Niagara is a beautiful place for a family getaway and it’s right up there with Disneyland for wow factor. The following detailed itinerary information will help you plan a family holiday that is tailored to your family’s interests. There’s plenty to do for kids and grown-ups. Niagara For Kids and Families is an itinerary with something for everyone.
First thing to choose is your accommodation: I recommend Niagara’s Great Wolf Lodge. It’s ideal for families, with pools, water slides, bunkbeds and casual dining, and it’s close to both Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake. Located just off the Queen Elizabeth Highway, it’s also easy to find.
A second family choice is the Sheraton Fallsview Hotel – whose Fallsview rooms provide romantic views of the Falls for Mom and Dad should they have a quiet moment. It’s also connected to many attractions, including the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark, Adventure City and Iwerks 4D Theatre, and only a short walk from Hornblower Cruises.
For something more cozy, there’s Bedham Hall, a homey B&B that looks out on the Niagara River and is very family friendly.
First up when you arrive is to go and view the Falls. That’s both easy and free: walk down to the promenade alongside the river, and head up to the very edge of the Falls. It’s awesome. Be sure to take a picture of the family with the Falls as a back drop. Point out The Old Scow and tell the kids the scary story if they’re not prone to bad dreams (in my experience, kids love to hear scary stories!).
If everyone has behaved themselves, treat them to a visit to Pop & Lolly’s in the Table Rock Welcome Centre. It is a gorgeous big candy store, with every kind of candy you could think of, a child’s dream (a parent’s nightmare? but fun anyway). Also in the centre is Niagara’s Fury, both fun and informative. The floor shakes, the commentators are animated, literally, and the visuals stunning.
For background on the history and the geological evolution of the Falls, visit the Imax Theatre to view the movie, on the massive screen, of the evolution of the Falls. There are interesting displays of the colorful people who have gone over the Falls in the small museum there, including some of the strange contraptions they used for their journey.
Don’t miss out on a Hornblower Niagara Cruise up to the very base of the Falls — it is the closest you will ever get to this world wonder. There are family packages that make this more affordable and the Niagara Falls Adventure Pass includes the cruise as well as many attractions and all day passes on the WEGO. If you can wait until dark, there may be fireworks that will make the Falls light up in technicolour. And if you are visiting in Christmas Season, be sure to take in the Festival of Lights along the parkway.
Ready for giggles? Clifton Hill is better than a visit to the circus. See Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, and experience the fun of Strike Rock & Bowl. Get the best view of the Falls from a ride on the Niagara Skywheel, and when everyone is tired and hungry, venture up the hill a bit further to Antica Pizzeria for good family-style food. It’s worthwhile investing in a Clifton Hill Fun Pass, with some good discounts available when you purchase online.
For a more nature oriented adventure, visit the Bird Kingdom and the Butterfly Conservatory, or explore the White Water Walk. Or take time to explore the Dufferin Islands, a nature spot famous for birdwatching and scenery. The Niagara Glen Nature Reserve is an excellent site for hiking and takes you through a Carolinian forest that is home to many rare species of flora and fauna.
If you have the time to go father afield, consider a family bike ride along the Niagara Parkway. The pathways are wide and safe and pretty flat. Imaginative kids will enjoy a visit to the Laura Secord Homestead for some homespun history, and a few hours at Old Fort George will show the children what life was like in Canada in earlier days.
Horsedrawn Carriage Rides are another popular option. Or, for an experience the whole family will remember, book a trail ride with Horseplay Niagara and ride along the white beaches of Lake Erie.
Traveling with a family can be expensive, so it is always good to mix in some free or inexpensive activities to balance out the more costly attractions.
• The Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens are always beautiful from spring through to late fall, and a walk through the colorful gardens is a good way to get some fresh air and exercise. There’s a good little ice cream shop there too. Admission is free.
• The Niagara Glen Nature Reserve is free as well, and offers opportunities for hikes along some challenging trails.
• At the Imax Theatre, you can visit the museum displays and see the devices that daredevils used to go over the Falls. You can tour the displays without going to the movies, thought the movie gives fabulous background information about the Falls, and provides busy kids a bit of quiet time.
• Bike along the Niagara Parkway or follow the Circle Route for a real in-depth and hands on tour of the area. Plan to stop for a picnic beside the Niagara River. Be sure to visit the Floral Clock for a photo op.
• The Niagara Falls History Museum is very affordable, and allows kids to try on army uniforms, heft a period rifle, and learn a little history.
• Drop in to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Store and you may be able to get a photo of your child with a real Mountie.
You can find some sophisticated places to dine in Niagara, but those places are not necessarily the best establishments to take a family for a meal. You want to feel comfortable, you don’t want to break the bank, you want food the kids will actually eat, and you want everyone to have a good time. Here are some suggestions of dining options where families can eat without worries.
• Betty’s Restaurant is a local favorite, famous for its pies and homemade dishes. It’s casual and inviting. You will need a car to get there though,as it is a bit out of the center of the town.
• Antica Pizzeria is family dining heaven – great pizza from a wood burning oven, lots of family platters, and big portions. It is busy and noisy and you may need to stand in line to get a table, but it’s just up the street from Clifton Hill.
• Romano’s Macaroni Grill in the Hilton Hotel is central, welcoming and cozy and serves lots of kid-friendly dishes.
• Inside the Table Rock Welcome Centre, you’ll find fast food outlets for a quick lunch. Be sure to drop in to Tim Horton’s, an iconic Canadian institution, for Timbits. The family will have acquired a new addiction.
• The Rainforest Cafe is a fun and casual place for a family meal, and the food is kid friendly.
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