Last week we took a mini-vacation, Hubs, Little Boo and I. (The Teen, at 16, no longer wants anything to do with these events sadly. But I do remember being that age, and I understand.) We spent two days in Niagara Falls, ON, staying at Great Wolf Lodge.
Niagara Falls is a great vacation or day trip option if you are in Southern Ontario or Western New York. (Or anywhere really.) It does have its downsides - it is a major tourist destination, so it's not cheap, and parts of it can be pretty tacky. But there is so much to do you'll be able to please everyone in your crew.
Day 1 we spent at Marineland. Admission for a family of 3 is $135, but for an extra $15 you can upgrade to a season's pass and go back as many times as you like. I got two of our tickets with our Air Miles, so that was a big help. (I am a huge fan of points programs.) Little Boo has been seeing the incessant Marineland commercials forever now and has been asking to visit for some time. He loved it!
They have a good selection of rides for the pre-school set. He got to ride a kids' rollercoaster and go up in various whirling, spinning, dipping things. He was thrilled! We got him a ticket to feed and pet a beluga ($9) and spent a lot of time watching them and the orcas. There are also black bears and deer and bison. And you can feed humungous carp. Of course, the highlight is the big show with the seals and dolphins and walruses. Really funny, with amazing animal tricks. One lucky (bigger) kid gets chosen to meet, feed and dance with one of the dolphins. And, the day ended with trips to the arcade and gift shop. (My least favourite.)
Marineland is a lot quieter and smaller than Wonderland, so I appreciate that. And there are bigger rides for the older set, not just the kiddie stuff. Hubs likes the Dragon Mountain Coaster - largest steel coaster in the world! If you're not afraid of heights, then you should try out the Sky Screamer. You'll go straight up 450 feet, and will be bounced up and down at speeds up to 60 mph. I imagine the views of the falls must be spectacular from up there. (Rides and I don't get along, remember?)
One tip - if you eat at the main cafeteria there, the pizza is located separately from the rest of the food. Two line-ups are needed if your wee one insists on pizza. (Sigh. I thought the chicken fingers were great.)
Parking is free. And kids 4 and under have free admission. You definitely can spend a full day here exploring and playing. Plan accordingly.
Next up - Great Wolf Lodge