Niagara Falls with Kids: A Perfect Family Day
No one forgets their first experience with Niagara Falls. Walking down the seemingly tranquil Niagara River, you first hear the thundering roar and feel the damp, billowing mist. Then you see the current pick up, and witness the jagged rocks battered by the strength of water. The river splits in two and water plummets over two enormous waterfalls: Horseshoe Falls and American Falls.
The beauty and grandeur are indeed inspiring -- and can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages. A visit to Niagara Falls with kids, however, takes careful preparation and reasonable caution. Certain ventures are simply not safe (or may be too much of a hassle) for parents with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. When walking along the river, parents should keep their children close; one step into the raging current has dragged many a person over the falls.
Here is an itinerary for the best family vacation day in Niagara Falls with kids.
There are several ways for young kids to safely view Niagara Falls. Parents who fear that long walks will wear out little legs should consider the Niagara Scenic Trolley. The trolley makes multiple stops throughout the park, and parents can choose stops along the way or just enjoy the leisurely three-mile ride and view the park from the safety of the charming trolley. The trolley only operates during peak tourist season.
Daring toddlers and preschoolers who want to get close to the falls will enjoy the Maid of the Mist ($13.50 for adults, $7.85 for kids 6-12, free for children under six), one of the most famous boat rides in all of the world. The ride is standing-room only and the boat is stroller accessible. Raincoats of all sizes are provided for even the smallest of voyagers. The Maid of the Mist gets close to the base of the falls and lingers there a bit so travelers can experience the enormity and the power of this natural wonder. It's an exhilarating experience to try in Niagara Falls with kids.
For lunch, Niagara Falls has a plethora of restaurants that cater to families, including a world-famous Hard Rock Cafe (333 Prospect St.; 716-282-0007) located within walking distance of the falls. The entrance is flanked by a 1959 Cadillac, and the walls are covered with memorabilia from rock-n-roll legends like Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and Bono. Both parents and kids will be enthralled with the fascinating interior while they enjoy classic American cuisine.
Another popular restaurant option offers an unparalleled view of the American Falls. The Top of the Falls Restaurant (716-278-0340), located on Goat Island at Terrapin Point, caters to all ages. Young kids will be dazzled by the view, and parents can rest assured their kids are seeing the grandeur of the falls in a safe environment. This restaurant serves kid-friendly, American cuisine.
Niagara Falls and surrounding areas offer many choices for afternoon activities during your family vacation day. For instance:
- In the heart of downtown Niagara Falls is the Aquarium of Niagara (701 Whirlpool St.; 800-500-4609), a fantastic destination for curious young minds. Children can witness undersea life including coral, sea anemones, different breeds of sharks, rays, fish, and even octopus. The museum offers sea shell exhibits and numerous sea-life fossils, such as skeletons of ancient sea giants -- including large sharks! There are several different activity opportunities: witness shark and penguin feedings, see a seal or a sea lion show, or sign up for a close encounter with a penguin, sea lion, or harbor seal. Parking at the aquarium is free and it is open year-round.
- Visit the charming, historic town of Lewiston. If you happen to be in the area on a Saturday, be sure to venture over to Artpark (450 S. Fourth St.; 716-754-4375), a unique group of facilities that draws families for fun, hands-on activities for kids of all ages. Get busy with a pottery wheel, make some jewelry, paint a masterpiece, or dabble in some performance art, all at the Artpark on Saturdays. Look for special kids' concerts and family movie nights, offered throughout the summer.
- Lockport, another close neighbor, is located by the Erie Canal and is home to America's longest underground boat ride. The journey takes you beneath a now-abandoned tunnel, formed by miners of yesteryear. This is a long ride, 70 minutes, and is best for preschool and school-age kids, who will be entranced by the eerie darkness, docile ride, and the close look at spectacular geographical formations. Kids will learn about the history of the Erie Canal, the importance of the Industrial age, and will come out with a bit of archaeological knowledge, as well. The Lockport Cave and Underground Boat Ride (2 Pine St.; 716-438-0174) provides an adventure your family will not soon forget.
- North Tonawanda is home to the popular Herschell Caroussel Factory Museum (180 Thompson St.; 716-693-1885), a museum dedicated to the history of the carousel. The museum is great for fun and education, and has plenty of events to keep kids engaged in the learning process. And, of course, one must ride the extravagant carousels, refurbished and meticulously maintained to demonstrate how they appeared in their glory days.
- Visitors to Niagara Falls may be tempted to venture across the border to Niagara Falls, Ontario, where there are even more opportunities for family fun. Regardless of whether or not you want to venture into Canada, every family should take a gander at the famous Rainbow Bridge, which provides a gateway between the two cities of Niagara Falls and offers sensational views of the falls. You can walk, bike, or drive across the bridge.
- To get into Canada, all adults require a passport, and all children under the 15 require a certified copy of their birth certificate. Niagara Falls, Ontario, is home to Marine Land, the Butterfly Observatory, and the infamous Clifton Hill, the "street of fun," which boasts the famous Niagara Skywheel, The Wax Museum of the Stars, dozens of popular eateries, and Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum.
A vacation to Niagara Falls with kids should end with the nightly illumination of the falls, which begins right at sundown every night of the year. During the summer months, enjoy fireworks every Friday, Sunday, and holiday night. Enjoy bonus shows on Wednesday and Saturday nights in July and August!
Start your perfect family vacation day in Niagara with the roar of the falls and end it with the boom of fireworks. This will guarantee that your children never forget their first experience with one of most thrilling natural wonders of the world.