Free Things to do in and around Niagara
The Niagara Peninsula is nestled between the south shore of Lake Ontario and the north shore of Lake Erie. It boasts freshwater swimming, marinas, fruit farms, wineries, the Niagara Escarpment, parks and conservation areas great for hiking and biking. Did we also mention its home to Niagara Falls! Exploring the parks and lakes in Niagara are beautiful and can be all seen and enjoyed for free. It’s no wonder there are so many things to do here in Niagara, but did you know there are many free things to do in Niagara Falls and the entire Niagara Region? Here are some of our suggestions:
Of course witnessing the extraordinary beauty and power of the Niagara Falls is free. The stroll along the gorge, by the Falls itself and above the falls is quite a walk. Each step you take is picture perfect, and the entire experience is absolutely free. Don’t miss Niagara Falls in the evening. The Niagara Falls Lighting Committee has been funding the illumination and fireworks at the Falls for decades. What a beautiful sight to behold.
Dufferin Islands is a 10 acres of secluded park containing several small islands connected by small bridges and footpaths. Home of the Winter Festival of Lights from November to January with spectacular lighting displays.
The Niagara Parkway
The Niagara Parkway is maintained by the Niagara Parks Commission. Take a beautiful drive or cycle along the scenic Niagara Parkway from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort Erie or any points in between. The entire 56 km is one of the prettiest drives in the world, also great for hiking and cycling, stop for a picnic lunch along the way. Or drive along Lakeshore Road west to Port Dalhousie and on to Jordan Village.
ONTARIO POWER GENERATION WINTER FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
The Winter Festival of Lights dazzles along the parkway in Niagara Falls, Ontario. It includes over 125 animated lighting displays and 3 million tree and ground lights which can be seen within the Niagara Parks Winter Wonderland, including the world’s largest illuminated Canadian-American Flag. There is no admission fee to view the illuminations but donations are gratefully accepted by Festival Ambassadors at the exit of Dufferin Islands (suggested contribution ($5 - $10 per car; $1 per coach bus passenger), with proceeds used to enhance the lights and displays. A wintertime visit to Niagara Falls during the Winter Festival of Lights has become a tradition for over 1 million local residents and visitors from around the world.
There are so many great signature events in Niagara that are free such as the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival, Springlicious, and the Santa Claus Parade! We also host a mouth watering Rib Fest, and a delectable Strawberry Festival. Check our event listings for all events happening during your visit to Niagara.
The Niagara Glen is a spectacular location for those who love being entrenched in nature. The designated area is a favourite of hikers who want to get close to the Niagara gorge. It is rich with birds, flora and California type forestry. The area is now a place to go Bouldering-- Over the past 30 years, bouldering has evolved into a popular sport as a health-conscious physical form of human-powered recreation. Bouldering’s social aspects of community and camaraderie has created an expanding number of enthusiasts. The Niagara Glen has become noted world-wide for its bouldering opportunities.Geo Caching has also become a popular family activity as well.
Niagara Parks Attractions
Did you know that for all Niagara Parks Attractions, children under 5 are free?!
Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens
The Niagara Parks Botanical Garden is 99 acres of beautiful gardens. The park has a permanent collection of perennials, flowering trees and shrubs. Themed seasonal display beddings are changed three to four times each year, starting with violas and spring bulbs, then a wide variety of annuals in the summer and then chrysanthemums, flowering cabbage and kale accent the brilliant autumn colours.
Niagara Parks staff have planted thousands of wildflowers, trees, shrubs and grasses, including meadowsweet, dogwood, Canada mayflowers and running strawberry vines, in locations such as Memorial Grove near Old Fort Erie, Moore Island and Paradise Grove.
Niagara’s Floral Clock is just 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) north of the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens. Built in 1950, the clock is one of the largest in the world at 12.2 metres (40 feet) in diameter. The “floral face” of the clock is changed twice a season. Violas are planted to provide a colourful design to welcome in the spring season.
Built at the beginning of the 19th century by Scottish emigrant John McFarland, McFarland House served as a family residence for more than 150 years, also playing a role as a hospital in the War of 1812. Following the death of the remaining McFarland members, the house fell into the hands of the Niagara Parks Commission, which was responsible for restoring it in 1959. Guided tours of the house are available during mid May until Labour Day and visitors are also permitted to explore the extensive estate in which the house is situated. During the War of 1812 McFarland House was used as a hospital by both the British and the American armies and a gun battery was situated on the property to help guard the Niagara River. Further, due to its strategic location, the British raid and capture of Fort Niagara on December 18, 1813 was launched from the ravine behind the home.
John McFarland was taken prisoner during the war and sent to Greenbush, New York. When he returned after the conclusion of the conflict he found his house rather worse for wear, with windows, doors and mantels missing. McFarland was heartbroken over this damage and took ill in the spring of 1815, passing away soon thereafter. He rests at St. Mark’s Church, Niagara-on-the-Lake, where his tombstone bears an inscription listing these lamentable woes. Following the death of the remaining McFarland members, the house fell into the hands of the Niagara Parks Commission, which was responsible for restoring it in 1959. Guided tours of the house are available during mid May until Labour Day and visitors are also permitted to explore the extensive estate in which the house is situated.The garden at McFarland House is illustrative of a typical mid 19th century door yard garden. Gardens located in the door yard (typically defined as the area between the house and the nearby kitchen or barn) were usually used for both culinary and decorative purposes. McFarland House thanks the Garden Club of Niagara for their planning and upkeep of the garden.
Ten Thousand Buddha Temple
The Cham San Ten Thousand Buddah Temple is a 7 level Asian style building contains precious collections of Buddhist arts and artifacts. Experience the tranquility and spirituality of the temple. They provide free guided tours during summer weekends from June to October.
The Bruce Trail is the oldest and longest marked hiking trail in Canada. It is currently 885km long with over 400km of side trails. More than 400,000 visits are made to the Trail as people walk, snowshoe, watch wildlife, take photographs and admire the glorious scenery of the Niagara Escarpment. The Niagara Escarpment is now recognized as a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve.
1812 Battle Re-Enactments at Old Fort Erie
Witness the fierce fighting of 1814 which turned Old Fort Erie into Canada’s bloodiest battlefield. Enjoy ongoing events throughout the weekend at Canada’s largest 1812 reenactment. Watch the Fort come alive during special lantern tours after the Saturday evening battle. Camps and battles are free to the public.
Old Fort Erie is located in the town of Fort Erie approximately 30 kilometres (19 miles), or a scenic 20-minute drive, south of Niagara Falls and is close to the Peace Bridge from Buffalo, New York. The grounds and the main floor rooms of the buildings are wheelchair accessible.
Niagara Falls Farmers Market
The Niagara Falls Farmers Market is open year round – Saturdays, 6 AM – 12 NoonThe 50+ old Farmers’ Market is open year-round on Sat mornings. There is currently a small building that hosts 4 indoor vendors i.e. butcher etc. and pending the season up to 15 vendors outside.
Niagara Falls History Museum
Every Thursday evening the Museum is open untill 9pm. Admission is free from 5pm to 9pm. Thursdays nights include, depending on the date, free movies and dances.
Happy Rolph’s Bird Sanctuary
A 15.06-acre municipal park on the shores of Lake Ontario, Happy Rolph’s Bird Sanctuary boasts one of Canadas most exotic collections of flowering rhododendrons.
There is also a petting farm, which includes chickens, pigs, horses, rabbits, sheep, goats, and llamas. Hundreds of ducks, geese and native birds live in the sanctuary’s nearby pond. The pond’s inlet, sheltered by evergreens and bordered by grassy banks and willow trees, offers food and shelter for the resident waterfowl and migratory birds.
Hours of Operation
Park Daily 7:00 am – Dusk Petting Zoo Seasonal hours Some special events are hosted at Happy Rolph’s Bird Sanctuary. Contact the City of St. Catharines Recreation and Community Services Department for details.
Lakeside Park Carousel
The Lakeside Park Carousel is a century old tradition that you can still get for 5 cents a ride. Yes it’s not free but 5 cents is pretty darn close. The carousel is a timeless tradition of Port Dalhousie, a quaint section of St. Catharines that is right on the lake and has Marina facilities and a charming district to go for a walk. The carousel runs from Victoria Day Weekend to Thanksgiving weekend.Typically the carousel runs Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 8pm and Friday’s from 4pm to 8pm. Lakeside park is home to the Canada Day Firework displays in St Catharines
Welland Canal Lock 3
Home to the largest canal observation deck in Niagara, it’s the best view of ships using the Welland Canal. Also home to the Lock 3 Museum, and the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame. There is a small admission fee to the Museum and Hall of Fame visits, but the rest of the Centre, including parking, observation platform and the indoor Lock View Lounge on the 2nd floor are 100% free. Outside, enjoy picnic area, playground and Discovery Park with great information about the canal.
Grape and Wine
Folk Arts Festival
This festival, which usually takes place in May, is a blend of cultures and people that makes Canada a nation to be envied.This festival offers dances,exhibitions and live entertainment. It kicks off with "Days in the Park Childrens Festival".
Rotary Rib Fest
Usually held the beginning of August in Montebello Park
Take a beautiful drive or cycle along the scenic Niagara Parkway from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort Erie and enjoy all points in between. Stop for a picnic lunch along the way. Or drive along Lakeshore Road west to Port Dalhousie and on to Jordan Village.
Visiting Farmer Markets
Niagara is famous for its rich agriculture, and farmer markets. Pick your own fresh produce or enjoy the various roadside markets.
A guided stroll winding through the historical town, accompanied by local choirs and seasonal entertainment.