Backyard Tourist Fun

Play tourist in your own backyard!

So…the kids are antsy and your fuse is getting shorter.  The whines in your worlds don’t go with cheese!
They’re booooored. What is there to doooooooo? Plenty.

Tell those little ingrates to be happy they’re living in one of the great vacation capitals of the world – and then prove that statement right by lining up some family outings that will knock their socks off. Start by introducing them to the finest maple syrup this side of heaven – at White Meadows Farms in Pelham. Contrary to the popular belief held by video-game-addicted-children-who-never-go-outside, maple syrup does not come from plastic bottles marked “Aunt Jemima” but is, in fact, produced by maple trees.  Who knew?!  And it’s a process that can be observed, first hand, at White Meadow Farms. You and the kiddies can tromp through the sugar bush, see how the liquid sap drips out of the trees and into buckets, watch it being boiled down into syrup and then (here’s the best part) belly up to a table full of pancakes and see what the finished product tastes like.  It’s heaven on a plate and note: we’re pretty sure that calories don’t count if you’re eating stuff that comes out of a tree. Tell yourself that, anyway. The White Meadows magic lasts until the beginning of April.

While they’re still high on the sugar rush, treat them to a high of a different kind – on the Niagara Sky Wheel. Unlike most ferris wheels, the Niagara Sky Wheel has enclosed baskets, so you’ll stay toasty warm as it lifts you 175 feet into the air to ensure that you get the best possible view. The Sky Wheel is a bit like the Falls themselves – something so big and so impressive, you just can’t believe you don’t enjoy it more often!

Still looking for excitement?  Take in the show at Niagara’s Fury – one of the few rock ‘em sock ‘em multi-media experiences that will actually teach your kids something! Featuring indoor rain, snow, cascading water, a shaking, rocking floor and all the thrills and chills that simulate the splitting of the earth that formed Niagara Falls during the ice age, Niagara’s Fury also includes a clever animatronic film that explains the process. It’s a serious lesson in science, but your kids will never notice because they’ll be having far too much fun!

After you get your land legs back, drive down the Parkway to the Butterfly Conservatory and get ready to OD on cuteness. In addition to the more than 2000 butterflies jetting around inside the Conservatory (BIG tip – wear something red, orange or hot pink so the butterflies will find you fetchingly floral and land on you!) there are two baby marmosets, guaranteed to have even the most resolute animal-hater simpering “Awwwwwww…”  Part of the touring “Animals of the Rainforest” exhibit, the baby marmosets (think of something tiny and furry, with faces much, much cuter than Justin Bieber’s…sort of a cross between a baby squirrel and a mini-monkey) were born right here in Niagara.  They’re not for sale; therefore, you’ll be completely safe when the kids beg you for one!  The rainforest cuties will be here until May 11 so don’t miss out!

Maple syrup…water parks…baby marmosets…see kids? Aren’t we lucky to live in Niagara?

Is a travel writer with weekly columns in the Toronto Star, various other newspapers and She's a thrilled to be a blog contributor, and is inspired by the people she's met through White Oaks.