Niagara Falls for Families

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Niagara Falls for Families
Niagara Falls is one of the most popular family getaway destinations in the country thanks to its natural attractions, amusements, historical sights, and performances.
By Flash Parker, AFAR Ambassador
Photo by Angie Knost/age fotostock
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    Dinner and a Show
    The Oh Canada Eh? musical has entertained legions of guests since opening its doors in 1994, and is regarded as one of Niagara’s main attractions. This celebration of Canadian culture comes with a family-style meal and is suitable for your whole crew. Greg Frewin, one of the world’s most decorated magicians, hosts Las Vegas–style shows in his namesake theater, thrilling audiences with heart-stopping illusions, exotic cats, and a million other tricks stored in his sleeve. Also check out the concert series for tribute acts running the gamut from Bruce Springsteen to the Bee Gees.
    Photo by Angie Knost/age fotostock
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    Celebrity Dopplegangers
    Niagara Falls has several wax museum options. Stop in at the enduring and popular Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks in Clifton Hill, where the world’s biggest stars, athletes, politicians, and gangsters are rendered in surprisingly accurate detail. (Louis was great-grandson of Madame Marie.) At the Rock Legends Wax Museum, more than 60 superstar musicians—including James Brown, Alice Cooper, and Kurt Cobain—are cast in wax, while at Movieland Wax Museum of the Stars, behemoths of the silver screen take center stage. Popular photo ops include the Terminator, Indiana Jones, and Harry Potter.
    Photo by Garry Black/age fotostock
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    Alternative Amusement
    The place may get its name from the resident dolphins, belugas, and killer whales, but at Marineland there are far more attractions than just the aquatic shows. The park also offers numerous amusement rides, including the Space Avenger, Kandu's Twister, and the world's tallest triple-tower ride, the Sky Screamer. For panoramic views of the falls from Clifton Hill, board the Niagara SkyWheel, a 15-minute experience. Nearby, at the 70,000-square-foot Great Canadian Midway, you can win prizes on games like Skee-Ball and air hockey, or get active at TayKimTan’s Fun Town, an indoor playground that caters to kids with zip lines, mazes, and climbing walls.
    Photo by Donald Nausbaum/age fotostock
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    Animal Attraction
    Niagara Region has a number of parks, conservatories, and zoological preserves dedicated to wildlife. More than 2,000 butterflies live in a rain forest setting at The Butterfly Conservatory. The Bird Kingdom is one of the world’s largest aviaries, at a staggering 50,000 square feet, and houses hundreds of birds. The exotic collection has garnered numerous accolades and has grown over the years to include reptile, amphibian, and insect exhibits. If you're looking for the great outdoors, visit Safari Niagara, a 150-acre nature park with approximately 750 animals, including mammals, reptiles, and birds.
    Photo by Flash Parker
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    Miniature Golf Madness
    Golf Galaxy features 18 themed holes—Atlantis and Retro 60s are perennial favorites—and glow-in-the-dark mini-golf. If you prefer your black-light experience to be medieval-themed, try Wizards Golf and putt around fairies, castles, and dragons. Dinosaur Adventure Golf is one of the biggest themed courses in North America, with a pair of 18-hole courses dominated by life-size dinosaurs and made challenging with numerous water hazards and a furious volcano. Alternatively, play outdoors at Super Putt on Lundy’s Lane, the site of thousands of first dates and family excursions.
    Photo by Oleksiy Maksymenko/age fotostock
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    A Haunting Good Time
    Niagara Falls has several haunted houses, and which you choose will depend on just how scared you want to be. Head to Clifton Hill for The House of Frankenstein and Dracula’s Haunted Castle, two thrill rides with low to moderate scare levels. At the latter, you can choose your level of scare when you buy your tickets. North America's oldest haunted house is Nightmares Fear Factory, an attraction that's only for the adults (or extremely steely youngsters). This experience is so terrifying that it advertises that more than 100,000 visitors have failed to make it all the way through.
    Photo courtesy of Nightmares Fear Factory
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    Historical Museums
    The Niagara Falls History Museum has an excellent collection, including battlefield memorabilia, from the War of 1812, as does the Battle Ground Hotel Museum, a 19th-century tavern on Lundy's Lane. Find out more about everyday life for Canadians in the 19th century at the Willoughby Historical Museum, located in a former schoolhouse. The Niagara Military Museum’s collection focuses on WWI, WWII, and the Korean War, and documents the efforts of those on the home front in vivid detail. For something a little different, visit Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum, with nearly 800 exhibits, curios, and extraordinary oddities related to the human condition.
    Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls History Museum
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    Full-Service Water Parks
    Niagara is home to a trio of world-class, family-first water parks that pull double duty as full-service resorts designed to keep big kids happy and children entertained. Great Wolf Lodge has big slides for big kids, gentle ponds for little kids, and wave pools for all, in addition to some of the finest family accommodations in all of Niagara. Fallsview Indoor Waterpark has rides of varying intensity, a massive wave pool, and an outdoor sundeck for when you need a break and a cocktail. Waves Indoor Waterpark has a retractable roof, a wave pool, body slides, tube slides, and a water bar.
    Photo courtesy of Great Wolf Lodge
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    Sweet Treats
    Hershey’s Chocolate World is home to 7,000 square feet of cocoa madness, sure to distract your entire family from the roaring falls nearby, if only for a little while. Pop & Lolly’s Candy Shop is an interactive sweet shack where kids (and adults) can customize their candy order until they’re blue in the face and green on the tongue, get their hands messy in candy-apple barrels and fudge buckets, and sample from hundreds of handcrafted treats. The Fudge Factory is as awesome as the name suggests and will leave your head spinning with its countless sweet combinations.
    Photo courtesy of Clifton Hill: The World Famous Street of Fun by the Falls
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    The Falls on the Big Screen
    Visit the Skylon Tower’s 3D/4D theater for the Legends of Niagara Falls, a 3D/4D movie that takes guests back in time to the geological birth of the falls, and presents the history of the region in thrilling fashion. At Niagara's Fury, a 4D experience, whip along the Niagara River on a pulse-pounding adventure that culminates with a plunge over the falls (no barrel required). For a wide range of regional IMAX movies, check out Niagara Falls IMAX Theatre in the tourist district. Don't miss the Niagara Daredevil Exhibit, featuring barrels and other containers that carried daredevils over the falls.
    Photo by Darwin Wiggett/age fotostock