Deciding to take a vacation is the easy part. It’s all that comes next that’s tougher.
One of your first considerations is how long you’ll visit your destination, as you must know how much time to book off work and to take the kids out of school (unless you’re vacationing in the summer or your kids aren’t in school yet).
Keeping that in mind, how many days do you need for Niagara Falls?
You can see Niagara Falls in as little as one day. However, giving yourself two to four days allows you enough time to explore the fun on the New York and Canadian sides without feeling rushed.
You probably have more questions about vacationing in Niagara Falls, such as what to do or where to stay. I’ll address everything ahead, so don’t miss it.
How Long to Spend at Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is a series of three waterfalls between Ontario and New York. You should only need several hours to visit the waterfalls, whether you have a passport and can see all three or are only visiting the two waterfalls on the US side.
Does that mean you should pack it in and head home after that? That depends.
If you’re road-tripping and passing through New York or Ontario on your route, you can very easily stop off at Niagara Falls for an afternoon, see the waterfalls, and be on your merry way.
However, if you’re planning an entire Niagara Falls vacation, I’d encourage you to stay longer, between two and four days at least.
After all, there is so much more to do here than seeing the waterfalls!
What Should You Do When Visiting Niagara Falls?
So, what kinds of activities can you fill your itinerary with if you stay in Niagara Falls long enough to explore its depths? Get ready for thrills, spills, and chills!
The New York Side
If you don’t have a passport or couldn’t get it processed in time for your Niagara Falls vacation, visiting the New York side in Niagara County gives you an almost full Niagara experience.
You can see American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls in their entirety, and part of Canada’s Horseshoe Falls is viewable without crossing the border.
When you finish, fill your days and nights with these fun activities.
Explore Whirlpool State Park and Devil’s Hole State Park
After ending your time in Niagara Falls State Park (the New York home of Niagara Falls), continue state park-hopping with the family.
Whirlpool State Park in Niagara Falls, New York, is part of the Niagara Scenic Parkway. It’s a small park, only 109 acres, and explorable in an afternoon. You can see the Niagara River and Niagara Whirlpool from parts of the park.
So what’s to do here? Plenty! In the winter, cross-country skiing is a peaceful way to experience the natural wonders of New York. Fishing, nature trails, cycling, and hiking are great in warmer weather. Take the stone stairs to the Niagara Gorge, then cross the trail at the bottom of the gorge, which loops.
Here’s another convenient part of visiting Whirlpool State Park. It’s connected to Devil’s Hole State Park, an even smaller park in the Niagara Falls, New York area. This one is 42 acres and features views of the lower Niagara River Gorge.
See Cave of the Winds
The Cave of the Winds is a year-round attraction conveniently located near Niagara Falls. It’s a great way to get closer to the waterfalls, but expect to get wet. That’s arguably the best part and certainly what will be the most memorable for the kids!
The World Changed Here Pavilion, an indoor part of the attraction, is a must-visit, especially since Cave of the Winds is a timed attraction. Visiting the pavilion will keep your kids occupied until it’s their turn to go through the wet tunnel.
Visit a Beach
Niagara Falls has many beaches on the Ontario and New York sides, perfect for expanding your summertime trip plans. Although the New York side has six beaches compared to Ontario’s nine, it’s still plenty!
» MORE: 15 Beaches by Niagara Falls
Bedford Beach is a great option if you wish to keep it local, as it’s right in Niagara County. It also has a campground, so you can sleep under the stars after spending all day strolling the sand and splashing along the shoreline.
Better yet, Bedford Beach doesn’t usually generate large crowds, and it’s a small beach. It’s a great place for fishing, golfing, whitewater paddling, boating, swimming, playing, and sunbathing.
Tour Maid of the Mist
A boat tour on the Maid of the Mist is another excellent way to get up close and personal with Niagara Falls if your family can’t take an afternoon to do the Cave of the Winds. You will still get soaked, so don’t worry about that!
Take a White Water Walk
The White Water Walk is a self-guided walking tour of the Niagara River. You can hear (and feel) the Class 6 whitewater rapids of the river and its commanding roar. The boardwalk is a quarter mile long, so even young kids can enjoy it.
Visit the Aquarium of Niagara
The Aquarium of Niagara encourages the kiddos to touch! A day here includes petting stingrays, seeing Humboldt penguins and all nature of aquatic life, and having animal encounters if you don’t mind paying a little extra.
Spend a Day at Three Sisters Island
Fuel your explorer’s heart at Three Sisters Island in Niagara Falls, New York. It links from Goat Island via a walking bridge (technically three bridges) and offers stunning views of Niagara Falls’ upper rapids.
The Canadian Side
The Ontario side of Niagara Falls offers oodles of fun for families with passports (or native Canadians) who want to ride roller coasters, slide down watery tubes, and see animals. Here are some great options worth building your travel plans around.
Get Wet on the Journey Behind the Falls
You can think of Journey Behind the Falls as Canada’s answer to New York experiences like Cave of the Winds and Maid of the Mist. It’s a walking tour where you take an elevator more than 100 feet down to see bedrock tunnels that open wide to Horseshoe Falls.
As you and your family stand 13 stories up, you’ll feel the splashing mist and hear the roaring pulse of the biggest of the three waterfalls in Niagara Falls.
Spend the Day at the Beach
You’ll recall that Ontario beaches outnumber New York’s. One of the premier beaches on this side of Niagara Falls is Niagara Shores in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It’s a busy beach with limited parking, so it’s worth arriving early.
The beach has a footpath along a steep trail with a lake for strolling and swimming.
Sunset Beach in beautiful Saint Catherines is 1,200 feet and features all the onsite amenities you need, including a playground, public boat ramp, washrooms, and a picnic area.
Fort Erie’s Crescent Beach is astoundingly lovely and gives the family an excuse to visit the Friendship Recreation Trail, which you can take to reach this beach.
Ride the Whirlpool Aero Car
An unforgettable way to experience the Niagara Gorge and Niagara Whirlpool during your visit is the Whirlpool Aero Car. This antique, Spanish-constructed aerial trolley takes you more than 3,000 feet up. The Class 6 rapids are simply unreal from this vantage point.
Visit an Indoor Water Park
Indoor water parks? Ontario’s Niagara Falls has a few! They’re all built into resorts so you can plan your family’s lodging during your trip.
Waves Indoor Water Park within the Americana Conference Resort Spa & Waterpark has 25,000 square feet of pools, rides, and slides.
Fallsview Indoor Water Park near Niagara Falls is 125,000 square feet, with nearly 20 water features, rides, and slides.
I also can’t recommend the Great Wolf Lodge Water Park Resort enough, which has enough kid-friendly pools and tall water slides that children of all ages will be delighted.
You can spend an entire day enjoying the animals Ontario has to offer. Butterflies roam freely within the confines of the Butterfly Conservatory, an attraction you and the children will cherish.
The Bird Kingdom is the biggest free-flying bird aviary in the world but includes more than feathered friends. Many animal species call the Bird Kingdom home, including tortoises and turtles, axolotls, snakes and pythons, lizards, tarantulas, bats, frogs, sugar gliders, skunks, and more.
Marineland of Canada is far more than an aquarium. It boasts plenty of aquatic creatures but also has rides! These outdoor attractions range from kiddie rides to spinning coasters for teens and adults, so there’s something for everyone here.
Explore the Free Attractions
Don’t stress if you’re on a strict budget. Ontario’s Niagara Falls has many attractions and activities for families to explore that don’t cost a cent.
Besides seeing Niagara Falls (which is free on the New York and Canadian sides), you can also try these attractions:
Where Should You Stay When Visiting Niagara Falls?
Whether you plan your family vacation on Niagara Falls’ New York or Ontario side (or even a mix of both), you will find no shortage of lodging options to suit all budgets.
You can camp out at parks if you have the amenities (such as an RV, travel trailer, or a tent, at the very least). You and your family can enjoy the rare freedom of disconnecting and save lots of money.
Hotels and motels are a dime a dozen in Niagara Falls. You can also upgrade your stay at a resort, such as at one of the indoor water parks above.
The Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino on the New York side is another great option with entertainment, dining, accommodations, and a spa under one roof.