Road Trip Guide: Niagara Falls – Part 1 (Top 5 Attractions at the Falls)

Did you ever visit Niagara Falls? It’s a perfect family destination and you can choose to stay on the American side or the Canadian side. My husband, 3 kids and I recently drove 7 ½ hours from Long Island up north to see one of the world’s most amazing sites – the falls in Niagara NY.  All of us have our own passports, so traveling with 3 children (ages 9, 5, 4 ½) is not an issue.  Each time we crossed the border between Canada and the U.S.A., we showed the passports as identification, were asked a few questions about the purpose of our stay and then we were allowed to cross with no problems.

We planned a whole day of exploring the falls on the American side in the Niagara New York State Park. Since we already had the New York State Empire Passport since May (which was $65 and it allows you to enter any of the parks in the 10 regions of New York), we did not have to pay the $10 parking fee. If you don’t have this pass, it is worth paying $10 for a safe and secure place to park your vehicle.

Next we purchased the Discovery Pass, which allows you to enjoy 5 great attractions and saves you money.  *The best place to purchase the pass is in the Visitor’s Center in Niagara Falls New York State Park. Adult passes cost $33; Youth passes for ages 6 and up $26, children 5 and under are free.

TIP: These passes are sold in many places for more money, but the best savings is when you go directly to the park and purchase it. You can purchase it online, but there is a $2 processing fee per pass, but they come with a lanyard souvenir.

With the Discovery Pass and map in hand, we were ready to begin our adventures. The park is separated into 2 areas by the American rapids leading to the American Falls.

Warning: You should decide when you want to get wet, BECAUSE you WILL get WET on 2 of the 5 attractions and standing nest to the falls to view them in some places.

We went to view the American Falls up close by walking to Luna Island.
: great photo opportunities.

ATTRACTION 1: THE CAVE OF THE WINDS – AWESOME! This is located at the edge of Goat Island.  When you hand in your ticket, you are given a yellow poncho and sandals – yes these sandals MUST be worn by all, no matter what kind of shoes you have on! You are given a plastic bag to store any belongings that you do not want to get wet.  After taking a souvenir photo (which you are not obligated to buy), you walk to the elevator. The elevator drops down 175 feet below the ground to a path that leads to catwalks that allow you to navigate different levels next to the falls.  WARNING: you will get SOAKED by the spray of the thundering falls and it is an experience you will never forget.  Also, there are areas along the catwalk where you will not get wet.
: great photo opportunities.   The most exciting level of the catwalks is the Hurricane Deck, where you will get blown and drenched by the falls coming down from nearly 200 feet above you.  My kids had a blast and so did my husband and I!

After riding the elevator back up, we took a walk to Terrapin Point to view the Horseshoe Falls. TIP: keep your poncho ON because you will get wet from the spray of the falls, but it is another great place to take pictures.

We took a lunch break at the Top of the Falls Restaurant. Food was great, pricing was affordable, there was a children’s menu, indoor/outdoor seating was available and it had a great view.

Included in the Discovery Pass is a ticket for the Niagara Falls Scenic Trolley which can be used multiple times throughout one day, once you turn the ticket in for a bracelet. We walked along the path on the side of the river which lead to Three Sisters Island and actually touched the river leading to the Horseshoe Falls. Then we waited for the trolley which took us back to the 4 attractions on the other side of the American Rapids Bridge.

ATTRACTION 2: AQUARIUM OF NIAGARA –This was a small aquarium, but it is the home to more than 1,500 aquatic animals.  You can enjoy performances by the penguins and sea lions, and view shark feeding. Perusing the tanks for frogs, fish, anemones, sea horses and turtles is fun too.

ATTRACTION 3: NIAGARA GORGE DISCOVERY CENTER: Walk around to view and touch the interactive displays of the falls.  Watch a movie about the history of the Niagara River on 180 degrees of multiple screens.  Bathrooms are available in this center.

ATTRACTION 4: MAID OF THE MIST- AWESOME! You will be given a blue poncho and you will be literally blown away by the wind on this one-of-a-kind boat ride.  The journey takes you right in front of the base of both the American and Horseshoe Falls. TIP: get your cameras out because rainbows will be visible all over the place.  This was a fun and adventurous ride. WARNING: You will get wet!

ATTRACTION 5: NIAGARA LEGENDS OF ADVENTURE THEATER: This is a film that depicts 3 different legends of people who have gone over the falls starting with the Native Americans connection to the falls and ending with the story of a boy and girl who survive the dangerous waters in different ways. You feel like you are riding the rapids as you watch these adventures of heroism.  This film lasts for 45 minutes.


We were in the Niagara Falls State Park for 7 hours and we covered all the areas of this beautiful park both on foot and by trolley.  Restaurants, ice cream booths, snacks and restrooms were available in many areas of the park for your convenience.  A visit to this park is a MUST for anyone going to see Niagara Falls!

Phone: (716) 278-1796

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