This area was long part of the Iroquois Confederacy territory: five powerful First Nations mostly along the southern edge of the Great Lakes. The Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca were based largely in present-day New York, ranging from east near the Hudson River, to western areas of Seneca Lake and along Ontario and other Great Lakes.
The Niagara Falls area has had some European settlement since the 17th century. Louis Hennepin, a French priest and missionary, is regarded as the first European to visit the area in the 1670s. French colonists settled mostly in Lower Canada, beginning near the Atlantic, and in Quebec and Montreal. Increased settlement in this area took place during and after the American Revolutionary War, when the British Crown made land grants to Loyalists to help them resettle in Upper Canada and provide some compensation for their losses after the United States became independent. Loyalist Robert Land received 200 acres (81 ha) and was one of the first people of European descent to settle in the Niagara Region. He moved to nearby Hamilton three years later due to the relentless noise of falls.
Tourism started in the early 19th century and has been a vital part of the local economy since that time. The falls became known as a natural wonder, in part to their being featured in paintings by prominent American artists of the 19th century such as Albert Bierstadt. Such works were reproduced as lithographs, becoming widely distributed. In addition, Niagara Falls markets itself as a honeymoon destination; it is the self-proclaimed "honeymoon capital of the world."
In 1856, the Town of Clifton was incorporated. The name of the town was changed to Niagara Falls in 1881. In 1882, the community of Drummondville (located near the present-day corner of Lundy's Lane and Main Street) was incorporated as the village of Niagara Falls. The village was referred to as Niagara Falls South to differentiate it from the town. In 1904, the town and village amalgamated to form the City of Niagara Falls.
In 1882, Irish author Oscar Wilde visited Niagara Falls after lecturing in Buffalo during a lecture tour of North America. He stayed at the Prospect House in Niagara Falls, New York.
An Internment camp was set up at The Armoury in Niagara Falls from December 1914 to August 1918.
In 1953, the American actress Marilyn Monroe filmed Niagara here. This was a major event for the city.
In 1962, the city amalgamated with the surrounding Stamford Township, resulting in a doubling of population.
With the creation of a Niagara regional government in 1970, the city absorbed the village of Chippawa, Willoughby Township and part of Crowland Township, creating the present-day municipal boundaries.
The city's official historian is Sherman Zavitz, who gives regular radio broadcasts on many aspects of Niagara's history.
Niagara Falls is approximately 130 km (81 mi) by road from Ontario's capital of Toronto, which is located across Lake Ontario to the north. The area of the Niagara Region is approximately 1,800 km2 (690 sq mi).
The city is built along the Niagara Falls waterfalls and the Niagara Gorge on the Niagara River, which flows from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.
The city of Niagara Falls has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa/Dfb) which is moderated to an extent in all seasons by proximity to water bodies. Winters are cold, with a January high of −0.4 °C (31.3 °F) and a low of −7.8 °C (18.0 °F). However, temperatures above 0 °C (32.0 °F) are common during winter. The average annual snowfall is 154 centimetres (61 in), in which it can receive lake effect snow from both lakes Erie and Ontario. Summers are warm to hot, with a July high of 27.4 °C (81.3 °F) and a low of 17 °C (62.6 °F). The average annual precipitation is 970.2 millimetres (38 in), which is relatively evenly distributed throughout the year.
Although more historical and cultural diversity exists, Niagara Falls has 11 communities and 67 neighbourhoods defined by Planning Neighbourhoods and Communities for the City of Niagara Falls.
In 2011, the population of Niagara Falls was 81,300 persons, while the metropolitan area had 422,805. The population of Niagara Falls is older than Canada in general in terms of age structure. Youths under 18 years of age number 19.3%. Some 7,715 (9.5%) inhabitants described themselves as visible minorities (non-white/non-European), with the majority of those Black, Chinese, Filipino and South Asian people.
83.97% of Niagara Falls city residents self-identified with Christian denominations. The largest denominations are Catholic (41.99%), Protestant (36.80%), and 5.18% other Christian mostly Eastern Orthodox, 14.10% claimed no religious affiliation, while other religions (1.93%) including Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim accounted for the rest.
With a plentiful and inexpensive source of hydroelectric power from the waterfalls, many electro-chemical and electro-metallurgical industries located there in the early to mid-20th century.
Industry began moving out of the city in the 1970s and 80s because of economic recession and increasing global competition in the manufacturing sector. Tourism increasingly became the city's most important revenue source. Generally speaking, Niagara Falls, Ontario is a more popular destination than Niagara Falls, New York, in part due to the better view of the falls from the Canadian side of the river. In the 20th century, there was a favourable exchange rate when comparing Canadian and U.S. currencies, and Ontario had a greater focus on tourism. Also, Ontario's legal drinking age of 19, in comparison to a legal drinking age of 21 in the U.S., attracts potential alcohol consumers from across the border.
The Ontario government introduced legal gambling to the local economy in the mid-1990s. Casino Niagara precipitated an economic boom in the late 1990s as numerous luxury hotels and tourist attractions were built, and a second casino, Niagara Fallsview, opened in 2004. Both attracted American tourists due in part to the comparatively less expensive Canadian dollar, and despite the opening of the Seneca Niagara Casino on the American side. When the Canadian and US currencies moved closer to parity in the 2000s, Niagara Falls, Ontario continued to be a popular destination for Americans. Its tourist areas had many attractions and a vibrancy, while Niagara Falls, New York languished in a prolonged economic downturn.
In 2004, several tourist establishments in Niagara Falls began adding a three percent marketing fee to bills. The collected money is untraceable, and there are no controls over how each establishment spends it. The Ontario government—concerned that tourists could be misled into believing the fees were endorsed by the government—warned hotels and restaurants in 2008 not to claim the fee if it was not being remitted to a legitimate non-profit agency that promotes tourism. The practise continues, and takes in an estimated $15 million per-year from tourists unaware the fee is voluntary and can be removed from their bill.
Recent development has been mostly centred on the Clifton Hill and Fallsview areas. The Niagara Falls downtown (Queen Street) is undergoing a major revitalization; the city is encouraging redevelopment of this area as an arts and culture district. The downtown was a major centre for local commerce and night life up until the 1970s, when the Niagara Square Shopping Centre began to draw away crowds and retailers. Since 2006, Historic Niagara has brought art galleries, boutiques, cafés and bistros to the street. Attractions include renovation of the Seneca Theatre.
On 3 October 2012, the Mayor of Niagara Falls opened the new Queen Street Downtown Park featuring a children's playground complete with soft artificial turf, benches, seating, landscaping and the "Water Molecule" sculpture, created by artist Derek Costello.
The city encourages location filming of movies and TV series and many have taken advantage of locations. Recent titles include several currently filming as well as Reliving Marilyn (2017 TV Movie), Fight! (2017), Odd Squad: The Movie (2016)and Blanket Fort: Vada Gets Toxic (2016).
Some cultural areas of Niagara Falls include Queen Street, Main and Ferry Streets, Stamford Centre and Chippawa Square. Community centres that are host to cultural activities include the City of Niagara Falls Museums, Niagara Falls Public Libraries, Coronation 50 Plus Recreation Centre, Club Italia and Scotia Bank Convention Centre.Niagara Falls Art Gallery
Peterson's Community Gallery
Niagara Falls Centre for the Arts
Seneca Queen Theatre
Niagara Music Awards
Fallsview Casino Resort
Scotiabank Convention Centre
Oakes Garden Theatre
Firemen's Park Summer Series
Chippawa Square Summer Series
Niagara Falls Public Libraries: Victoria Avenue Library, Community Centre Branch, Stamford Centre Branch, Chippawa Branch Library
Niagara Literary Arts Festival
Niagara History Museum
Battle Ground Hotel Museum
Willoughby Historical Museum
Niagara Military Museum
Niagara Falls Wedding and Fashion Museum
Niagara Falls Public Library: Historic Niagara Digital Collections
Lundy's Lane Historical Society
Battle of Lundy's Lane Walking Tour
Stamford Historic Area
Tree Seedling Sale
Community Clean Sweep Day
Winter Festival of Lights
Niagara Integrated Film Festival
Mount Carmel Fine Art and Music Festival
Niagara Icewine Festival
Niagara Woodworking Show
Family Fun Day at the Museum
Heritage Info Day at the Museum
Niagara Falls Sports and Hobby Expo
Greater Niagara Home and Garden Show
Canada Day Celebration
Santa Claus Parade
Niagara Night of Art
Niagara Region Jazz Festival
Tablerock Welcome Centre
Niagara Hornblower Cruises
Journey Behind the Falls
Skylon Tower observation deck
Weekly fireworks over Niagara Falls
Nightly illumination of Niagara Falls
Niagara Botanical Gardens
Spanish Aerocar over the Niagara River whirlpool
White Water Walk (formerly called the Great Gorge Trip, then the Great Gorge Adventure) at the Niagara River rapids
Winter Festival of Lights
Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory
Niagara Heritage Trail
Niagara Parks School of Horticulture
Niagara River Recreation Trail
Whirlpool Jetboat tours of the Niagara Gorge
Numerous parkway golf courses
The Rainbow Carillon, which sounds from the Rainbow Tower
Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls — Tourist promenade featuring a Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum, arcades, five haunted houses, four wax museums including a Louis Tussauds Wax Works, and themed restaurants including the Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood.
MarineLand — Aquatic theme park
Casinos—Casino Niagara and Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort
Major theme restaurants including Planet Hollywood, Rainforest Cafe and the Hard Rock Café
IMAX Theatre and Daredevil museum
Greg Frewin Theatre / Las Vegas style magic show.
Skylon Tower - Revolving dining towering 774 feet (236 m) above Niagara gorge.
Fallsview Tourist Area
Fallsview Indoor Waterpark
MGM Studios Plaza
Queen Street Arts & Culture District
Konica Minolta Tower Centre - the area's second tower
Scotiabank Convention Centre
Sheraton on the Falls Hotel and Conference Centre
Niagara Falls Sportsplex
Willoughby Memorial Arena
Coronation 50 Plus Recreation
Oakes Park Running Track
Ride of Silence
Amici Per La Vita Cycling Club
Niagara Falls Soccer Club
Niagara Falls Revolver Club Incorporated
Niagara Bowmen Archery Club
Niagara Storm Football Club
Boys and Girls Club of Niagara
Niagara Wasp Rugby Club
Niagara Falls Minor Hockey
The Niagara Stars of the defunct Canadian Baseball League played in Welland, Ontario and the Niagara IceDogs play in St. Catharines, Ontario.
Niagara Falls City Council consists of eight councillors and a mayor. City elections take place every four years with the most recent election held on 27 October 2014. Council is responsible for policy and decision making, monitoring the operation and performance of the city, analysing and approving budgets and determining spending priorities. Due to regulations put forward by the Municipal Elections Act 1996, elections are held on the fourth Monday in October except for religious holidays or if a member of council or if the mayor resigns.
Niagara Falls and Niagara Falls, New York are linked to major highways in Canada and the United States respectively, with the Queen Elizabeth Way acting as a major artery between Toronto and Fort Erie, Ontario. Highway 420 (along with Niagara Regional Road 420) connect the Rainbow Bridge to the QEW. The Whirlpool Bridge is located at the end of Bridge Street. The Niagara Parkway is a road operated under the Niagara Parks Commission which connects Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort Erie via Niagara Falls.
Niagara Falls formerly had King's Highways passing through the city. These included:The original routing of Highway 3, (which later became Highway 3A,) which ended at the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge via River Road
Highway 8, which ended at the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge via Bridge Street
Highway 20, which ended at the Honeymoon Bridge and later the Rainbow Bridge via Lundy's Lane and Clifton Hill
The Queen Elizabeth Way followed Roberts Street and Newman Hill to the Rainbow Bridge—later renamed Highway 420
Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga, New York.
Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ontario - the primary international airport
Hamilton/John C. Munro International Airport in Mount Hope, Ontario.
Niagara Falls International Airport in Niagara Falls, New York
St. Catharines/Niagara District Airport in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
Via Rail Canada and Amtrak jointly provide one train per day in each direction. This is The Maple Leaf which operates between Toronto Union, Niagara, Buffalo, Albany and New York's Penn station), arriving and departing out of the Niagara Falls station. In the summer it offers a bike train service on a limited schedule.
In summer 2009, Go Transit Started a pilot project providing weekend and holiday train service from Toronto to Niagara falls From Mid June to mid October. These GO Trains run seasonally between Toronto Union Station and Niagara Falls at weekends.
At other times, regular hourly GO train services are provided between Toronto Union and Burlington station, where connecting bus services operate to and from the rail station at Niagara.Coach Canada has daily runs to and from Toronto and Buffalo, New York.
GO Transit offers daily bus service between Niagara and Burlington GO Station.
Greyhound Canada has daily runs to and from Toronto and Buffalo, New York.
Megabus has daily runs on its route to New York City starting in Toronto.
Niagara Transit is the public transit operator in the city.
Buffalo Airport Shuttle is a reservation based shuttle that operates from the Buffalo Airport to and from Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Hamilton, and Toronto.
Niagara Livery Service is a taxi/limo company in Niagara.
5-0 is a local cab service. A taxi shuttle provides transfers to airports from Buffalo, New York to Niagara Falls, Ontario and Toronto, Ontario.
Niagara Falls Taxi is a local taxi service from Buffalo, New York and Toronto, Ontario airports back to Niagara.
Elite Taxi is a local taxi service that provides regular and wheelchair accessible taxi service to and from Niagara Falls, ON. Specialists in airport transfers (Buffalo, Hamilton, Toronto, Niagara Falls, NY).
The City of Niagara Falls is working toward Bike Friendly designation and providing more resources to encourage active transportation.
Niagara Falls has one post-secondary institution in the city and another in the Niagara Region. Niagara is served by the District School Board of Niagara and the Niagara Catholic District School Board which operate elementary and secondary schools in the region. There are also numerous private institutions offer alternatives to the traditional education systems.In the Niagara Region: Brock University in St. Catharines
In the City of Niagara Falls: Niagara College based in Welland, also has campuses in Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Catharines.
Saint Michael Catholic High School
Westlane Secondary School
A. N. Myer Secondary School
Saint Paul Catholic High School
Niagara Falls is also served by a growing library system composed of four branches, with the main branch located in the downtown area. It is visited by over 10,000 people weekly. An extensive online database of photographs and artwork is maintained at Historic Niagara Digital Collections.
Niagara Falls is served by two main local newspapers, three radio stations and a community television channel. All other media is regionally based, as well, from Hamilton and Toronto.
Local newspapers are:Niagara Falls Review
Niagara This Week
St. Catharines Standard
Due to its proximity to Hamilton and Toronto, local residents have access to the papers like The Hamilton Spectator, the Toronto Star, and the Toronto Sun.97.7 FM – CHTZ-FM, "97.7 HTZ-FM" Mainstream Rock
101.1 FM – CFLZ-FM, "2Day FM" CHR
105.1 FM – CJED-FM, "105.1 ED FM" adult hits
The area is otherwise served by stations from Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo.Cogeco is the local cable television franchise serving Niagara Falls; the system carries most major channels from Toronto and Buffalo, as well as TVCogeco, a community channel serving Niagara Falls.
CHCH-DT (UHF channel 15 - virtual channel 11) from Hamilton, Ontario also serves the Niagara Region.
Television stations from Toronto and Buffalo are also widely available. Officially, Niagara Falls is part of the Toronto television market, even though it is directly across the Niagara River from its American twin city, which is part of the Buffalo market.