Family Trip To Niagara Falls With a Teen by Robin Gorman Newman

To this day, I can remember my family trip to Niagara Falls as a kid.  We rode the iconic Maid of the Mist where we all got soaked and had a great time.

Life has a way of coming full circle, and my son, 15, decided that this would be the summer of Canada.  So, recalling my fond childhood vacation memories, we booked a trip to Niagara Falls, and added in Niagara on the Lake, and Toronto (which I blogged about here).

We opted to stay on the Canadian side of the Falls, as friends had told us that was the place to be.  We chose the Marriott Fallsview Hotel & Spa and had a great view of the Falls from our room, which was especially cool to watch at night when brightly illuminated.  It felt almost like a meditative experience.

But, watching from our window was not enough. We wanted to of course get up close ‘n personal.  So, my husband, Marc, my son, Seth, and I went for the gusto and booked tickets for both Maid of the Mist and the Hornblower Fireworks Cruise.

The Maid of the Mist was an absolute drenching hoot!  They give you thin blue plastic ponchos, but inevitably, you will still get wet (to put it mildly)….and honestly…it was welcome, in light of the extreme humidity.  The views were jaw-dropping with endless photo opportunities.  My son had the best time and put his GoPro camera to good use.  We laughed and made our own indelible memories….which for me is always the hope of a family vacation.

Next up that night was the Hornblower cruise.  This boat departed from the Canadian side, which was convenient.  They gave you red ponchos, and the vibe was that of a party boat.  A bit of a scene, and it felt somehow more crowded than Maid of the Mist, but the views of the fireworks and lit-up roaring falls were truly magnificent.

We were graciously offered special Encounter Niagara Passes (by Destination Niagara USA). which were good for complimentary experiences  including Cave of the Winds, Niagara Adventure Theatre, Aquarium of Niagara, etc.  Unfortunately,  we wound up not taking advantage because it was so hot, and we did more walking than expected so needed some downtime.  But, there are so many ways to explore the beauty of the falls, including for those on the adventurous side.

In order to get to the Maid of the Mist, we had opted to walked across the bridge from the Canadian to American side (passing through customs).  Traffic across the bridge was fairly heavy and slow, so we thought this was the best option.  Seth got a kick out of walking from Canada to the U.S. and back again, passports in tow.

Aside from the Falls themselves, we squeezed in a bit of souvenir shopping time along Clifton Hill. I described it jokingly to a friend as Coney Island meets Times Square on steroids!  Tons of fast food and chain restaurants,   souvenir shops, rides, games, etc.  Definitely a bit of sensory overload, but your child will not be bored if you need a break from seeing the Falls.

The next day, we visited Bird Kingdom. From their website…. Bird Kingdom is the World’s Largest Free-Flying Indoor Aviary. Discover hundreds of tropical birds as you explore the pathways throughout the multi-level rainforest. Meet friendly parrots and exotic animals at Bird Kingdom’s Animal Encounters. Explore the ruins of the Night Jungle that is home to curious owls, bats and fascinating creatures. Lorikeet Landing provides an unforgettable experience where you may feed and interact with the playful lorikeet birds.

I have to be honest…Bird Kingdom did not knock our socks off…..but being major bird lovers, we felt compelled to visit, and young kids might enjoy.

As we left Niagara Falls and drove to Niagara on the Lake, we could see why this destination was so highly recommended to us, and we were glad it was.  We passed scenic wineries to arrive in a town that has so much charm ‘n character.  Excellent restaurants, interesting shops, and some of the most beautiful flower arrangements adorning the streets. And, it is home to the annual Shaw Festival.  Being a theatre-loving family, we couldn’t resist taking in a show and feeling like one of the locals.

We stayed at the lovely and welcoming Greenview B&B (highly recommend), and if Niagara on the Lake were closer to our home, it’s a place I could definitely see having a summer house or visiting with regularity, just to chill.

Before we made our way to Toronto, we visited the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton.  This is a fascinating museum!  Seth adored checking out the planes and learning the history.  I have to say that having a son definitely invites me to explore things I might not otherwise, this being one such place, and it is a must visit!  They feature special events including film screenings, a classic car show, and more.  There are interactive displays, flight simulators and special aircraft rides…all making it a great family destination.

From their website….The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum was founded in 1972 and is a non-profit organization whose mandate is to acquire, document, preserve and maintain a complete collection of aircraft that were flown by Canadians and the Canadian military from the beginning of World War II to the present. Our role is to preserve the artifacts, books, periodicals and manuals relating to this mandate. The Museum now houses almost fifty aircraft, an extensive aviation Gift Shop and Exhibit Gallery.

Further enroute to Toronto, and being a shopping fan, we couldn’t resist at the outlets at Mississauga (where my son did some retail damage at Under Armour – the dollar is strong in Canada now). We later learned that Mississauga is a town famous for two towers fondly referred to by locals as the Marilyn Monroe towers because of their flowing curves.  An Uber driver in Toronto shared this quirky factoid.

It’s easy to see why Niagara Falls has stood the test of time as a destination, whether for families, couples or others.  You don’t need many nights there, but a visit will leave an imprint on you, and I’m grateful we had the opportunity to take my son and perhaps one day he will visit again if he has children of his own.




Note: Our visits to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum and Bird Kingdom were hosted, but our opinions are our own.