When you think of the “classic” family vacation, you maybe think of loading the kids into the station wagon for a week-long road trip to Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon. Keep the tradition going with your kids by setting your GPS for fun in Niagara Falls – minus the wood-paneled station wagon, of course!
Once known as a destination for honeymooners, Niagara Falls now offers visitors much more than heart-shaped hot tubs. Straddling the U.S./Canadian border, the Falls region offers breathtaking natural wonders and can't-miss, family-friendly attractions year round. From fireworks over the Falls to the eerie caves of the Erie Canal, here are some of the activities and attractions my family and I can't resist visiting on both sides of the border.
See the Falls
From the air, from the ground or underground, take a day to see Niagara Falls from almost every angle. Get an overview of the Falls with a helicopter tour or get up close and personal with behind-the-scenes experiences like Journey Behind the Falls®, where you can literally stand behind the wall of cascading water, or the Cave of the Winds tour that takes you 175 feet down into the gorge and into the “mist zone.” Come back at night, when the Falls are illuminated with color-changing lights, and stay for a spectacular fireworks display.
Get Your Kitsch Fix
The Canadian side of the Falls is chock full of tourist attractions. If you're looking for over-the-top dinner theater with singing Mounties and Anne of Green Gables references, “O Canada, Eh!” has more kitsch than you can shake a hockey stick at. If you're looking for an elevated view of the Falls, my favorite (but kitschy) attraction is the 175-foot Niagara SkyWheel at Clifton Hill.
Spend a Day at the Resort
While Niagara Falls, Canada is home to three indoor water parks, my favorite is the Great Wolf Lodge® because it has far more than water slides. Stay at the resort and take advantage of all their family-friendly activities, including an outdoor miniature golf course with holes featuring wacky moose and French-Canadian lumberjacks. Winners can treat the losers to a treatment at the ice cream spa. Yes, ice cream spa.
Take an Amusing Side Trip
Looking for a little more excitement? Hop in the rental car and take a day trip to one of the area's theme parks. A one-hour drive east of Buffalo, NY puts you at Darien Lake Amusement Park, where you can spend hours riding roller coasters, playing carnival games and watching a night-time laser show. Thrill seekers will love riding coasters Viper and Boomerang.
Go for a Scenic Drive
Get away from the crowds and spend a lazy day driving along the Niagara River to neighboring small towns. Only 15 minutes from the Falls, stop for lunch in the historic town of Lewiston, NY, at The Silo. This converted silo overlooks the river and features an ice cream caboose – an old caboose transformed into a chic ice cream parlor. Keep an eye out for eateries serving pizza logs, one of the local delicacies.
Rock Out at an Outdoor Concert
Every great trip deserves a great soundtrack. Visit Earl W. Brydges Artpark's state-of-the-art amphitheater for stadium-style rock by big name performance artists. This state park also features an art gallery, outdoor art installations, walking trails and family events in an attractive riverside setting.
Whether you're a seasoned visitor or seeing the Falls for the first time with your family, spend less time traveling and more exploring by flying into the Niagara Falls International Airport. Pick up an Alamo rental car to help you explore the Niagara Region and get ready to maximize your MPGs (memories-per-getaway). Your vacation may last a week, but your memories will last a lifetime.