Niagara Falls is known as the Honeymoon Capital of the World, but it’s also a family-friendly destination with so many things to do. On my recent trip to Niagara Falls, NY for the TMS Family Travel Conference, I had the opportunity to not only learn from some of the best travel professionals in the business, but also tour this fun city. Although I was only there for a few days, I definitely plan to return with my family. Here are some of the best things to do in Niagara Falls, NY with kids.
CAVE OF THE WINDS AND NIAGARA FALLS STATE PARK
Niagara Falls State Park, the nation’s oldest state park, is an Olmstead-designed park that’s great for families. It offers fabulous views of Niagara Falls, as well as a fireworks at 10 p.m. every Friday, Sunday, and on select holidays from mid-May to early-September. We dined at Top of the Falls at Niagara Falls State Park, a restaurant with gorgeous views.
After our dinner, we donned yellow ponchos and specially-designed sandals and headed down 175 feet in an elevator to wooden walkways along the Niagara River. I took the photo above as we got closer to the Hurricane Deck, where you can actually stand steps away from the Bridal Veil Falls. It’s such an amazing experience, and it’s actually the closest you can get to the falls from either Canada or the US. Cave of the Winds is open seasonally – the walkways are removed in the winter and are rebuilt in the spring.
MAID OF THE MIST
Also located in Niagara Falls State Park is the iconic Maid of the Mist, a boat ride that takes you right under the Horseshoe Falls. Currently, the Maid of the Mist operates from both the US and Canada side of the falls, but this will change next year when Canada switches over to another provider. Visitors from all over the world grab their complimentary blue poncho and board the continuously running boats that travel right to the falls.
I wasn’t sure exactly how soaked I’d get on the Maid of the Mist, and while some tourists were drenched, you really can control that based upon where you stand. I took loads of pictures as we headed towards the falls, but this picture below is the closest photo I was able to get before I put my camera away for safekeeping. The Maid of the Mist is completely kid-friendly – I even saw some strollers on board.
THE AQUARIUM OF NIAGARA
The Aquarium of Niagara is small, but definitely worth a visit if traveling to Niagara Falls, NY with kids. We just stayed for a few minutes, but I was most impressed with the Sea Lion show, which takes place in the 100,000 gallon tank in the center of the aquarium. There’s also a fun little penguin habitat (pictured above) and an outdoor rescue seal exhibit (currently being renovated). It’s definitely not an all-day trip, but animal-loving kids will certainly enjoy the stop.
OLD FORT NIAGARA
We visited Old Fort Niagara, the oldest continuously occupied military site in North America, after hours. During our trip, we had the opportunity to experience a lantern tour of the Fort and see a musket demonstration. At Halloween, the Fort offers The Haunted Fortress, an evening tour of the fort complete with ghost stories. It’s not recommended for kids under 8, but sounds like it would be great fun for older kids!
Visitors during the day can experience a guided or audio tour, which will teach them about the history of the Fort, which spans over 300 years.
ROBERT MOSES NIAGARA HYDROELECTRIC POWER STATION
A free tour through the Robert Moses Niagara Hydroelectric Power Station in Lewiston, NY, is a great way to help teach kids about electricity and power. The power station, located about 4 1/2 miles downstream from Niagara Falls helps harness the energy of Niagara Falls to create lower-cost electricity for New York State. The Power Station offers fabulous views of the Niagara River, as well as interactive, educational stations that teach adults and kids about how the station works.
BECKER FARMS AND VIZCARRA VINEYARDS
It’s worth the drive to Gasport, NY to Becker Farms and Vizcarra Vineyards, a family-owned 340-acre farm. In season, the farm offers a petting zoo, fruit picking, pumpkin picking, wine tasting, and more. Since we were there in September, we had the opportunity to take a hay ride to the apple picking fields. The apples were absolutely delicious – I took a bag home and my kids ate them all in two days!I love the way that this family has found a way to be efficient with their product and has created a total destination. For example, after finding that much of the you-pick fruit was going to waste, they started freezing it to use in their winery. They are also now offering weddings and special dinners.
WHERE TO STAY IN NIAGARA FALLS, NY
For the conference, we stayed at the Sheraton at the Falls, Niagara Falls, NY, (not to be confused with a similarly-named hotel on the Canadian side). It is located within walking distance of Niagara Falls State Park, and is currently undergoing a full renovation. I’d definitely recommend staying there. You can read reviews of hotels in Niagara Falls, NY on TripAdvisor.