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Niagara Falls, Family Vacation Ideas - Skylon Tower, Parrots, and Maid of the Mist. For at least sixty years I have wanted to see the falls that connect Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Last July I made it to the Canadian side of the falls and enjoyed seeing it from all angles while listening to my granddaughters exclaim with amazement…"Look Grandma, look!" Our holiday included a six days in Ontario before heading off to New Brunswick. Three of those days were spent in Niagara Falls.

As I review my journal notes I see notations about the heat but none of us remember that part of the vacation. What we remember was most enjoyable. And my grandkids only remember fun from the moment of our arrival.

We parked the car and it did not move for three days. Niagara has a marvelous people mover system, called the Niagara Falls Shuttle Transit. It is efficient and makes getting about effortless. It runs every day from 9am until 2am and goes where kids want to go. The advantage for us was obvious because I want to rest at mid-day, when possible, and the kids do not.  With my shuttle pass I left them to their resources and met up with them for tea at 4pm.

After checking, even though it was almost 9pm, we headed for the falls. At night the area is light with colored lights that create a moving rainbow until well after midnight. I was surprised at the number of people strolling along the pathway near the river's edge. The heavy mist of the falling water makes the walkway continually wet. Some visitors attempt to stay dry by wearing curious plastic garments while others just enjoy the mist. We walked and talked and tried to take photos. Note: There is a charge for the incline railway and if you do not have loonies they will exchange dollars.

There are many ways and places to see and experience the falls. I think if you have time they are all worth doing. For sure the IMAX movie is worth the time because it gives the history of the area and recounts the many daredevils that went over the falls. In the lobby are some of the containers that were actually used. Kids' Comment: One of the coolest people to go over the falls was a sixty-three year old school teacher. She took her cat with her and they made it.

On our first full day as we walked the length of the ridge on the Canadian side of the falls, we kept seeing people in yellow raincoats descending stairways to the water’s edge. We wondered what they were doing? Later while standing in line for the Maid of the Mist boat excursion we listened to a family who had just completed the hike. The yellow raincoats go behind the Horseshoe Falls. They told us it was very exciting and wet. The children grinned from ear to ear. I learned that this only one of the ways the Park Service allows visitors to view the falls. There is also a Spanish Aero Car, really a gondola looking contraption that swings out over the rushing waters. Kids' Comments: Going under the falls is a blast. First you get the yellow rain coats. Everybody does. Then you have to follow the guide down lots of steps. At the bottom everybody goes into a very long tunnel. At the end is the falls. The sound is so huge that nobody should talk because nobody can hear anything but the water. The water in the air feels very cold. Then the guide gives a signal and everybody has to go back.

The lines for the Maid of the Mist are often very long. It is something almost everyone visiting the falls considers doing. After watching the boats disappear into the mist more than once, we could not pass up the chance. Like every other excited tourist waiting in line, we put our translucent blue costumes on while still standing behind the gate on the concrete. We all looked a little bit like minnows boarding the boat, very warm minnows. The boat ride itself lasts not more than 30 minutes. The turn at the edge of the falls lasts a very short time so pay attention. It was worth it because it gives a new perspective to the size and power of the water. Kids' Comments: Really try to get to the front of the boat. It is where the most water will be. It is very noisy and everybody pushes so don't get scared.

Because our time was short and I wanted to see all I could I arranged for a city tour. The arranging took little effort since all I did was ask the receptionist at the front desk to get reservations. Holiday VIP Tours has a circuit that picks visitors up from their hotels. So boarded a motor coach and took a tour of the area. Even the grandkids wanted to go.

Jack Forrest, our guide filled the next few hours with history, trivia, corny jokes and conveyed plenty of hometown pride. During the tour we stopped at Skylon Tower and ascended to view the setting sun. We made a stop at the lovely gardens and had our picture taken at the flower clock. The pace was lively and there were a number of other families onboard. Our guide was open to questions and he received plenty and always had an interesting reply.

As our city tour concluded our guide volunteered to drop off visitors along the route back to the hotels. We asked to be dropped in front of Planet Hollywood. (I try to relate to my grand kids.) The building looked striking, actually impressive at night. Even before I reached the entrance my teenaged grand daughter had determined it was not for us. Her words to me indicated something about bad acoustics and a 2-hour wait. I did notice that they have outdoor dining with a dramatic view of the American Falls.

As I wondered what next she made it clear that our only option to head for our old standby, The Hard Rock Café. With everyone in agreement we set out. She knew it was located not far from Casino Niagara and we could see the casino. As we approached it seemed to me that it was larger than others we have eaten in before. Yet we all knew it would still have the quality and atmosphere that is necessary to make three generations happy. Best of all, they offer a 10% discount for AAA members if you show your card and ask. Our evening was great. It was almost midnight before we boarded the people mover to go back to our hotel. We boarded like old pros without giving a second thought. The next day I knew we would all sleep late.

Niagara Falls is a place that is perfect for three generations. There is plenty for everyone to do, either together or separately. The walking paths a well maintained and the people mover idea is excellent and a blessing for families. I did not even think the souvenirs were overpriced. My advice is that if you have not been at least once, make plans to go. Now that I have seen Niagara Falls with my grandkids, it’s time to tackle the pyramids!

Family Friendly Eating Places

Biffy's Restaurant: This family casual restaurant is located next to The Vacation Inn. It is a friendly, family kind of place. They serve ample portions and have and an enticing kid's menu. The staff is friendly and helpful even when they are very busy. (905) 354-2100 or 

"Oh, Canada Eh?" Dinner Show: Located on Lundy's Lane they provide a dinner show with a sense of spirit and humor. The music is great and the meals are served family style. This is a good idea if you live in the US and wish to introduce your children to Canada. Sometimes it is tough to explain that it is a foreign country and not a really big state just North of New York or Maine. (8585 Lundy’s Lane, Niagara Falls L2H 1H5. (905) 374-1995 or toll-free 1-800-467-2071 or  

Hard Rock Café: It is located at the front of the casino. This is one chain that all three generations can agree on. We all like the music and enjoy the clever menu items. Make sure to ask for the AAA member discount. (5701 Falls Avenue, Niagara Falls L3E 6W7. 1(905) 356-ROCK or

Skylon Tower: Located next to the walkway along the falls this is probably the best view of the area. The viewing platform is more than 750 feet above the falls and on a clear day you can see forever. It offers a very good view of the converging waters as well as the US side of the falls. There is a revolving restaurant and also a buffet style dining area that does not rotate. Note: The elevators are slow but the view is worth the wait. At the very least you can review the kid's menu choices before getting on the elevator. (5200 Robinson Street, Niagara Falls L2G 2A3.1(905) 356-2651 or toll-free 1-888-275-9714 or 

Best Activities and Attractions

Maid of the Mist. The trip takes passengers along the American side of the water basin and almost up to the Horseshoe of the Canadian Falls. Blue rain jackets are provided but it is earplugs that are needed. This is a very popular thing to do, so either go early or be one of the last. We saw very long lines and the line once you have paid is still similar to a Disney experience. Kid's Note: Watch the line and make sure you are one of the first to board the boat. Go right to the front by the edge. It will be the wettest and the loudest and the best. (5920 River Road, Niagara Falls, L2E 6V6. (905) 358-5781 or

Imax Theater at Niagara Falls.  See the film "Niagara: Miracles, Myths, and Magic" before you ride the Maid of the Mist. It provides excitement and history and is very neat. There were several people who went over the falls and lived, including a boy who did it by mistake. There was also a grandmother who did it just for fun. (6170 Fallsview Boulevard, Niagara Falls, L2G 7T8. (905) 358-3611 or 

Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory. Located on the Niagara Parkway this facility is a delight. The flights of the butterflies will sooth anyone. The pathways wind among a very natural habitat. One of the most interesting places is a birthing area where cocoons hang in various stages of progression. Note: The Niagara Parks Commission has an Explorer's Passport that allows for easy access to plenty of day adventure by allowing the use of the Niagara Parks People Movers. (2405 Niagara Parkway, Niagara Falls. (905) 358-0025 or

Shaw Festival. Not far from Niagara is Niagara-on-the-Lake and the home of the Shaw Festival. Great theatre with many choices suitable for families. (10 Queens Parade, Niagara-on-the-Lake, L0S 1J0. (905) 468-2171, toll-free 1-800-511-7429 or 

Stratford Festival Theatre. Open from May through November offering excellent theatre for all ages. We agree with this. The plays are excellent. (55 Queen Street, Stratford N5A 4M9. (519) 271-4040 ortoll-free 1-800-567-1600 or

© 2016 Content researched and posted by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for  Images provided by Canadian Tourism Commission.

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