Niagara Falls is a fun place to escape to with your family to see some of the most breathtaking waterfalls in the US. Nestled between upstate New York and Canada, Niagara Falls consists of 3 different waterfalls- Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls, all of which can be seen from different angles from both the US and Canada sides of the water.
We had the chance to spend time in Niagara Falls, and it was the PERFECT family-friendly getaway. I would argue that Niagara Falls should definitely be on your family’s vacay visit list. Not only are the falls absolutely beautiful, but there are a ton of family-friendly ways to have a blast jumping around from the US to Canada.
If you’re considering a family trip to Niagara Falls, I’ve put together a little list of tips and to-dos!
- Visit during the summer months (May-September)
Let me start by saying that New York and Ontario can get very cold. Yes, this is a no-brainer, but add the “mist” of waterfalls into the atmospheric mix and the temperature drops a good 15 degrees when it’s cool. I wouldn’t think of visiting before April, but really the best time is between May-September. Plus, many of the attractions and viewpoints are “seasonal”, meaning they are only open during this time. Plan a summer family trip to enjoy everything!
- Spend a day visiting Goat Island
We absolutely love Goat Island. There are many different viewpoints and walking paths for families to get out, walk, and explore. Plan a day to walk the island and cross over bridges to soak in the viewpoints. I also recommend packing a family picnic lunch- so fun! There are several picnic areas (and bathrooms) throughout the island, with some amazing views and some pretty cute little duck families. Parking is $10, but we found it well worth it!
- Take a tour behind the Falls
While you’re on Goat Island, check out some of the tours they offer. There are several tour options to explore (both from Goat Island and Ontario), but we recommend the Cave of the Winds, which allows families to walk to the base of Bridal Veil Falls. Ponchos are provided- you will get wet!
- Ride the Maid of the Mist
The Maid of the Mist is a great way to get up close to the falls by boat- and a staple for Niagara Falls. The tour itself is only about 20 minutes, and all ages are welcomed so it’s great for families. Again, you will be provided ponchos. Plan to leave excessive baggage (diaper bags, backpacks, etc.) in the car, as you will get wet.
- Jump on a helicopter tour
There are a couple different places that you can take a helicopter tour of the falls. The helicopter tour from the US side is right next to Rainbow Bridge, and offers 8-10 minute tours on a first come basis (weather permitting). I’d definitely recommend the tour for first timers and families with older children who may enjoy the ride!
- Walk across Rainbow Bridge
Rainbow Bridge is the bridge in Niagara Falls that connects the US to Canada. Most people travel via car, but pedestrians can also use the bridge. Regardless of which side you are staying on, I’d definitely recommend the walk across the bridge as it is one of the best unobstructed & less crowded views! The walk itself is short and offers a path separate from cars (so it’s safe for families). Don’t forget your passport, as you WILL need it to go through border security.
Once you cross the bridge into Canada, take a stroll all the way down the Ontario side (bring a stroller if you have young ones). The sidewalk weaves next to the water for breathtaking views. In fact, the Canada side offers the best views of the falls, so this is something you don’t want to miss out on. Once you make it to the end of the walkway, check out the tours offered on this side. In particular, many enjoy the “Journey Behind the Falls” which offers a very neat view from behind the waterfalls!
- Explore the nightlife in downtown Niagara Falls, Ontario
By far the most “happening” area is Niagara Falls, Ontario rather than Niagara Falls, NY. The standard tourist restaurants- Rainforest Café, Hard Rock, Morton’s, Ruth Chris, etc. etc. are there, as well as some other more interesting dining finds. There are several “things to do” such as haunted houses, water parks, go karts, and arcades that can be fun for families- it actually reminds me of I-drive in Orlando. I absolutely recommend the Niagara SkyWheel at sunset to view the falls, or the Skylon Tower. At night, the city projects lights onto the falls for a super cool effect. You definitely want to keep the kids up to check them out after sunset!
8. Check out the Aquarium of Niagara
We love aquariums and try to fit them in family trips any chance we get. This smaller aquarium is perfect if you find yourself in Niagara Falls during bad weather and have little kids in tow. If you don’t go in expecting the Georgia Aquarium (LOL), you will enjoy. There are several kid favorites, including penguins, seals, sea lions, and baby sharks (doo doo do doo…).
9. Stay somewhere with a pool
This is a general tip when traveling with kids. We ALWAYS stay in hotels that have a pool. Swimming is a great time to unwind with your kids, or (if even necessary), get any extra energy out. It’s also a go-to during bad weather and our daughter always loves to swim. We’ve met plenty of play mates in hotel pools!
These tips and to-do’s are certainly the tourist traps, but things you should know and not miss during a first time family visit to explore Niagara Falls (US and Canada). There are also less populated tours (fishing excursions, wet jet rides, etc.) if you are feeling more adventurous. And if you want to get out of the city for the day, Toronto is only a 2-hour drive!