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Travel Guide- Niagara Falls with Kids

We finally got the kids their passports and have been anxiously waiting to take them on their first trip outside of the US. Since we were on a time crunch (nothing like waiting until the last minute for passports!) we decided it was the perfect time to make the road trip up to Canada and visit the falls.

The first question everyone has is which side of the falls to stay on. The answer is definitely Canada. Not only are there more hotel options right around the falls but the New York side (I’m sad to say this) was very dirty and disappointing. There were only 2 or 3 hotels to choose from and as soon as you leave the one block they are on you are surrounded by dirty, abandoned buildings and streets. It was borderline scary to drive through. So, Canada it is! If you’re going to visit the Falls you’ll want to make sure you have your passport anyway so why not just stay in Canada?

Once you have your hotel booked you can start planning your activities. As a family we generally try to steer clear of commercialized activities while on vacation and prefer to hike and sightsee on our own terms. The one activity we did do was the Maid of the Mist boat ride. This is an absolute must for anyone visiting the falls. The boat rides are the only way to see the Falls up close from the base of them. You can go on the Hornblower cruise from the Canadian side but we chose the NY side boat ride because parking was closer and the ride for our family was less because kids under 5 are free. Our boys loved the ponchos we got to wear on the ride! This is also the perfect activity to do if it’s raining in Niagara Falls because you are going to get wet anyway.

Besides the boat rides, the best places to view the falls are Goat Island on the New York side or anywhere on the Canadian side. There is a long pathway that follows the entire length of the falls on the Canadian side which gives you views from all different angles. One thing to keep in mind is that parking is insanely expensive on both sides of the Falls. You will not find any close parking on either side for less than $20. Since we book all of our vacations through my credit card rewards the most expensive part of this trip was the parking, for 5 days we easily spent over $250 on parking. One tip to help you save money is that on the NY side parking is free after 6pm in the state parking lots. So, depending on the time of year you can still catch quite a bit of daylight after 6pm or you can take advantage of the free parking to get a glimpse of the falls lit up at night.

One of our favorite hikes was Whirlpool State Park on the New York side. It’s about 1-2 miles outside of main Niagara Falls tourist area and very easy to find since their are several road signs to get you there. You get an incredible view of the Niagara river as well as the whirlpool area. If you’re hiking without kids you can actually hike all the way down to the base of the river for an up close look at the whirlpools and jet boats that cross them. We opted not to do that because the stairs you need to take to get down there are old, and unsafe looking- just not a good idea with toddlers. If you have little ones in tow be sure to head to the playground though, it was beautiful and right next to the hiking trail.

No matter which side of the Falls you stay on you’ll want to take a walk across the Rainbow Bridge, this is the bridge that connects the US and Canada. Walking across it gives you the chance to stop and look at the Falls from another angle AND if you’re lucky the Canadian border patrol will stamp your kids passports when walking across if you ask them to(they don’t do this when driving across). Plus, you get to take a picture next to the international border and be in two countries at once!

We spent a day driving through Ontario via the Niagara Scenic Parkway (this is the road by the Bird Kingdom) and that was really the highlight of our trip. It was absolutely breathtaking! Along the way there are multiple scenic look outs to stop at and be sure to check out the dam. Our boys were completely amazed by the size of it! Once you get closer to Niagara-on-the-Lake you enter wine country. We stopped at Caroline Cellars and stocked up. Because the exchange rate is so good for Americans we got some really good deals on their amazing wines!

When you get into town you can find a parking spot and walk up and down the block, it’s such a cute little town. I was continuously in awe of their charming buildings and beautiful flowers and greenery on display. We drove around the residential area a bit and found a secluded waterfront park to let the kids play in. They had a blast playing in the water of Lake Ontario and building their rock forts.

Have you been to Niagara before? Let us know your favorite hiking and sightseeing spots!

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20 Comments

  • Reply Rebecca

    I haven’t been to Nigra Falls heat but your photos make it look breathtaking! Will definitely have to add this destination to my bucket list!

    October 17, 2017 at 2:34 pm
  • Reply Gretchen

    Great photos and info! I really need to get my kids to Niagara Falls….I’ve been several times pre-kids (I remember my grandparents taking me on the Maid of the Mist when I was a kid) but none of them have been.

    October 17, 2017 at 4:47 pm
  • Reply Kristi McAllister

    I haven’t ever been there, but my goodness, it looks oh-mazing. Thanks for all the tips on which side to stay on and how much we can expect to pay for parking (egads!). This place is definitely going on my bucket list! Great pics!!!

    October 17, 2017 at 5:25 pm
  • Reply Melissa

    Wow you’re pictures are so beautiful! This is one of the places that is definitely on my bucket list, can’t wait to go. Thanks for all the tips!

    October 17, 2017 at 9:09 pm
  • Reply Kayla Uimari

    Niagara Falls looks beautiful, I’ve had family that has visited and absolutely loved it. They even said they could see a honeymoon there being really romantic!

    October 17, 2017 at 9:36 pm
  • Reply Mary

    Niagara Falls is a place my parents had always talked about, they always said how beautiful it is. Looking forward to one day seeing it for myself.

    October 17, 2017 at 11:47 pm
  • Reply Allison R Lancaster

    I went to Niagra Falls when I was younger but would love to go back and take my hubby and son! This makes me want to go soon!

    October 18, 2017 at 12:58 am
  • Reply Amanda Rosson

    What lovely photos! I’ve always wanted to visit Niagara Falls! Also now I know to definitely stay on the Canada side ^^

    October 18, 2017 at 7:59 am
  • Reply Leslie

    Niagara Falls is one of the best places to visit. Such a great trip for anyone on the upper east coast!

    October 18, 2017 at 2:35 pm
  • Reply Sharon Smith

    We have always wanted to visit Niagra Falls. Now I want to visit even more.

    October 18, 2017 at 4:27 pm
  • Reply Sarah

    It looks like you guys had so much fun! This is definitely on my family vacation bucket list!

    October 18, 2017 at 5:38 pm
  • Reply Catherine

    I’ve never been to Niagra Falls but I love Fall vacations and this looks like a beautiful spot to enjoy the show nature puts on in the fall.

    October 18, 2017 at 6:57 pm
  • Reply Yona Williams

    I LOVE visiting Niagara Falls, but haven’t been in a while because I need an enhanced license to visit now. When they put the lights on the Falls at night…it is beautiful!

    October 18, 2017 at 11:52 pm
  • Reply Krystal // The Krystal Diaries

    I’ve never been to Niaga Falls but I know a couple people who have and they’ve all said such wonderful things about it! One of these days I’ll visit there and maybe extend the trip and go to Toronto after.

    October 19, 2017 at 12:18 am
  • Reply Courtney

    Looks like y’all had a fabulous time in Niagara Falls! I live just south of Niagara Falls so we go often for a day trip

    October 19, 2017 at 10:42 pm
  • Reply Amber

    These photos are all gorgeous! I have never been but it is on list of places to visit.

    November 28, 2017 at 5:13 pm
  • Reply Melissa

    How Fun!!! We have been there so many times (I am in Canada, and only about 1.5 hours from the Falls) and it is still magical every single time! <3

    November 29, 2017 at 3:12 am
  • Reply Jenny

    I’ve always wanted to go to Niagra Falls. It looks so cool.

    November 29, 2017 at 4:07 am
  • Reply Jordyn

    looks like you guys had a blast! Such cute photos!

    November 29, 2017 at 4:23 am
  • Reply Madison at waysoftheweavers.com

    My husband and I would LOVE to go here some day! We plan on taking our trip once college is over! Your boys are too cute by the way 🙂 Looks like you had so much fun!

    November 30, 2017 at 2:18 am
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