Sunday, June 2, 2013

Niagara Falls

I was born in England but moved to Canada when I was a baby.  Being an immigrant in Canada means that you play tour guide to visiting relatives and the first thing every tourist wants to see is Niagara Falls.  So, I have been to Niagara Falls probably 20 times in my life, accompanying various relatives over the years.

That's me in the blue skirt along with my mom and sister, shortly after moving to Canada.

Having said that, I hadn't been to Niagara Falls in several years since I have exhausted my supply of English relatives, at least for now.  One of the seven natural wonders of the world in our own backyard and I hadn't taken my kids to see it!  Obviously, it was time for a day trip!
Hey look!  Niagara Falls.
You can't see her, but my mom is holding my daughter up to see the Falls and now
I am singing this in my head.  
The Falls are as majestic as ever, still 58 km in length and still 168,000 cubic metres of water go over the Falls every minute.  Still, there is only so long you can expect small children to stare in awe at a water fall.  So, once you are done looking at the Falls you will need to wander off and find something else to do too.  Luckily, there is no shortage of things to do in Niagara Falls.  In fact, there are so many that I will write about them in several posts.
Going Up
One thing that is right by the Falls is, the fancifully named, Inclined Railway, which is a little, uh, elevator thingie that takes people who are staying in the hotels up on the hill up to the top of said hill.  That is all it does but for some reason my kids were very keen to try it out so there they are on it.

Nothing like a good climbing tree.
There is also a stretch of park right by the Falls where you can let the kids run around and stretch their legs after a long car ride.

I am pretty sure I sat in this very chair when I was their age.
Once you are done with the area right around the Falls you can head to Clifton Hill, the main drag, which has changed very little since the 1980's.  Some of the restaurants and fun houses have changed hands but the side show vibe  is still pretty much the same as it was thirty years ago.

Same with this thing.
We opted for the Big Fun Value Pass which allows you to visit three out of the following attractions on Clifton Hill:  Guinness World Records Museum, The Fun House, The Haunted House, Brick City, Mystery Maze and Bronto's Adventure Playland. We picked Brick City, Bronto's Adventure Playland and the Fun House.   The pass would cost about $80 for a family of four.

The sideways room in the Fun House, everything is slanted at about a 30 degree angle.
 I am bad at math so I could be off by as much as, oh, 50 degrees.  
They were all... fine.  The Fun House was the biggest hit with my kids.  They loved the slanted sideways room and the giant balls and the glow in the dark room, so that one I might pay the money for if I had to do it again.  I was expecting Brick City to be like LegoLand but it was just a really big room with some really elaborate lego displays. The displays were great but you can't touch them or interact with them in any way so  not the most exciting for little kids.  They do have some stations for kids to build their own things but if I want to watch my kid play with lego I can do that at home for free.

Ball popping machine at Bronto's Playland.
Bronto's Playland was fine but if you stay at Fallsview Inn (which we did) you get a bunch of coupons for mini golf and an indoor playground so you don't need to spend the extra money on this one.  

Fun house mirrors outside the Guinness Museum
My kids had as much fun outside the Guinness Museum as they did inside the other attractions, what with the giant chair, the fat suit, fun house mirrors and funky water fountain.  The street itself is pretty fun with all of the people and things to see.
Rainforest Cafe
As for food, you can either eat somewhere like Wendy's or at an over priced sit down restaurant. My mom treated us to lunch at the Rainforest Cafe which the kids loved but not because of the food.  The food is no better than any other "family style" restaurant and it is really expensive. The fact that their menu doesn't have prices should act as a warning! I think our lunch came to over $80 and the kids had hotdogs and pizza and I don't even remember what I had so it can't have been very memorable.  The fish tank and fountains and animatronic snake are all fun so if you have a grandparent willing to pay, go right ahead, otherwise, Wendy's is just up the road.

Highlight of the trip?  Getting to stay up late to see the Falls at night. 

My oldest daughter was very keen to see the Falls at night so we stayed up late and wandered along Clifton Hill, popping into candy stores and peeking into various fun looking places.  Honestly, my kids liked this just as much as the places we paid to go into so keep that in mind if your kids are young.  The atmosphere and excitement of Niagara Falls is usually enough to entertain little kids.

Soaking wet and happy as a clam.
My kids are up at the crack of dawn, even if they have stayed up late the night before to see the Falls.  So, my kids are up and done breakfast long before anything is open which means that I am faced with the dilemma of what to do with them until things do open. We went for an early morning walk and discovered a little park right across from our hotel which had some nice ponds and plants.  They also had the sprinklers going to water the lawns so my kids had a blast running through the sprinklers at about 8:00 in the morning.

A couple of things to keep in mind when visiting Niagara Falls and Clifton Hill with kids:
  • The parking lot for the Falls is quite far away from the actual Falls so be prepared or a hike.
  • Parking is usually around $25
  • The Falls and Clifton Hill are both very busy so you will need to keep a close eye on your kids. If you lose them on Clifton Hill, you will have a job and a half trying to find them again.
  • Everything costs a fortune so talk to your kids before hand about what you will spend money on and what you won't so that they nag you slightly less than they will otherwise.
  • If you see Nightmares Fear Factory or somewhere like it and think, "oh hey, my kids like the Boo Blaster, they'll love this!"  Yeah, no, think again, my friend.  This picture gallery of grown men and women screaming in terror as they make their way through the place should give you some idea of how scary these places are. I went as an adult and I was clinging for dear life to the complete strangers who were in my little group.  They are a ton of fun for teenagers and up though.
You can easily spend more than a day at Niagara Falls and not run out of things to do, so you might want to consider one of the hotel packages available and make a weekend of it.

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