Family vacations are a summer and holiday tradition for many of us, and there’s no better way to spend time and experience new things together. The problem is that not every place you visit offers enough activities to engage family members of all ages, and it puts a cramp in your style when you’ve got kids who tire easily of looking at landmarks and start whining that there’s nothing to do!
One vacation spot that has something for everyone is Niagara Falls, Canada. It’s not only got some of the most scenic vistas in North America including the three spectacular waterfalls themselves, but it’s got a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities on the water, on land, and even up in the air. There’s also fun to be had indoors and after the sun goes down.
There’s a pair of cities named Niagara Falls, one on each side of the international border between Canada and the United States. The Canadian side sits at the southern edge of the province of Ontario, an easy 72 miles from the provincial capital of Toronto.
There are lots of family-friendly accommodations on the Canadian side, ranging from full-service hotels overlooking the Niagara Falls to bed & breakfasts, motels, and a variety of affordable campgrounds and RV parks. Restaurants run the gamut from the entertaining Rainforest Café with its bubbling volcano and animatronic animals, to fine dining establishments showcasing a wide variety of international cuisines.
Here are some of the highlights you and your kids might enjoy:
Get Up Close To The Falls
The experience most tourists don’t want to miss is the famous Maid of the Mist tour boat that cruises past the base of the American Falls and through the powerful current onward into the basin of the Horseshoe Falls. Getting wet is part of the fun, and you get to take home the iconic yellow rain ponchos that are included in the price of admission.
You can see the falls from another perspective with the Niagara Parks Journey Behind The Falls. Yep, behind them. You’ll take an elevator down 150 feet to a series of tunnels that lead you right to the brink of the wall of water thundering down from the top.
And from on high, you can ride an exhilarating zipline over the falls, take an aerial tour in a helicopter, or ride in an enclosed gondola on the 175-foot Niagara SkyWheel.
Grab A Bicycle And See The Countryside
You can immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the region on one of its many cycling trails. Take along a picnic lunch and choose one of the more than 200 trails, catering to riders of every level. Named one of the top ten cycling routes in the world is the Niagara Parkway that runs 36 miles (58 km) along the Canadian side of the Niagara River.
Explore The Trails
If you’re an adventuresome group, set out for the Niagara Gorge trails which offer 6.8 miles (11 km) of glorious views. Hike them on your own or take a comfortably paced guided hiking tour through the pristine, old-growth forest of Niagara Glen. If the adults and older kids want a real workout, try the Niagara Glen Bouldering Trail.
Have Fun On The Water
If you’re ready for some excitement, you can take a kayak trip on a fast-moving current. If you want to take it a little slower, you can enjoy a lazy afternoon outing on the Niagara River via canoe or river raft. There’s also a huge indoor waterpark with slides and a wave pool that everyone will enjoy.
Marvel In A World of Butterflies
The Butterfly Conservancy features over 2,000 tropical butterflies that float free among exotic plants in a lush rainforest setting. There’s a short video presentation, closed-captioned for the hearing impaired, and then you’re off on a fully accessible self-guided walking tour through this small world of amazing beauty.
The kids will love it, and you’ll feel like a kid, too, at Hershey’s Chocolate World. Enter through a 4-story high chocolate bar and you’re in a 7000 square foot tribute to everyone’s favorite food. Have a milkshake, take a family photo (for your Christmas card?) with the Hershey’s Kisses statue, and buy a stupendous 5-pound chocolate bar to take home.
Take In The Adults-Only Nightlife
If you’ve got a night to yourselves, try your luck at one of the gaming casinos and, while you’re there, catch a comedy show or live entertainment with headline stars. Vacations aren’t just for kids, after all.