I’ve been visiting Niagara Falls for as long as I can remember. As a child, I found it rather boring. It was a long drive from where we lived, which was 40 minutes east of Toronto. I never understood how we could drive all that way to look at a waterfall and then turnaround and do the drive back. Considering it’s the honorary 8th wonder of the world, I was determined to make Maxwell’s first trip to the falls an epic one and to prove that Niagara can be a really good time for families of all ages. Also, I just desperately needed an escape from the city. My recently acquired CAA membership was actually the catalyst for our action packed falls getaway.
A few months ago I looked inside my wallet and was shocked at the amount of membership and rewards cards I had stuffed in there. There were definitely more than 10. What can I say, I’m a sucker for earning points, air miles and getting discounts. After doing some member and rewards card inventory, I soon realized I wasn’t taking full advantage of them and turns out; my CAA card was the least used card in the bunch. That changed real quickly after taking a deep dive onto the CAA (SCO) website a month ago. Sure, I had confidence knowing that I was protected with excellent roadside assistance should I need it, but I was missing out on tons of amazing access and discounts for members from their thousands of retail and service partners. Last weekend I took Maxwell on a short road trip to Niagara Falls for the ultimate mommy and me getaway that I think would put me in the running for “Mom of the Year” award, but the real MVP was CAA. I used my CAA membership to build our itinerary and for discounts on everything from our hotel stay to our chopper excursion. Here’s the scoop on how I pulled this off.
ROAD TRIP PREP
Just because I have a CAA membership, it doesn’t mean that I want to risk having any issues with my car on a road trip. Especially with a baby on board. Believe me, checking my car’s vitals before hitting the road is not anything new for me. I am actually annoyingly obsessive with vehicle safety, a quality I probably picked up from my Dad. I couldn’t get an appointment with Audi before leaving town, so I ended up getting a last minute appointment close to my house. CAA does all the legwork to create a network of repair facilities that have a high quality of service but at a fair price. It’s a brilliant resource available to members. CAA’s Approved Auto Repair Service AARS facilities also offer Member-exclusive benefits such as 3% in CAA Dollars® on all repairs, which you can use to renew or upgrade your CAA Membership or for items at a CAA.
WHERE TO STAY IN NIAGARA
Obviously there are loads of places to stay in Niagara, but if you’re making the trek out there for a weekend getaway, it only makes sense to choose a hotel with a falls view. My first choice for accommodation was the Sheraton Fallsview because of its close proximity to all the activities I had planned during our day, however it was fully booked the weekend we were going. We ended up staying at the Hilton Hotel at a reduced rate. If you’re a member, you can find a full list of top hotel partners around the world on the CAA’s hotel rewards page. Our suite was huge with a living room area, spacious bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub plus a view of both the Canadian and U.S. falls. The Hilton is currently under renovations, but so far it only affects the lobby level and some of the restaurants. Not a ton of time was spent in the room if I can be honest. We preferred to be out and about because the weather was amazing for this time of the year. We did enjoy having breakfast in bed and staying up later than normal at night giggling and listening to music like I was there with a friend my age, not a two-year-old toddler!
MUST SEE and MUST DO at the FALLS
If you think that the falls is the only thing to see in Niagara Falls, you are sadly mistaken. I am not kidding, there is something for everyone, which also means if the weather isn’t great when you choose to go, there are still loads of things you can do, if you’re not able to see the falls due to rotten, inclement weather. We thankfully had the best weather, minus the two hours of rain on the Saturday morning.
So here’s the deal, I didn’t really know where to start when planning this weekend and truthfully, when it came to the itinerary, I saved myself some time and just went to CAA’s attractions rewards page and checked out all the attractions, theme parks and adventures listed on there. It rounded up not only the best experiences to choose from but it also offered me discounts to the things I wanted to do.
We stayed relatively close to everything on our agenda for the two and a half days we were there so we didn’t use our car until we were headed to our last activity. We walked to most things but we also had two day access to WEGO, the hop on – hop off bus that picked us up and dropped us off right in front of the Hilton that was part of Niagara Parks package we had pre-purchased online. Here’s the short list of activities we absolutely loved:
CLIFTON HILL – They don’t call it the street of fun for nothing. The Clifton Hill strip is jam packed with activities, restaurants and is perfect for all ages. There is literally something on every corner including it’s newest attraction, the Niagara Speedway, Canada’s first ever elevated go-kart track. Not something we were able to enjoy this time around because Maxie is so young, but we had a blast hitting up the Niagara Skywheel, Dinosaur Adventure Mini-Put, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
I’ve never been to any Ripley’s museums so I wasn’t sure what to expect to be honest but turned out to be a good move. It is a bit of a strange place where you’re going to find odd, shocking and dare I say strange exhibits, but that’s part of the fun. You’ll find everything from a replica of the world’s tallest man, a Tibetan skull, a giant Lite-Brite installation and several optical illusions. Max was obsessed and there were quite a few installations and exhibits that even toddlers could enjoy.
You can find everything in Clifton Hill. I loved that we didn’t have to venture far from the action when we wanted to get a bite to eat. There are tons of options around for dining in the area. Some are even CAA preferred dining partners where we were able to receive exclusive offers and discounts only for CAA members.
HORNBLOWER CRUISE AND THE JOURNEY BEHIND THE FALLS – The piece de resistance and the reason why millions flock to the tiny city of Niagara each year, the Falls is obviously an incredible site to witness in person, especially on a beautiful day like we had. We could have totally just witnessed this beautiful wonder from afar but I couldn’t resist wanting to get a closer look so I pre-booked tickets for both the Hornblower Niagara boat cruise and the Journey Behind the Falls. It’s been almost 30 years since I did the Maid of the Mist boat tour so this was definitely a highlight for me. And yes, we got very wet but that’s all part of the fun I think. The cruise travels down to the falls, turns around and heads straight back and the whole thing is done in about 25 minutes. It was the perfect length of time for the activity. Any longer and it could get miserable on a cold or windy day.
The Journey Behind the Falls is quite an extraordinary experience and one we weren’t able to fully indulge in because we were short on time, but it’s something that should be a part of everyone’s Niagara Falls itinerary. You descend 150 ft and get a chance to explore 130 year old tunnels through the bedrock. The observation deck is at the bottom of the 13 storey falls so you get the best possible view of one-fifth of the world’s fresh water crashing down in front of you.
FALLSVIEW INDOOR WATERPARK – This place is a dream for kids, so be prepared to spend the better part of the whole day there because they won’t want to leave. Consider yourself warned. That being said, I would drive back to Niagara in a heartbeat just to see the smile on Maxwell’s face playing in the water. Fallsview Indoor Waterpark is located just a stones throw away from Clifton Hill and right by the Sheraton Hotel, which is why I had wanted to stay there originally.
They have designed the 125,000 sqft water park in a way that families of all ages can enjoy the space. There’s a mammoth play area with a 1000 gallon tipping bucket perfect for toddlers to pre-teens, an age appropriate splash pad for toddlers, Jacuzzi’s for the adults. There’s private cabanas for the anti-social folks that don’t feel like intermixing with the masses, a full sized wave pool, six storey water slides for older kids and adults and a restaurant/bar.
NIAGARA HELICOPTERS – Obviously saved the best surprise for last. The Niagara Heli tour was the COOLEST experience ever. I found this gem of an excursion on the CAASCO member website and booking it was a no brainer. The bonus, is that I was able to receive 20% off the price of the excursion with my membership WOO HOO. Let me tell you, looking at the falls close up is cool, but getting an unobstructed aerial view of this magnificent wonder really is a next level experience and something that we will never ever forget.
Now that we are back and settled, I am already started to plan our next girl adventure and I will definitely be utilizing my CAASCO member benefits and rewards to get the best out of our future travel experiences. There are SO many benefits of CAA outside of roadside assistance and I’ve already reaped so many rewards since getting my CAA Plus membership. To register for your membership or to discover how you can benefit from your existing membership head to caasco.com.
This post is in partnership with CAASCO but all views and opinions are my own.