Last week, Will and I packed up the car with snacks and took a drive to Niagara Falls for a quick getaway. We were visiting my sister and her family in New Jersey and decided Niagara Falls would make the perfect little side trip. Looking back, a 6 hour drive from NJ through Pennsylvania and upstate NY is not exactly a “quick” drive. But we decided to go for it anyways.
If you have never been to Niagara Falls, I would definitely add it to your bucket list. Sure it has a lot of tourists and parts of the Canadian side was really tacky, filled with casinos and arcades, but man it really is the most massive waterfall I have ever seen, and probably ever will see. It is powerful, jaw dropping, and magical. And it made us really think about how amazing nature is and how little we really are in this big universe. I love a trip that always gets me pondering life.
To give you a quick run down and recap of what we did shouldn’t take too long. We decided since we had Bear (4 months old) and Liam (who is 3 but easily distracted and could care less about a lot of this), that we wouldn’t do too many of the side excursions, as well as skipping all the caves and journeys that take you closer to rushing water. But for those of you who really want to do everything and anything in Niagara there are zip line tours over the water, helicopter tours, white water rapid trips, and hikes that go behind the water fall. You could probably spend an entire week here. But like I said, we had two young kids and only two half days. So we kept it simple and still ended up having a great time. Here was our itinerary:
Day One: “the Canadian side” Niagara, Ontario, Canada
- take the Niagara Incline Railway from hotel down to the falls
- stop by the Table Rock Welcome Center
- walk to promenade and see Horseshoe Falls
- walk down to Queen Victoria Park to view Bridal Veil Falls and the American Falls across the river
- dinner at The Secret Garden, sit outdoors with a view
- walk along Clifton Hill Road
- mini golf at Dinosaur Adventure Park (because, ya know, 3 year old)
- firework show at 10pm every night, view from our hotel room
Day Two: “The American Side” Niagara Falls State Park, NY
- head back over Rainbow Bridge to NY
- park at Niagara Falls State Park
- Maid of the Mist boat tour (first trip was at 9am)
- walk up the Prospect Point Observation Tower
- walk to Terrapin Point to view back side of Bridal Falls
- walk to Goat Island to see different view of the falls, great spot for catching rainbows in the morning
Tips/recommendations we took with us:
- parking is crazy. Luckily our hotel offered parking (for $18) on day one. The parking lots at the state park costs $10 for the day but they fill up early, which is why we decided to do the American side on day two. We left our hotel at 7:30am and were parked by 8:00am. We had no trouble getting a spot but I did notice when we walked back to the car around 10 to put away the stroller and changes our shoes, we saw that the lots were both entirely full.
- get your tickets for Maid of the Mist on line in advance or just get there early like we did. The first ride is at 9am, we took the 10am boat ride and our boat wasn’t too crowded which was nice. The boat also does a full turn when it gets to the falls so no matter what side you stand on the boat, you get a good view. And a nice sprinkle of water!
- really try if you can to do both the American side and the Canadian side. They are both so different. The American side is a state park and I actually liked this better. The view from there is more of the back side of the falls or the side of the falls. The Canadian side has more of a nicer view of the falls straight on but you are viewing it from a wide sidewalk next to a road with tons of other tourists so the “ambiance” of the viewing areas is now always as nice.
- if you want to catch the light show/fireworks, they do it every night in the summer rain or shine but they start promptly at 10pm and it was no more than 10ish minutes long. So if that is something you really want to see from outside don’t be late! We missed this because the kids were spent and both were in the hotel bed sleeping but I was able to look out our window and see some of the fireworks.
- catch a rainbow! this was one of our favorite things to see. I was told you can catch this in the early morning from the mist on the American side. And they were right! So glad we got to catch a rainbow and another reason why you want to save the American side for early in the morning.
- wear your toddler or bring a stroller. Liam is very good about “hold daddy’s hand!” but a year ago or even a few months ago, he wasn’t. There are so many tourists and even though there is fencing everywhere, it can still be nerve wracking especially on the Canadian side walking between a road with cars driving fast and then a powerful river on the other side. I wore Bear for almost the entire trip in either my sling or my Ergo carrier (except for a brief walk on the American side at the state park). And Will carried/held hands with Liam the entire time. If you have three or more kids that are younger than 3 years old, I suggest take another adult. I might sound dramatic but seriously, there’s a lot going on!
- bring a wide angle lens for your camera. And don’t hesitate to ask strangers to take a photo for you and offer to take one for them in return. I haven’t gotten much better at this and then I don’t have to lug a tripod if I want a family photo.
I had so much fun making this video, recapping our trip. If you are fans of The Office, you might remember that Jim and Pam decided to go with “Plan C” for their wedding day and elope to the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls. This video is a homage to that wonderfully fun episode. And it’s just a great song! So enjoy!