Niagara Falls Family Vacation
We used to live in Toronto, and my hubby is from Buffalo, so I know the area well. If you want to stay near Niagara Falls, I would consider the Canadian side; it’s much nicer with LOTS more to do within walking distance of several big hotels.
Beaver Island State Park, Grand Island, NY
Beaver Island is just south of Niagara Falls and is a really pretty state park with LOTS to do. We spent a few hours there on Labor Day weekend a few years ago and I was shocked at how few people were there on a holiday weekend.
There’s a boardwalk along a sandy/rocky beach along the river leading down to plenty of beach with gorgeous views and clear and cool water perfect for kayaking. There’s a brick Victorian clubhouse building looking over the beach area (bathrooms here); probably from Upstate New York’s heyday from what I can tell.
Martin’s Fantasy Island, Grand Island, NY
Also on Grand Island is a super cheesy, but really fun amusement park is a great way to spend the day. The park is not a bad value for money and there’s lots to do, including a water park and a fun Wild West area with a shootout in the street at the top of the hour—if you have little boys, this is hoot! (Don’t worry, the “good guys” win.) There’s more than enough rides and shows to keep everyone busy for a full day at Martin’s Fantasy Island, from young toddlers to big kids that love the bigger coasters.
On the Canadian side, think Wisconsin Dells, but much bigger. It’s a huge tourist trap. But, that being said, it’s still really cool. The Falls themselves are staggeringly gorgeous from the Canadian side, and the Canadians do a great job with flowers and providing lots to see and look at. There are restaurants and hotels galore along the main drag there.
The Skylon is fun, but pricey. There’s the Maid of the Mist, a boat that can takes you right up to the Falls. Or you can ride the Journey Behind the Falls, which literally takes you right behind the water and gives you a great background of the geological history of the area. There’s also Bird Kingdom, a cool bird zoo perfect for your budding ornithologist. Clifton Hill is the main touristy Street and with it comes Ripley’ s Believe it or Not, Spiderman rides, and some sort of wax museum.
American Side: Goat Island
The Goat Island part of the American side of the falls is worth a look. It’s this little island where you can get really close to the Falls, although you won’t be able to see them as well.
Other ideas for family-friendly fun include a walk on Rainbow Bridge, where you can stand with a foot in each country. Cars and pedestrians are allowed on the bridge; you can park your car on one side and walk across the bridge into another country. Rainbow Bridge offers a beautiful view of the Falls and a small part of the International Boundary, the longest international border shared in the world between the same pair of countries: Canada and the USA.
Time permitting I would definitely drop by Niagara-on-the-Lake, an amazing little town about five miles north and right on Lake Ontario. The city itself is beautiful and is home to lovely shops and restaurants. Niagara-on-theLake is not a tourist trap at all, but still a great destination.
Where to Stay
When my husband ran the Niagara Falls Half Marathon we decided to stay in Canada at the Sheraton on Niagara Boulevard and sprang a few extra bucks for a Fallsview room. This was definitely worth the money. We could see Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls (all in the USA). Goat Island is the land mass between the two sets of falls. In the summertime, fireworks happen on Saturday nights and the Falls are also lit up every evening so you can see them all night long.
This post is compliments of Gemma Callahan. Gemma is a stay-at-home mom of three kids ages 11, 10, and 8. Current resident of Madison, Wisconsin, Gemma has called New Orleans, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Toronto home. She says, “I’ve come to appreciate that perspective isn’t just important, it’s EVERYTHING.”