Niagara’s Best Places for Families To Unplug And Explore Nature
While there’s no arguing that kids love the excitement of Niagara Falls’ arcades, attractions and waterparks, a few hours enjoying that scene can leave everyone in the family feeling a little overstimulated. Fortunately, Niagara overflows with an easy-to-find antidote for helping your family quickly unwind together: nature.
Just a short drive down the highway from the hustle and bustle of Niagara Falls, Niagara Benchlands offers families an incredible range of natural landscapes to explore by foot, bike or boat. Here are just a few of our favourite ways to play:
Monkey Around at A Nature-Based Playground
For families with young children, playgrounds offer a perfect way to work out the wiggles. Jordan’s Lincoln Museum and Cultural Centre is in the process of redesigning its courtyard to incorporate a dynamic play feature that will encourage children visiting the museum to climb, jump, hide and meet new friends. If you visit the museum before this creative courtyard is complete, pick up a Museum Explorer Backpack filled with intriguing items and fun activities that will help you explore the space.
Just Around The Benchlands Bend Snack Stop: Wander over to RPM Bakehouse and pick up a selection of crisp, buttery pastries.
Earn A Bruce Trail Badge
The Bruce Trail’s new Niagara Benchlands Badge introduces hikers to the historical significance and variety of activities around the Beamsville Bench. Working toward this badge is a fun option for families with older children who just won’t give up their phones, as there are QR codes and photo challenges along the way. Three specific hikes must be completed to receive this badge:
- The Jordan Historical Hike is a leisurely walking tour of the village of Jordan.
- The Ball’s Falls Hike guides walkers past an old mill, the Upper Ball’s Falls and the Lower Ball’s Falls.
- The Wineries of the Beamsville Bench Hike is a six-kilometre route showcasing several of the area’s wineries.
For families with younger children, the Young Trail Blazer Badge can be earned by completing any three-km hike on the Niagara section of the Bruce Trail.
Just Around The Benchlands Bend Snack Stop: Many of the wineries along this section of the Bruce Trail, including offer kid-friendly snacks that make for a perfect mid-hike treat. The ice cream parlour at Conversations Café in Beamsville is another great option for a cool treat after your walk.
Discover Your Own Private Waterfall
Introduce the kids to some of the smaller but spectacular waterfall cousins of Niagara Falls. Niagara Benchlands’ collection of Niagara Escarpment cascades doesn’t attract large crowds and offers wide open spaces for kids to run, climb and explore.
- Flat, gravel paths make the waterfall trek at Ball’s Falls Conservation Area an excellent choice for little legs. There is both an Upper Ball’s Falls and a Lower Ball’s Falls that the Twenty Mile Creek plummets over, and both are well worth the short walk to get to from the parking lot. Children will also enjoy exploring the park’s mid-19th century village, which includes the original Ball family home, a flour mill, a retired kiln, a church, a blacksmith shop, a carriage shed and more.
- The kids will feel like they travelled back in time to the prehistoric era as they climb the stony riverbed of large boulders that leads to Rockway Conservation Area’s two waterfalls. The first waterfall you’ll pass is the smaller of the two, with a height of 12.2 meters, and the second waterfall plunges an impressive 19.5 metres.
- Louth Falls at Louth Conservation Area requires a bit more of a hike to find, but it’s well worth every step through this shady section of the Sixteen Mile Creek valley.
Just Around The Benchlands Bend Snack Stop: Before you set out on your waterfall wander, stock up on a selection of snacks to enjoy along the way at one of Niagara Benchlands’ many roadside stands and markets.
Plan A Perfect Pedal
If you’ve got younger kids who are happy to roll along behind you, County Cycle’s rental bikes and trailers offer a fantastic way for parents with small children to get out and explore the Greenbelt Route or the Niagara Wine Route.
Just Around The Benchlands Bend Snack Stop: Roll into Bench Brewing, where while parents enjoy a mid-ride pint, kids can snack on an ice cream sandwich made with house-baked chocolate chip cookies.
Make For The Lake
Set on a perfect perch overlooking Lake Ontario, Charles Daley Park offers explorers of all ages a large playground, boardwalk, walking trails and two beaches. Easy-to-find rocks along the shoreline make this the perfect destination for a stone skipping lesson! Both the Fifteen and Sixteen Mile Creeks flow into Lake Ontario here, making it a convenient option for families who paddle to do a little exploring on the water. If you don’t have a boat but still fancy a float, go to Jordan Harbour, where Niagara Rowing School and Paddlesports Centre rents kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards. Explore 3,000 metres of shoreline that is home to a picturesque train bridge and old stone trestles, blue herons, migrating birds and reed islands. You can also paddle under the QEW bridge and out onto Lake Ontario to check out the old pirate ship, La Grande Hermine, a replica of one of the ships Jacques Cartier used to explore the St. Lawrence River back in 1535.
Just Around The Benchlands Bend Snack Stop: When hunger strikes, follow the North Service Road to Lake House, and enjoy lunch or dinner on the restaurant’s incredible patio. The restaurant’s kid’s menu options include an ice cream sundae or a selection of house-made mini desserts.