Photo: Kim Shiffman
Great Wolf Lodge isn’t the only waterpark game in town! You’ll want to plan for at least a couple of hours at Fallsview Indoor Waterpark, which features three acres of water slides, a massive tipping bucket, a large wave pool and an outdoor activity pool that’s open year-round. The Tiny Tots Splash Park area is ideal for toddlers and preschoolers, while older kids will keep busy on the Drop Canyon and Sky Screamer slides. They’ve thought of everything to make the attraction less stressful for harried parents: Towels are supplied at no charge, strollers are permitted in the waterpark, bottles can be warmed up in the attached restaurant, and swim diapers in various sizes are available (for free!) at the Guest Services desk.
A two-minute walk from Niagara Falls, Fallsview is attached to three hotels, including the modern, super-comfortable Sheraton on the Falls, which has two pools and a Starbucks in the lobby (because #coffee). Opt for a room with a view of the Falls (totally worth it), and drag the kids out of bed to watch the impressive fireworks show over the Falls, which takes place every weeknight at 10 p.m. in the summer.
Private cruise companies have been taking passengers to the base of the Falls for more than a century, and for good reason: There’s simply no better way to experience this wonder of nature.
Erroneously known as “Maid of the Mist” (that’s the name of the US version), Hornblower Niagara Cruises provides a ride your kids will never forget. A huge catamaran departs every 15 minutes, bringing passengers as close to the bottom of the Falls as possible. Thanks to the winds whipping the mist around, the ride is pretty intense—but not scary. Still, younger kids might prefer a more relaxed experience in the glass-enclosed area on the lower level. Tip: Despite the supplied poncho, this is a windy, wet experience. Bring a hair elastic, and wear shoes that can get wet.
For a unique view of Niagara Falls, the Journey Behind the Falls attraction brings you behind the waterfall—literally. Descend 150 feet in an elevator, then walk through 130-year old tunnels carved into the bedrock towards two portals located behind Niagara Falls. You can’t see much past the rushing water crashing down in front of you, so next, head to the lower observation deck, where you’ll stand pretty much as close to the Falls on land as a person can get. You’ll definitely want to wear the provided poncho to keep dry. Keep it as a souvenir, or return it for recycling.
For an experience your kids will be talking about for years, take a helicopter ride over Niagara Falls with Niagara Helicopters. It’s way less scary than it sounds, and there’s no minimum age to ride. The flight takes 12 minutes, and six passengers can ride at once. Tip: To relieve kids’ ear pressure after landing, bring along some gum or candy (or whatever you usually use during air travel).
Magician Greg Frewin puts on a Vegas-style show that’ll have your kids whispering “How’d he do that?!” over and over again. Animals feature heavily in Wild Magic, including a tiger, which your kid can take a picture with at the end (there’s a separation between the tiger and your child which isn’t visible in the final picture). Tip: Bring some spending money—the theatre sells magic-trick props and souvenirs during the show's 15-minute intermission.
Get ready for sensory overload! With flashing lights and electronic noises coming from every corner, this 70,000 square foot arcade is jammed with every type of classic and modern game imaginable. Most games spit out tickets that your kids can use to buy small toys. Tip: Get more tokens than you think you’ll need—the kids will want to return to the Great Canadian Midway more than once.
Take a self-guided walking tour through the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory, located a short drive from the Falls. More than 2,000 fly free through the enclosed tropical ecosystem—warn your kids to watch their step, as some may pause for a brief rest on the pathway. The tour takes anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. Tip: If you kid wants a butterfly to land on her hand (some kids think it’s good luck), have her slowly hold out a finger in front of the insect’s face, like a short branch.
Niagara Falls is well known for its many restaurants that offer a view of the Falls. Queen Victoria Place Restaurant, for example, is casual, kid-friendly and offers outdoor balcony tables with a breathtaking view.
The mini-golf courses on Niagara Falls’ Clifton Hill area are straight out of kids’ dreams. In nice weather, check out Dinosaur Adventure Golf , which spreads out over 70,000 square feet and will delight your kids with bubbling ponds, realistic dinosaurs and a 50-foot high steam-erupting volcano. If it’s super hot or pouring rain, head higher up Clifton Hill for glow-in-the-dark Wizard’s Golf, which seems to be unofficially inspired by a certain famous boy wizard most kids know and love.
Each gondola of this massive, 175-foot observation wheel is fully enclosed and air-conditioned, offering a safe and comfortable opportunity for littles to get an incredible view of both the Canadian and the American Falls, and the surrounding city. The SkyWheel ride takes about 10 minutes.
Sure, you could head straight home after your Niagara Falls experience…or you could drive just 25 minutes to the nearby town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. It's almost Star’s Hollow-esque, with old-timey shops lining its main drag, Queen St. (which is short enough for kids to walk the whole thing, but long enough to be varied in its offerings). Can’t-miss stores include Greaves Jams, Maple Leaf Fudge and Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe. When little legs get tired, wrap up the visit with a narrated tour of the area on a Sentineal Carriages horse-drawn carriage ride. Tip: Ask your guide to customize the info based on your interests (history, wine or gardens, for example).
Some of the writer’s costs were covered by Tourism Partnership of Niagara.