Explore the Niagara Falls Region

Studies show that planning a bunch of small getaways actually makes us happier than taking one, epic annual vacation.

Knowing that fact and actualizing it are two very different things. It’s so tempting to spend a week in the Bahamas or hit the road for that cross-country trip of a lifetime.

But if you’re in the Northeast, there are a ton of great places to take a short getaway. The one we’re featuring today is epic Niagara Falls. While you’re probably familiar with Thunder Beaver, today we’re going to take you on a family-friendly trip of the whole region.

Niagara Falls

The Falls themselves are nothing to miss. Not only are they gorgeous, but they also produce a lot of hydroelectricity. The entire Canadian side of the Falls appears to be built up entirely around tourism with attractions like Safari Niagara—which is great if you’re a tourist.

On the American side, it looks like developers have given up. There’s no way the US can compete with the views nature gave our neighbor to the north, so we apparently don’t spend money trying. All the more reason to grab your passport and head over to the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.

Pro Tip: While the Falls are beautiful at any time of day, they’re breathtaking at night when they’re lit up. If you do go during the day, check out Maid of the Mist—a boat tour that will take you up close and personal with the majesty and force of Niagara.

Darien Lake

Darien Lake is Western New York State’s most famed theme park. They have roaring rolling coasters, fun carnival games and a water park that will keep you entertained so long you’ll forget there’s anything else to the park.

But perhaps our favorite attraction at Dairen Lake is a little more subdued. The Ferris wheel—aptly named the Giant Wheel—was built in 1982 for the World Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. At that time, it was the largest Ferris wheel in the world. Today the Giant Wheel lives at Darien Lake and is the second largest in North America.

We highly recommend doing this first because once you’re at the top, you can see for miles on end. You can see the green forests circling the park, and each and every ride to boot. It makes reading your park map make a whole lot more sense.

Plus, those views are gorgeous.

Lockport, New York

You wouldn’t believe it, but sleepy Lockport, New York was once a roaring center of commerce. Its claim to fame was its prime location on the Erie Canal.

There are so many ways to step into history here without dealing with the massive crowds of larger cities. The Erie Canal Discovery Center on Church Street walks you through the history and importance of the canal in this region. You can also hop on a boat to see all the historical sites—above or underground. Recently, the canal has even seen some increased commerce again as items are shipped from the Great Lakes to NYC on the coast.

Lockport is also a great place to bunk. It’s centrally located to a lot of bigger cities and attractions, including Niagara Falls, with a much lower price tag. The town does only have three hotels, though, and frequently hosts those going on bus tours of the region. So it’s wise to reserve ahead of time.