Family Adventure Destination: Niagara Falls
Right before the warm eastern fall turned to a crisp east coast fall, I made the eight hour (plus stops) drive to Niagara Falls, New York. Eight years ago, two cars, three kids and three jobs ago Jay and I visited the Canadian side for our delayed honeymoon. Prior to this trip I had never set foot on the American side.
What an adventure I had! Despite it’s popularity with honeymooners, Niagara Falls is a fantastic place to visit with children too, especially if they are a few years older than my one and two year old.
The Sheraton at the Falls places you in the perfect location for quick escapes to the Seneca Niagara Casino across the street. The Sheraton has an indoor pool, it’s a short walk to the Falls and two blocks from the Rainbow Bridge (the bridge that connects the U.S. to Canada). Rooms are available starting at about $120 per night.
A great way to enjoy local flavor when traveling is to enjoy meals at restaurants that are not a part of a national chain (but sometimes regional chains are fun), on this trip I tried something new, I ate at the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute. At the restaurant within the school, local students make a three course luncheon and serve it in a beautiful formal setting. Dinner is also available. Plan to spend about $20 for a lunch that might cost you upwards of $40 in another restaurant. Check out the menu and use your own discretion when deciding if it’s a good fit for your family.
Cave of the Winds takes you on a beautiful journey along a wooden boardwalk with stairs and overlooks that trail you almost right into the falls. Your yellow parka and foam flip flops are beyond a courtesy, they become a necessity as you are enveloped into giant splashes and waves of wind blown water from the Bridal Veil Falls. For a very special experience, visit at nighttime before the 10pm hour before the fireworks show. While your photos won’t be as spectacular in the dark, the experience is unforgettable.
Old Fort Niagara was built in the 18th century and used through the 20th century by Native American, French, British and American soldiers in many battles for control of North America. Tour the fort, see artifacts from the fort’s past and don’t miss the chance to go to the top floor and hear the powerful sounds of Lake Niagara and Lake Ontario. Check the website to see if there are any special programs or events during your visit. The guided tours with the living history elements where the guides are in costume and character add a fun element to the experience.
Maid of the Mist is one of the classic Niagara Falls visitor experiences, it’s a classic because it’s one of those times that makes you feel like there’s no way you could possibly be standing where you are standing, there’s no way that the powerful force of water is right in front of YOU at that moment. You are presented to the waterfall and the waterfall is presented to you and it’s just so beautiful, so breathtaking that you feel like this must be a green screen and you must be imagining everything you see and feel. Board a giant boat at Niagara Falls State Park and watch as it seems to shrink when in view of the vastness of the falls. For twenty minutes, soak up the water from the falls. Maid of the Mist is perfect for families because all ages are welcome! DO NOT FORGET YOUR CAMERA!
Your trip will not be complete until you board the Whirlpool Jet Boat and “fight” the rapids. If you are a friend of mine, if you are “my people,” you will take advantage of the full body experience that is…the uncovered Jet Boat. If you want to stay dry, then fine, take the Dome Jet Boat, as long as you take the jet boat in some fashion! There are height restrictions so the average child will need to be 6 years old for the full Wet Jet trip and about 4 years old for the dry boat. The exhilaration sucked the breath out of my body and then forced it back in, giving me the biggest thrill and the highest high. Don’t even bother asking me how wet you’ll get…every single square millimeter of your body will be drenched, despite the sweaters,full length zip up jumper, poncho, life vest and wet suit booties, even your underwear don’t stand a chance.
There’s just so much going on at Niagara Falls that makes it a fantastic, high adventure destination for families from Spring to Fall. I hope your family loves this destination as much as ours does!
Travel expenses, hotel and food en route were paid out of pocket but all other expenses during my stay in Niagara Falls were provided free to me. All opinions, thoughts and information above are a true reflection of my experience and opinions of my visit.