Niagara Falls truly is a wonder of the natural world. Did you know its name is derived from the Iroquois word “Onguiaahra” meaning “The Strait?” I just spent a couple days in the area courtesy of Chevrolet Canada, and I was thrilled to finally see the falls for myself. It’s an awe-inspiring sight, with 2,271,240 liters (600,000 gallons) of water per second going over the falls on the Canadian side alone.
Niagara Falls is unquestionably the premier attraction in the area, but if you’re planning a family trip here, there’s lots more to do and see than just the waterfalls.
One afternoon, we took the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tour along the Niagara River up to the Niagara Whirlpool below the falls and then back through some class 5 rapids. It was FUN and COLD and WET! Jet boat trips leave from Niagara-on-the-Lake and from Niagara Falls. Despite all this gear they give you before getting on the boat, we still ended up soaked to the skin. While they do warn you to bring an extra change of clothes, I’m here to tell you to bring extra socks, shoes, and underwear too.
Here are some highlights of our trip!
If you want to experience the Niagara whirlpool from a different (and drier) perspective, you can take a ride on a vintage cable car high above the river.
The Butterfly Conservatory is located on the grounds of the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens. The glass-enclosed tropical conservatory houses over 2,000 butterflies and 45 different species. Be sure to spend some time at the emergence window to catch a glimpse of butterflies leaving their pupae and drying their brand new wings.
Ball’s Falls is a historical ghost town dating back to the early 19th century, now preserved as a conservation area. Visit the Centre for Conservation to learn more about the area’s rich cultural and natural history, then explore the spectacular scenery, nature trails, and two waterfalls, along with the original Ball family home, an operating gristmill, lime kiln, restored church, blacksmith shop, and carriage shed.
5. Horseback Riding
Why walk when you can ride? Explore the trails on the beautiful Niagara Escarpment from horseback with Niagara Riding Stables. No experience necessary, but kids must be 10 and older to ride.
Horseplay Niagara offers family trail rides (kids must be 6 years or older), beach trail rides along the shore of Lake Erie (8 years and up), and private rides.
At 175 feet high, the Niagara Skywheel is Canada’s largest observation wheel. Take a ride in one of 42 climate-controlled gondolas for incredible views of of the Horseshoe and American Falls, the Niagara River, and other landmarks.
One of Canada’s largest miniature golf courses (over 70,000 square feet!), Dinosaur Adventure Golf features two 18-hole courses, 3 decorative ponds, a 50 foot high steam-erupting volcano, and 50 amazing life-sized dinosaurs!
I grew up watching Ripley’s Believe It or Not! on TV (hosted by heavy breather extraordinaire Jack Palance), so I’ve always has a soft spot for weird and oddball stuff. While you’re in Niagara, take the kids to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium to view more than 15 themed rooms filled with over 900 never-before-seen exhibits, oddities, curiosities, and illusions. Check out the world’s rarest egg, two-headed animals, authentic shrunken heads, and more.
Built in 2012, this pretty yellow two bedroom house on Clifton Hill is just the kind of home any family would love to live in. If they walked on the ceiling that is!
Fort George was the scene of several battles during the War of 1812 defending Upper Canada from the United States. Step into the past and tour the fort’s defenses, officer’s quarters, blockhouses, and the original stone powder magazine.
You can listen to the Fort George National Historic Site’s Fife and Drum Corps perform and taste food cooked 19th century-stile over an open flame. Watch the Redcoats demonstrate their Brown Bess muskets, then put on a coat and tall hat and try your hand at firing a musket yourself!
Dinosaur Adventure Golf by Andy Nystrom licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
onehundred&seventy-seven; skywheel by RCabanilla licensed under CC BY 2.0
Niagara Falls – Upside Down House by Anthony Godinho licensed under CC B-NC-SA 2.0
Fort George, Niagara-on-the-Lake by Robert Linsdell licensed under CC BY 2.0