Young travelers today tend to look for the road less traveled — the exciting, the enriching, and (perhaps most importantly) the inexpensive. They want to be culturally stimulated and naturally awed, and they want the opportunity to forge their own paths in unknown country.
Niagara Falls, which has been a major travel destination for centuries, doesn’t exactly fit the bill. During the last few decades, the city around the natural wonder has developed into a tacky tourist trap, where overpriced hotels, restaurants, and attractions squeeze money out of well-meaning visitors. Travelers who come expecting breathtaking views are more likely to catch their breath on the seemingly unjust prices and copious crowds.
Yet, Niagara Falls is a unique destination in the world, utterly unlike any other waterfall or Canadian city, which means it absolutely should be a stop on any world traveler’s itinerary. Here are a handful of Niagara Falls activities sure to enchant even the purest of young travelers during a short trip to the falls and surrounding region.
Though the region may not be as well-known as Italian opera houses or Broadway stages, Niagara actually boasts one of the most highly regarded theater festivals in the world. Every year, Niagara-on-the-Lake produces the Shaw Festival, a tribute to the brilliant, iconic works of George Bernard Shaw and his like-minded contemporaries. Shaw was known for his biting wit and social commentary, as well as his magical talent for making theater an absolutely immersive experience. And to feel the sensations of a Shavian play, thousands of travelers purchase cheap plane tickets on Flights.com between April and September to catch a weekend showing.
The shows change every year, but in 2015, the Shaw Festival is presenting the following productions:
- The Lady From the Sea
- Light up the Sky
- Peter and the Starcatcher
- You Never Can Tell
- And more!
Nothing quite says “excellent vacation” like free wine, and Niagara Falls’ superb wine trail certainly has plenty of it. Hundreds of vineyards knit the fertile landscape into a paradisiac quilt for wine-lovers, and nearly every winery offers visitors tastings of their award-winning wines. Travelers should stop in at these top-notch cellars to sample the best of the region:
- Hidden Bench Vineyards and Winery
- Tawse Winery
- Flat Rock Cellars
- Five Rows Craft Wine of Lowry Vineyards
- Peller Estates
Much of the joy of romping around Central America or Southeast Asia is the opportunity to visit small villages and come face-to-face with a different cultural identity. Believe it or not, travelers can have the same experience in the Niagara Region, which is full of quaint communities that welcome visitors with open arms — and an added benefit is that they all speak perfect English.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is the most popular small town of the region, and it is just a short 20-minute ride from Niagara Falls proper. The town seems stopped in time, as the architecture in the town square is centuries-old and horse-drawn carriages are common on streets and parks. The shops around town are all locally owned boutiques, which brings travelers closer with the culture of the place. Niagara-on-the-Lake has frequently been voted the prettiest town in Canada, so it is a good stop for travelers looking for charm.
However, Niagara-on-the-Lake isn’t the only place where travelers can venture away from the hustle and bustle of touristy Niagara Falls. Nestled along the shores of Lake Ontario, dozens of small communities are worth visiting, including Jordan, St. Catharine’s, and Port Weller with the fascinating Welland Canal.
While the city may be overdeveloped, Canada and the United States have taken strides to make sure that ample natural space remains around the park for outdoor adventure. Thus, there are dozens of day hikes that take travelers deep into Niagara country for unforgettable views of the landscape. Here are some of the best hikes around the falls:
- Niagara Glen Gorge Trail
- Whirlpool Rapids and Devil’s Hole Trail
- Niagara River Recreation Trail
- Bruce Trail
Travelers who aren’t quite up to a forest trek — who perhaps are worn out by their earlier excursion on the wine trail — might prefer a leisurely stroll around Niagara Falls’ extensive parks and gardens. Absolutely beautiful when blooming during the spring and summer months, the Botanical Gardens are perfect for a picnic lunch. Alternatively, tired travelers can lie down in Queen Victoria Park and people-watch against the background of Niagara Falls, which is breathtaking in its natural beauty no matter how touristy the area has become.