Niagara Falls makes for a great family getaway. I should know as I recently came back from a wonderful 2 day visit. The views alone will take your breath away and you have countless memorable experiences for every age group to enjoy.
The difficult part is deciding what side (American or Canadian) you should visit. And deciding which attractions to spend your hard-earned money on. I am hoping to show you options and let you draw your own conclusions.
Things to do on the Canadian side
Walk the promenade
Presumably the whole reason you are traveling to Niagara Falls is to see the mighty falls. So don’t wait. The first thing you want to do is walk down the promenade on the Canadian side and enjoy the view of all three waterfalls. The walk is free and you can certainly enjoy it more than once. So make sure to see the view at different times so you can experience how the light changes. Sunrise and sunset are incredible here. And at night they light up the falls with different colored light. It is quite the site to see.
Get a room with a view
If you can afford it splurge and get a room with a view. The higher the floor the better. We stayed at Embassy Suites as I had Hilton points to use and I was very happy with the decision. We got a great room with a view of all three falls. The hotel also offered a great complimentary buffet breakfast (get there early to avoid the crowds and wait). Coupons for other attractions and restaurants in the area. And a nice wine reception each night with a free glass of wine. And did I mention my room had a king bed and a door that divided it from where my children slept? Could not have been more perfect. Many other hotels in the area offer great views of Niagara Falls as well.
Savings Tip: A great tip for those staying at the Embassy Suites with a car. Parking is very expensive you can save some money by parking in the casino next door where it only cost $5 during the week and free with your players card.
Take a cruise on the river
On the Canadian side your cruise will be the Hornblower Cruise. This is a great opportunity to see the falls from a different perspective. Note that you will get wet despite the brightly colored red ponchos provided.
Savings tip – If you are planning to cruise on Hornblower and see some of the other attractions on my list such as Journey Behind the falls and whirlpool aero car then I suggest you look into purchasing an adventure pass online in order to save up to 48% on admission costs.
Journey behind the Falls
This is a behind the scenes view of the Horseshoe falls. After descending through bedrock and tunnels you can stand in the mist and get soaked while watching the water crash below. If you don’t want to be wet and cold this experience is best during the warmer months. Click here for more information. A great way to see Niagara Falls in the warmer months.
Whirlpool aero car
This attraction takes you back in time. It dates back to 1913 and offers breathtaking views from above. A unique attraction in Niagara Falls.
White water walk
This is a seasonal attraction in Niagara Falls and it was closed when we were there. It is a scenic nature walk at the very edge of the water where you can observe the whirlpool rapids.
If you are a butterfly fan then this is the place to be. You will be enchanted at the site of over 2,000 colorful tropical butterflies.
A lush paradise displaying collections of many varied plants and flowers such as orchids, succulents, roses and more. Enjoy the seasonal flowers while the flying birds around you sing you their songs.
This is an iconic place to get areal views of the falls. If you are not staying at a hotel with a falls view then you should consider a ride up Skylon Tower. The observation deck is 775 feet up and it takes only 52 seconds to get to the top. If you are dinning in one of the 2 restaurants on site the ride to the top is free. This is just one of the many options for great views in Niagara Falls.
There is tons of entertainment in Clifton Hill like arcades, wax museums, haunted houses, mini golf, restaurants, and much more. If you feel the need to pick one activity in this overpriced amusement park then select the Niagara Skywheel. I hear it offers memorable areal views of the Falls. It is usually open year round as it has both air conditioning and heat to ensure the comfort of all passengers. Unfortunately we were not able to experience it as it was down for maintenance.
Savings tip – if you plan on doing more than one attraction here then you should consider the Clifton Hill fun pass. Which includes 4 attractions at one price.
Niagara on the lake
Going to Niagara on the Lake was a highlight for me. Situated on Lake Ontario this is a small historic town. It has quaint homes and shops and provides many options for lunch (although many are still overpriced). Don’t forget to walk down to Queen’s Royal Park which overlooks Lake Ontario.
A photo journey of this quaint town will be coming here soon.
Tasty tips: If you want to eat where the locals eat and do so for a good price then head over to Sand Trap Pub and Grill and for a good cup of coffee make a stop at Coffee Balzac’s
I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that Niagara has a region dedicated to wineries. Driving through the area I could not help but think I was in the Canadian version of Napa Valley. You could spend days discovering the many wineries in the region and tasting the delicious wines it produces. But we did not have that luxury and with just a few hours at our disposal we chose Peller Estates and we were so happy we did.
You can read about my experience at Peller Estates here (coming soon).
The tour was fantastic and they catered to the entire family. This means us adults got to taste 4 different wines including an ice wine inside of their ice room and the kids got grape juice. I promise my girls had as much fun as we did.
The newest adventure in Niagara Falls is a Zip line that runs parallel to the American Falls. It is a thrilling way to experience the view of the Falls. You will soar across the sky for 2,200 feet and at speeds up to 70 mph along the Niagara river. You can click here for more information on Niagaras newest attraction.
Take a gamble
You can try your luck at either Fallsview Casino or at Casino Niagara. With slots, table games, poker, and tournaments there is plenty to try your luck with. And if gambling is not for you these establishments also offer plenty of other entertainment with shows, music and clubs galore.
This is a typical Canadian dish and you simply must try it. It is made with French fries, cheese curds and gravy. Many versions of this traditional exist and you can add bacon, ground beef, vegetables and a variety of other toppings.
Savings tip: I ate mine at the Big Sizzle across the street from the Embassy Suites. Great place for a quick bite at good prices. Poutine is not all they have. The burgers and shakes were also great. You can see some more unbiased reviews on tripadvisor.
What to see on the American Side
To get to the American side from Canada you will want to cross the Rainbow Bridge. You can drive across or walk across, just remember to bring your passport as you will have to show identification to cross the border.
Niagara Falls State park
Did you know that this is the oldest state park in the USA? Also the park offers up close and personal views of the falls. Here you can witness the beauty of the falls and see and hear its power up close.
Prospect Point offers the closest views to the American Falls. And Goat Island (terrapin Point) offers the closest views to Horseshoe Falls on the American side.
Cave of the winds
Cave of the winds is a natural cave behind the Bridal Veil Falls at Niagara Falls State Park. You can walk down into the Niagara gorge and view the falls from a different perspective. A wooden walkway takes you close up to the falls.
The walkway is taken down each fall and re-built every year opening back up in Spring. The attraction was still closed when we were there in early April as the final inspection needed to be done before reopening to the public. So if this is something you want to do, and you are traveling in early Spring, make sure to check the opening dates for the season.
Savings tip: The US side has its own savings pass called Niagara Falls USA Discovery Pass consider purchasing this pass to save while visiting multiple attractions on the US side of the border.
Maid of the Mist
This is the original boat ride into the mist of the falls. You can soak in the memories as you enjoy the views on this iconic boat ride. Yes you get wet, but you will look cool in your blue ponchos and get a view of Niagara Falls like no other.
Aquarium of Niagara
Always fun for the kids, this non-profit institution has a goal to integrate conservation and animal care with entertaining and educational exhibits on how to be mindful of our oceans and our world. To plan your visit click here