Do you remember your first trip to Niagara Falls? Planning it for a child is like reliving it.
There are so many different angles for us to view the Falls and, of course, each one is a completely different experience. My son has no idea what’s in store, and I am so excited!
As we approach the Table Rock Welcome Centre the epic sight of the Falls is inescapable. We immediately run to the railing and marvel in wide-eyed wonder at the force of 2,800 cubic metres of water per second barrelling over a 670 metres wide crest mere feet from our perch. No matter how many times I’ve seen it, I’m still captivated. My son—he’s entranced. “Do you know how that’s made?” I whisper in his ear. “No,” he mouths, without averting his gaze. “Come here. I want to show you something.” As I pry him away, we head inside.
Within a 4D, 360 degrees, multi-sensory theatre, we travel through time to discover how the Falls were formed. We’re not voyeurs on this journey.
The platform beneath us, and to which we’re clinging for dear life, is simulating the geological forces displayed on the screens.
As we watch the animation and enjoy the characters on the screen, we shiver during the last Ice Age as snow falls upon us. We’re jolted off balance as the ice cracks. And we get drenched as we’re hurled down river amidst the massive power of the water. The simulations are brilliant, exhilarating, and, within the safety of the theatre, provide a visceral understanding of how those the Falls came to be. This did not exist when I was a kid, but my son, full of laughter and joy, proved that this is an indispensable experience for any family to include in their Niagara Falls itinerary.
After an experience like that, it’s time to eat, and the restaurant conveniently located within Table Rock is probably one of the essential dining experiences to have in Canada. It’s on the level of the CN Tower in the unique and profound views it offers, and its menu truly reflects the Canadian culinary landscape for international tourists and locals alike.
While my son opts for a thick and juicy burger of Canadian beef, I indulge in a Great Lakes Fish Sandwich combining smoked rainbow trout and Northern Ontario rainbow trout on a brioche bun.
For dessert, the Niagara Spy Apple Barge is a warm and decadent filo basket of cinnamon-scented apples with French vanilla ice cream that hits all the right notes.
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends.” We head back outside, walk along the river, and line up for Journey Behind the Falls. (Pro-tip: unless you arrive first thing in the morning, line-ups are unavoidable. Don’t be deterred. They do move reasonably well. It is worthwhile to carry a distraction for your child while waiting. For us, bubble guns always do the trick!)
We’ve descended into the tunnels underneath and behind the Falls. Again, mind blowing. He’s transfixed by the immense scope of this natural wonder.
For me, the natural wonder is in watching his face, and imagining what’s racing through his mind right now.
He darts from portal to portal in happy amazement that we are now viewing the base of what we were previously viewing from above.
For our final soaker, we board the iconic cruise into the mist of the Falls. Similar to Journey Behind the Falls, we’re prepared for a line-up. Mid-afternoon is busy, but it’s a wonderfully refreshing way to end a visit. We’ve experienced the simulation, the views from above and below, and now the anticipation mounts as we face off against relentless spraying that is a memorable highlight of the day. (Pro-tip: for anyone asking where is the best place to stand, it really doesn’t matter. You will get wet if you want to. Upper deck, facing front, starboard side of the boat left us drenched.)
This is one of the great experiences to have in Canada. For a family, it’s like a rite of passage, and we see multi-generations of smiles.
There are so many fun things to do with family in Niagara Falls, but the core reason for being there will always be experiencing The Falls in it’s rawest form. I still remember my excitement when I visited as a kid with my parents, and now I’ll never forget the excitement when I visited with my kid as his.
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.