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.