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Niagara Falls is one of North America’s most impressive natural attractions, and, one that literally separates the United States and Canada, it happens to be the name of two cities; one in the state of New York and one in Ontario just over the border.
Niagara Falls is actually made up of three separate falls, two of which lie on the NY side. Canada may have been blessed with a more impressive panoramic view, but you can easily get up close and personal with the falls from either side. The American side is also packed with a number of attractions besides just the Falls.
From exploring America’s oldest state park to enjoying a fascinating aquarium, gorgeous golf courses, great shopping, and a delicious wine region, Niagara Falls New York offers something for everyone.
Niagara Falls State Park
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While I want to shed light on more of the things to do and see besides the falls in Niagara, the falls themselves will of course be the main highlight for most visitors. The place to start is at Niagara Falls State Park. Open 365 days a year, it offers free access to view the falls along with great hiking trails and a number of paid attractions.
Niagara Falls wasn’t easily accessible until the Niagara Reservation established the State Park in 1885 (making it the oldest SP in America). The park contains the three separate falls including American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and a section of Horseshoe Falls (Canadian Falls).
Here there's also access to a number of attractions like the Maid of the Mist boat tours, Prospect Point Observation Tower, and Niagara Gorge.
You’d be wise to purchase a Discovery Pass if you plan on visiting a number of attractions since the pass allows you to enter several for a cheaper rate than if you chose to pay for each separately. It also offers discounts for other nearby attractions.
Aquarium of Niagara
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When you get sick of chasing waterfalls, you can head over to the Aquarium of Niagara were you can chase penguins instead!
Ok, you may not be allowed to actually chase the adorable Humboldt penguins they have there, but they do offer penguin feeding demonstrations and hands-on interactions with them.
Fully accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Aquarium of Niagara also has California sea lions and harbor seals in which they also offer hands-on interactions with.
You can observe eels, piranhas, reef sharks, octopus, clownfish (aka Nemo), and an unusual creature called an Axolotl or Mexican walking fish.
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Travel back in time at Fort Niagara whose history spans more than 300 years. The fort has played a role in many wars and was controlled by three different countries over its lifetime.
Originally created by early French colonists, the fort would fall to the British during the French and Indian War and then eventually handed over to the Americans after the War of 1812
Today, you can tour the fort’s restored 18th century buildings and watch reenactments of the historical 18th century battles that took place at the fort. They also host a number of musket demonstrations throughout the day.
Niagara Falls Culinary Institute
Students come to the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute to learn the latest techniques in cooking, hospitality, wine and beer making, and other culinary arts. As a visitor, you can also attend a very hands-on and mouths-on cooking class experience where you will learn how to cook like your favorite chef.
Even if you fail to create a true culinary masterpiece, you still get to eat your art so it’s a win in my book!
If you know you can’t cook, simply head to the institute to sample delectable dishes in their student run fine dining restaurant called Savor. Student chefs show off their newly learned talents using a wood-stone oven in an open kitchen that allows you to watch them in action and really puts the young chefs to the test.
You’ll also want to visit their French inspired pastry shop called La Patisserie as well as their very own unique Barnes & Noble bookstore that focuses on cookbooks, kitchenware, and everything else a foodie would love.
Adams Power Plant Transformer House
Why this landmark isn’t yet a tourist site I don't know, but you should take a moment to pass by the building despite not being able to go in.
The Adams Power Plant Transformer House is an abandoned limestone building, the last remaining structure of what was an incredible historical site. It dates back to 1895 when it became the world’s first alternating current electric generating plant in the world which was able to harness the power of Niagara Falls and transmit commercial electricity over large distances, something that Nikola Tesla long dreamed of.
The power plant was named after Edward Dean Adams who was president of the company that built the first power station at Niagara Falls. There is talk that the site may become some sort of Tesla museum in the future.
Old Stone Chimney
One of the first things you see when entering Niagara Falls and one of the last things you see when you leave is something you may not expect.
Many scratch their head at why there is a giant 30-foot-tall chimney weighing 60 tons standing next to the Niagara River along the bike path that follows the river!
Known as the Old Stone Chimney, this landmark dates back to 1750 when it was originally constructed. It has survived multiple wartime fires (not including the ones it was intended to burn) and has been relocated three different times brick by brick.
Its final resting place (hopefully anyway!), is now well within view between the Niagara River and the Robert Moses Parkway where it can finally be appreciated by visitors.
Look for the Old Stone Chimney just east of the Adams Slip and appreciate the $1.5 million and 5 months of labor it took to relocate it here.
Niagara Golf Courses
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Golfers will be glad to know there are some great courses in Niagara Falls NY. Hyde Park Golf Course is open to the public and walk-ins are welcome. The course originally began its life as the Niagara Falls Country Club back in 1901.
The public Hyde Park Golf Course now offers 27 holes of golf including a rather challenging 18 hole North Course and a somewhat easier 9 hole White Course. Remember to bring your own clubs, as they aren’t offering rentals at this time, due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Not too far away is a Robert Trent Jones II designed course called Seneca Hickory Stick Golf Course. Also open to the public, this well manicured course was once named one of the Top 10 Best New Golf Courses when it first opened.
Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls
Lastly, if you’re in need of some new threads, head to the Niagara outlets!
The Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls is regarded as one of America’s largest outlet centers. Recent expansion has seen the outlets now offer 750,000 square feet of shopping with over 200 stores and a great selection of eateries.
Enjoy savings of up to 75% off merchandise from brands like Nike, Under Armour, Disney, Calvin Klein, Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH, and Samsonite in case you need a spare empty suitcase to accommodate all your outlet purchases.
I hope you have an amazing time exploring Niagara New York, beyond the falls!