Niagara Falls and the surrounding area is one of the most family-friendly destinations in Canada with kid-friendly water-park hotels, casual restaurants and an array of attractions that will appeal to both the young and the young at heart. Whether staying for a weekend or several days there are enough activities to keep kids both busy and begging to come back for more.
We are fortunate that we live within an hour’s drive of Niagara Falls and, with visits once or twice a year, have experienced much of what the area has to offer. These are the five activities and attractions in the area that our family enjoys the most and recommends often to anyone who will be visiting Niagara Falls With Kids.
1. The Falls:
There’s a lot to do in the Niagara area but there is no argument about what the star attraction is. Niagara Falls is actually a collection of three falls which straddle the border between the U.S. and Canada and together they form one of the world’s most visited tourist attractions with more than 22 million annual visitors. There are a number of ways that visitors who aren’t content to just look at the natural wonder can get up close to the falls.
The popular Maid of the Mist boat takes passengers decked out in blue plastic ponchos on a thrilling ride to the basin of the 170 foot high Horseshoe Falls where they can get soaked by the “mist”. Another option is Journey Behind the Falls which allows visitors a behind the scenes look by descending 150 feet through bedrock to tunnels that lead to the upper and lower observation decks at the base of Horseshoe Falls – rain ponchos are needed for this one too. Perhaps the most spectacular, and certainly the driest, perspective, is to be had by taking a helicopter ride over the area.
2. The Butterfly Conservatory:
One of our favourite things to do in Niagara Falls is take a self-guided walking tour through the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory. The Butterfly Conservatory is located on the grounds of the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens just a short drive from the downtown Falls area. It will take about an hour to walk through the attraction which features approximately 2000 tropical butterflies in a rainforest setting. Horse and carriage rides around the gardens are also available.
From May through October, visitors to the Marineland amusement park can view killer whales, feed a beluga, and attend fun-filled shows starring dolphins, walruses and sea lions. The park also has a variety of amusement park rides that will thrill kids of all ages and sizes and there’s also an animal park where visitors can purchase food to feed the very tame deer.
4. Historical sites
There are a number of historical sites in the Niagara Falls area which are both educational and fun to explore. At Fort George and Old Fort Erie, visitors can learn more about how British soldiers lived during the 19th century by touring the forts and observing military demonstrations and battle re-enactments. At The Laura Secord Homestead, a guided tour will provide insight into the life of this Canadian heroine from the War of 1812 while a climb to the top of Brock’s Monument will provide a view over the territory that the British were defending in that war. Bicentennial celebrations for the War of 1812 continue this year as Canada and the United States celebrate 200 years of peace and there is a schedule of special events at each of the historical sites.
I can never resist adding the charming village of Niagara-on-the-Lake to any list of things to do in the Niagara Falls area. Admittedly, this one might appeal more to the adults than the kids but it is still quite family-friendly. It’s a leisurely country drive of about 20 kilometres to the town that is often described as the “loveliest in Ontario”. Shoppers stroll historic Queen Street which boasts stunning flower displays in the summer months and where boutiques, cafés and galleries are housed in heritage buildings.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is also home to the world-class Shaw Festival which presents plays and musicals that are contemporary to George Bernard Shaw. If the kids aren’t shoppers then they may enjoy a horse and carriage ride around town and will most definitely appreciate a break at Cows Ice Cream which was recently named “World’s Best Ice Cream” by Tauck World Discovery – sample the Moo Crunch or the Wowie Cowie and I guarantee that you will agree.
There’s much more to do in the Niagara Falls area but this list will provide a good starting point and you can rest assured that your kids will be in favour of a return trip to do anything missed the first time and revisit some favourites.
Guest writer Lisa Goodmurphy is a lawyer living near Toronto, Canada who left the corporate world to stay home with her two daughters, Katie and Emma (now aged 16 and 9). Badly bitten by the travel bug years ago, Lisa considers herself fortunate that her family is equally enthusiastic about exploring the world. As well as writing about her family’s travel adventures on her blog Gone With The Family, Lisa has written for a number of travel websites and is a regular contributor at Travel Mamas as The Spunky Travel Mama. You can also follow her on Facebook, on Google+, on Twitter as @GoneWithFamily and on Pinterest.