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5 lesser-known things to do in Niagara Falls that won’t involve crowds or queues

If you’re making your summer travel plans there’s no shortage of destinations to choose from. But if you’d like to visit one of the most majestic sites in the U.S. (or Canada), there’s no shortage of things to do in Niagara Falls, NY for families, and it should definitely be on your shortlist.

Niagara Falls has three separate falls on the southern end of the Niagara Gorge, which are Horseshoe Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and American Falls. The falls border both New York state in the U.S. and the province of Ontario in Canada. They are formed by the Niagara River.

Niagara Falls from above

Family vacation to Niagara Falls

There is a multitude of family-friendly activities in and around Niagara Falls, but with over 9 million visitors in 2021, many of the top attractions in the area are crowded during peak times. If avoiding crowds and lines but still enjoying the falls in all their splendor is on the top of your summer to-do list, here are a few can’t-miss attractions and things to do in Niagara Falls.

Activities in Niagara Falls

1. Hiking trails

Niagara Falls State Park in New York offers world-class hiking trails awash in the scenic beauty of the region. The Great Gorge Scenic Overlook Hike is an easy 1-mile loop that highlights the park’s beautiful scenery and won’t leave you sore and tired at the end of the day.

The Upper Great Gorge Hike is slightly longer than the Great Gorge Scenic Overlook Hike, but is still rated as easy and has no age requirement, making it perfect for the family. Devil’s Hole Rapids and Giant Rock is a moderate hiking trail that provides adventures with stunning views of Devil’s Hole Rapids and Giant Rock, two of the area’s most stunning natural features. Hikers should be in relatively good shape and children under 8 aren’t allowed on the trail.

Whirlpool Rapids Adventure Hike is a strenuous trek and is recommended for experienced hikers 8 years old and up. The trail features some fun boulder hopping and is a 3.5-mile, out-and-back (as opposed to a loop) trail that offers beautiful scenery and a trek down into the gorge.

2. Prospect Point Observation Tower

Get a bird’s-eye view of the falls at Prospect Point Observation Tower. At close to 300 feet high, the aluminum, steel, and glass structure holds pride of place at the base of the gorge. With high-speed elevators, there’s no need to worry about schlepping up the stairs to the top unless you want to take the exterior stairs to the Crow’s Nest and feel the spray from the falls and the wind in your hair. The world-famous Maid of the Mist tour boat launches from the base of Prospect Point Observation Tower.

3. Maid of the Mist

While definitely not a low-crowd attraction, the Maid of the Mist is a must-do if you visit Niagara Falls. A Niagara Falls staple for more than 150 years, Maid of the Mist is actually two boats that ferry passengers from the U.S. side and allows visitors to get up close and personal (and wet!) with the grandeur of the falls. Don’t worry, the park supplies you with a souvenir poncho to protect you from the spray.

4. Cave of the Winds

Get a VIP pass for Bridal Veil Falls with this must-see tour. Though it’s not exactly a cave tour, during the Cave of the Winds tour, you’ll descend more than 150 feet via elevator into Niagara Gorge to the so-called Hurricane Deck. A series of wooden walkways and traverses allow adventurers to roam close to the falls and feel the tropical story velocity winds. If you decide to brave the falls, be ready to get wet!

Cave of the Winds Niagara Falls

5. Old Fort Niagara

For the history buffs in your family, Old Fort Niagara is a can’t-miss attraction on the U.S. side of the border. Originally a French fortification, the fort, which was built in 1726 and changed hands several times, saw action in almost all the colonial era conflicts, including the American Revolution and the French and Indian War. Now home to numerous living history tours and exhibits, the fort is a beautifully restored example of life in the early days of the United States.

A visit to Niagara Falls combines the wonders of nature with the complexity of the rich history around the U.S./Canadian border and provides families with many opportunities to learn and do. You won’t regret your visit, and if you’re lucky, you won’t get too soaked by the spray!

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