rock this is a souvenir shop cum 4D theater. The shop (JD Gifts) has a huge collection of small and big souvenirs. The 4D show is better than the Niagara Adventure Theater show in the State Park.

17) Seneca Casino: On Niagara Street, a few blocks away from Park is the Seneca casino. This is tallest building in the area and visible from all around especially so because of its decorative lights on the building. There are a variety of restaurants here. The casino has the usual fare of slot machines, roulette, poker et al.

Seneca Casino, Niagara Falls, New York

18) Flight of Angels: This is located on Rainbow Blvd. It is a 15 minute ride on a tethered helium balloon. It affords a good view of the Falls and the surrounding areas from about 400 ft. above ground. But this is seasonal. Currently it is closed but look out for it if it opens.

19) Daredevil Museum: This is also on Rainbow Blvd. It has exhibits of daredevil memorabilia including material and photos of various adventurous attempts over the falls. Entry is free.

20) Niagara Wax Museum: A small museum with life size wax figures of various famous people. If you have been to any Madam Tussand’s (in NYC or London or other places) avoid this.

Niagara Falls – Krow’s Nest, Scuba Center, Oppenheim County Park

Apart from attractions close by to the Falls, there are several which are more distant and you would have to drive to. Some close to the Niagara International Airport are – 

21) The Krow’s Nest Family Fun centre, The Summit: Close to the international airport, this includes Kidszone playground, paintless paint ball, battling cages, mini ball bowling lanes, BB’s Bear House, arcade centre, teen dances and other events etc. It also has parents’ lounges and party rooms. The Summit with a number of shops is one of the major shopping stops. The Krow’s Nest address is 6929 Williams Road, Niagara Falls, NY – 14304. Ph. 716-298-0098

22) Niagara Scuba Center: A short drive from the Krow’s nest (mentioned above) is the scuba center which offers scuba diving instructions, Sea Lion dives, Adventure boating courses (safe boating also available), River drift dives etc. Scuba center address is 7815 Buffalo Ave. Niagara Falls, NY-14304. Ph. 716-283-3483.

23) Oppenheim County Park: Close to Krow’s Nest is this park which has facilities for a number of sports/games and other activities – volleyball, basketball, tennis, fishing, picnic etc. Address – 2713 Niagara Falls Blvd, NY – 14304. Ph. 716-731-5939.

Niagara Falls-Whirlpool Jet Boat, Lady of Fatima, Power Vista, Devil’s Hole, DeVeaux Woods

Further from the Falls region, in the River region, there are more attractions worth going to –

24) Devil’s Hole State Park : Located about 4 miles north of the Falls, on the Robert Moses Parkway, this is part of the Niagara Gorge Trail system. Hiking, fishing, picnicking and biking are the activities you can indulge in here. Restroom facilities are available here. It is whitewater fun!

25) DeVeaux Woods State Park: There are hiking trails, picnic and play grounds here. Also it has two baseball diamonds. It is connected to the Robert Moses Trail and Whirlpool State Park. Address of DeVeaux Park – 3180 DeVeaux Woods Dr., NY – 14305. Ph. 716-284-5778

26) Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours: This is located at Lewiston a few minutes drive from the American Falls side. In Ontario it is at Niagara-on-the-Lake. Wet Jet Tour (ages 6+) and Jet Dome Tour (dry; ages 4+) are available. These jet tours take you close to the whirlpool formed by the Niagara River. Prior reservations are required. Address – 115 South Water St., Lewiston, NY- 14092. Ph. 905-468-4800.
27) Artpark: It is a premier music and theatre centre. It has a 2400 seat Mainstage theatre, an outdoor amphitheatre (host to “Tuesday in the Park”), free concerts, picnic, hiking and fishing facilities. Artpark address – 450 South fourth St., Lewiston, NY – 14092. Box Office – 716-754-4375.

28) Niagara Power Vista – This is in Lewiston at the Niagara Power Project. The exhibitions on energy, electricity and displays are interactive.
29) Our Lady of Fatima Shrine – It is a glass domed basilica known for the life-size marble statues of saints. There are 130 of them. Worth a visit. Address – 1023 Swann Road, Lewiston, NY. Ph. 716-754-7489.

Niagara Falls – Cave of the Winds (Pictures)

The experience of being closest to the Niagara Falls can be had from the “Cave of the Winds”. The beauty of the falls as well as the sheer power overwhelms even the most prosaic of cynics. The spray of water is so intense that it is difficult to stand close to it for a long time. And though you have water proof ponchos and footwear you will get wet – at least partially. But it is one great experience.  Some snapshots are given below.

Check out the rainbow in this –
Cave of the Winds, Niagara Falls, New York

There is a network of walkways and stairs which take you to the platform closest to the Falls.

Cave of the Winds, Niagara Falls, New York
Cave of the Winds, Niagara Falls, New York

Aaa…the falls, the rainbow, the mist, the rocks, the sound…

Cave of the Winds, Niagara Falls, New York

The Rainbow Bridge and the Observation Tower, Niagara, in the background.

Cave of the Winds, Niagara Falls, New York

The end of the Rainbow?

Cave of the Winds, Niagara Falls, New York

I think these are Filamentous Algae –

Filamentous Algae, Niagara falls

The leftmost is the American Falls, the middle piece of land is Luna Island and the smaller falls on the right is the Bridal Veil Falls. The extreme right piece of land is the Goat Island. After a ariel view, a view from the nether world!

Cave of the Winds, Niagara Falls, New York

Water Falls and Rainbow –

Cave of the Winds, Niagara Falls, New York

More Water Falls…

Cave of the Winds, Niagara Falls, New York

One bonus of the tour is the up close encounter with Seagulls. If you love birds, this is a great opportunity to observe them. They nest on the rocks right beneath the wooden walkways. A lot of them are with chicks, like this one below –

Cave of the Winds, Niagara Falls, New York

And many are busy like this fellow here. Note the bird next to the seagull couple –

Cave of the Winds, Niagara Falls, New York. Seagulls.

Niagara Falls- Museums (Castellani Art, Sanborn-Lewiston, Town of Porter, Native American)

There are also number of museums around the River region. Some of them are listed below –

30) Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University (home to Andy Warhols and Picassos). Address – Niagara University campus, Senior Dr., Niagara University, NY-14109.

31) Town Of Porter Historical Museum (census, church records etc. dating back to 1800s; Native American relics, photographs etc.). Address – 240 Lockport St., Youngstown, NY- 14174.

32) The Lewiston museum (Lewiston’s historic past showcased). Address – 469 Plain St., Lewiston, NY 14092.
33) Sanborn-Lewiston Farm Museum (old farm equipments and farm life). Address – 2660 Saunders Settlement Rd., Sanborn, NY – 14132.

34) Native American Museum of Art at Smokin Joes (Ancient Niagara history – esp. Iroquois and Tuscarora history and culture). Address – 2293 Saunders Settlement Rd., Sanborn, NY – 14132.

Old Fort Niagara, New York – Pictures, History, Tourist/Visitor Information

Old Fort Niagara is located near Youngstown, New York on the banks of  River Niagara at its mouth on Lake Ontario. Niagara Fort was originally set up as a fortification to serve the interests of New France in North America.

Niagara Fort at Youngstown New York

The first structure was built in 1678 and was called Fort Conti. It was replaced by Fort Denonville in 1687, named after the Governor of New France, the Marquis de Denonville.

Old fort Niagara - lake ontario

However in 1688 the post was abandoned and the stockade pulled down. In 1726, a two storied structure called the Machicolated House was constructed here. Its was called the ‘House of Peace’or trading post to appease the Iroquois. The fortwas increased to the present size in 1755.

Old Fort Niagara coat of arms

In July 1759 after the ‘Battle of Fort Niagara’ the French surrendered to the British. Fort Niagara became a Loyalist base in America during the American Revolutionary War.

old Niagara_fort_entrance_pulley

The fort was ceded o the United States after the Treaty of Paris ended the American War of Independence in 1783. But essentially the region remained under the British for the next thirteen years.

Niagara_fort youngstown new york

The American Forces occupied it only in 1796 after signing the Jay Treaty. In 1812 the British captured the fort but in 1813 they handed it over to the US under the Treaty of Ghent. It has been under US ever since. It was later used for various purposes in theSpanish-American War, World War I, WW II and the Korean War etc.

Today the renovated fort serves as Fort Niagara State Park and Museum. There are exhibits relating to the American history. The fort buildings are great to tour – they exude the intrigue of yester years.

Old Fort Niagara - Cannon

Often there are reenactments of the 18th century battles and also period dances. Most of the days there is demonstration of Musket loading and shooting by a person in old British uniform. 

It is quite some distance from Niagara Falls. So while visiting the Falls one would have to drive down to the fort or take a cab / taxi from Niagara Falls. Sight seeing and activities at the Niagara Falls are covered under the Discovery Pass. For those visiting Niagara, the closest airport would be at Buffalo and international ones would be the New York airports – JFK – Kennedy airport, La Guardia – LGA airport  and Newark-EWR-Airport.

Old Fort Niagara – Directions
From Niagara Falls, Get on to Robert Moses Parkway North

If you are coming from Canada, cross over at the Rainbow bridge or Lewiston Queenston and then get on to Robert Moses Parkway North.

from NYS Thruway, take exit 50, get on to I-290 W to I-190, then take I-190 N exit 25B and follow Robert Moses Parkway North.

Located near Niagara Falls, New York, Old Fort Niagara is a historical site that is open to the public all year round. This state park offers a look at the early history of the United States. It is also home to several special events throughout the year, including reenactments. It is also the oldest military fort in North America. Several buildings have been restored to their original 18th century appearance. Old Fort Niagara is also the only fortified French castle still standing in the United States.

The Fort Niagara Museum is located on the grounds of the fort and offers visitors a look at the history of the fort. The museum also offers a selection of artifacts from various military occupations. The Fort Niagara State Historic Site is adjacent to the grounds of the fort and offers visitors the chance to explore original 18th century buildings. There are also several mounted cannons, a hot shot furnace, and a restored fortified French castle.

A film that relates the history of the fort is also available for visitors to view. There is also an hourly musket firing demonstration. The fort is also home to a lighthouse that is open year-round. The lighthouse is a great location for picture taking. A live HD webcam is also available at the fort.

Old Fort Niagara is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. The park is also closed Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day, and New Years Day. A number of special events are held throughout the year, including the French and Indian War Encampment on July 4 weekend, the military time line event on Memorial Day weekend, and the Soldiers of the Revolution event on August 1st and 2nd. These events involve a number of costumed reenactors who bring to life the events of the Revolution.

During the French and Indian War, a 19-day siege occurred at Fort Niagara. After the siege ended, the fort was recaptured by the British. During the War of 1812, the fort was once again attacked by the British. They captured the fort on December 19, 1813. After being recaptured, the fort served as a training base for the United States until 1963.

The fort was once known as Fort Denonville. It was taken by the British after 19 days of siege during the French and Indian War. It was restored between 1926 and 1934. It was then renamed Fort Conti. Eventually, the fort was abandoned. It was then used as a trading post during the French regime. However, it was reclaimed by the United States in 1815.

The fort offers visitors a look at how life was for a colonial soldier. The fort features a number of buildings that are furnished as they were during the colonial period. The museum also features a large Fort Niagara flag that is in rough shape. The reenactors give visitors information about the fort and the life of a soldier.

The fort has been known to attract a number of ghosts. The grounds managers have noticed spooky happenings at night. A video of the fort has been posted on a number of ghost hunter websites.

Niagara fort - old fort niagara -youngs town, New York- near lake ontario