Visiting Niagara Falls over March Break is clearly a popular tradition for many families, as it is for ours, because the various water parks in the area are all packed with little ones seeking wave pools and warm water fun inside. It’s certainly true that there are more outdoor options and activities available come May, when the boat tours such as Maid of the Mist start running and warmer temperatures lure more folks to the water’s edge and blooming gardens nearby.

But for parents tired of seeing their kids attached to their devices or screens, there are many fun and active options to be had in the area whatever time of year – inside or outside.

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How to get there?

The highway drive along the Queen Elizabeth Way once leaving Toronto can land you at the foot of the falls in an hour or so, but you’ll want to avoid the usual weekday rush hours on this drive. Once over the Burlington Bay Skyway that literally points skyward and leads into Hamilton, you’ll soon be in Ontario wine country, with over 20 wineries just off the highway between Grimsby and Jordan. This area includes the historically charming town of Jordan Village, worthy of a stop for local wine shopping at Cave Spring Cellars, antique-hunting or just an ice cream stop while roaming up and down tree-lined Main Street.

 

 

Fallsview Buffet Restaurant (Sheraton on the Falls hotel) – Our group of three families and six children included some picky eaters, so having choices for the kids as well as spectacular views of the Falls from floor to ceiling windows was a treat. This is also a great vantage spot to watch fireworks over the Falls, so check www.niagaraparks.com/niagara-falls-attractions/niagara-falls-fireworks.html for the schedule in the summer and winter.

Clifton Hills – Yes, it’s super-touristy, but for families who want a quick and reasonably priced meal while still being in the middle of it all, there are many chain choices amongst the arcades, ice cream parlours, wax and Ripley’s museums nearby. Should you be able to resist your child’s favourite fast food amongst those, the Antica Pizzeria is a highly rated yet reasonably priced one nearby, while Remington’s of Niagara has good food and talented singing wait staff. Amidst all these choices, our kids hankered for the ever-popular Rainforest Café.

Weinkeller – On the other side of the fine dining spectrum from Clifton Hills, the name means ‘wine cellar’ in German, as it’s located in a brick-lined upscale basement. It prides itself on creating ‘craft wines’ on the premises, similar to the German tradition of craft beer but with wine, and offers various three- and five-course dinners at a set price.

Lakehouse Restaurant – A restaurant founded the same year as the country, this lakeside gem is a worthy stop for a meal on the way in or out of Niagara Falls. With a Kids Menu to please the little ones, and a beautiful view of Lake Ontario and a burned down, abandoned shipwreck, the La Grande Hermine, which half floats and half sits in the harbour at Jordan.

 

 

Where to stay?

Sheraton on the Falls – Many of the area’s hotels offer fine views of those majestic falls, but we like this one because it’s connected to an indoor waterpark as well as Casino Niagara, while being steps away from Clifton Hill and the gardens surrounding the falls themselves.

Great Wolf Lodge – Away from the hustle and bustle of Clifton Hills and the falls themselves, the appeal of this or any other Great Wolf Lodge lies in its family-friendly nature, with bunk beds available for the kids, group story time with talking animals in the evenings, and the best water slides and indoor water park in the area. Just be wary of the many upsells - wands, candy stores, and many other items that will have your kids begging.

Marriott Niagara Falls Fallsview – One of the highest rated hotels in the area, this hotel is located on the edge of the horseshoe falls and near all the attractions. It offers an indoor pool, spa with massage and various treatments, two whirlpools, a hot tub, sauna, steam room and even in-room massages for two. Plus, electric car drivers will appreciate the EV charging stations available there too.

Journey Behind the Falls 2014

What to do?

Waterparks – There are three large waterparks in the area: the Americana, Fallsview Indoor Waterpark and Great Wolf Lodge, with costs roughly in that order. The first two offer day passes for folks not staying at their respected connected hotels, but Great Wolf Lodge’s waterpark is restricted to guests staying there, which helps cut down on lineups and crowds.

Maid of the Mist – It’s an amazing sight to see the Falls from the top, but it’s another level of respect for the awesome power of nature from the base of the falls, the spray in your face, the roar of the continuous water enough to drown out conversations. Starts in late April or May, and runs to the end of October.

Journey Behind the Falls – Another classic Niagara Falls experience, it’s accessed from the Table Rock Welcome Centre and takes you to platforms behind the falls that allow visitors to get up close and feel the falls, as well as seeing it. Elevators take you down in the surrounding bedrock about 150 feet, though the lowest viewing areas are closed in the fall and winter.

Butterfly Conservatory – It’s not walking distance from the falls, but worth the drive if you are spending any time in the area, or haven’t yet been. Walk into the warm, tropically moist conservatory and watch over 2,000 different butterflies, many of them friendly enough to land on outstretched hands.