Taking a grandchild on a holiday this summer was a new experience and the first question that came to mind was where to take him. Jack is seven years old, has the attention span of a butterfly and his energy level is off the charts. I knew our destination had to be somewhere so impressive it would stop him in his tracks and at the same time possess plenty of attractions and high-energy things to see and do. I chose Niagara Falls and as it turned out – a better choice could not have been made.

I doubt there is a person (or a child) on the planet that would not be impressed with the famous Falls where millions of cubic feet of water surge over the crest line every minute. No matter how many times you view this natural wonder, it never gets old. While the Falls are undeniably Niagara’s main attraction, the city is also filled with a multitude of family entertainment options. We spent two activity-filled days there—and according to Jack—here are some of the highest ranked attractions.

A thrilling ride aboard the world-famous Maid of the Mist gets passengers up close and personal with the Falls. The double-decker, 582-passenger vessel comes as close to the base of the massive waterfall as possible where the thundering roar of the plummeting water is nothing short of awe inspiring.

Even though plastic rain capes are provided to all passengers, almost nobody stays completely dry. The Falls kick up mammoth amounts of spray and passengers are usually on the receiving end of some of it. The Maid of the Mist has been running 30-minute boat tours since 1846 and is promoted as North America’s oldest tourist attraction.

The Journey Behind the Falls tour is almost as thrilling as the Maid of the Mist but in an entirely different way. This is an adventure that also requires wearing rain gear provided by the tour operator. Surface elevators descend 150 feet through bedrock tunnels to portals located behind the Falls where two observation decks, one upper and one lower, offer spectacular, close-up views of the voluminous torrent of water as it plunges down into the Niagara River basin at a speed of 40 mph. The sound is as reverberating as thunder and standing on either of the mist-soaked observation decks is where visitors gain a true sense of the power unleashed by this unstoppable deluge of water.

There is, in fact, no Falls-related tour that is not awe-inspiring including the deep Niagara River gorge White Water Walk where visitors can stroll a long boardwalk on the very edge of one of the world’s wildest stretches of white water.

To explore the various Falls-related tours and purchase special admission passes to the attractions, a good place to begin is the Table Rock Welcome Centre overlooking the waterfall.

Here, visitors can view an impressive 4-D film about the creation of the Falls, dine in the family-friendly Elements restaurant and visit Pop & Lolly’s Candy Shop where kids can observe a candy making demonstration followed by a chance to make their own specially designed chocolate bar.

It’s possible to spend an entire day doing nothing other than Falls tours, however, there are plenty of family-oriented attractions scattered across the city. Four-time winner of Niagara’s “Attraction of the Year” award, Bird Kingdom is the world’s largest free-flying aviary featuring more than 400 exotic birds from around the world as well as various reptiles. Visitors can hand-feed certain feathered friends, touch a python and learn all about the habits of birds and reptiles from the Kingdom’s knowledgeable handlers. Also a true kid-pleaser is the Butterfly Conservatory, where an 11,000-sq. ft. building houses more than 2,000 free-range, tropical butterflies floating among nectar-producing flowers and lush greenery. Considered one of the city’s premier attractions, paved paths through a rainforest-like environment lead visitors through the protected world of these wonderful winged creatures.

Right in the heart of town there are horse-drawn carriage rides, a wax museum, the popular Rainforest Café, a haunted house attraction and the lofty Skylon Tower where an observation deck at the top provides 360 degree views of the city.

The truth is there are more family-friendly Niagara attractions than can possibly be taken in over a period of two days. The other truth is this: as much as I presumed nothing could possibly equal or surpass the Falls in Jack’s estimation, I was wrong. What he loved best of all was the Waves Indoor Water Park at the Americana Resort, a family-friendly hotel where kids eat free. This 25,000-sq. ft. attraction features a large wave pool, tube slides, body slides, whirlpool, kiddy pool, play structures and an adjacent video arcade. The other good thing about the Americana are its family suites where children have their own separate sleeping quarters with bunk beds, walls decorated in pirate and mermaid motifs, plus their own TV.


Information/brochures: Call 1-800-56FALLS (563-2557)
Recommended websites: www.tourismniagara.com
Americana Resort: Call 1-866-707-0030
Geography: The Falls lie on the Niagara River, the international border between Canada and the U.S. The Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of the border are the largest, while the smaller American Falls lie on the New York State side of the border.

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