Niagara Falls Weekend Guide

Head to Canada to experience the excitement of Niagara Falls, and see why Niagara is synonymous with romance and adventure.
By: Jennifer Plum Auvil
Niagara Falls, observation deck, Maid of the Mist, Ontario, Canada

Niagara Falls, observation deck, Maid of the Mist, Ontario, Canada

Photo by: Peter Mintz / Design Pics/First Light/Getty Images

Peter Mintz / Design Pics/First Light/Getty Images

Niagara Falls in Ontario is a place of immense beauty and great lore with wild tales of daredevils slipping over the towering falls in tiny boats and barrels. Head to Canada and spend the weekend exploring the falls from every angle--above, behind and under the thunderous waterfalls--and enjoying the first-class entertainment that has grown up around the main attraction. 

Where to Stay
Marriott Niagara Falls Hotel Fallsview and Spa
Just 100 yards from the falls, the Marriott is the closest hotel to the action and promises the best views. Oversize windows in guestrooms offer panoramic views of the falls or the river while 2-room family suites comfortably accommodate families up to 6 people without compromising luxury or that stellar view. The hotel offers a variety of package deals that cater to families, lovebirds or foodies who want to take advantage of the hotel's rooms, restaurants and spa while enjoying the local sights.

Sterling Inn and Spa
It takes just a glance at the towering milk-bottle-shaped entrance to understand that the Sterling Inn and Spa, housed in the old Bordens Dairy building, is filled with charm and character. This boutique hotel has no shortage of style with modern furniture, luxe bathrooms and separate sitting rooms and fireplaces in deluxe accommodations. Prices are reasonable and breakfast, parking and Wi-Fi are all complimentary, leaving you with extra cash to spend on a Deep Awakening massage, herbal tea bath or a couples yoga class at the hotel's OneSpaRetreat.

Skyline Inn
There is nonstop action at the Skyline Inn with family-friendly activities and adult fun to fill up your social card during your Niagara Falls visit. Kids can experience Niagara's other water features with 3 acres of fun at the nearby Fallsview Indoor Waterpark and then enjoy a family dinner at the Rainforest Café or Hard Rock Café in the hotel's shared space on Falls Avenue. Family Bunk Bed rooms sleep up to 6 guests in 2 attached rooms while family suites have 3 queen beds.

Where to Eat
Skylon Tower Observation Deck
Revolving dining rooms may seem a bit gimmicky, but not when the ever-changing view offers a variety of perspectives on the towering Niagara Falls. Located atop the Skylon Tower, visitors take the glass elevator 775 feet into the air to reach the restaurant. Dinner can be a bit pricy but includes admission to the observation decks. Early-bird specials at the 4:30 and 5 p.m. seatings are a good value with a prix-fixe menu of salad, entrée and dessert. If you splurge on a later dinner, you can watch as the falls are illuminated with the colors of the rainbow in a spectacular and glowing vision of light and flowing water.

Elements on the Falls
Elements on the Falls appeals to all of your senses, beginning with the astonishing view of the falls at Table Rock Centre. The natural beauty is brought inside the restaurant with an open kitchen that includes an open-fire grill. The chefs rely on local ingredients to bring you dishes like seafood cakes with a Niagara peach and pimento relish or Canadian bison sirloin steak served alongside wines from nearby Niagara vineyards.

Paris Crepes Bistro
Take a break from the crowds, and enjoy a different view at this charming French bistro on Queen Street. The menu is filled with crepes of the sugary and savory varieties stuffed with ham, eggs and cheese for lunch and chocolate, fruits, nutella, marshmallows or any combination of sweets for dessert. The full café menu offers more tastes of Paris with hearty servings of French comfort food including escargot, duck confit, mussels, ratatouille and beef bourguignon. Round out your meal with a bubbly citron presse, creamy hot chocolate or a classy Kir Royale.

What to See & Do
Niagara Cruises
Don a complimentary rain poncho, and prepare to get wet on a trip aboard the Hornflower. If you grab a spot on the coveted upper deck, you're privy not only to great views but a spray of water as the boat glides up to the thunderous falls. The Voyage To The Falls boat tour ventures into the heart of the Niagara Gorge and offers unforgettable scenery of the American, Bridal Veil and Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Boat rides are available daily from spring to late fall and last approximately 20 minutes.

Whirlpool Aero Car
Once you've experienced the falls from the water, head to the sky for a different perspective. Antique cable cars shuttle guests across the river for a view of the Niagara Whirlpool, the swirling torrent of water that forms at the end of the rapids where the river pushes through the gorge's narrowest channel. The ride is just 10 minutes and though you're high above the raging rapids the wildly swirling whirlpool is sure to get your adrenaline rushing.

Butterfly Conservatory
Experience a more gentle side of Mother Nature with the fluttering wings of thousands of butterflies at the Butterfly Conservatory at the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens and School of Horticulture. Both kids and adults marvel at the beautiful and colorful tropical butterflies that make their homes in a rainforest setting featuring a pond, mini-waterfall and plenty of exotic flowers and plants. And if you wear brightly colored clothing, including hot pink, turquoise and orange, you may become a landing pad for these fragile beauties.

After Dark
Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort
Like all good casinos, the Niagara Fallsview has slots and gaming tables as well as a host of entertainment options where you can retreat before you spend your last dollar. The theater seats only 1,500 guests but still draws big-name attractions for concerts, comedy shows and other performances -- past performers include Jay Leno, Dolly Parton and Ringo Starr. R5 is a slick lounge while Breeze Bar is filled with plasma TVs where you can catch a game and grab a beer.

The drinking age in Canada is 19, and while many clubs cater to a younger crowd, there's something for everyone on the club scene, including plenty of chain restaurants and bars at the area's largest hotels. Some non-hotel options include Yank's Old Niagara Bar and Grill for live rock music on Thursday nights and Club Rialto at the Casa Doro restaurant for dance music on Friday and Saturday nights. If you want to catch the spectacle of fireworks over the falls, head to the patio at Edgewaters Tap and Grill with great views of the American Falls and Horseshoe Falls and fun drink options, including flights of beer, wine and colorful martinis.

Travel Channel Insider's Tip
You can view Niagara Falls from the United States or Canada, but most agree that the Canadian side offers the best views and the most comprehensive complex of hotels and entertainment options away from the falls.

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