My hotel, food and attraction visits were covered as part of my participation in the TMS Family Travel Conference, but all words, thoughts and opinions are my own.
Last weekend I headed off to the TMS Family Travel Conference, as one of 50 influential family travel sites that gathered in Niagara Falls, NY.. After a hectic morning of missed flights and airline drama, I breathed a sigh of relief when I finally arrived in Niagara Falls shortly before dinner. Dinner that first night was held at Top of the Falls, a restaurant with panoramic view of the iconic Falls within Niagara Falls State Park, the oldest state park in the United States. I was giddy anticipating my first view of “The Falls,” and they didn’t disappoint.
An opaque mist rose over the roar of Horseshoe Falls as slivers of the setting sun peeked through the towering buildings that rose from Ontario, just on the other side of the river. In that moment of pure natural perfection, I stood in awe and knew in an instant that this was a site to be shared with my boys.
This is a thought many parents are having these days, or should be. Niagara Falls, NY, long known as the “Honeymoon Capital” is going through a renaissance of sorts to revitalize the downtown area and create even more appeal for visiting families, beginning with the 26 million dollars in renovations that are being poured into renovating the Niagara Falls State Park. The TMS Family Travel Conference attendees generated more than 21 million social media impressions while visiting local attractions, and it was easy to do with the wide range of intriguing activities available. Wondering how Niagara Falls is transitioning into a premier family vacation destination and the attractions they have to offer? Check these out.
Niagara Falls State Park
Niagara Falls State Park is always free to visiting families, and has some of the most beautiful views, plus self-guided tours, as well as outdoor activities like hiking and fishing. The interactive visitor’s center and Niagara Gorge Discovery Center offer hands-on activities that help bring the science and history of the area to life for young explorers. Stop and have a delicious bite to eat at the Top of the Falls restaurant located within the park, and savor dessert while the panoramic views of Niagara Falls captivate the kids.
Cave of the Winds
Located within the Niagara Falls State Park, Cave of the Winds is an attraction that allows your family to get as up close and personal with the Bridal Veil and American Falls as they wish. Don a provided banana colored poncho, slip on some truly stylish sandals, and ascend platforms of stairs that lead to an eventual one-on-one meeting with the water from Bridal Veil Falls as it splashes down onto the Hurricane Deck, and if you’re brave enough, your head.
The feel of the glacial water dripping down the tip of you nose as you stand drenched under a waterfall of that magnitude is invigorating. Sure to be a family favorite, and a real bargain at only $11 for adults, $8 for children and kids 5 and under are free. Visit on a Friday or Sunday and stay late to see the fireworks set off over The Falls from May 17th – September 1st.
Maid of the Mist
A well-known favorite attraction also located within the Niagara Falls State Park, the Maid of the Mist boat tour allows you to get a close-up view of Horseshoe, American and Bridal Veil Falls from a fantastic viewpoint and a safe distance. In operation for more than 150 years, visitors don a blue rain poncho and board the double-deck boats for a tour of all three magnificent falls, gigantic rock formations and waterfall whitewater. Tickets are $15.50 for adults, $9 for children 6-12, and children 5 and under are free.
Aquarium of Niagara
Just a few blocks away from the Niagara Falls State Park lies the small yet enchanting Aquarium of Niagara. Here, families can watch daily penguin, shark and tidal pool feedings. Take in sea lion sessions, and even try their hand at giving a tasty snack to a waiting harbor seal on Saturdays and Sundays. A variety of other sea life and interactive activities can be found in the two level aquarium open daily from 9-5. Rates are $10 for adults, $6.50 for children 3-12 and children under 3 are free.
Old Falls Street
In the summer months, and for special events throughout the year, Old Falls Street comes to life with a variety of festivals, historic features and hand-on entertainment for people of all ages. Old Falls Street is an iconic three block road connecting the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel with the Niagara Falls State Park. Proudly known as the ‘Greenest Street in Western New York,’ families can catch Flicks on Old Falls for free on Thursdays from July 11-Aug. 29, meet Encounter Niagara Reenactors to learn the history of Niagara Falls Wednesdays and Sundays July 7-Aug.28 and so much more! For a full listing of activities and events, visit FallsStreet.com.
New York Power Authority – Niagara Power Vista
When you think of family friendly attractions, visiting a local power plant may not come to mind, but when visiting Niagara Falls it should. Located in nearby Lewiston, the New York Power Authority’s Niagara Power Project’s Power Vista is a place to both learn and play. Along with a fantastic view of the Niagara River, exhibits on energy, electricity and local history include hands-on displays and provide fun for the whole family. Did I mention it’s free?
Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours
While in Lewiston visiting the Niagara Power Vista, be sure to stop by for one of the most thrilling experiences you will ever have in your life. If you’re traveling with older children, Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours is an absolute must! Attend a short safety tutorial and then don protective gear to board a jet boat that takes you on a wild ride through class 5 rapids down the Niagara River. This is an experience your family won’t soon forget. Children as young as 6 are permitted to go, provided they are at least 44″ tall. Adult tickets are $61 and $51 for children 6-13 years old for this 45 minute thrill ride! Check-out the video from our ride down the Niagara River rapids.
Old Fort Niagara
Photo from OldFortNiagara.org
The War of 1812 history comes to life at Old Fort Niagara. Here you can learn of the history behind the struggle for control of North America, walk through 18th century buildings, experience live reenactments, and take part in living history programs throughout the year. The Fort is open daily from 9-5, with the exception of the July and August, when it remains open until 7pm. Cost of admission is $12 for adults and $8 for children 6-12, with children 5 and under getting in free. Overnight educational programs are also available at a rate of $30 per person. For a full list of events, visit the Old Fort Niagara site.
A 45 minute drive from downtown Niagara Falls, NY will reward you with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and a trip to Becker Farms, a 340 acre working farm with a wide range of family friendly activities for all ages. Visiting in the Fall? Try your hand at picking fresh apples right off the tree, take a hayride at dusk and try to plan your visit during one of the Farms’ famous 100 mile radius dinners. Events like the Pumpkin Fiesta held select days in September and October feature a ‘Pig Rock Derby’, Castle Labyrinth, hay rides, a Tryke Track, bounce houses and so much more! For ticket prices and a full list of event dates, visit BeckerFarms.com.
Niagara Falls USA has a little bit of something for everyone. While it still may hold the title as one of the top destinations in the country for honeymooners, it is quickly evolving into something more. With its natural beauty and host of low cost or free attractions, Niagara Falls, NY. is an incredible destinations for families, one that is growing in popularity for all the right reasons!