Niagara Falls is one of the top attractions in Canada but there is so much more to see than the Falls. The region boasts beautiful parks & trails, a renowned wine region, and numerous significant historical sites and is well worth a lingering visit for both budget and luxury travellers.
Today's post gives a broad overview and links together several other more detailed blog posts that explore some of the great things to do, see, and experience while in the area. Check out this map to find the exact locations.
Connect with Nature
For those looking for a more active adventure, the Niagara Region offers a variety of outdoor activities. Visitors can hike or bike through the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve that offers some of the most beautiful and diverse natural landscapes in the region. There are also several parks and conservation areas that offer fishing, camping, and other outdoor activities.
One of the most popular things to do in the Niagara Region is to visit Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls are one of the most famous natural wonders in the world. The falls are a breathtaking sight, and visitors can take a boat tour to get a closer look or even go behind the falls for an even more unique perspective. There are also several observation decks and viewing points that offer stunning views of the falls.
Check out my post on how to visit Niagara Falls on A Budget.
Butterfly Conservatory/Botanical Gardens
The farther you move from downtown Niagara Falls, the quieter and more natural the scenery gets. A happy experience for me is always a visit to beautiful gardens. When those gardens include butterfly exhibit, I will always make time for a visit. The Botanical Gardens and Butterfly Conservatory is a 99 acre complex located about a 10-minute drive north on Niagara Parkway from downtown. These days, visitors can wander the grounds, check out the beautiful displays and gardens – and the world-famous rose gardens known for having over 2,400 roses!
The Botanical Gardens, which are located adjacent to the Butterfly Conservatory, feature a wide range of plants and flowers from around the world. The gardens are beautifully landscaped and feature a variety of garden styles, including English, Japanese, and Mediterranean gardens. Visitors can also see a beautiful collection of cacti and succulents, as well as a collection of tropical plants and orchids. The gardens also offer a variety of recreational activities such as picnicking, birdwatching and nature walks.
The conservatory is home to thousands of live butterflies from around the world, and visitors can walk through the tropical gardens and see the butterflies up close. The gardens also feature a variety of exotic plants and flowers, providing a beautiful backdrop for the butterfly exhibits. The Butterfly Habitat also features a butterfly release ceremony, where visitors can release their own butterfly and watch it fly away.
The Floral Clock was something I saw listed on a tourist pamphlet as a free display something worth seeing. I was heading in the general direction and decided I would stop. Located north of the Botanical Gardens, close to Queenston Park, it was much more interesting than I had anticipated but it doesn't require a lengthy visit.
The Floral Clock. run by Ontario Hydro, is exactly what it sounds like: a floral monument that actually functions as a clock. The clock face is planted with thousands of small carpet bedding plants. The clock chimes every quarter hour. Scoot around the back and you'll be able to look through the back door to the clock mechanisms and some historical photos of the clock through the years.
Queenston Heights Park
Another great place to check out is Queenston Heights Park, located just north of the Floral Clock. This is a huge green space high on the Niagara Escarpment, offers a really wonderful view, a great place for a picnic or to enjoy a meal in the Queenston Heights Restaurant. Check out my post Niagara Day Trip: Queenston for more details. Queenston Park will also appeal to history buffs wanting to learn more about the people and events involved in the War of 1812 between the USA and British forces. More on those in the next section...
The Bruce Trail is an 890 km trail that stretches through the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in Niagara, along the escarpment up the Bruce Peninsula ending in the charming town of Tobermory. It is is the oldest and longest marked footpath in all of Canada. The Niagara section is about 90km in length but is neatly divided into smaller trails that accommodates both serious and day hikers.
Full disclosure: I have never done this trail from top to bottom, but I have done many smaller sections. Every section is truly breathtaking. Some sections are rougher than others but every ability level should be able to find parts of the trail appropriate to themselves.
Ball's Falls is a beautiful conservation area named after the Ball brothers who built a sawmill and a grist mill in the early 1800s. Ball’s Falls has been lovingly maintained to its early mid-19th century industrial hamlet atmosphere featuring the original Ball family home, an operating flour mill, a lime kiln, a church, black smith shop, carriage shed, and more.
Visitors can take an easy hike to see two waterfalls on one of several well marked trails, including a section of the Bruce Trail. The Upper Falls are narrow and steep but the Lower Falls are wider and have less elevation.
The conservation area also hosts several events throughout the year, including the annual Ball's Falls Thanksgiving Festival, which features live music, crafts, and food vendors.
Explore pre-Confederation History
The first British settlers built small communities and farms in colonial British North America. American troops attacked during the War of 1812 and battled British forces. The British, with the assistance of local First Nations, chased the invaders back home.
Queenston Heights Park mentioned above also includes several significant monuments: one honouring First Nations peoples, the Laura Secord Homestead and the massive Brock Monument.
Landscape of Nations Monument
The Landscape of Nations Memorial is dedicated to the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) Confederacy and Indigenous Allies that participated in and were a major factor in the success of the War of 1812.
This is a beautiful installation that includes brass plaques mounted on stones for each of the Nations involved. I recommend taking the time to check out each part of this memorial.
The Brock Memorial was built in 1859 to honour British Major-General Sir Isaac Brock, who played a key (but very brief) role in the defence of British North America. The monument stands 45m (about 150 ft) tall. Visitors can climb to the top for a fabulous panaramic view of the area.
The base of the memorial is adorned with bronze plaques describing Brock's life and achievements.
Laura Secord Homestead
The Laura Secord House is named after Laura Secord, a Canadian heroine of the War of 1812 (and also the name of a much-beloved chain of chocolate and ice-cream stores across the country). Laura Secord's home was occupied by American soldiers and after overhearing their plans, she walked 32 km (about 20 miles) through enemy territory to warn the British commanders of the impending attack.
The house is open for tours from May to October, and visitors can take a guided tour of the house to learn about the history and architecture of the building, as well as the life of Laura Secord. The house features an interactive exhibit and is surrounded by beautiful gardens, which visitors.
Over the years, I've taught a lot of Canadian history and I have a particular fondness for the multiple fur-trading forts across the country. Fort Erie was built in 1764 on the shores of Lake Erie and was significant both as a trading fort and, later, as a defensive structure during the War of 1812. Visitors can take a tour or visit the Niagara Historical Society and Museum to learn about the region's rich history. There are also several art galleries and theaters offering a variety of performances and exhibits, so it's worth checking their website prior to arriving.
One of the main attractions of Fort Erie is the restored barracks and officer's quarters, which offer a glimpse into the lives of the soldiers who lived and fought at the fort. Visitors can also see the remains of the fort's walls and earthworks, built to defend the fort from enemy attack.
Fort Erie also offers a variety of recreational activities such as hiking, fishing, and bird watching. The fort is surrounded by beautiful natural scenery, including the Niagara River and the Niagara Escarpment, making it a popular spot for outdoor enthusiasts. The fort also hosts several events throughout the year, including reenactments of the War of 1812 battles and other historical events. Ball's Family Farm and Mills
Further away, on the other side of St. Catharines about a half-hour drive away from Niagara Falls is Ball's Family Farm and Gristmill and located on Twenty Mile Creek near Vineland. This is a historical gem that offers visitors the chance to step back in time and learn about life and the importance of gristmills in the past. The farm and mill is a working museum, where visitors can see the mill in action, and learn about the process of turning grain into flour. The farm is a fascinating piece of history that offers a unique glimpse into the past and how people used to live.
One of the most popular attractions is Ball's Gristmill and the milling demonstrations. Visitors can watch as the miller grinds grain into flour using the original equipment, and learn about the history of gristmills and how they were used in the past. When I visited, the miller was thrilled to explain the process and escorted me on a private tour of the site and museum. Grains are still produced on-site, so you can pick up some fresh milled flour or cornmeal.
Visit Wine Country
Niagara On the Lake
Another must-see attraction in the Niagara Region is the Niagara Wine Trail. The region is home to over 70 wineries, and visitors can take a tour to sample some of the local wines and learn about the history and process of winemaking. The wine trail offers a variety of tours, including self-guided tours, guided tours, and even bike tours.
Niagara-on-the-Lake, also known as NOTL, is a charming town located in the Niagara Region of Ontario, Canada. The town is situated on the shores of Lake Ontario and is known for its picturesque streets, charming shops, and historical sites. NOTL is also renowned for its wine industry and is home to many vineyards and wineries that offer tours and tastings.
NOTL is also known for the annual Shaw Festival that takes place from April to October and offers a variety of plays and performances. The festival is dedicated to the works of George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries.
Visitors can also indulge in the local cuisine, NOTL offers a variety of excellent restaurants and cafes that serve local, seasonal and organic food. It is a great place to spend a weekend or a day trip, visitors can experience the natural beauty, rich history, and cultural activities of the town. Check out my post Flashback Friday: Niagara on the Lake for more details.
Safari Niagara is a family-friendly wildlife park located in Stevensville, close to Fort Erie. The park features over 1,000 animals from over 100 different species, including zebras, giraffes, lions, and tigers. Visitors can take a drive-through safari, walk through the park, or take a guided tour to learn more about the animals and their habitats.
Safari Niagara also offers a variety of educational opportunities for visitors of all ages. The park offers a variety of programs, including guided tours, animal encounters, and conservation education programs, which teach visitors about the importance of preserving endangered species and their habitats. The park also features a Discovery Centre, which offers interactive exhibits and educational programs that teach visitors about the animals and their habitats. Check out my post Flashback Friday: Safari Niagara for more details. While Niagara Falls is major attraction not to be missed, there is so much to see and do while in the area, it is a place that offers so much more. Plan to linger in the area to explore all it has to offer.
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