Outdoor Adventures around Niagara Falls

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Outdoor Adventures around Niagara Falls
Niagara is characterized by the great thundering falls on both sides of the border, though there's plenty to keep you busy in the outdoors of Niagara Region.
By Flash Parker, AFAR Ambassador
Photo by Brian Summers/age fotostock
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    The Glory of Niagara Falls
    How you view the falls—and from how close—depends on you. The views are always free from the riverside promenades, and from the pedestrian bridge to Goat Island. Once there, pay a small entry fee to the observation tower to see the American and Horseshoe Falls from the U.S. side. For a closer look, visit Journey Behind the Falls on the Canadian side and descend to a couple of observation decks behind the falls. Or, book passage on the Whirlpool Aero Car, an antique cable freighter that lifts guests high over the Great Gorge and Niagara River en route to the stunning Niagara Whirlpool.
    Photo by Brian Summers/age fotostock
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    Touring the Great Outdoors
    Niagara tour operators are some of the most renowned in the business, offering a varied roster of fully customizable expeditions to the biggest sights and the lesser-known attractions in the region. If you're coming from Toronto, try a BG Tours Canada day trip (overnight also available). Niagara Helicopters Canada flies year-round, offering tours over the Whirlpool Rapids, Great Gorge, and the falls. SeeSight Tours operates out of Niagara and can set you up with specialty excursions like the Winter Festival of Lights Tour. At Niagara Nature Tours, visitors can choose from a variety of low-impact eco-tourism experiences.
    Photo by Guido Alberto Rossi/age fotostock
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    Vintage Experiences
    Niagara-on-the-Lake, Beamsville Bench, and Twenty Valley are part of one of Canada’s most important wine regions, and there are plenty of tours for the adventurous oenophile. Winery Tours of Niagara offers customizable experiences for individuals and groups; or, join a Grape Escape Wine Tour—by luxury transport or bicycle—and experience winemaking from vine to glass in a single day. Chateau des Charmes is an estate winery run by Algerian Paul Bosc that opens its door to public tours and tastings almost every day of the year. Also consider the Sensory Garden Tour at Reif Estate, where you may stroll through the estate gardens with a glass of wine, or if you prefer, a wine gelato.
    Photo by Ken Straiton/age fotostock
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    Legendary Golf Courses
    Golfers in Niagara Region can putt on public or championship-caliber courses. Legends on the Niagara is a thousand-acre compound with two elite 18-hole courses, a 9-hole course, and the only 360-degree driving range in Ontario. The Royal Niagara’s three distinct courses, 7,000-plus yards, immaculate fairways, deep bunkers, challenging greens, and Welland Canal location—near the Niagara Escarpment—have earned it international accolades. Whirlpool Golf Course is known as much for its breathtaking natural beauty as its championship pedigree. This Stanley Thompson course will challenge even the most spirited free swinger in your foursome.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Niagara Parks
    Queen Victoria Park is the heart and soul of the Niagara Parks system, a gorgeous space that features tens of thousands of native and non-native plant species that are maintained by some of Canada’s most renowned botanists and horticulturalists. Since 1936, the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens has been entrancing visitors with nearly 100 acres of stunning garden spaces, including the famed rose gardens, home to approximately 2,400 of the world’s most romantic flowers. The famed Floral Clock on the Niagara Parkway is composed of more than 15,000 plants from Niagara Parks' gardens, while Ontario Hydro keeps the big and little hands moving on time. The design is changed twice each year.
    Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Tourism
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    Niagara Hiking Trails
    You’re never far from an excellent hiking or walking trail in Niagara. Deep in the heart of the Great Gorge, the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve features numerous trails that wind through Carolinian forest, over rocky, scraggy terrain, and up onto boulders for excellent views of the area. Trails range from easy to moderately strenuous and are well-marked. The quiet Dufferin Islands feature more than 10 acres of beautiful parkland connected by wooden bridges, while Heartland Forest has more than two miles of trails, a butterfly garden, picnic areas, and more. Hiking the Bruce Trail is a much more involved affair, but anyone can enjoy a few miles of Ontario’s most popular trail from the well-groomed trailhead.
    Photo by Darwin Wiggett/age fotostock
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    Niagara by Boat
    Boat cruises on the Niagara River provide spectacular views of the falls, and have inspired prose, marriage proposals, and barrel riders for over a hundred years. Hornblower Niagara Cruises takes guests through the Great Gorge and past the American, Bridal Veil, and Horseshoe Falls. Those looking to ratchet up the thrills will want to book an excursion with Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours. Take a customized jet boat (choose from an open-air wet ride or an enclosed dry-boat) into the Niagara Gorge, and hold tight when the captain powers you through the Class 5 rapids at the swirling Devil’s Hole. For a more relaxed journey, try Niagara Kayak Rentals. Solo, group, and guided excursions are available.
    Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Tourism
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    Niagara on Two Wheels
    Add a day or two of biking to your Niagara visit to experience the region in a wholly unique way. GranFondo Canada is one of the most experienced outfitters in Niagara, and provides excellent tours designed to showcase the beauty of Niagara’s natural attractions and rich cultural heritage. Each of the Niagara River Recreation Trail’s four sections is closed to motorized vehicles and provides excellent access to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Black Creek, Fort Erie, and more, with each section requiring about two hours of bike time to complete. Zoom Leisure Bikes provides fantastic winery and microbrewery tours throughout Niagara, delivering peddlers to delicious rewards after days in the saddle.
    Photo courtesy of Zoom Leisure Bikes
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    Niagara's Winter Wonderland
    Try the most Canadian of activities—skating—at the TD Rink at the Brink, an open-air rink teetering on the edge of a thundering waterfall. Open seasonally, the rink offers a unique skating experience. One of the best times to visit is during the Festival of Lights (November–January), when the Niagara Falls are illuminated—and arguably at their most beautiful and raw. More than 125 displays are lit with nearly three million lights throughout the Niagara Parks Winter Wonderland, with exhibits that include the giant Canadian-American flag. The falls just wouldn’t be the same without a world-class fireworks display; Canada’s longest-running fireworks series puts on a daily display at no charge to visitors.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Renowned Athletic Events
    Niagara hosts numerous athletic events throughout the year, such as the Niagara Falls International Marathon, which features a 2K, 5K, 10K, and half-marathon in addition to the big race that brings out many of North America’s top runners. For beginners, the Colour Blast Fun Run is one of the country’s most enjoyable 5K races. Add cycling and swimming to your running at the Niagara Falls Triathlon, with legs in Welland and Niagara Falls. Super-fans should also check out the Niagara Falls Sports Expo, a day of seminars, exhibitions, and celebrity athletes.
    Photo by Jessie Parker/age fotostock