Clifton Hill – Niagara Falls, Ontario - Atlas Obscura

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Clifton Hill

This Niagara Falls tourist trap is a world bright with neon and curiosities that will inspire love, hate, or a mixture of both. 


“The Niagara Falls is simply a vast amount of water going the wrong way over some unnecessary rocks” said Oscar Wilde, ever the pessimist. However, had he visited today, and spent some time in Clifton Hill he might have had different reaction… one of pure horror.

In 1833, the first hotel was built on Clifton Hill. A British Army officer, Captain Ogden Creighton, bought much of what is now Clifton Hill. He laid out a town, and named it Clifton, after a town of the same name in Bristol, England. At that time, the river had to be crossed by ferry, and the ferry landing became the center of town. However, Creighton’s dreams for a tourist mecca never flourished - only a few people bought land in his designed town.

While his dream wasn’t realized in his lifetime, Creighton was way ahead of the times. During the 1920s, tourism on the Hill bloomed as the masses flocked to Niagara Falls. For those to whom the natural beauty of the falls quickly lost its appeal, manmade attractions were created. Hotels were built, and restaurants came in. By the late 1940s, a wax museum and other attractions were added. A once solemn hill next to a great waterfall became a packed attraction in its own right, filled with lurid museums, peepshows and every other sort of tourist trap. The odd unintended result of “a vast amount of water going the wrong way over some unnecessary rocks.”

Clifton Hill has since grown from a few museums in the early 1960s, such as Ripley’s Believe it or not and Guinness World Records museum, into a sea of neon lights and a set of slightly rundown attractions that create a mix of delight and horror in their gaudiness next to the natural beauty of the waterfall.

Today, Clifton Hill hosts a wide array of entirely tacky tourist attractions. From the oddities of “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” to mini golfing with dinosaurs Clifton Hill is almost sure to either tickle ones sense of the ironically strange or create outrage at the desecration of a beautiful natural landmark.

In contrast to Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain loved Niagara Falls. Twain called the falls “one of the finest structures in the known world.” But knowing Twain’s sharp sense of irony, one thinks he would have found a way to enjoy the perverse wonder of Niagara’s tacky but lovable man made wonder Clifton Hill as well.

Know Before You Go

Clifton Hill runs from River Road on the Niagara Parkway to Victoria Avenue in view of the Niagara Falls.

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