Niagara Falls is one of the top tourist destinations in Ontario so it makes sense that it’s home to countless tourist attractions, but beware…everything has a price tag attached. For a typical family of 4 this could mean spending a lot just to see and do a few things. Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be the case because there are tons of inexpensive and even free activities to do around the falls…you just have to know where to look!
7. Botanical Gardens Walk
Located just a 10 minute drive north of the falls, the Botanical Gardens offers the perfect place to enjoy a serene walk through beautiful garden settings. Experience a wide variety of plant life including perennials, an arboretum and even a world class rose garden. The Garden’s footpath also takes you past the Butterfly Conservatory but take note that there’s an admission fee if you want to go in. Admission to the Botanical Gardens is free and parking is only $5.
6. Picnic in the Park
One of the best ways to enjoy time outdoors in Niagara is to have a picnic, and packing your own food means saving money by avoiding the pricey restaurants in and around the falls. At Queen Victoria Park you can lay out your checkered blanket while taking in great views of the falls. Bring a frisbee or football along and make the most of your time in the park. Since Queen Victoria Park is an outdoor public space, there’s no admission so go ahead and take advantage of the fresh local produce and artisan foods of the region and pack yourself a picnic today.
5. Heritage Tour
Niagara is an area rich in history and was home to many battles during the war of 1812. You can learn more about this without breaking the bank on expensive costumed tours re-enactments by taking a self guided heritage tour. The best place to start is at the Niagara Falls History Museum, where admission is only $5 for adults or $15 for a family of up to 5 people. The museum features 3 galleries with changing exhibitions and is also located near one of the most significant battle sites of the War of 1812. From the Museum you can pick up a walking tour map and take a self guided walk of Lundy’s Lane Battlefield.
4. Bike Tour
Another great option for experiencing the beauty of Niagara while saving money is to go on a bike ride. This is essentially a free activity if you bring your own bike and if not you can rent one for as little as $20 for a half day. The Greater Niagara Circle Route is about 140km long but is made up of smaller trails such as the Waterfront Trail, Trans Canada Trail and Fort Erie Friendship Trail. Most of the trails are paved and maps are available online, at area bike rental shops, and there’s also a mobile app available for iPhone.
3. Hike the Bruce Trail
Strap on those hiking boots and hit the trails of Niagara. Niagara Falls is the start (or the end depending on how you look at it) of the famous Bruce Trail which runs along the Niagara Escarpment from Niagara Falls to Tobermory ON. On the Niagara portion of the trail you can start from Queenston Heights near Niagara Falls and travel as far as you like on over 130 km of trails included in the Niagara Section. There are even some side trails worth exploring on their own including the General Brock Side Trail which is 12.3 km long and runs from Queenston Heights Park to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Just make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks for your trek!
2. Niagara Falls Farmers Market
Niagara is the epicenter of good food and wine in Ontario and home to many great farms and artisan food producers. Find them all in one spot at the Niagara Falls Farmers Market open Saturday’s 6:00am-12:00pm, year round. Of course there’s no admission to visit the market so your only cost will be whatever tasty treats you purchase to bring home.
1. Ginseng Farm Tour
Did you know that Southern Ontario is the largest producer of Native Ginseng in Canada? The industry actually began in Ontario and Great Mountain Ginseng Co is the first Chinese company to grow commercial Ginseng in the Niagara area. At Great Mountain Farm they offer free tours where you’ll learn first hand how native Ontario Ginseng is grown as well as it’s history and health benefits, and you might even get to try some samples.