It may have been the natural beauty of the falls that made the city a tourist destination, but it has been the culture and spirit of Niagara Falls’ residents—past and present—that have kept the city alive and interesting in all seasons into the new millennium.

For nearly two thousand years, the area in and around Niagara have been populated by Native Americans, and their influence can be felt all around the Falls area, from the names (Niagara itself is derived from an Iroquois term, while “Maid of the Mist,” the name of the ever-popular boat tour line, comes from a legend told for centuries by the people of the Six Iroquois Nations). Today, the actual population of Native Americans has, of course, dwindled (they now account for less than 1 percent of the total population) but their presence is still all around—in 2004 the Seneca Nation opened the Seneca Niagara Casino .

There are also a whole host of other cultural institutions critical in their own way to the personality of the city, among them Old Fort Niagara—the original strategic outpost established in the 17th century—the Castellani Art Museum (at Niagara University  featuring contemporary art from Andy Warhol to Pablo Picasso and the "Freedom Crossing: The Underground Railroad in Greater Niagara".