A couple of weeks ago, our family was invited to come and tour Niagara Falls, Ontario, to experience all the sights, sounds and tastes that the region has to offer. We actually had planned to visit back in April, but when the pandemic hit and everything went into shutdown in Canada, the trip was put on hold until things were deemed safe again. With Niagara Falls entering Stage Three of reopening, we felt it was safe enough to start travelling a bit locally and decided it was the perfect time for a family getaway after being cooped up in our home for the last four months.
Obviously travelling anywhere during a global pandemic is going to be much more limited and have a totally different feel. With so many safety precautions, things are a little slower as well as options are much more limited. But we were pleasantly surprised at how fun our trip was and wanted to share with you all the things we had a chance to experience, while reassuring you that we felt extremely safe in Niagara Falls the entire time we were there!
In order to share with you the best of what we did, in an organized way, I’m going to share the best ways to view the Falls, the top places to stop for a bite to eat and the must-do attractions while visiting Niagara Falls!
Four Ways to View the Falls
Obviously the number one attraction in Niagara Falls are the Falls themselves. I mean, you don’t name an entire city (both on the Canadian side and on the American side) after the waterfalls if they aren’t incredibly spectacular, right?! While they aren’t officially considered part of the seven wonders of the world, many would consider them to be the eight natural wonder. With the Canadian and American falls right next to each other, it is an incredible site to behold anytime of year and/or day.
Of course many, simply take a stroll along the walkway by the Falls (on the Canadian side) which anyone can do for free. But if you really want a birds eye view of the Falls from all angles, I want to share with you four different ways to get spectacular views unlike any other!
1. Helicopter Tour with Niagara Helicopters
We started off our trip with the most incredible high (figuratively and literally speaking) by soaring high above Niagara Falls in a helicopter ride! This has honestly been a bucket list dream of mine for years so I was so incredibly excited to finally get to check that off and in the most epic fashion, flying high over waterfalls with my family!
Everyone had to wear masks for the duration of the flight and I was really happy to see the workers sterilize the helicopter before and after our flight for added safety. The trip itself was a very quick 12 minutes over the Falls, Niagara River, Whirlpool Rapids and various parks. The helicopter can seat up to six people plus the pilot. It was relatively quiet in the helicopter so we didn’t have to wear ear protectors. They also had a guided soundtrack playing to help us identify various landmarks as well as teaching us interesting facts about the area.
While the helicopter ride can be expensive, especially for such a short time, it was absolutely worth it for our family and made our trip one of the most memorable ones we’ve had in a long time! Here’s a little TikTok video I made of our first ever helicopter ride!
2. Niagara SkyWheel at Clifton Hill
A second place to get a great view of Niagara Falls is from Niagara SkyWheel located on Clifton Hill. The SkyWheel, which opened back in 2006 stands 175 feet tall, giving you an incredible 360 degree view of the entire city of Niagara Falls, including the Falls themselves. Masks are mandatory and before we could enter our “gondola”, it was wiped down with sanitizer to ensure safety.
Opened until 2am each morning, there really is no bad time to go for a ride – just pick your preference – early morning, sunset or at night to see the Falls illuminated! The ride does three full rotations once all the gondolas are loaded and it’s an incredible smooth ride, even for the ones who are scared of heights. The Skywheel is also included on the Clifton Hill Fun Pass – more on that later!
3. Skylon Tower Observation Deck
The Skylon Tower is another wonderful option to get a 360 degree view of the Falls and the Greater Niagara region. It sits 775 feet above the ground and offers 80 miles of visibility (on a clear day). There are three signature Yellow Bug elevators that whisk you to the top in only 52 seconds!
Once at the top, there is the observation deck where you can walk 360 degrees around the tower. We went up at sunset and it was beautiful to see the city light up. There is also the famous Revolving Dining Room Restaurant that makes a full rotation every hour (call ahead for reservations).
What I loved particularly about the Skylon tower is that our time at the top wasn’t rushed. While both the helicopter ride and SkyWheel ride were incredibly amazing, they were also both quite short. You also had to sit the entire time. At the Skylon tower, you are free to roam the observation deck of the tower at your leisure. There’s also a gift shop up there for you to shop if you feel like it. It was quite relaxing and very quiet and the perfect way to end our day there!
4. Hilton Fallsview Suites Hotel
A wonderful way to view the Falls anytime you’d like is to actually book a Fallsview hotel room at one of the hotels down by the waterfalls. We stayed at the Hilton Fallsview Suites hotel, located two blocks away from Niagara Falls, giving us the perfect view from our room any time of day!
We had a two-suite bedroom, which was perfect for a family of five – a room with a queen size bed right when you walk in, a large bathroom with whirlpool tub in the middle and then a king size bed with a pullout couch by the window. There was ample space for our family to spread out when we came back to the room to relax and I’d absolutely stay there again!
Four Places to Eat in Niagara Falls
There are many restaurants to choose from when visiting Niagara Falls from big chain restaurants to smaller, more unique restaurants ranging from all kinds of cuisines to suit everyones needs. All of them only had their patios open while we were there, some doing temperature checks and all with various safety measures in place. Here are a few that we tried out!
1. Kelsey’s at Clifton Hill
Kelsey’s at the top of Clifton Hill was by far our favourite spot for dinner. Their patio is really big so it could accommodate lots of people at a safe distance. Chris and I both enjoyed burgers with upgraded sweet potato fries served with delicious aioli. I also enjoyed the most delicious raspberry blended margarita which unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to photograph before I scarfed it down! SO good!
2. Hard Rock Cafe at Clifton Hill
The Hard Rock Cafe is located at the bottom of Clifton Hill in the Sheraton hotel/Niagara Casino complex. They only had their small patio open, so it’s imperative to make reservations before going. This was the only place that took temperature checks when we arrived. They also didn’t have menus to hand out, rather, they had a QR code on the tables for you to scan and then the menu would populate on your phone.
The kids enjoyed the kids menu as it came served on guitar plates – a very cute touch!
We enjoyed fish and chips, a turkey club sandwich and a chicken salad – all were good and very filling after a long and exciting day of adventures! It is likely a good time to mention that prices in Niagara Falls are often slightly higher than what you might be accustomed to. Also, there are places that will charge an additional Niagara Falls tourist tax. I’ve been told since visiting that you can ask to have that tax removed and some places may do so, but some may not. We didn’t (as we didn’t know you could even ask), but it’s just something to keep in mind when budgeting for your trip to the Falls – add about 10% more for your food allocation just to be safe.
3. The Secret Garden Restaurant at Clifton Hill
The Secret Garden Restaurant is located at the base of Clifton Hill on River Road and has arguably the most beautiful patio in all of Niagara Falls. It’s located in the Oakes Garden Theatre park (more on that later) and is a very relaxing place to sit back and enjoy the Falls while munching on some lunch! Serving a large selection of American food, it was a good place to stop before hitting up Clifton Hill for an afternoon of fun! (Photo from Secret Garden Restaurant)
4. Breakfast at Hilton
As I mentioned previously, we stayed at the Hilton Fallsview Hotel, and there are over eight different dining options right within the hotel. We had breakfast both mornings inside their Corso restaurant that is turned into the perfect breakfast spot. While we were able to eat inside, all the tables were located along the windows that opened up all the way, giving us a beautiful inside/outside dining experience.
Four Must-Do Attractions at Niagara Falls
Like any major city, there are a plethora of options for entertainment and attractions to see and do. Today I’m sharing four that we experienced and absolutely loved!
Again, it’s important to note that due to Covid-19, not all attractions are open and for the ones that are, there are safety measures in place. So please be sure to do your research before visiting to know what is required and if you need to make reservations for certain time slots.
1. Journey Behind the Falls
Have you ever wanted to stand BEHIND Niagara Falls? Well if so, this is one attraction you cannot miss! To be honest, I never even knew that this was a possibility to go behind the Falls and wasn’t sure what to expect (hence why I did a full face of make-up before going – BAD IDEA!).
Once you arrive and go through the security checks, you then make your way down 125 foot elevator to a tunnel system that is 130 years old. You instantly feel the vibration of the Falls long before you ever see them. There are a number of tunnels you can walk through to viewing portals behind the Falls. FAIR WARNING: you WILL get wet! They give you a poncho upon arrival, but once we went out to the main viewing ledge, we got completely soaked – shoes, pants, hair, everything!
They also have various posters throughout the tunnel system to give you some of the history of the Falls and the tunnel system when it was built. This was one of our top three favourite things that we did while at the Falls and I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who wants to get a close-up look at Niagara Falls!
2. White Water Walk
Another attraction that I actually never knew existed before this trip was the White Water Walk along the Niagara River to experience it’s class 6 white-water rapids. Once you arrive, you will take an elevator ride down to a tunnel which then connects to a boardwalk that takes you right along the edge of the river for another up-close look at the magnificent Niagara waterway.
It’s a beautiful self-guided walk you can take with various look outs that make for really cute picture opportunities. At the end of the walkway, there are some posters that explain the geology of the Niagara Gorge and the plant/animal life in the various Niagara Parks.
3. Clifton Hill Fun Pass
You cannot go to Niagara Falls and NOT experience Clifton Hill – the “Street of Fun” that has something for everyone. The big signs, the bright lights, the food, and all the hustle and bustle of that street makes you almost feel like you’ve been transported to Vegas!
With Covid, some of the attractions have been closed like the arcades, while others are taking great precautions and shutting down frequently for cleaning.
We started out the first day at the Big Top Amazing Mirror & Laser Maze adventure. Get lost in the maze of mirrors and try to escape the lasers without getting caught! It was a really fun experience for the whole family to do together and felt like we were stepping back in time at a circus!
The following day, we enjoyed the Fun Pass offerings around the hill. The Fun Pass is a ticket that allows you to experience three different attractions at Clifton Hill – the SkyWheel, the Wax Museum and Dinosaur Adventure Golf (or Wizard’s Golf indoors if it’s raining). The pass is $19.95 for adults an d $14.95 for children (plus tax).
As mentioned already, we rode the SkyWheel and absolutely loved the views we saw from there! Once we were finished with the SkyWheel, we headed straight to Dinosaur Adventure Golf for a family round of mini-golf. Our youngest is obsessed with dinosaurs so he especially LOVED this! The dinosaurs are all animatronic, so they move and make sounds, while the centrepiece volcano erupts every so often, sending a blast of heat into the sky!
The last day we were there, we went to Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium, just a block away from the SkyWheel. The Odditorium features the largest collection of unusual and odd things from around the world. Everything from shrunken heads to standing next to the worlds tallest man (btw, Chris is 6’2 and he looks like a shrimp next to him!) It’s a great way to see and experience many things you never knew about – including watching a short film of all the times people tried to go over the Falls! So fascinating!
4. WildPlay Whirlpool Adventure Course
We ended our trip at the WildPlay Adventure Course and our kids could not have been happier about it! We’ve had the opportunity to do a couple of ropes courses throughout the years but nothing like this, suspended high in the trees, overlooking the Whirpool section of the Niagara River.
We started by all having to sign waivers and have temperature checks before gearing up. Our youngest had to do the smaller course designed for shorter kids. The course itself is quite similar to the adult one however the ropes are shorter so that they can reach. The course itself is also a bit shorter, so they actually let them do the course twice. I self-nominated myself to be the photographer on the ground 😉 You couldn’t pay me to get up on those ropes!
The course was very challenging for all of them, including Chris. It took the older ones about two and a half hours to get through it. There were points that they could finish one section, take a bathroom or snack break and then get back up on the next section. For my youngest, he had to finish the circuit once before he could take a break (although they have workers that can come and remove the kids if necessary).
This was a fabulous way to finish the trip and a place I’d absolutely recommend and visit again! But I think I’ll always choose to view from the ground up and cheer on my crew as they traverse those tiny tightropes! HA!
BONUS: Secret Garden
Before ending this post, I’d be remised if I didn’t mention one of the highlights of our trip. It wasn’t a paid attraction, in fact, it was really just something we stumbled upon. I’m talking about the Secret Garden behind the Oakes Theatre Park along the Niagara parkway, right next to the Secret Garden Restaurant (ok, so I guess it’s not SO secret!).
The park opened in 1937 and has a circular pergola that overlooks an amphitheatre. The gardens that surround the theatre reminded us of the gardens in Paris, France when we visited a few years ago. The lines of the trees and park benches with the fountains and sprawling gardens were just so beautiful and picture-worthy.
But then we started walking along the pergola and I noticed wrought-iron gates leading to another “secret” garden tucked in behind the theatre. This space blew us away and we spent the better part of an hour just wandering throughout. The pond was filled with goldfish and even though it’s located in the heart of Niagara Falls, just meters away from the Falls, it was so quiet and tranquil. I could have stayed all day!
We absolutely loved our time in Niagara Falls, especially as we hadn’t really been outside of our home (other than for groceries) for the last four months. Travelling during a pandemic is different and requires extra patience and caution. Some takeaways I wanted to share:
1. If you are going to go to Niagara Falls, try to go mid-week. There is a video circulating that has caused some concern amongst people that it’s too crowded in Niagara and there’s no social distancing. We honestly never experienced that. People kept their distance and the crowds were very minimal if any at all. We never waited in lines as we had reservations for everything before we went. It is very calm during the week and so if you can get away mid-week, that would be my recommendation.
2. Make reservations and/or call before you go. With the situation with Covid-19 ever changing, places are opening and closing at different times for cleaning. There are also limited spots on some attractions so don’t just assume that you can show up whenever. Call before hand and find out all the information you need before you head out.
3. Bring your masks. Everywhere that we went required masks but not all places had some on hand. If you have fabric masks, that’s likely the best to carry with you to use in various locations.
Overall, we had an amazing time away as a family in Niagara Falls. We felt very safe and absolutely loved experiencing all that the Falls has to offer!
Love & Blessings,
Note: This post was sponsored by Niagara Falls Tourism where I may have been compensated in exchange for my honest review. As always, the thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.