Niagara Falls with Teens: A Perfect Family Day
This one-day itinerary is tailored for Niagara Falls with teens and will take your family to the falls and out into nature. Everyone comes to Niagara Falls, New York to see the falls. They are known around the world for their immense beauty, as well as their unique location straddling the U.S. and Canadian border. The viewing areas around the falls are always extremely crowded in the summer, but this itinerary will show you some options to get away from the crowd while finding peace and tranquility in Niagara Falls.
While all of the activities are on the U.S. side of Niagara Falls, you will probably want to obtain a passport for each member of the family to take full advantage of the activities and views offered on both sides of the border.
It can be difficult to plan activities to do with your teens on your Niagara Falls family vacation. So it's best to have an itinerary that gets everyone out of the hotel.
The Original Pancake House, 2075 Niagara Falls Blvd, Buffalo, NY 14228; 716-691-8219
Head out of the crowd-filled Niagara Falls area and drive just a few miles to Whirlpool State Park, where you will find some of the most rewarding hikes in the Niagara Falls area. Downstream from Niagara Falls, this area of swirling water is deep and turbulent. The walls of the gorge act like a funnel that forces massive amounts of water into a much smaller space creating violent and dangerous Class V rapids. This is not the place to go for a swim!
After arriving, walk past the restrooms and head left to begin your hike on the Niagara Gorge Rim rail. It is an easy and flat hike that is six miles one-way to Niagara Falls. With teens, you can adjust the length of this walk as far along the trail as you like, but be sure that you stop to see the whirlpool overlook at DeVeaux Point. Walk at least a few miles along the trail to see the beautiful views the gorge has to offer.
If you walk the full six miles, you will be able to see Goat and Luna Islands, as well as both the American and Canadian falls. This trail is paved and is perfect for biking or hiking. Walking 13 miles round-trip may seem like a long way but it is not difficult, and it is worth the time spent to walk alongside the bustling Niagara River all the way to the falls. If you decide to take the full hike, you will encounter very few people along the way.
Insider Tip: For a true, perhaps risky, Niagara Falls family adventure, take the trail down to the bottom of the gorge where you will be within inches of the powerful Niagara River and whirlpool. This one-mile, one-way trail is steep and requires some boulder hopping. The trail is not well maintained, the footing can be particularly treacherous, and the stairs descending into the gorge are in poor condition. But, it is still an excellent trail for conditioned hikers that are comfortable hiking in slippery conditions.
Whirlpool State Park, Robert Moses Parkway; 716-716-284-4691
After an enjoyable morning of hiking with teens in Niagara Falls, head over to Caffe Lola for lunch. The paninis are very filling and tasty, especially the roasted eggplant with bruschetta and pesto aioli. If you have a larger appetite, consider the portabella mushroom ravioli with red pepper cream sauce or the shrimp and polenta with sun-dried tomato pesto. Both dishes have excellent flavor and the restaurant uses only the finest fresh ingredients. If you decided to order the apple pancake for breakfast, you will probably want to order one of the lighter offerings like the spinach & orange salad with a coconut, chili, and mango glaze or the soup of the day.
Caffe Lola, 507 Third St, Niagara Falls, NY 14301; 716-282-5652; Tue-Wed 11AM-2PM, Thu-Sat 11am-8PM, Sun-Mon closed
After lunch, drive to the Cave of the Winds to spend some time in the mist of Bridal Veil Falls, a Niagara Falls family adventure with teens that should not be missed.
A poncho and sandals are given to you to keep you dry and safe when you are on the Hurricane Deck; however, you will be completely drenched after your time on the deck. After putting on your poncho, you descend 175 feet in an old elevator shaft to the Niagara gorge where you will meet your guide.
When you arrive at the bottom of the gorge, you will immediately be struck by the intense sound of the waterfall and the tremendous amount of mist being thrown into the air. When you reach the stairs, your ascent to the top of the Hurricane Deck begins. Be extremely careful going up and down the stairs as they are very slippery. When you arrive at the top of the deck, you will be less than 20 feet away from the rushing waters of Bridal Veil Falls. Here you will experience constant driving rain, extreme tropical storm force winds and rushing water covering your feet. This is an excellent place to take a photo of your Niagara Falls family adventure; just remember to get a waterproof case for your camera or use a disposable waterproof camera. You will not soon forget this extraordinary experience after spending time in Niagara Falls with teens!
Cave of Winds, Niagara Falls State Park, Niagara Falls, NY 14302; 716-278-1730; May-Oct, Adults $11, Children (ages 6-12) $8, Children (5 & under) Free
After braving the winds on the Hurricane Deck at Niagara Falls with teens, you are all probably ready for something hearty to eat. The Como Restaurant is a fabulous Italian restaurant that opened in 1927. They prepare old world Italian food that is hearty and delicious. You'll find many variations of their homemade fettuccine with veal, clam sauce, shrimp, meatballs, and anchovies. They also offer homemade ravioli, gnocchi, manicotti, and tortellini all with meat, cheese, or vegetables.
Along with your standard veal and chicken offerings, Como also offers a number of dishes you probably are not accustomed to seeing at your local Italian restaurant, including rack of lamb, pork sausage with mushroom sauce and tripe Parmesan in a light marinara sauce. They offer a chop plate with lamb, pork and beef, fresh from their in-house butcher shop. Do not even bother with dessert. You will not have enough room! This is a great Niagara Falls family vacation idea to please and fill every member of your family.
The Como Restaurant, 2220 Pine Ave, Niagara Falls, NY 14302; 716-285-9341
After the sun sets, walk to the Rainbow Bridge overlooking both the American and Canadian falls to watch the nightly light show that illuminates both falls. During the summer, you can also see fireworks along with the light show. Either way, it is an unforgettable experience and a great way to cap off a perfect day in Niagara Falls with teens.