Ideas for your stay in Niagara
There is much to see and do in Niagara depending on your likes. This site specializes in travel for people with mobility issues so everything mentioned below is accessible. And, the map on our home page should help you decide what you want to plan into your days at the Falls. If you have specific interests why not Email Linda. Given time, I can likely help you make up a loose itinerary.
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Pace yourself and see it all
Rather than roar into Niagara Falls, spend an hour or so looking at the falls, and then wondering where to go next, why not look at the map on our Home page, take your time with this website, jot down some of the things you’d especially like to do and take a few days to really see Niagara Falls and the surrounding area.
If money is no object, it’s easy to pick out a hotel room with a magnificent view of the falls (see Places to Stay), have valet parking, and ask the concierge to pick up theatre or dinner theatre tickets for the night. There are some very good restaurants in hotels, golf clubs (see Restaurants) and wineries (see Wineries) and several excellent dinner theatres. (see Movies/Theatre) We’ve listed them all in the appropriate categories. It’s not difficult to spend two, three, four days or even a week in Niagara. There’s plenty to do.
On a budget? There are rooms as reasonable as $60 a night at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Niagara College Residence or Brock University Residence. Look at the Retreat section as well, and then there’s camping, which is reasonable. We’ve listed all kinds of things you can do that are free (below) and you can save the money you do have to do a couple of magnificent things like a Hornblower Cruise into the base of the mighty Horseshoe Falls. It is truly a must. Also A budget trip could include a visit to the falls, Niagara Floral Showcase, Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, a day in Niagara-on-the-Lake or Niagara Falls for fireworks in the evening. There are many good delicatessens in the plazas around Niagara where you can buy buns, cold cuts and some gorgeous pastries. You can also stop at one of the many farm roadside stands for some fresh picked fruit (ask them to wash it for you) and have a picnic along the Niagara Parkway.
Niagara now has the largest outdoor outlet mall in Canada, with 100 stores catering mainly to those under 40, The Outlet Collection at Niagara, 300 Taylor Rd in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It’s right off the QEW just after St. Catharines at Glendale Ave. S. exit. You can’t miss it. The place is huge. Designated accessible parking and accessible washrooms. Go to Outlet Collection website
Canada One Brand Name Outlets, 7500 Lundy’s Lane, Niagara Falls, ON. Forty or more stores and eating places in this outdoor outlet mall. Accessible parking and washrooms, ramps, automatic store doors. Go to CanadaOne website
Pen Centre offers 180 stores, including The Bay and Sears, restaurants, food court, cinemas, all indoors in a modern bright atmosphere. Accessible family-style washroom, accessible stalls in m/f washrooms. All shops have no doors. 221 Glendale Ave., St. Catharines. Go to Pen Centre website
The Fallsview Casino also has some high end shops in the concourse.
Just south of the Falls – Niagara Parks Floral Showcase and the fragrance gardens beside and behind it.
Across from the falls, Queen Victoria Park garden
All of the beautiful plants and specimen trees along the parkway near the falls area.
Oaks Theatre Garden across from the Hornblower Plaza
Further down the Niagara Parkway, the 99 acre Niagara Parks Botanical Garden featuring 2400 rose bushes, rhododendrons, azaleas, a formal parterre garden, shade, herb and vegetable plantings and an aviary. Footpaths wind past the Butterfly Conservatory and butterfly garden, ponds and an arboretum featuring one of Canadas finest collections of ornamental trees and shrubs.
The Butterfly Conservatory – planted with a large variety of butterfly favourites
Also the Parkway, the Floral Clock and the lilac grove (blooms in May.)
On your way to Niagara-on-the-Lake on the Niagara Parkway, a heritage kitchen garden behind the McFarlane House.
Going into Niagara-on-the-Lake, still on the Niagara Parkway, which is sometimes called River Road, youll have the Niagara River on your right and orchards and vineyards on your left. When the fruit trees are in bloom (mid April to late May) this drive is all pink and white.
Every year Niagara-on-the-Lake is planted to the nines. The boulevards are covered with flowers, the lamp-posts drip with huge trailing baskets of blooms and individual homeowners pride themselves on their beautiful gardens and landscaping. A stroll or roll around Niagara-on-the-Lake can easily fill an afternoon and the Olde Town area is renowned for its charm and beautiful architecture.
See the Gardens and Gardening section for garden centres where you can buy plants to take home with you. Note that you may not be able to take plants out of Canada.
The obvious, of course, is the falls area. Its difficult to resist snapping away but it helps to know that there are some really good places to take photos of the falls if you are in a wheelchair or scooter.
Shots from the Hornblower catamarans can be terrific because at some time in your journey you are below the brink of the falls. The angle is awesome!
From the Journey Behind the Falls you can get shots that defy description often including double rainbows.
At the very brink of the Canadian Falls opposite Table Rock Welcome Centre you can almost touch the water
The fencing around the falls can act as an interesting frame as you shoot the Hornblower catamarans or Maid of the Mist boats (docking on the U.S. side) coming and going and the falls below.
From the Horseshoe Landing Patio Terrace on the second floor of the Welcome Centre there’s an unimpeded view of the entire spans of all three falls
From the Grand Hall, an indoor rotunda area adjacent to the Horseshoe Landing, if the mist is too heavy to get shots outside.
Up top the Hornblower Plaza there’s another excellent area to get long shots of all the falls.
And, don’t forget the Skylon Tower and Niagara Skywheel. Both allow incredible views of the entire area. Yes, you are shooting through glass but the vantage points can’t be beat.
Niagara-on-the-Lake has some architecture you might like to shoot, and as I mentioned before, its one of the prettiest towns in Canada.
Then there are all the tropicals in the Niagara Parks Floral Showcase and gorgeous gardens to shoot, especially the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens.
We can’t forget the 20 million people who visit. You’ll see just about every native costume of every country in the world here during the summer months and taking photos of people can be exciting. Dont forget to ask permission and thank your subject when you do. Some people don’t like having their picture taken. Look into a photo release form if you are going to put an identifiable picture of a person up on your website.
Ships that go through the Welland Ship Canal can also be photographically very interesting. How often can you get within feet of huge ocean-going ships or lakers as long as a football field? Ships have interesting parts and some have peeling paint and rust which can make intriguing abstract shots.
At Port Dalhousie, just down the Niagara Parkway and then down Lakeshore Road into St. Catharines, you’ll be able to take pictures of the sun setting over Lake Ontario from the end of the east pier that features two vintage lighthouses and a nearby marina. There’s also a gorgeous vintage Looff carousel in Lakeside Park on the west side of Port Dalhousie. The carousel isn’t wheelchair accessible (yet) but it makes for some interesting shots. It’s all very contained and you can actually walk/roll from one pier in Port to the other and walk out on both piers if you have an hour or more to spare. Parking is free on either side of Port.
Farm to Table Food
Niagara is part of Ontarios Greenbelt: a 1.5 million acres protected area of countryside that extends 325 kilometres from Rice Lake in Northumberland County to the Niagara River. Farming is the dominant land use in the greenbelt and farmers are the dominant landowners at just over 50%. In Niagara those farmers produce excellent wines, fresh fruit and more recently farm-to-table produce for our many restaurants. The fresh fruit season begins with strawberries in mid-June and you’ll find strawberry festivals everywhere. The next harvest is sour then sweet cherries, peaches and nectarines, then apricots, and pears, plums and apples in the fall. Raspberries, blueberries and other varieties of berries are available from July on. All summer there are fresh vegetables such as salad greens, carrots, peas, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, corn and pumpkins in the fall. There is a farmers market year round in St. Catharines on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 6 a.m. until 2 or 3 p.m. in Market Square.
The grape harvest takes place in late September and October except for ice wine grapes that are harvested in the coldest nights of the winter. You’ll see ice wine vineyards covered with miles of netting to keep the birds from eating them before they can be harvested.
Some of Niagaras best accessible upscale restaurants offer fresh from the field selections on their menus. They are: At Twenty Seven, 27 Main St. East, Port Colborne 905-835-2700; Trius Winery at Hillebrand Restaurant, 1249 Niagara Stone Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake 905-468-7123 ext. 3 Go to Trius website ; Niagara Culinary Institute, 135 Taylor Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake 905-641-2252; Peller Estate Restaurant, 290 John St. East, Niagara-on-the-Lake 905-468-7867 ext. 3 Go to Peller website ; Riverbend Inn and Vineyards, 16104 Niagara Parkway, Niagara-on-the-Lake 905-468-8866 Go to Riverbend website
It’s Free in Niagara
Viewing the Falls in the daytime for the beauty and magnificent raw power of it all and at night for the fantasy with the lights and fireworks.
Table Rock Welcome Centre take a look around - you don’t have to buy anything but there is plenty offered from high-end souvenirs to an entire store of nothing but candy. And, there is one heck of a view from the second floor Grand Hall and Horseshoe Landing Patio Terrace next to the elevator. Accessible washrooms.
Queen Victoria Park – beautiful gardens with gorgeous borders invite you to stroll or roll among the blooms. Accessible washrooms in Edgewaters and Riverview restaurants
Fragrance Garden beside and behind the Niagara Floral Show House – for people with vision impairment the focus is on scent and touch here. There are also water features, sculptures and topiary and, if you walk in, there is no parking fee.
Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens just gorgeous any time of year - huge rose garden, vegetable, herb, perennial, annual and rock gardens, flowering and specimen trees, entire side is a walkway of beautiful trees, frog pond, water features throughout – a few beautiful birds in the back. Accessible washrooms. There is a modest charge for parking in the main lot but, to our knowledge, none in the back overflow parking designated for buses and people with disabilities. Hornblower Ticket Plaza – a beautiful view of all the falls, souvenir shop, snack bar, tickets for Hornblower boat ride, accessible washrooms.
Dufferin Islands a quiet, secluded 10 acre park on the Niagara Parkway featuring several small islands connected by small bridges and footpaths. This is a beautiful place for a picnic. Accessible washrooms.
Floral Clock and lilac garden at Queenston This huge clock was first built by Ontario Hydro in 1950 and has been a must-see for tourists ever since. Graced with up to 16,000 carpet bedding plants, the design is changed twice a season. There are gardens beside and behind the clock and a goldfish pond in front of it. Just steps away is a lovely 10 acre lilac garden featuring 1200 lilacs in 200 varieties. In bloom May, early June and free to the public. Accessible washrooms.
The two casinos - its up to you what you spend but there is no charge to go in. You must be 18 to gamble in Ontario. Fallsview Casino has a lovely concourse full of shops and places to sit plus a gorgeous view of the falls and a small water park area out back that the kids love. Accessible washrooms.
The Niagara Parkway – a beautiful drive from Fort Erie to Niagara-on-the-Lake and you can continue to Port Dalhousie and even further to Jordan Village with stops for picnics on the edge of the Niagara River along the way. Queenston Heights Park – A beautiful area that includes a large picnic area with barbeques and tables on one side and Brock’s Monument and the Queenston Heights Restaurant on the other. Theres a gorgeous view of the Niagara River and over to Artpark in the U.S.A. from the area near the restaurant. Also the Queenston Heights Bandshell in the park features free concerts on summer Sundays. Pull on your brakes and enjoy. Accessible washrooms. Free parking.
Bird watching – purported to having the largest and most diverse concentration of gulls in the world, the Niagara River attracts a wide variety of species including geese, ducks, swans and common mergansers: wings spread, sunning themselves on the rocks.
For a map of the natural wonders of the Niagara River and falls area Go to Niagara Parks website
Ten Thousand Buddhas World Peace Sarira Stupa River Road also known as Niagara Parkway – fascinating place – like a step into another world - there actually are 10,000 Buddhas there – you can give a donation if you like.
Lock 3 Viewing Complex take an elevator to the viewing platform to see lakers and ocean-going ships up close as they go through the lock. You might want to spring for an ice cream, peruse the gift shop or go through the museum, but the viewing platform is free. Accessible washrooms.
Happy Rolph Bird Sanctuary and Childrens Animal Farm – Read Road, off Lakeshore Rd. going into St. Catharines from Niagara-on-the-Lake – The only thing you can buy here is animal feed and its mighty cheap. It’s fun for the kids and the 9/11 Walk at the rear on the shore of Lake Ontario is quietly beautiful. Accessible washrooms.
Heartland Forest – www.heartlandforest.org – donations are gladly accepted but no one asks. The forest is lovely any time of year you can have a picnic here. Accessible washrooms.
A walk or roll around historic Niagara-on-the-Lake - most designated parking is free if you have a parking permit for people with disabilities and the beautifully maintained homes a delight to the eye. Accessible washrooms in the building behind Queen Street leading into the parking lot.
Walking or rolling from pier to pier in Port Dalhousie; taking in the gorgeous sunsets and two lighthouses from a bench on a pier, reading about the beginnings of the Welland Ship Canal, sitting on the beach, a picnic and a quiet swim, boat watching, strolling the little retail area – all free - all quiet and fun. Ice cream only adds to the ambience. The beautiful old carousel is still only 5 cents a ride for those able to step up onto it. A great place for photos. Accessible washrooms on west side near pavilion.
Wineries often do not charge for tours and wine tasting is sometimes free. If you sit lower than the wine tasting bar ask to be served at your height.
The Niagara Falls and Fun Map for 2014 is available all over Niagara Falls and it gives you coupons for discounts on attractions and restaurants. Most hotel lobbies have huge racks of brochures and coupon pamphlets. You don’t have to be a guest to take some.
When it’s Raining
Let’s face it – Niagara Falls and water are more or less synonymous. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, just standing by the railing looking at the awesome falls can see you damp from the mist. Heavy rain can put a damper on your plans if you intend to do a lot of walking but there are plenty of indoor things to do in Niagara Falls. For all of the venues I’ll list here go to Attractions or Shopping, Theatre or Museums for details.
Both casinos offer games of chance and a variety of restaurants. The Fallsview also offers some interesting shopping venues. You could easily spend a morning, an afternoon or an entire day there.
Shop – see above.
Go to IMAX Theatre just down the street from Fallsview Casino and bone up on the history of the falls.
Take a trip on a Hornblower catamaran – you’re going to get wet anyway so why not just do it.
Table Rock Welcome Centre can deliver The Fury – an interactive experience that teaches about the formation of the falls; a large gift and souvenir shop (where you can also pick up a raincoat or umbrella); a huge candy store; a lovely restaurant and a bar and grille; entrance to the Journey Behind the Falls (again, you’ll get a bit wet) and a terrific covered view of the falls.
Visit the Niagara Parks Floral Showcase – it’s under cover, and you could take some gorgeous close-ups of tropical flowers. There is a charge for parking and an entry fee
Visit the Butterfly Conservatory – it doesn’t matter if it’s raining out, the butterflies are still beautiful and the entire place is like a tropical wonderland. Use the wheelchair parking further down the Niagara Parkway from the regular large parking lot. It will take you behind the conservatory and you won’t have as far to go in the rain.
Line up some dinner theatre at Oh Canada, Eh! for the evening. Try Shaw Theatre for some last minute matinee or evening tickets. You might get lucky.
Take a look around one or two of the many museums in Niagara. There’s a new one in Niagara Falls and lovely old one in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The St. Catharines Museum at Lock 3 also features a good look at the huge lakers and ocean-going ships traveling through the locks. Shipping continues rain or shine.
If it’s warm out and you don’t mind getting a bit wet, simply go ahead with your vacation – rain or not. Walking around in a gentle warm rain can be special. It is advised to take cover during a thunderstorm.
If you have visited Niagara and had an interesting time, won’t you take a few minutes to tell us what you did, what you liked, and what you’d recommend. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy your stay.