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Best Things to Do at Niagara Falls with Kids and Teens

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Niagara Falls became one of North America’s original modern-day vacation and honeymoon destinations in the 19th century. Everyone’s heard about it, and millions of people from every corner of the world have visited these beautiful waterfalls on the U.S.-Canada border. Discover the beauty of this famous international landmark with this list of the 12 best things to do at Niagara Falls with kids and teens!

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls (Photo credit: jovannig, Depositphotos.com)

Niagara Falls History

The falls are located on the U.S.-Canada border in Niagara Falls, New York (near Buffalo) and sister city, Niagara Falls in Ontario. A legacy of the last Ice Age 18,000 years ago, Niagara Falls still has the power to inspire awe in worldly travelers. The Falls deliver an impressive demonstration of nature’s power. Over 6 million cubic feet of water go over the waterfalls every minute during peak daytime tourist hours. You can hear the roar of the falls even before you see them. When you see the beautiful green color of the Niagara River that feeds the waterfalls, that’s a result from dissolved minerals and limestone that are swept over the edge every day. It’s quite a stunning site. When visiting Niagara Falls with kids, be careful when posing for photos and ever vigilant with young children leaning over the low railing.

Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls

Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls (Photo credit: rabbit75_dep, Depositphotos.com)

1. Experience Journey Behind the Falls.

Who wouldn’t love to stand behind a waterfall? The Journey Behind the Falls on the Canadian side of the falls is one of my favorite experiences at Niagara Falls. Slip on yellow ponchos to keep your family dry. Then descend in an elevator down 150 feet through bedrock to tunnels leading one-third of the way behind the falls.

There are several interpretive signs and plaques, detailing how workers built the tunnels. You’ll also find descriptions of the daredevils who plunged over (or walked above) the Falls throughout history, along with other interesting facts about Niagara Falls. There are several portals that bring you close to the roaring water. Do walk out onto the Lower Observation Deck to view the falls from below, close up. If you didn’t think Niagara Falls was impressive from above, then you’ll change your mind once you gaze at the rushing water from underneath.

Me in my sleek yellow poncho at Journey Behind the Falls

Me in my sleek yellow poncho at Journey Behind the Falls (Photo credit: Claudia Laroye)

2. Ride Maid of the Mist.

The world-famous boat ride into the mist of Niagara Falls is North America’s oldest tourist attraction. Maid of the Mist began its boat tours in 1846. Sailing on Maid of the Mist remains a must-do when visiting the falls today. The 30-minute boat ride takes you past the base of the American Falls, and then up close and personal with the Canadian side of Horseshoe Falls. You’ll see the intensity of the water flow from the double-decker boat. You’ll feel the power of the water, too. Even with your trusty poncho, the mist from the falls is inescapable. Maid of the Mist departs from the Niagara Falls Observation Tower on the New York side of the falls. The Canadian equivalent is Hornblower Niagara Cruises.

Maid of the Mist boat at Niagara Falls

Maid of the Mist boat at Niagara Falls (Photo credit: elenathewise, Depositphotos.com)

3. Explore Niagara Parkway and heritage sites in Ontario.

The Niagara Parkway and Garden Trail in Ontario winds 22 kilometers (about 13.5 miles) along the Niagara River from Niagara Falls to the very cute Niagara-on-the-Lake village. The drive offers vistas onto vineyards, the river, the Great Gorge, the Floral Clock, and some stunning heritage houses. This area was also the key location of conflict during the War of 1812 between Canada and the United States. There are many important historical sites along the route, including Laura Secord Homestead (which belonged to the Canadian heroine for which it was named) and Brock’s Monument (the site of one of the 1812 battles).

The Floral Clock at Niagara Parkway and Garden Trail in Niagara Falls, Ontario

The Floral Clock at Niagara Parkway and Garden Trail (Photo credit: dbrnjhrj, Depositphotos.com)

4. Brave the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tour.

For an exhilarating view of Niagara Falls, book a Whirlpool Jet Boat Tour. Prepare to get fully soaked as you speed along the Niagara River at 60 mph to Class 5 whitewater rapids in the Great Gorge. Be forewarned: the waterproof poncho will not save your hairdo or your clothes. This is a serious thrill-seeking adventure, but it’s operated in the safest, most fun way possible. Everyone who is over 40″ tall and in good health can ride.

Whirlpool Jet Boat Tour at Niagara Falls

Whirlpool Jet Boat Tour (Photo from: NiagaraFallsUSA.com)

5. Experience Niagara’s Fury 4D Attraction.

Niagara’s Fury in Ontario will shake you up, literally. This 4D multi-sensory attraction lets kids and adults witness the formation and creation of Niagara Falls. You’ll experience ground-shaking action, water spray, and ice age temperatures. The 6-minute “fury” comes after an 8-minute animated pre-show. This introduction explains how the Ice Age formed Niagara Falls. You will get wet, but luckily blue ponchos are provided to save you from the worst of the water. Don’t worry, they won’t actually dump a Niagara Falls-worth of water on your family. This attraction may feel scary to some young children, but most kids seem to love the adventure.

Niagara's Fury 4D attraction

Niagara’s Fury 4D attraction (Photo credit: Niagara Falls Canada)

6. Take in the views from Skylon Tower.

For the best views of Niagara Falls from the Canadian side, glide up the yellow elevator to the top of the Skylon Tower. From here, your family can take in views of the surrounding area, and the city skylines of Buffalo and Toronto. The outside observation deck offers 360-degree photo opportunities of the falls. There are two fine dining restaurants at the top: the fine-dining Skylon Tower Revolving Dining Room and the kid-friendly Skylon Suite Buffet. Also look for a 3D movie theater and a Family Fun Center.

Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls, Ontario

Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls, Ontario (Photo credit: jgorzynik, Depositphotos.com)

7. Visit Niagara Falls State Park in New York.

Niagara Falls State Park provides all sorts of adventures for families. The Visitor Center makes a great starting point for exploring the American side of Niagara Falls. Your family will enjoy the Discovery Center’s hands-on displays that teach lessons about the falls through play. Kids will especially love the towering rock climbing wall. Don’t miss movies about Niagara Falls in the onsite 180-degree theater, either. Be sure to wander through the surrounding Great Lakes Garden, which has been designed to depict the Great Lakes region above Niagara Falls. You can also learn about the nearby hiking trails and then set off to explore.

Great Lakes Garden at the Niagara Falls State Park Visitor Center

Great Lakes Garden at the Niagara Falls State Park Visitor Center (Photo credit: Niagara Falls USA)

8. Hike Niagara Gorge Hiking Trail.

The Niagara Gorge Hiking Trail makes a good choice for families. This easy 2.4-mile loop hike along the Niagara Gorge Rim and the Niagara River provides views of the many rapids on the Lower Niagara River. Wear sturdy shoes and hold young children’s hands as you make the steep descent into the gorge.

Niagara Gorge Trail in New York

Niagara Gorge Trail (Photo credit: Mark A. Wilson, Wikimedia)

9. Go to the top of Niagara Falls Observation Tower.

The deck of Niagara Falls Observation Tower‘s deck extends out over the Niagara Gorge and provides incredible views of Niagara Falls. In fact, this is the only place in Niagara Falls State Park from which you can view both the American and Horseshoe Falls at the same time. Niagara Falls Observation Tower is also known as Prospect Point Observation Tower.

Niagara Falls Observation Tower, also known as Prospect Point Observation Tower

Niagara Falls Observation Tower, also known as Prospect Point Observation Tower (Photo credit: donogl, Depositphotos.com)

10. Zip-line down Niagara Falls.

Thrill-seeking teens and kids will love Zipline to the Falls in Ontario. For a truly unusual way to take in the majesty of Niagara Falls, zip-line into the gorge, towards the base of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. You’ll soar 2,200 feet (670 meters) through the air past the American Falls before landing atop the falls observation deck at the base of the Horseshoe Falls. Now that’s a memory your family won’t soon forget! The minimum age to zip is 7. Get your Zipline to the Falls tickets now!

Zipline to the Falls

Zipline to the Falls (Photo credit: ishtygashev, Depositphotos.com)

11. Board the Niagara Scenic Trolley.

If your family wants to experience the wonder and beauty of Niagara Falls without getting wet, then Niagara Scenic Trolley is for you. A great choice for those with mobility issues, this tour makes a 3-mile loop of Niagara Falls State Park during which you’ll learn history of the park. Hop off at different stops to get a closer look at the falls as you see fit.

Niagara Scenic Trolley

Niagara Scenic Trolley (Photo from NiagaraFallsUSA.com)

12. See animals at the Aquarium of Niagara.

After experiencing Niagara Falls from every angle, families may crave entertainment beyond the falls. Aquarium of Niagara (on the New York side of the falls) features 30 animal exhibits, which are home to over 120 animal species. Be sure to check out the impressive 3,500-square-foot Penguin Coast Exhibit, where more than 20 Humboldt penguins live. Kids who enjoy “scary” animals should look for sharks, piranhas, eels and octopus. On the cuddlier side, children will enjoy seal feedings and sea lion shows at this aquarium.

Lumiere the harbor seal at Aquarium of Niagara

Lumiere the harbor seal at Aquarium of Niagara (Photo from Aquarium of Niagara’s Facebook page)

Book your Niagara Falls adventures.

There’s so much to love about a trip to Niagara Falls with kids! Make your vacation easier and even more fun by booking a group or private tour of the falls. Take a look at all of the Niagara Falls tour options available via Viator now. There are walking tours, boat rides, wine-tasting tours and more! Choose from tours that last just a few hours, an all-day experience, or book a multi-day tour.

The right accommodations can make or break a family vacation. Explore kid-friendly hotels in Ontario and family hotel options in New York near Niagara Falls.

Rideau Canal Locks in Ontario, Canada

Pilot your Le Boat houseboat through the Rideau Canal Locks in Ontario (Photo credit: urmoments, Depositphotos.com)

Learn more tips for traveling with kids.

Would you like to explore more of Ontario? Take a look at the top things to do in Ottawa with kids. For a unique vacation option, discover what it’s like to embark on Le Boat family houseboat tour of the Rideau Canal in Ontario.

If you’d like to see more of New York, be sure to read our tips for visiting New York City for the first time and about all the fun things to do in Central Park with kids. For a nature-based New York vacation, review the best family-friendly attractions in the Adirondacks.

Best Things to Do at Niagara Falls with Kids and Teens

Save these tips for visiting Niagara Falls with kids and teens!

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Have you visited Niagara Falls with kids? Share your tips and observations in the comments below!

A Note from The Curious Travel Mama: I was the guest of Niagara Parks and Tourism Ontario. This did not influence my opinions of Niagara Falls or its attractions.

About Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama

Claudia Laroye lives in Vancouver, Canada, with her husband and two sons. She started traveling at a very young age, and has never stopped. She’s had the fortune of visiting more than 20 countries on four continents, and has also lived abroad in Sweden. Claudia is passionate about family travel and about educating children through the travel experience. She is the author of the thetravellingmom.ca, and contributes to many online and print media publications. Connect with Claudia on Twitter as @travelling_mom.

Comments
  1. Lisa Goodmurphy says

    Great list of the attractions in Niagara that focus on the actual falls! We live only an hour or so from Niagara Falls so we visit a couple of times a year – and actively avoid the kitsch even with the kids along! I haven’t done Journey Behind the Falls yet – I think it’s next on our list.

    We always like to combine a visit to Niagara Falls with a detour to the charming village of Niagara-on-the-Lake for the shopping, theatre, and the world’s best ice cream – Cows! There are a number of great historic attractions in the area as well – many of them relating to the War of 1812.

  2. Claudia Laroye says

    Thanks for the comment Lisa! Agree completely about the charm of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Wish I’d been able to spend more time visiting all the shops and cafes in the village, including Cows of course.

  3. Amanda O. says

    I’ve never been to visit Niagara Falls and love this list you put together. I have always wanted to visit and hope to get the chance to soon. So many fun things for families to do there!

  4. Chasing the Donkey says

    I’ve never been… but I am adding it to the bucket list now.

  5. Do you have any suggestions for those who are only able to visit the US side of the Falls?

  6. Lots more to do than just the NP, skylon tower and jetboats…

  7. Hershey Park says

    I have never been visited the niagra falls but hope to visit soon.

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