Niagara Falls is a great vacation spot for families, couples, and anyone looking for a little outdoor adventure. But, like any travel destination, costs can quickly get out of hand if you’re not careful. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t enjoy all Niagara Falls has to offer on a budget.
You’ll want to save your Niagara Falls budget for a night in a nice hotel with a fallsview room, a delicious meal out, or a Niagara Adventure Pass so you can enjoy the falls up close on a cruise or at Journey Behind the Falls. Here are five wonderful, free attractions in Niagara Falls that will let you stay in the black while you have a great time.
1) Niagara Glen Nature Reserve
Niagara Glen Nature Reserve represents an untouched pocket of Carolinian forest in Southern Ontario. Here, you can explore 2.5 miles (4 km) of rugged hiking trails nestled in the heart of the Niagara Gorge. Located on the banks of the Niagara River, Niagara Glen offers stunning, up-close overlooks of the Niagara Whirlpool, formed when the receding Niagara Falls intersected with a silt-filled, pre-glacial riverbed more than 4,200 years ago.
Visit Niagara Glen early in the morning to enjoy uninterrupted views of this 125-foot (38 m) deep whirlpool. Staff at the Niagara Glen Nature Centre can provide you with permits if you’d like to go bouldering in the park. Otherwise, consider joining one of the guided hiking tours that depart from the Nature Centre twice per day, at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., throughout the summer months.
2) Niagara Parks Floral Clock
The Niagara Parks Floral Clock is located on the Niagara Parkway in between Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake, so it’s a great stop-off if you’re headed to Niagara wine country to use the wine tasting tickets included in your Niagara Falls hotel package. Sixteen-thousand plants form the face of the Floral Clock; landscaping crews change the bedding plants twice per year.
If you visit the clock in the spring, you can enjoy displays of violas and four different varieties of Alternanthera. If you visit in the summer or fall, you may see gray and green varieties of Santolina sage, as well as blue Festuca grass and California golden privet. A tower at the top of the clock houses the mechanism, including Westminster chimes that sound every 15 minutes. Inside the tower, you’ll find a display showcasing the history of the clock, and, nearby, you can visit the Centennial Lilac Garden — go in May or June to see the fragrant lilacs in full bloom.
3) Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens
Since 1936, the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens have welcomed visitors to their 99-acre (40 hectare) grounds. Here, you can escape the chaos and hubbub of the more touristy parts of town to explore dozens of peaceful and carefully-cultivated gardens featuring thousands of plant species, ranging from decorative to edible, and including a famous rose garden that features more than 2,400 types of roses. The gardens are meticulously cared for by students of the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture, which is situated on the grounds. The Butterfly Conservatory can also be found here.
4) The Bruce Trail
The Bruce Trail is a 550-mile (890 km) hiking trail that follows the Niagara Escarpment from the Niagara River to Tobermory, Ontario, giving hikers access to many of the varied ecosystems found in this UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The Bruce Trail is Canada’s oldest, longest marked hiking trail, and it traverses a combination of public and private lands. Hikers on the Bruce Trail can see many of the numerous waterfalls that flow over the Niagara Escarpment, as well as enjoy the flora and fauna native to Southern Ontario. The Bruce Trail Conservancy hosts frequent multi-day hiking events, and accommodations along the trail include both bed-and-breakfasts and camping sites.
5) Niagara Falls Farmer’s Market
The Niagara Falls Farmer’s Market has been serving the community for 50 years, with up to 15 outdoor vendors and four indoor vendors. Here, you can people-watch, exchange banter with locals, or browse fruits and vegetables, plants, honey, and other local goods, including pastries and baguettes. In addition, you can enjoy a free musical performance on Saturday mornings from 10:00 a.m. to noon.
A trip to Niagara Falls doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Many of the activities in this border town are cheap or free. Put your money where it counts, and make the most of your vacation.