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8 Must-Do Niagara Falls Activities and Experiences

These quintessential, only-in-Niagara Falls USA attractions celebrate the best of the area. Don’t leave town without checking off this list.

There are so many things to do in Niagara Falls USA that it can be hard to get to it all! If you’re working on a limited timeline — a weekend getaway, for example — you’ll want to go for our narrowed-down list of things you absolutely have to do here. Get ready for a heady mix of history, culture and, of course, the spectacular nature the area is known for!

1. Niagara Falls State Park

Did you know Niagara Falls State Park is the nation’s oldest state park? Not only are the Falls breathtaking, they’re also embedded in early state and U.S. history. Take in the drama and excitement of the Falls from the Observation Tower near Prospect Point, the only panoramic view of all three Falls. Take the elevator down from the tower to board the iconic Maid of the Mist. 

2. Maid of the Mist Boat Tour

Once you’re on the Maid of the Mist, hold on for a boat ride like you’ve never experienced before! Operating since 1846 as a sightseeing tour, the Maid of the Mist recently launched new all-electric, zero-emission passenger vessels, the first of its kind in the U.S. Famous visitors to the boat have included Princess Diana, President Jimmy Carter, and Mikhail Gorbachev. You’ll go past the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls on the U.S. side, then past the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side before ending back at the U.S. side at Niagara Falls State Park. 

Family with young children playing and laughing with Old Fort Niagara re-enactors.

3. Old Fort Niagara

Originally established in the 1600s by the French, Old Fort Niagara played a role in the French and Indian War, the American Revolution and the War of 1812. With some of the oldest buildings in the entire Great Lakes region, it’s Western New York’s most tangible link to the Revolutionary War period. Depending on when you visit, you might even experience one of the period re-enactments that take place at the fort throughout the year. 

4. Cave of the Winds

How close is up close? Bring your waterproof camera, slip into the special yellow poncho, and follow a series of wooden walkways (built fresh each year!) to the famed Hurricane Deck of Cave of the Winds. There, you’ll find just feet away from the base of Bridal Veil Falls, so expect to get wet from the spray coming off the Falls itself and be awed! Please note, this is a timed-ticket experience.

Niagara Falls tourists riding Erie Canal cruise.

5. Lockport Locks & Erie Canal Cruise

Take a cruise through history on the Erie Canal on this scenic cruise. You’ll go past five of the original 1800s locks, including the only double set (the boat will rise 50 feet due to the 3 million gallons of water it takes to fill the locks!). You’ll also pass the widest bridge in the U.S. (the Big Bridge) as well as rock cuts, lift bridges and the Upside Down Bridge.

6. Niagara Gorge Hiking Trails

For the serious hiker, getting off the beaten path and descending into the heart of the Niagara Gorge is a must (those who are less experienced will want to stay on the top trails). Just 3 miles from downtown, you’ll find Devil’s Hole State Park where you can access the signature route of miles of trails that take you down to the rapids of the Niagara Whirlpool, edged by rock formations and canyon walls for a breathtaking view of nature up close. 

Niagara Falls tourists getting splashed by the rapids while riding on a jet boat tour.

7. Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours

The Class V rapids of the Niagara River can be daunting to even seasoned mariners. However, when you add jet-powered boats to the equation, you get a white-knuckled ride that’ll test your vocal cords. Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours take guests on a guided, 45-60 minute tour through the Devil’s Hole Class V rapids of the Niagara River. Offering both a wet and dry experience, these high-speed boats will have you craving another adrenaline-packed adventure.

8. Rainbow Air Helicopter Tours

For a view you really can’t get anywhere else, consider a helicopter tour with Rainbow Air. You’ll get a bird’s eye view of all three waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls (American, Bridal Veil, and Horseshoe), as well as the Upper Niagara River and Niagara Falls State Park. Along with the unforgettable aerial views, you’re likely to see radiant rainbows that the area is known for.