Things to do in Niagara Falls, Ontario
Niagara Falls is arguably the most popular natural attraction in Canada. The Canadian Rockies and Banff National Park are also worthy of such a title, but these powerful waterfalls in Ontario attract the most tourists each year.
It is estimated that over 30 million people visit Niagara Falls each year, with numbers consistently increasing every year. That number is close to the entire population of Canada!
There are three waterfalls that make up the collective Niagara Falls, with the largest being Horseshoe Falls, followed by the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. The river splits Canada and the USA and acts as a natural border crossing between the province of Ontario and the state of New York.
How to spend 4 days in Niagara Falls with Kids
While the powerful waterfalls are truly spectacular, there are plenty of other reasons to choose Niagara Falls as your next family vacation.
Today, we share the top family attractions in Niagara Falls. We spent 4 days exploring Niagara Falls this past summer during the last week of August (2017).
It should be noted that you could easily spend a full week exploring Niagara Falls. There are plenty of family activities and daily entertainment to keep everyone busy. Your kids will not be bored!
For more detailed info, read the Niagara Falls travel guide.
First – check out the amazing waterfalls!
This one is so obvious it’s almost not worth mentioning. BUT – you can’t visit Niagara Falls without witnessing the natural wonder that made it famous.
The easiest and most accessible way to see the falls is to walk along the promenade that lines the river gorge. You can start your walk at the Table Rock Welcome Centre and walk north towards Rainbow Bridge, of vice versa. The promenade is stroller friendly and there are plenty of grassy areas and benches to take a break. There are several lookout points that offer great photo opportunities.
You will get a completely different view of the falls from the American side (for this article – we’re making the assumption you are on the Canadian side of the falls). This requires you to walk or drive across the international border crossing this is Rainbow Bridge.
We did not cross the border on this trip to Niagara Falls, but we’re told it’s a relatively simple process.
Stroller friendly views of the falls from the promenade.
When you stand on the north side of Horseshoe Falls you will get sprayed from the mist of the waterfalls. Even if the weather is sunny with clear skies, it will feel like rain as you approach the waterfalls.
The two photos above were taken within a few minutes of each other. The photo of Nicole with the boys shows a sunny and dry afternoon. We walked another 100 meters and the streets are wet with big puddles. It did not rain. The intense mist from the falls makes it feels like its raining heavily.
- Travel tip – Bring a waterproof jacket with you and cover your stroller before you get close to falls. We made this mistake and got soaked.
A rare couple selfie with the falls in the backdrop.
Journey Behind the Falls
Journey Behind the Falls offers an exceptional view of the powerful waterfalls from the base of Horseshoe Falls. You access the falls from the Table Rock Welcome Centre and take an elevator down 150 feet to an underground tunnel network that is over 100 years old.
The main observation deck provides the best view of the falls (see photo above). It’s quite the site. The mist from the falls feels like a shower of rain and the sound of the rushing water is deafening. It’s a unique experience unlike anything we’ve experienced.
For info on pricing and hours of operation, visit the Niagara Parks website here.
While you’re at the Table Rock Welcome Centre or checking out the Journey Behind the Falls, you can add the Niagara’s Fury experience to your itinerary. It is included with the Niagara Falls Adventure Pass.
Niagara’s Fury tells the story of Niagara Falls in a 360 degree multi-sensory theater. It’s part movie, part ride. You will get wet, so make sure you put on the waterproof poncho that is handed out at the theater entrance.
Here’s the description from the Niagara Parks website:
“Water will bubble and spray as you travel down river, while snow falls all around simulating the last Ice Age. The moving platform beneath your feet will help you understand the power of nature as you’re surrounded by stunning visuals of the mighty Niagara River.”
Maid of the Mist or Hornblower Boat Cruise
The oldest and best known tourist attraction at Niagara Falls is the Maid of the Mist and/or the Hornblower boat cruise. The Maid of the Mist is operated exclusively from the New York side of the falls (United States) and the Hornblower is operated from the Ontario side (Canada).
The boat cruise takes guests up close to the base of the American, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls. The boats have outdoor observation decks, so you will get wet when the boat approaches the falls.
You can take a tour during the day or at night. Boats sail every 15 minutes in season, from April 1 to November 30. More info and pricing here.
If you look at the photo above you will see a red boat and a blue boat. They’re both white boats, actually. The red and blue you see are plastic rain jackets on passengers. I’m not sure what the capacity is for each boat, but there are a couple hundred people on each of those vessels pictured above.
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Falls Incline Railway
The Falls Incline Railway is a convenient way to connect the Fallsview Tourist area and Table Rock Welcome Centre. It also provides a unique view of the Horseshoe Falls (see above photos). It is open year-round and is stroller/wheelchair accessible.
Our boys sat at the front window and enjoyed the ride up. They didn’t really care about the waterfall views, they were more excited about being on “a train that goes up the side of the hill”.
The ride only takes a few minutes. You purchase tickets directly at the station. It’s $2.75 per person. Children aged 5 and under are free. You can also buy a day pass for $7.00.
The Fun Pass includes:
- Niagara Skywheel
- Zombie Attack
- Wild West Coaster 6D Theatre Ride
- Movieland Wax Museum
- Dinosaur Golf or Wizard’s Golf
- Ghost Blasters
- Bonus: 5 Midway Game Tokens!
Clifton Hill is conveniently located within walking distance to Horseshoe Falls and several Niagara Falls hotels. We stayed at the Howard Johnson and it was a 5 minute walk to the Clifton Hill area. There are also several restaurants and coffee shops in this area, so it’s an ideal place to spend the afternoon/evening.
Visit this hotel booking website to check hotel pricing and availability.
Clifton Hill road is filled with games and attractions. Your kids will go wild.
Clifton Hill at night is quite the site. Neon everywhere.
Ripley’s Believe it or Not
Located on Clifton Hill, the Ripley’s Believe it of Not has three attractions in Niagara Falls, including the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium, the art motion simulator ride Ripley’s Moving Theater, and Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks showcasing over 100 life-like wax figures.
The Odditorium, pictured above, has 15 themed rooms and over 900 never-before-seen exhibits.
Learn about pricing and hours of operation here.
The Niagara SkyWheel is located in the Clifton Hill area. Are you sensing a theme here?
The SkyWheel offers unique views of Horseshoe Falls and American Falls. At 175 feet (or 53 metres), it is said to be the largest observation wheel in Canada.
Below is the description from the Clifton Hill website:
“The Niagara SkyWheel is a world-class ride featuring fully enclosed gondolas, each equipped with heating and air conditioning for year-round comfort and enjoyment. You can ride day or night, in any season.
The ride duration varies from 8 to 12 minutes with spectacular aerial views for miles in every direction. Evening rides offer dazzling views of the glittering lights of Clifton Hill and the surrounding Niagara skyline.
With a bird’s eye view of the Niagara River, Niagara Parks and Clifton Hill, there’s no better way to snap incredible photos and quickly get the lay of the land.”
To get the best photos, consider the time of day you take the SkyWheel. We tried to catch sunset but the skies were overcast and our boys were running out of steam. We visited during the summer, so sunset was much later in the day (around 9:00 PM). Our boys didn’t make it. They started to get very cranky and tired, so we ended up taking the ride about an hour too early.
If you plan to take the SkyWheel you should consider purchasing the Clifton Hill Fun Pass. At the time of publishing this post, customers get a bonus 2nd ride on the SkyWheel when tickets are purchased online.
Views of the American Falls from the Niagara SkyWheel.
Because you bought the Clifton Hill Fun Pass – that’s why!
Our youngest was too scared to do this one, but our oldest boy loved it. He still talks about the time he “shot a bunch of zombies” at Niagara Falls. That wasn’t exactly the happy memory we were hoping for, but at least he had fun, right?
Wizard’s Glow-in-the-Dark Mini Golf
The Clifton Hill Fun Pass gives you the option to do either the Glow-in-the-Dark Miniature Golf or Dinosaur Adventure Golf. We originally planned to do the outdoor Dinosaur Adventure Golf but it was really busy at the time we showed up. Our boys don’t have much patience for mini golf, so we decided to do the Glow-in-the-Dark option instead.
It’s a fun 18-hole course with brightly coloured exhibits of Wizards, Trolls, and Dragons. It’s not a very challenging course so it’s ideal for little ones.
Games, Games, Games!
You won’t get far in Niagara Falls before you find an arcade or entertainment room. We visited the Great Canadian Midway twice during our visit to Clifton Hill. It’s a 70,000+ square foot facility with over 300 games, including the popular Wild West Coaster Motion Simulator and the spooky Ghost Blasters Dark Ride.
We like the vibe of the Midway. It has many of the old games we enjoyed playing when we were kids. Many of the games dispense tickets that can later be redeemed for small toys and souvenirs. If our boys had their way we would have stayed there for hours every day.
You can also visit one of the many casinos in Niagara Falls if you like to gamble. But note, kids are NOT allowed in the casinos.
Movieland Wax Museum
Niagara Falls has a few different wax museums, including the Movieland Wax Musuem. If you like wax museums, this is an easy addition to your Clifton Hill experience.
Below is the description from the Clifton Hill website:
“A walk through Movieland is a like a walk through entertainment history. Snap a selfie next to your favourite stars! You’ll see everything from classics like ‘Indiana Jones’ and the ‘Terminator’, to current hits like ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.’
We didn’t end up visiting this wax museum because our youngest boy freaked out when he saw the Joker character in the window. He literally went running down the street screaming. It was quite comical – until he went running towards the street traffic.
Big Top Amazing Mirror and Laser Maze
Right across the street from the Great Canadian Midway and Movieland Wax Museum is the Big Top Mirror and Laser Maze. This is one of the newest attractions to the Clifton Hill area.
I think you get the point. There are endless games, entertainment and attractions at Clifton Hill.
Give yourself two days to explore Clifton Hill. Or one very looooong day.
MistRider Zipline to the Falls
If you’re looking for a heart pumping adventure you should definitely check out the MistRider Zipline to the Falls. The zipline starts at the Grand View Marketplace and travels down the gorge towards the base of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.
The line is 2,200 feet long (670 metres) at speeds of 70 km per hour (40 miles p/h). This is a guided experience. Kids aged 13 and younger must go with a responsible adult. Minimum age is 7 years old.
Watch this video to see what the zipline experience is all about.
Beautiful parrots inside the Bird Kingdom.
Do you know the name of the blue birds pictured above? Leave us a comment if you do!
Bird Kingdom is said to be the World’s Largest Free-Flying Indoor Aviary. It is home to hundreds of exotic birds and animals, including parrots, lorikeets, bats, owls, snakes, tortoises and lizards. Here is the list of species at Bird Kingdom.
Bird Kingdom is located on the north side of Rainbow Bridge, which is about a 10 minute walk from Grand View Marketplace (the place where you catch the Hornblower boat cruise and/or the MistRider Zipline).
We spent about an hour inside Bird Kingdom. It’s a good size facility; not too big, but enough variety to keep things interesting. The full tour takes you through a series of different rooms, each with different animals and birds. Our boys had fun feeding the lorikeets (an Australasian parrot) at Lorikeet Landing.
If you like this type of attraction, you may want to include a visit to the Butterfly Conservatory.
Great Wolf Lodge
We spent two of our four days in Niagara Falls inside the Great Wolf Lodge. If you’ve never been to a Great Wolf Lodge before, it’s a family-oriented hotel that has a massive indoor water park INSIDE the hotel. Your kids won’t want to leave the hotel, so plan accordingly.
We wrote a detailed post about 0ur experience at the Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls.
Indoor water parks
You don’t have to stay at the Great Wolf Lodge to have an epic indoor waterpark experience. The Fallsview Indoor Waterpark is conveniently located in the heart of Niagara Falls and is connected to Falls Avenue Resort.
The Fallsview Indoor Waterpark has 16 water slides, several play areas and a large wave pool. The facility looks similar to what you would get at the Great Wolf Lodge.
Rates depend on the season. Off-peak general admission is approx $45 per guest. Children under 2 years old are free. This can add up quickly if you have a big family, so it’s best to book a package that includes your hotel accommodation.
Marineland is one of the top attractions in Niagara Falls. It’s a themed amusement park and zoo for both marine and land animals. It first opened its doors in 1961, so it’s been around for a long time.
The park is conveniently located a few kilometers south of the Fallsview Tourist Area in downtown Niagara Falls. It is open during the summer months, from May to October. Closed for the winter.
I visited Marineland once, when I was a young boy. When we visited Marineland this past summer it had been almost 30 years to the day. It was interesting to re-visit an amusement park 30 years later. Not a lot has changed at Marineland in those 30 years. The rides and decor definitely have a strong retro vibe.
Marineland puts on daily shows at the King Waldorf Stadium that feature dolphins, sea lions, walruses and beluga whales. It’s quite impressive how these marine animals interact with their trainers.
Feeding the smiling beluga whales at Arctic Cove was a highlight for our boys.
Braydon loved the family rides. He continually wanted to show us his “no hands”.
This was my favourite ride when I was a boy (Cam). Still fun.
Braydon’s first roller coaster! The kid rides at Marineland are just the right size for a 5 year old.
Niagara Brewing Company
It can’t be all about the kids – right?
After a full day of sightseeing and attractions, head to the Niagara Brewing Company for some tasty craft beer and food. It’s centrally located 200 metres from the falls, at the base of Clifton Hill.
Have you read our series about drinking beer around the world?
Have you visited the Rainforest Cafe? If not, you should. At least once. But only if you have kids. If you don’t have kids, it might get weird.
The food is good, but you don’t go to the Rainforest Cafe for the food. You go for the unique experience.
The restaurant is decorated to feel like you’re inside the rainforest. It has a bubbling volcano that comes alive with animatronic snakes, elephants, and gorillas. Every half hour the restaurant experiences an indoor thunderstorm – I don’t want to be a spoiler, so I’ll leave it at that.
The Niagara Falls Forest Cafe is located beside the Niagara Brewing Company – so you can do both!
Observation Deck on Skylon Tower
The Skylon Tower Observation Deck offers the best views of the falls in all of Niagara Falls. The elevator takes less than one minute (52 seconds, to be exact) to reach the observation deck, which sits 775 feet above the falls. From this vantage point you can see the Great Gorge, Niagara wine district and city skylines of Buffalo, New York and Toronto (weather depending).
If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind dining experience you should consider the world-famous Revolving Dining Room Restaurant or the family-affordable Summit Suite Buffet Dining Room restaurant. Admission to the Ride-to-the-Top and Observation Decks attractions are free when dining.
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Have you been to Niagara Falls? What did we miss?
Share your tips and recommendations in the comments below.