I’ve been going to the Niagara area for more than 40 years, and it just never gets old. The crashing force of the Falls, the Vegas-like lights of Clifton Hill and the throngs of tourists from around the world are still just as novel every time I visit. Since having kids, though, we see Niagara Falls through their eyes — and it’s even more splendorous. So if you’re looking for things to do in Niagara with kids, I’ve got you covered!
Here are 17 best things to do in Niagara with kids:
1. Make a long weekend out of it and check yourselves in at Great Wolf Lodge.
There are deals to be had, and coming midweek — and avoiding holiday weekends — will help keep costs down. Another shocking way to save money at Great Wolf Lodge? Get the add-on meal plan for the whole family ($50 per adult, $25 per kid — and that includes one breakfast, one lunch, one dinner each, plus taxes and gratuities). Their dinners in particular have come a long way over the years and the meal plan offers unbeatable value and keeps you in the water park longer than if you’re fending for yourselves elsewhere.
If your kids are, say, 8 and under, you’ll be there for more than one night, the Paw Pass is also a solid deal.
We’ve stayed in all kinds of rooms here and most are configured really well for every size of family. There’s always a microwave and mini fridge so BYOSnacks.
2. Go to the Shaw Festival.
Their performances — in nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake — offer something for everyone each year, and there are always at least two plays or musicals designed for children. This year, for example, there’s The Horse and His Boy (spring/summer) and Holiday Inn (fall/winter).
If there’s a workshop before the show, add just $5-10 to your show ticket and definitely attend; it’s such an awesome way to immerse your family in the show in a unique, interactive way that we have never experienced elsewhere.
Add a picnic lunch during the warmer months or a backstage tour during the colder ones to really round out your time at The Shaw.
Pro Tip: Until June 3, 2019, I’m giving away a family pack of tickets to see The Horse and His Boy at the Shaw Festival. Enter here.
3. Make sure to pop over to Treadwell Bakery.
While you’re in Niagara-on-the-Lake, treat yo’self. You can get literally anything here and it’ll be super fresh and uber-delish (I know because I’ve tried a lot of different goodies).
4. Take a spin at the Niagara Speedway.
This new Mario Kart-style, multi-level go-kart track is da bomb! We loved it so much that we went around the Niagara Speedway twice (and at $12 per driver and $4 per passenger for about five total minutes of go-karting glory, it was an easy decision).
The K Man was tall enough to be a driver had he wanted to, but wasn’t so big that he didn’t fit beside me as a passenger either. Even Big B was able to drive with Miss Q comfortably — though he did supersede the maximum height restriction of 198″ but no one stopped him and he was fine.
5. See the rapids from the Whirlpool Aero Car.
I’ve been wanting to do the Whirlpool Aero Car for years! I mean, it’s only been here since 1916, so there was really no rush. Niagara River’s class six whirlpool rapids are best appreciated on the White Water Walk, in my opinion, but getting to see them suspended in a cable car from 200+ feet up is a treat. The one-kilometre ride takes about 10 minutes and can hold up to 35 passengers. My kids were in awe!
6. Do the White Water Walk.
If you’ve never seen white water rapids up close — especially anything more intense than a class 4 rapid — this is a must. After a 70-metre elevator ride down to the base of the gorge, you’ll be greeted with a boardwalk so close to the whirlpool rapids that it’s tempting to jump right in. (Please don’t. You will die.)
If you can tear yourselves away from the mesmerizing sight of all that water thrashing about — and the soothing white noise that comes with it — there are several plaques set up along the boardwalk with information about the 410-million-year-old rock layers of the Niagara Gorge. This is how kids should learn geology!
7. Visit the Butterfly Conservatory.
We haven’t done this in a couple of years but it’s still something Miss Q mentions every time we come to Niagara. I always recommend this to families with younger kids because it’s simply magical. It’s an actual butterfly dome filled with hundreds (maybe thousands?) of different butterfly species, set at an ideal temperature for them to live there year-round and with enough balmy humidity to make it feel like a rain forest.
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Wear something bright or even a little sweet perfume and there’s a good chance you’ll have some winged visitors land on you. It’s a wonderful exercise in teaching your kids to be gentle, slow down and appreciate the fragility of nature.
8. Zipline along the Falls.
You might be thinking, Hang on…kids can zipline? Yep — they can here. From age 7 onwards, kids can get strapped into a harness right beside you at Wild Play MistRider Zipline to the Falls. It’s a long, easy zipline and the harness puts you in a seated position rather than a flying-like-Superman one, which is much less intimidating. The fully automated system also means that you just sit back and enjoy, leaving things like dismounting into the air and stopping at the bottom completely up to the onsite staff and the zipline technology.
This was incredible to do at night! You’ll pay a $10 premium over the daytime prices, BUT the 9pm flight gets to watch the fireworks from the lower platform, which is essentially a VIP viewing area.
9. Ghostblasters Dark Rider*
A quick jaunt into a black-lit, completely flat coaster track with lots of fun twists and turns will have you and your kid blasting ghoulish animatronic characters and animated props in an effort to rack up the most points (hint: aim at the little squares with lights).
10. Have lunch at Clifton Hill.
There are plenty of options here, but it can get VERY busy on weekends, so you’ll want to choose a restaurant with plenty of seating. The Boston Pizza is in the centre of it all and is maybe the biggest restaurant I’ve ever seen, period. It’s always a safe bet with kids and you’ll get the quick, reliable service for which the chain is known.
11. Do the Journey Behind the Falls.
My kids have done this a few times over the years, but at ages 8.5 and almost 11, this was the best. They wanted to stop and read more about the tunnels and the engineering and the little boy who went over the falls after a boating accident and survived. They were more WOWed than I have ever seen them. So while I don’t regret taking them when they were younger, if you’re trying to budget your Niagara Falls adventure, I would probably suggest this for bigger kids.
During this self-guided experience, you actually descend on an elevator and get to stand practically under the Falls where you’ll get exceptionally close to the raging force of it all. It’s…well…humbling, to say the least.
12. Ride The Wild West Coaster.*
This fun 6D motion ride was one of my kids’ favourite activities during our recent Niagara Falls trip. After donning 3D glasses, you sit in coaster-like seats and get tossed around during an animated adventure. For my two who have so far refused to try a real roller coaster, this gave them a taste of what it would be like. And it was all smiles.
13. Play glow-in-the-dark mini golf.*
You’ll want to wear black light-friendly clothing to play Wizard’s Golf, an 18-hole mini putt course set mostly underground in a dimly lit space to make the colourful creatures it features really pop. This is especially ideal if you’re looking for things to do in Niagara Falls in the rain!
14. Have dinner overlooking the Falls.
There are a few restaurants where you can do this, but our favourite is the newly renamed Table Rock House, with a whole new vibe and menu. As the name suggests, it sits right at Table Rock — my favourite area to stand and watch water pour over the ledge, plunging into the white-water abyss below — and a window seat will give you one of the most breathtaking views for a meal you’ll get anywhere.
The prix fixe dinner at $49 for three or $59 for four courses is outstanding value! If you think you’ll want even two courses, price it out against doing it a la carte, because it’ll probably be less expensive to just add the third course and go with the prix fixe option.
We went for the four courses between two of us so we could try four of the appetizers and each get two mains and two desserts. We’re big eaters and we asked the server to pace the courses slowly, and we still couldn’t finish!
I recommend the artisan charcuterie board ($19), the Unionville Farms Wild mushroom dip ($17) — which my kids DEVOURED — and the Asparagus and Gunn’s Hill brie arancini ($16) as starters; the 10 oz. prime rib of beef entree ($45, cooked perfectly and on par or better than my favourite spot for prime rib, The Keg); and the Table Rock House chocolate bomb ($13, another kid-fave) or the Wayne Gretzky’s Cream Whisky creme brulee ($11) for dessert.
I normally find creme brulee much too sweet, but I went for this one because I’m OBSESSED with Wayne Gretzky Canadian Cream Whisky (on the rocks, in coffee, you name it), and I’m so glad I did. Table Rock House’s version of creme brulee is silky and creamy rather than custard-like and dentist-inducing.
There’s also a very good, inexpensive kids’ menu here that comes with more food than either of mine were able to eat.
15. Save the Niagara Skywheel* for nighttime.
This London Eye-esque enclosed Ferris wheel runs from early morning until late-night, but to see the Niagara strip and the Falls all lit up at night from up above is pretty special. Don’t be intimidated if you arrive to a long line; it moves quickly.
16. Walk from one end of Niagara Falls to the other.
Take in the mist that wafts into the air, stop for selfies, admire both the American and Horseshoe Falls from different vantage points, and breathe in all that gratitude that you got to see one of the seven natural wonders of the world firsthand.
17. Enjoy the free fireworks!
In all of the years I’ve been to the Falls, this was the first year I’ve seen the fireworks from anything other than a hotel window. These Disney-worthy fireworks last a brilliant 15 minutes, and although they don’t start until 10 p.m., once your kids are old enough to handle that kind of a late night, this will be a special family memory.
Have the best time showing your kids around Niagara Falls — we always do.
* All of these attractions are part of the Clifton Hill Fun Pass, which is a serious money-saver ($29.95 per adult and $19.95 per child) if you think you’ll want to do several of them. We didn’t have time to try Zombie Attack, and I don’t recommend the included wax museum (Movieland Wax Museum) because there were maybe three characters that genuinely looked real, but the rest of the attractions were awesome.
DISCLAIMER: We were provided with several passes and vouchers to enjoy many of the attractions and restaurants listed above, however all opinions and suggestions are my own.