Niagara Falls With Kids: A Guide to Visiting the New York Side
Niagara Falls is the perfect family friendly destination, whether you are visiting the American or Canadian Side. While it goes without saying that the monstrous waterfalls are the main attraction, it would be a total fallacy not to mention the plenty of other fun, historical, and exciting attractions in the area. Dive in and discover the great attractions, dining options, and accommodations when visiting Niagara Falls with kids!
What To Do in and Around Niagara Falls With Kids:
Take a Whirlpool Jet Boat Tour
A Whirlpool Jet Boat Tour is a unique way to see one of the lesser known areas along the Niagara River. The 45 minute boat tour will take you up the Niagara Gorge, to the Whirlpool, and then back north through the Devil’s Hole Rapids.
Children as young as four (who are at least 40 inches tall) are able to go on the Jet Dome Trip and children as young as 6 (who are at least 44 inches tall) are able to go on the Wet Jet Trip. Tours are $72.95 for adults and $44.95 for children.
Be warned…if you choose to do the Wet Jet Tour you will get wet…and not just a little wet. Expect to be soaked! (Bring a change of clothes)
Visit the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens
The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens is located a little outside of Niagara Falls, at 25 miles, but is worth the drive. The gardens include a large indoor conservatory and an outdoor surrounding grounds. The grounds are also lined with several greenhouses that are interconnected.
Visitors to the gardens can enjoy a self guided tour throughout the gardens and grounds. There are many exhibits to be enjoyed, including the Palm Dome, Aquatic Garden, Asian Rainforest, Cacti and Succulents, Panama Cloud Forest, and more! Throughout the year you can also find different events and activities, such as Gardens After Dark, Feed the Fish, hands on workshops, and a Christmas themed event.
The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens are open year-round and daily from 10am to 4pm. Tickets are $11 for adults, $9 for students with ID 13+ years, and $6 for kids 3-12. Parking is free.
Lockport Caves and Underground Boat Ride
The Lockport Caves and Underground Boat Ride is a short, 30 minute drive from Niagara Falls, but is the perfect attraction when visiting Niagara Falls with kids. The tour includes a combination of an outdoor walk along the Erie Canal and underground boat ride that kids of any age can enjoy.
The adventure begins with a walking tour of “The Flight of Five,” five restored Erie Canal Locks, Locks 34 & 35 that took boats 60 ft. uphill through the Niagara Escarpment ridge of rock, and explore industrial ruins. You will then be treated to an underground boat ride through the Erie Canal and walk through The Hydraulic Tunnel, a 2,100 ft. tunnel that was blasted out to provide water power for industrial businesses.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the underground boat tour is not currently being offered. The walking tour is still available daily from 10am to 4pm. Tickets are $16.25 for adults 14+, $11.25 for children ages 6-13, and $3.50 for children 5 and under.
Ride the Niagara Scenic Trolley
This inexpensive tour will provide you with a peaceful ride along the Niagara Falls State Park and give you some highlights of the area’s history and most popular attractions. One of the best parts, the trolley ride alone will be enough to give your kids an enjoyable and memorable experience.
The Niagara Scenic Trolley is a hop on/hop off experience and makes it easy to enjoy Niagara’s best attractions. The trolley is air conditioned during the summer months and heated in the winter months, so it can be enjoyed any time of year!
Tours on the trolley are offered daily from 10am to 4pm. The tour is $3 for adults, $2 for kids 6-12, and free for kids 5 and under.
Take a Maid of the Mist Boat Ride
The Maid of the Mist Boat Ride is a twenty minute boat ride that takes you up and close and personal with the falls. The boat ride takes you past the American Falls and below the Horseshoe Falls while enjoying the mist from the falls cooling you off on a warm summer day (you will get wet!). The ride does include a Niagara branded poncho to protect your clothing.
The Maid of the Mist boat ride is $22.25 for adults and $13 for children 6 to 12. Children 5 and under are free. The hours vary depending on the time of year, but tours leave approximately every 15 minutes. Hours vary depending on the season.
- July 6th to September 4th: 10am to 5pm (Mon.-Thurs.) & 9am to 6pm (Friday-Sunday)
- September 8th to November 8th: 10am to 4pm daily
Visit the Cave of the Winds
The Cave of the Wind experience allows visitors to stand near the foot of the American and Bridal Veil falls. The experience begins with a 175 ft. elevator ride down into the Niagara Gorge. At the end of the ride you will be greeted by a series of stairways and wooden walkways that will take you to Hurricane Deck, 20 ft. from the foot of Bridal Veil Falls. The Cave of the Winds experience is located on Goat Island.
A poncho is provided for this experience as visitors can expect to get wet with the mist from the falls.
Cave of the Winds is open daily from 10am to 3pm. Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for children 6-12, and free for children 5 and under.
Explore Old Fort Niagara
Old Fort Niagara sits inside the Fort Niagara State Park, overlooking the Niagara River and Lake Ontario. The fort once played an important role in the region as it sat at the access point to the Finger Lakes. It has been occupied by three nations, including France, Great Britain, and the US.
Visitors to the fort can enjoy exploring the grounds, view a number of exhibits, and enjoy living history programs.
Admission to the fort is $15 for adults and $10 for children aged 6 to 12 years. Children 5 and under are free. The fort is open 10am to 4pm Wednesdays through Sunday.
Explore Ocean Life at the Aquarium of Niagara
The Aquarium of Niagara takes visitors into the depths of the seas to explore marine life, from penguins to seahorses to piranhas to the whitespotted bamboo shark. Aside from the exhibits, the aquarium also offers several animal encounter options, including a penguin encounter, seal encounter, and be a trainer for a day program.
Several presentations are also offered throughout the day and include penguin feeding, rescue harbor seal presentations, the discovery cart with interactive displays, and the sea lion show.
Admission to the aquarium is $19.95 for adults, $14.95 for children aged 3-12, and free for children two and under. The aquarium is open daily from 9am to 5pm.
Take A Walk on the Observation Deck
The Niagara Falls Observation Tower offers stunning views of both the American and Horseshoe Falls. The tower features an elevator that will take you down to the Maid of the Mist loading dock and the observation deck that you can walk out onto for stunning views.
The Observation Tower is open Sunday through Thursday 8:30am to 7pm and Friday & Saturday 8:30am to 8pm. The entry fee is $1.25, or if you choose to take the Maid of the Mist boat ride admission is included.
See the Nightly Illumination
Every night the falls turn into a stunning array of colors, ranging from purple to blue to red. On some nights, along with the illuminations you will also be treated to a fireworks display, depending on the season.
There is no cost to view the illumination. Hours vary depending on the time of year, but generally range between 6pm and 2am.
Visit the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center & Hiking Trails
The Niagara Gorge Discovery Center & Hiking Trails features a combination of indoor exhibits and outdoor hiking trails. The discovery center features exhibits that showcase the history of the Niagara gorge with hands-on experiences that the kids will love, a 180 degree theater, and a rock climbing wall.
The hiking trails begin at the Niagara Gorge Trailhead center, which offers access to hiking and biking trails through and around the gorge. You will find a combination of easy trails, such as the Great Gorge Scenic Overlook Hike, and more difficult hikes with steep staircases, such as the Whirlpool Rapids Adventure Hike. Choose the most appropriate trail for the hikers in your travel party and enjoy all that the gorge has to offer visitors!
Entrance to the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center is $3 for adults, $2 for children age 6-12, and free for children under 5.
Visit Goat Island
Goat Island is a small island sitting on the Niagara River between the Bridal Veil Falls and the Horseshoe Falls that gives you some great views of all three waterfalls. Goat Island is a heavily wooded area where the natural wildlife of the area has been undisturbed. Goat Island can be reached from the pedestrian bridge just before the American Falls or by car.
The island was once home to a herd of goats owned by John Steadman. The winter of 1780 brought about the demise of that herd, but was the origin of the name of the island. The island has a long history of being preserved and was added in as a part of the Niagara Falls State Park in 1885.
There is no admission fee for Goat Island, but you will have to pay the parking fee.
Wander Old Falls Street
Old Falls Street USA is Niagara Fall’s best location for shopping and festivals. Old Falls Street USA contains three blocks connecting Niagara Falls State Park with The Conference & Event Center Niagara Falls. Throughout the year visitors can find different events going on, such as seasonal food vending, festivals, concerts and family-friendly activities. You can also find outdoor games and interactive toys geared at all age levels.
You can also find many stores and shops along the way and nearby where you can purchase some great souvenirs to take home with you. The proximity of this street to the Niagara Falls State Park makes it the perfect place to go looking for some tasty lunch!
Visit Whirlpool State Park
The Whirlpool State Park’s main feature is the Whirlpool along the Niagara River. There are two levels within the park, including the upper level and lower level. The upper level contains several overlook areas, a picnic area, and playground. This section of the park is more appropriate with younger children.
The lower level can be reached by a staircase and will take you to trails that follow along the Whirlpool rapids. From there you can return to the staircase to Whirlpool State Park, or continue on the Devil’s Hole trail and take the staircase up into Devil’s Hole State Park if you are looking for more of a hike. You can then take the gorge rim trail back to Whirlpool State Park.
The park is open year-round from dawn to dusk. Entrance to the park is free of charge.
Where To Eat In Niagara Falls With Kids:
Top of the Falls Restaurant
The Top of the Falls Restaurant is the perfect restaurant for a combination of great food and a stunning view. The Top of the Falls Restaurant is located on Goat Island and offers views of the Horseshoe falls through floor to ceiling windows or outdoor dining decks.
The restaurant is partnered with Taste NY, a program focused on promoting locally made products, with the menu featuring American and classic dishes, including fish and chips, burgers, fries, and pasta.
Rainforest Cafe Niagara Falls
The Rainforest Cafe is a fun and vibrant dining experience that the whole family will love. The restaurant features stunning decor, with animatronic snakes, elephants, and gorillas and sound effects with an indoor thunder storm occuring every 1/2 hour.
The menu includes classic American food, such as burgers, pastas, and sandwiches. There is a complete kids menu complete with souvenir light-up glasses you can order.
Michael’s Restaurant is an Italian and American food combination restaurant with excellent customer service, making it the perfect place to eat when visiting Niagara Falls with kids. The menu includes a selection of kid-friendly appetizers, including pizza logs and mozzarella sticks.
The main menu is extensive with choices including a variety of soups and salads, a variety of pasta dishes, meat dishes including pork chops, liver, and veal, plenty of specialty sandwich selections, pizza, and wings. With so many great options, even the pickiest eater in your family will find something they love!
Bakery Restaurant and Lounge
The Bakery Restaurant and Lounge is a more upscale dining option, but a full kids menu is offered, including classics such as mac and cheese, grilled cheese, and chicken tenders. The restaurant is just 2 miles from Niagara Falls State Park, making it the perfect quick detour.
The menu offers plenty of seafood options, poultry options, salads, pasta dishes, steaks, BBQ dishes, burgers, and sandwiches. There are also plenty of dessert items, including cheesecake, chocolate mousse, fried apple pie, and ice cream sundaes.
Where to Stay In Niagara Falls With Kids:
Red Coach Inn
The Red Coach Inn is located in perfect proximity to the Niagara Falls State Park. The inn offers two bedroom and two bathroom suites which are perfect for families traveling with kids. The inn is just 500 yards away from the Upper Rapids and offers some great views of the rapids and river. The architecture alone is reasons enough to visit this inn, styled after the Bell Inn in Finedon, England.
In addition to great rooms and a great view, the inn also offers an All American Tour Package, which includes many of the areas main attractions and ways to see the falls, including the Maid of the Mist boat tour, Cave of the Winds, Niagara River Gorge, and many more of the top sights. The package also includes guided tours.
Sheraton Niagara Falls
Sheraton Niagara Falls is one of the best accommodation options for visiting Niagara Falls with kids. The hotel offers suites and bunk bed rooms, perfect sleeping accommodations for the kiddos.
Sheraton Niagara Falls offers plenty of activities for kids, including the Reef Beach Club and indoor pool, At the Falls Arcade, and Rainforest Café. The hotel is also located within close proximity to many of the great attractions in Niagara Falls, including the Niagara Falls Aquarium, Niagara Gorge hiking trails, and Niagara Falls State Park.
Courtyard Niagara Falls
Courtyard Niagara Falls is located along the Niagara River just outside of Niagara Falls State Park. The hotel offers great views of the river and rapids and offers an indoor swimming pool and fitness center. The hotel offers two queen bed rooms and one bedroom suites in a modern style.
The onsite dining option-The Bistro, offers breakfast and light dinner options, cocktails, and Starbucks coffee for those who need that extra jolt in the morning.
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I’ve been to Niagara Falls several times, and I actually have a blog post that I haven’t posted yet. I have been to a lot of these attractions but have never heard of others. You added a lot of unique information that I think most people wouldn’t know about otherwise. Great post!
There is really so much to do at the Niagara falls other than taking in the sight of the spectacular falls. The Lockport Underwater boat ride and the maid of the mist boat ride are what we would love to do, surely the stuff that dreams are made of.
I’ve always wanted to see Niagara Falls but had heard that the town itself doesn’t have much going for it, so I really appreciate this round up. Sounds like there’s plenty going on in that area to necessitate a trip! I’d definitely want to see the Old Fort and the Botanical Gardens!
wow, I really enjoyed reading this. I have been twice to Niagara falls and in both I crossed the border to the Canadian side, knowing it is “more interesting”. Now I realized how many things I have missed. Especially I like the underground boat and the old fort. Not only for kids 🙂
This is an excellent post – thank you! I have done about half of what you suggest and completely agree, those are worth it with or without kids. The Botanical Gardens were on my list for the next visit and I have now added the Lockport Caves and Underground Boat Ride. This sound amazing.
Yeees I love Niagara falls already, but it is the perfect place to really blow kids minds – I can totally see why they would love it.
The Cave of the Winds was my favorite part- there is something extra amazing being soooo close to such an epic waterfall. And because its always fun to wear a poncho and get completely soaked! 😀
Wow, the Observation Deck is so cheap!! That is a must for anyone visiting Niagara Falls for sure. We don’t have kids yet but I would love to hike along the Niagara Gorge and definitely check out the Whirlpool State Park! The views you captured are breathtaking for sure!
I have never been to Niagra falls but I heard/read that its better from Canadian side. Would love to experience it from both sides some day.
We were supposed to travel to the Canadian side last June – obviously that didn’t happen – maybe we’ll make it next year. Some lovely ideas in this piece.
Hi Sarah, I hope you can make it! It is a great place to visit