If the suggestion of vacationing in Niagara Falls brings heart-shaped beds and overly affectionate honeymooners to mind, think again -- Niagara Falls is a truly unforgettable vacation spot for families. Sure, the Falls still draw newlyweds and couples, but the area is full of unique, family-friendly attractions that will excite kids of all ages. The Falls remain the primary draw, of course, and they won't disappoint -- the sight of them is awe-inspiring even for young kids, but just wait for the exclamations of amazement when they go in front of them, behind them, and (only for the bravest of the bunch) in them. It's a vacation kids will be asking to repeat for years to come.
The northern location and proximity to the water mean that the best time to visit the area is in the summer months. In addition, many of the best attractions are seasonal and only open May through October. You will still find many things to do in the cooler months, but visit during the late spring through early fall to maximize your fun.
The area experiences its warmest weather in July and August, with temperatures reaching into the high 80s. Temperatures begin to fall in late October and turn frigid in January and February. Snowfall peaks in November through March; rain averages between 3 and 4 inches per month throughout the year. The main attractions are busy whenever they are open, but the warmer months of June through September are particularly popular with tourists and locals.
Niagara Falls International Airport (IAG) is the closest airport to the Falls, but primarily serves charter and private aircraft. A new passenger terminal is scheduled to open in the summer of 2009. Just under 30 miles away, the Buffalo Niagara International Airport currently welcomes most visitors en route to Niagara Falls; it has more than 100 daily flights, with non-stop service from 18 cities. Taxis and other shuttle services are available for airport-to-hotel transportation.
Options for getting around the area are plentiful. Visitors can take a trolley, a taxi, or a local bus [www.nfta.com/metro] to get between spots, but you'll have the most flexibility with a car. Once you're in one of the bigger towns in the area, you'll be able to walk to most places you need to go.
If you'd like to take advantage of the attractions on the Canadian site, visit the U.S. Department of State's website for the most up-to-date document requirements before you leave home.
Tips and information on where to stay, eat, shop, fish, get married, or be entertained on the American side of the Falls is available at the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation's website. For similar information on the Canadian side of the Falls, visit www.niagaraparks.com.
Both sides of the border offer pay-one-price passports for the major attractions, which are great deals if you want to maximize your visit.
The Niagara USA Discovery Pass (adults $30 U.S., children 6-12 $24.95, free for children 5 and under) includes the most popular stops in Niagara Falls State Park, including Cave of the Winds, Maid of the Mist, Niagara Adventure Theater, Aquarium of Niagara, the Niagara Scenic Trolley, and more. It also includes discount coupons for restaurants, attractions outside the park, and even the Fashion Outlets Mall. Passes can be purchased online or inside the park and are valid through the last sailing of the Maid of the Mist in October.
The Niagara Falls and Great Gorge Adventure Pass (adults $39.95 Canadian, children 6-12 $24.95, free for children 5 and under) includes Journey Behind the Falls, Maid of the Mist, White Water Walk, Butterfly Conservatory, all day transportation on the people mover, free admission to Heritage Trail sites, and discount coupons for other park attractions like Niagara's Fury. It can be purchased throughout the park.
The Niagara Falls are believed to have been created about 12,000 years ago, and became inhabited about 3,000 years later. You'll now find thriving border towns, both named Niagara, on either side of the world's longest unfortified border.
The first daredevil attempt to go over the Falls in a barrel was made by a woman. Annie Edison Taylor was a 63-year-old retired school teacher. She didn't survive the trip.
The Niagara Falls flow all year long, even in the winter. The flow of water has only been stopped once in its known history. That was on March 29, 1848, when an ice jam up the river blocked the flow.
As much as 100,000 cubic feet (2,830 cubic meters) of water goes over the Falls per second.