This summer adventure was a meet up with fellow blogger Lindsay of Solo Mama Life (now private). This was our third meet up since we both began blogging as single moms-to-be, many a year ago! Our girls are the same age and got along swimmingly when we visited Toronto last year, but this year was a different story. “Frenemies” might most accurately describe their relationship now. They are both competitive and strong-willed, so it was a bit of a struggle for us adults to keep the peace. Lindsay’s daughter is also on a completely different schedule than M as far as being awake and asleep, so we ended up doing a lot of things separately. But on to the fun stuff!
After being stuck for three hours at the Canadian border in traffic, and arriving at our campground too late to do much more than settle in for the night, I was excited to see the spectacle of the falls for the first time in my life and do some of the fun touristy stuff in the area. First thing in the morning, we parked the car in a fantastically expensive spot ($5 per half hour) and hopped onto The Hornblower (the Canadian equivalent of Maid of the Mist). Let’s just say that M wasn’t too impressed. The mist spraying on her and the crowds pressing into us distracted us both from the waterfall itself, plus my glasses were so covered in water I really couldn’t see. Oh well, we did it!
In the heat of the day we headed back to the campground for a rest break and some swimming. Once the girls had had a chance to nap, we went back down to the falls for activity #2. We tried getting into Journey Behind the Falls, but the wait was too long. We quickly bought passes for the WeGo bus (kind of a necessity unless you have all day to just walk) and headed down to the White Water Walk, a boardwalk running parallel to the class 6 rapids, one of the most dangerous rapids in the world. It was very impressive. What wasn’t impressive, however, was the rickety board railings separating our 3-year-olds from the chasm below. It was like paying for a heart attack. I made M hold my hand at all times, no exceptions. I don’t recommend this to anyone with young children without a stroller or carrier!
Lindsay’s kiddo was ready for bed at this point and they headed back, but M and I are night owls so we were just getting started! We headed to Clifton Hill, the “Hill of Fun at Niagara”, which it is. The entire street is dotted with fantastic and cheesy tourist traps, including Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium, a Hard Rock and Rainforest cafe, several arcades, wax museums, a Harley Davidson shop, ice cream stands, fun houses, Dinosaur golf, and all kinds of other wacky stuff. This is also the home of the Sky Wheel, and that was where M and I headed next. On the way we found the beautiful grounds of the Oakes Garden Theatre, where M had a blast chasing and feeding seagulls with another little girl (she makes friends fast). On our way up the hill we stopped for an ice cream cone.
The Sky Wheel also happens to be next to Dinosaur golf and all of the huge dinosaurs we got to pass was really neat for M. I’d say they were better than those we saw at Dinosaur World in Kentucky! M wasn’t super happy to be going up so high, but we were in an enclosed car and after the 2nd or 3rd time around she relaxed, although she sat on my lap and asked every time we neared the ground if we could “be done” yet.
We rode the bus all the way back to our campground, which M truly enjoys (I think because she doesn’t have to be in a car seat). She also loves pressing the “stop requested” button. It was back to the cabin for a bonfire, hot dogs, and smores…. and M made another little friend in the cabin next door, affording me a bit of down time with a beer while they played!
The next morning we planned to hang out at the camp until check out at 11. Well, poor Lindsay was up at 5am with her early riser while M and I slept closer to our usual time. Then we hit the pool again, since that’s what made the girls so happy. Pool, bounce pad, pool. After packing up and saying our goodbyes, M and I headed back to the falls for one more adventure. Our first stop was Journey Behind the Falls, and this time we were able to get right in. It turned out to be a way better experience than the boat. We got to stand right up close to the falls, and while we did get wet we could see them clearly and feel the thunder of all the water rushing past us. M also really enjoyed the tunnels.
We then hopped the bus back to Clifton Hill, where M was looking forward to more ice cream from the fabulous Sweets N’Treats (with the huge ice cream cone statue in front), and we enjoyed it on the grass of the north end of Queen Victoria Park. It’s a great place to have a picnic or just people watch. M is more of a dog watcher, and she found her share of friendly pups to pet and smother in love.
I was going to have lunch at Rainforest Cafe but she wasn’t interested in going inside. I was also going to take her to Bronto’s Adventure Playland but she noticed a funhouse next door and wanted to do that instead. It was pretty wacky and kind of small, but she did enjoy it. Across the street she was dying to enter the Great Canadian Midway, and although I dislike arcades, she is crazy about them, so I bought her $5 worth of tokens and she rode some pretty fun arcade rides with games on the screens. She even got a few little prizes with her tickets. She could’ve stayed all day, but I was out of money and it was time for us to head back.
All in all we enjoyed our time at Niagara a lot. There is plenty to do for children, and even most of the falls excursions are child-friendly (with the exception of young children on foot on the boardwalk of the White Water Walk). Also, children under 5 are usually free, that includes on the buses and in the children’s playhouses like the Fun House (adults are still charged to go in with them, however). None of the “must-do” activities are cheap, and most activities will run you from $12-20* per person. Parking is outrageous, unless you are willing to park many blocks away and walk. If you have young children, bring a stroller and be prepared to pay over $20 per day for parking close to the falls as well as $7 per day for a WeGo bus pass, which is pretty much a necessity unless you don’t mind walking long distances from place to place.
My biggest piece of advice is to stay in a campground. We stayed at the KOA campground (see my previous post), located right on the WeGo bus line, and enjoyed all the fun of camping, nature, and other kid-friendly activities for less than the price of a hotel. None of the hotels are located in nice areas, by the way. More advice: enjoy the touristy, cheesy stuff! Understand that nothing is cheap. And finally- learn a little about the falls before you come (if you have kids) as you may not have time or be able to read all of the plaques that explain the history of the falls. I watched a youtube video about the falls after getting home and feel like it added a lot to the experience.