Niagara Falls is a popular tourist destination for its gorgeous landscapes and loads of family fun. You were thinking of venturing out to Niagara Falls by car from Minneapolis.
What do you need to know before you embark on your trip?
The drive from Minneapolis to Niagara Falls takes almost 14 hours and requires you to drive through Wisconsin, Michigan, and parts of Canada before reaching New York. It’s a scenic trip that’s best split into at least two or three days.
This guide will help you most efficiently plan your trip from Minneapolis to Niagara Falls.
Ahead, you’ll learn which route to take to get you where you need to go, how long it will take to get there, and how you can keep your whole family entertained along the way!
The best route from Minneapolis to Niagara Falls
Are you ready to hit the road?
Reaching Niagara Falls from Minneapolis by car is totally doable assuming you plan for your trip in advance.
You won’t be able to drive there overnight. If anything, I would suggest breaking up the route into several days so you’re driving for only a few hours at a time. This will allow you to stave off fatigue and stay focused.
So how do you get to where you want to go? Here’s the recommended route per the intro.
Minneapolis to Eau Claire
Once your bags are packed, the house is locked up, and the kids are in the car, it’s time to depart from Minneapolis to Wisconsin.
Your first destination is Eau Claire, which you can reach by driving east from Minneapolis.
You’ll reach the Wisconsin city in about an hour and a half prohibiting heavy traffic.
Eau Claire has plenty of family-centric entertainment whether your kids are into arcade games, museums, or exploring nature.
If you and your family want to make a stop so early after beginning your road trip, you won’t be disappointed in the slightest by what Eau Claire has to offer.
Eau Claire to Wisconsin Dells
After leaving Eau Claire, you’ll continue driving through Wisconsin until you reach Wisconsin Dells.
This part of the drive lasts for roughly two hours. You’ll drive southeast past Wausau, Appleton, and La Crosse and nearly arrive at the state capital of Madison.
Wisconsin Dells is a city that’s known for its stunning sandstone formations.
You can also find state parks, amusement parks, museums, and go-karting here, so there’s truly no shortage of family excitement.
Wisconsin Dells to Milwaukee
The last stop in Wisconsin is Milwaukee, which is arguably the best-known city in this state.
To reach Milwaukee from Wisconsin Dells, you’ll continue driving southeast until you reach the rightmost point of the state (at least heading from your direction).
The drive lasts about two hours without heavy traffic.
This city overlooking Lake Michigan from the west is known for its beer and cheese, of course, but has so much more to see and do than that.
From lighthouses to museums and zoos, you and your family can easily spend days in Milwaukee alone.
Well, how about spending the night at least? You’ve been driving for about five and a half hours already at this point, so I’d say a break is more than warranted.
Rest up and get ready to drive to Michigan in the morning!
Milwaukee to Grand Rapids
Now that you’re feeling refreshed, you’ll bid Wisconsin farewell and continue your trek to Niagara Falls, stopping in Grand Rapids.
This is a bit of a drive, about four hours in all heading east.
The city of Grand Rapids on Grand River offers an assortment of entertainment, from art museums to a bustling downtown, gardens and greenery, parks, and indoor amusements.
It’s a gorgeous place to unwind and spend some quality time together as a family.
Grand Rapids to Waterford
When you’re ready to leave, you’ll drive another two hours east until you reach the other side of Michigan, specifically, Waterford.
Waterford Township is home to some truly gorgeous natural wonders, including the Pontiac Lake, state and public parks, Pine Knob, and the unbelievably lovely Cass Lake.
It’s a serene place to stop for the night yet again, as your drivetime is getting rather long and Niagara Falls is still a ways off.
Waterford to London, Canada
I hope you have your papers ready, as you’ll next have to leave the United States and briefly venture into Canada.
From Waterford, you’ll drive for about two and a half hours (without heavy traffic) into London, Canada.
This is again a continuation of your trek east.
London is an Ontario city that’s very close to the US border (as well as Lake Erie if you’re interested!).
London is an area rich in culture, as it has a Children’s Museum, the Museum London with historical artifacts, and more.
London, Canada to Niagara Falls
You’ll leave Canada nearly as soon as you arrived, as you’ll cross back over to the US next to reach Niagara Falls.
This part of your drive requires you to continue east as you have to the northeastern edge of New York State.
In about two hours, you’ll have made it!
How long will it take for you to reach Niagara Falls from Minneapolis?
Now that you can map out what the drive from Minneapolis to Niagara Falls looks like, how long will it take you to reach this New York landmark?
The entire trip from Minneapolis to Niagara Falls is approximately 13 hours, and 48 minutes.
Of course, you have to take traffic into account when you’ll be driving for upwards of five or six hours at a clip as some parts of the route require.
While leaving early to avoid morning rush hour and trying to be off the road during evening rush hour is recommended, you can’t dodge all traffic. That will add more time to your overall trip.
So too can passing through the US-Canada border on the way from Waterford to London, Canada, and then again from London to Niagara Falls be two time-consuming parts of your trip.
I would recommend that rather than focus so much on the overall drivetime that you relax and let the trip take the time it takes.
You will have to factor in several overnight stays and entertainment in between, all of which expands the amount of time the road trip takes.
Must-see attractions and destinations on the way to Niagara Falls
Driving straight to Niagara Falls would be exhausting and, let’s face it, a little boring, especially for young, impatient kids in the car.
Why not make the road to Niagara Falls as fun as the Falls themselves? Here are some excellent destinations to explore along each step of your route!
Eau Claire Destinations
- Children’s Museum of Eau Claire
Playing is how learning occurs, at least, that’s the belief at the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire.
The play spaces here encourage children to practice their art skills, expand their imagination, get active, befriend others, and overall, have a memorable experience!
- Chaos Water Park
Even if you’re venturing to Niagara Falls in the autumn or winter, you don’t have to worry about the kids being bored when you can take them to indoor water park Chaos Water Park!
Thi water park in the Metropolis Resort includes rides for children of all ages and thrill levels.
If the kids are old enough that they’re into slides, try the Hurricane Run Water Slide or the Twister Water Slide.
For tamer family fun, there’s the Indoor Aquatic Playground, the Anarchy Bay Activity Pool, the Tsunami Lazy River, or the Lily Pads.
- Action City Family Fun Center and Trampoline Park
Keep the fun and thrills going at Action City, which is also a part of the Metropolis Resort.
Featuring an indoor go-kart track, a zipline, and a golf course with 19 holes, the real attraction here is the trampoline park, which is an impressive 30,000 square feet.
Within the trampoline park are a ninja warrior course, jousting, an indoor playground, a slack line, a fidget ladder, basketball slam dunk stations, an airbag stunt jump, and an open jump area.
An arcade on the grounds features video games and games where kids can win tickets that are exchangeable for prizes.
Oh, and we have to talk about food as well, which Action City serves. You can treat the kids to ice cream from Dairy Queen or pizza from Monkey in the Middle.
Wisconsin Dell Destinations
- Kalahari Resort-Wisconsin Dells
The Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells is any child’s dream!
The indoor water park is an immersive 12,500 square feet with rides such as Crocodile Cove (a 3,000-square-foot activity pool), Elephant’s Trunk (a water slide that’s 270 feet long), Flowrider (a wave simulator that generates five-foot waves), and a Lazy River that’s nearly 1,000 feet!
Outdoors is the Zambezi Waterpark, which is open seasonally.
This is the home of the water slide Anaconda, the high-speed thrills of Extreme Rush, the Swahili Swirl, and the tandem water slide the Wild Wildebeest.
In-park dining is available, and the rentable private bungalows and cabanas give you and the family a much-needed place to dry off and catch your breath.
Finally, there’s Tom Foolerys, a 100,000-square-foot indoor adventure park that features plenty of attractions.
Ride the Ferris wheel or a thrill ride like the G-Force One. Play some laser tag, spin on the Kalahari Carousel, or let your kids climb like a pro on the Lil’ Toucan Climb.
- Mt. Olympus
I’m sure the kids aren’t tired of amusement parks yet! It’s a good thing too, as Mt. Olympus is sure to plaster a huge smile on their faces.
The indoor water park is available between the middle of September and the middle of May.
Medusa’s Slidewheel will certainly entertain older kids as they twirl and spin around.
The River Styx lazy river and Serpent’s Pool splashpad are better for the young’uns.
Mt. Olympus also has an indoor theme park that offers spinning teacup rides, soccer pool, putt-putt golf, bumper cars, indoor rock climbing, and an arcade. This is the ultimate family-friendly attraction.
In the warmer months, Mt. Olympus opens its outdoor theme park that has far more thrill rides than the indoor park. Race on an underground go-kart track, ride the Hades 360 roller coaster, or spin around an LED tower on The Manticore!
If you work up a sweat, Mt. Olympus of course has an outdoor water park that’s also open seasonally.
Ride a raft on Triton’s Fury, race down a slide on Triton’s Challenge, or lounge in The River Troy.
- Timbavati Wildlife Park
For a break from all the amusement parks in Wisconsin Dells, try Timbavati Wildlife Park, where you can “unleash the adventure!”
The park houses more than 400 animals, with nearly 80 species represented.
Some of those animals include the lynx, cougar, African lion, Bengal tiger, parakeet, white rhinoceros, howler monkey, red panda, African penguin, and lesser flamingo.
- Milwaukee County Zoo
If you couldn’t get to the Timbavati Wildlife Park, the Milwaukee County Zoo is fortunately not too far.
The kids will go gaga over the assortment of animals in habitats such as:
- Yak Yard
- Taylor Family Humboldt Penguins
- Stearns Family Apes of Africa
- Small Mammals
- Primates of the World
- Northwestern Mutual Family Farm
- North America
- Herb and Nada Mahler Family Aviary
- Florence Mila Borchert Big Cat Country
- Camel Yard
- Asia/South Africa
- Aquatic & Reptile Center
- African Waterhole
- African Savanna
- Adventure Africa
Throughout the rest of the zoo are activities the kids will be begging you to partake in, including sea lion shows, performances at Kohl’s Wild Theater, VR animal experiences, and real animal encounters.
The Milwaukee County Zoo also has an onsite carousel, real pony rides, and a train, all of which cost additional fees outside of admission.
The Sky Adventure Zip Line and Ropes Course will help the kids burn off energy as they go four stories up and fly in the sky!
- Betty Brinn Children’s Museum
For a museum that will surely entertain the kids, take them to the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum.
The exhibits here are subject to change, but that just gives you a reason to come back another time.
Your kids can explore exciting exhibits aplenty such as the Let’s Play Railway!, Science CITY, and Pocket Park.
Children can play and learn in tandem. For instance, the Let’s Play Railway! exhibit allows kids to discover how steam cabs work by testing buttons, cranks, dials, and levers.
- Discovery World
Milwaukee’s Discovery World is a science and technology center that educates children on subject matter like maritime, energy, engineering, archaeology, physics, biology, technology, design, innovation, and freshwater science through its myriad of exhibits.
When the kids are done discovering their inner scientists, they can take a walk through the Reiman Aquarium. The cost of aquarium access is included in the price of your ticket.
Grand Rapids Destinations
- John Ball Zoo
If you haven’t made many stops until this point in your route, the John Ball Zoo is a can’t-miss.
Here are the habitats you and your family can explore during your exciting day:
- Crawford Tigers of the Realm
- Van Andel Living Shores Aquarium
- Natural Treasures
- Wild Way Trail
- Red’s Hobby Farm, a children’s zoo
- North America
- South America
- Idema Forest Realm
During the active season, you can also pay for additional experiences the kids will surely adore, including some time in the zoo’s hobby farm or the interactive Budgie Aviary.
The Sky Trail Ropes Course and accompanying zip line will make your kids’ entire vacation, as will camel rides.
As the kids work up an appetite, they can satiate their hunger at the Monkey Island Café, Tiger Paws Pizza, or Central Plaza Dippin Dots.
- Craig’s Cruisers Family Fun Centers
For a different breed of excitement, Craig’s Cruisers Family Fun Center ought to do it.
The kids can jump for an hour or two at the trampoline park, ride go-karts, race bumper cars or bumper boats, go zip-lining, play laser tag or mini golf, or ride amusement rides such as The 360 or the Cruiser Coaster.
- Millennium Park
Although it’s not as well-known as Chicago’s park of the same name, Grand Rapids’ Millennium Park is still worth seeing.
This is the biggest urban park in the area that serves as a connection point between the cities of Walker, Grandville, Wyoming, and Grand Rapids.
Millennium Park is an impressive 1,400 acres and features almost 20 miles of trails, boat rentals, a splashpad, and a six-acre beach.
The park is open between May 1st and October 31st every year.
- Grand Rapids Public Museum
Curate your child’s curiosity at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
The rotating list of exhibits keeps the museum fresh.
Just don’t tire yourself out before stopping by the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium, which shows such films as Ice Worlds, Under Starlit Skies, From Earth to the Universe, Incoming!, and Dark Side: The Light Show.
- Waterford Oaks Waterpark
Although maybe not the biggest water park on this list, the Waterford Oaks Waterpark is still a great way to refresh the entire family on a hot, sweaty day.
Choose from more than 30 activities to enjoy, all of which are interactive.
The pools are heated so that if it’s a little chilly out, there’s no need to refrain from putting on your swimsuit and having a blast!
- Pontiac Lakes Recreation Area
Oakland County’s Pontiac Lakes Recreation Area has a huge stretch of beach that’s roughly a half-mile long.
If you and the kids are into biking, you won’t want to miss the mountain biking trail that’s 11 miles of thrills.
The park is also excellent for hiking and horseback riding.
You might uncover onsite lakes, farm fields, ponds, and marshes!
- Bay Court Park
Waterford’s historic landmark Bay Court Park is open all year long except for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day.
Between the Brady Lodge, disc golf, the playscape, and the Bay Court Park Beach, you and the family can find plenty to do in this beautiful area no matter when you visit.
London, Canada Destinations
- London Children’s Museum
To see exhibits like Child Long Ago, The Lookout, London Hydro You’ll Make a World of Difference, Science in Your World, and My Arctic Discovery, you have got to take your kids to the London Children’s Museum.
There are nine exhibits in all that are designed for kids between the ages of zero and nine years old.
Kids can strengthen their physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development as they play and explore.
- Victoria Park
A stop at Victoria Park is a great way to say goodbye to Canada before finally reaching Niagara Falls.
The park in downtown Ontario gets about 1.5 million visitors a year, and now you can be one of them.
Victoria Park hosts a lot of events throughout the year like Fiesta del Sol, LOLA, The International Food Festival, The London Rib-Fest, the Home County Folk Festival, and Sunfest.
What to do around Niagara Falls?
Witnessing the majesty of Niagara Falls is certainly a great way to spend time in this part of New York, but there’s more fun to be had still.
Here are some destinations and attractions that you and the kids must see before you turn around and drive home.
Aquarium of Niagara
Part rescue facility and part aquarium, the Aquarium of Niagara houses animals that have been granted a new lease on life.
You can do more than watch the animals behind glass but can partake in a variety of animal interaction programs too!
The Trainer for a Day program lets kids learn what it takes to train marine mammals. Kids can also directly encounter seals and penguins.
The Lead the Feed program lets kids feed and train stingrays and sharks (with supervision, of course) while the Pose with a Pinniped program is a great photo op with a California sea lion.
Niagara Amusement Park & Splash World
In the summertime, make a beeline for the Niagara Amusement Park & Splash World after seeing Niagara Falls.
The amusement park includes a kiddieland so your young ones don’t have to feel left out.
The older kids won’t be bored, don’t worry. They can ride coasters such as the Silver Comet and the Amazing Flying Machine.
The Splash World water park features plenty of water-based thrill rides like the tube ride Cannonbowl, the speedy slide Double Dare Falls, and the five-story Dragsters Drench.
Calm those heart rates at the lazy river afterward!
With food options like Splashworld Café, Golden Nugget Saloon Snacks, BBQ Barn, and Kiddieland Kafe, no one will leave the park hungry.
Whirlpool State Park
Experience the natural beauty of Niagara Falls at Whirlpool State Park.
This two-level park, on the street level, affords views and scenic overlooks that you’ll want to take many photos of.
On the river level, you can participate in fishing and hiking.
Taking a road trip from Minneapolis to Niagara Falls takes a little over 14 hours excluding traffic and the stops you’ll have to make along the way.
I hope this post helps you plan an amazing vacation with the family!