Traditionally pegged as a honeymoon destination, Niagara Falls, Ontario, offers a flood of family fun. Itís a trip thatís technically international ó with colorful (or, as Ontarians would write, ďcolourfulĒ) currency and a host of extra uís ó but close enough to embrace the familiar and get there by car.

Getting in
U.S. citizens of all ages need a passport ó this means the kids, too. Parents can apply for a traditional passport book for their children, but a passport card is a less-expensive option if youíre driving into Canada. (Passport cards can also be used to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry.)
Passport cards for citizens ages 16 and up cost $55 ($30 if the applicant is a previous passport holder) and are good for 10 years. Passport cards for those under 16 cost $40 and are good for 5 years. Traditional passport books run $135 per adult (valid for 10 years) and $105 for children under 16 (valid for 5 years).

Everyone will need a new set of passport photos (AAA, CVS, and post offices will take them) and all supporting paperwork (birth certificates, etc.). Make sure you leave yourself enough time before your trip (at least 6 weeks) for your applications to be submitted and processed, and your passports issued and returned. For more information on passport cards and the passport process, visit travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/information/card.html. And, remember, applying for a passport must be done in person, which means the whole family (or those without a passport) must make the trip together; think of it as the trip before the trip.

Getting there
A road trip to Niagara Falls is lengthy, about 7 hours from Central Mass and 8 from the Boston area. Either way, itís a healthy drive west across the Commonwealth and right through the center of New York state. You can make it in one day, but splitting it up makes life easer on the driver(s) and passengers, and al

lows a family to explore some Western New York fun.

Syracuse is a little more than halfway, a city where you can visit the university (syracuse.edu); MOST Syracuse (Museum of Science & Technology), a kid-oriented learning center (most.org); the Rosamond Gifford Zoo (rosamondgiffordzoo.org); the Erie Canal Museum (eriecanalmuseum.org); and the six-story, 300-store Destiny USA mall (destinyusa.com). If youíre hungry, donít miss Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (dinosaurbarbque.com/bbq-syracuse). And if youíre in the area Aug. 25-Sept. 5, the Great New York State Fair is fullĖtilt fun. (nysfair.ny.gov).

Far closer to the border and about 45 minutes east of Buffalo lies Darien Lake theme park, which opens for the season May 7 and offers thrill rides, kidsí rides, a water park, concerts, and more.

Shut off your cell phone
Itís not just good advice for quality family time. Unless you have an international calling plan, using your phone in Canada (Web browsing, phone calls, checking email, GPS, etc.) could result in significant roaming charges and a nasty surprise bill when you get home. Your best bet: Use your phone only when connected to secure Wi-Fi (like that in your hotel). Before you cross the border, turn off cellular data (in an iPhone, you can turn if off at Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data).

Exchange rate
Even though the exchange rate is likely to be in your favor (at press time, $1 U.S. returned $1.33 Canadian), donít expect to save money. Niagara Falls is a tourist destination and priced accordingly. Your kids, however, are likely to enjoy the multicolored bills, Loonies ($1 coin) and Toonies ($2 coin) ó just donít mistake them for quarters.

The Falls

The 1,450-foot-long Rainbow Bridge links the two Niagaras across the border and offers motorists their first views of the falls, which will pull everyoneís attention whenever theyíre near. There are technically three falls that straddle the U.S.-Canadian border: Horseshoe Falls (the largest), American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls. While there is lodging, attractions, and rushing water on the U.S. side, most visitors prefer the more robust Canadian side.

However, one attraction you can only find on the U.S. side is the iconic Maid of the Mist
boat tour (maidofthemist.com). After operating on the Canadian side of the falls for 167 years, the company sporting the trademark blue rain poncho tours stopped sailing out of Ontario in 2013 after the Niagara Parks Commission opened a bidding process for the cruise contract. Hornblower Niagara Cruises, which issues red ponchos, now offers the tour out of the Canadian side (niagaracruises.com).
A full list of Niagara Falls, NY, attractions can be found at niagara-usa.com. And donít sleep on the City of Buffalo, which sits at the head of the Niagara River. From the Buffalo Zoo to the Buffalo Museum of Science and more, you can find a lineup of family activities and attractions at visitbuffaloniagara.com/family-fun/.

One fun place to start your falls adventure in Ontario is just past the intersection of Clifton Hill (Niagaraís neon hot spot) and Niagara Falls Parkway (which runs parallel to the river): the Grand View Marketplace (niagaraparks.com). It offers shopping, outdoor entertainment, and a free observation deck that provides stunning views of the falls; itís a great spot to capture the American and Horseshoe falls in one picture from above.

A 1-minute walk down the parkway is Hornblower Cruises, which will get you falls pictures from an up-close-and-personal angle ó as well as a red rain poncho, which you will need because you will get wet. The cruise can also be bundled as part of an overall activities pass, which includes other attractions around the falls. The passes are well-advertised and may be a good option and money saver if youíre interested in other experiences.

After a cruise, take a walk through Queen Victoria Park, enjoying the gorgeous gardens, flowers, and plants on one side and the river and falls on the other. At the end of the park is Table Rock Centre, which sits at the brink of 167-foot-high Horseshoe Falls. Also known as the Canadian Falls, 90% of the Niagara River thunders over Horseshoe at a rate of 600,000 gallons per second. Table Rock Centre offers shopping, food, and more, including Journey Behind the Falls, where visitors walk through tunnels behind the falls to an observation deck at the foot.

Clifton Hill

Clifton Hill is a shorter, family version of the Vegas strip (cliftonhill.com). It offers everything from wax museums and haunted houses to a mini-golf course featuring life-size dinosaurs and the 175-foot-tall Niagara SkyWheel, a smaller version of the famous London Eye. And, of course, thereís a plethora of shopping, souvenir stores, and restaurants, including the oddly named (but good) Boston Pizza (since when are we known for that?). Clifton Hill also offers a Tim Hortonís, the Canadian version of Dunkiní Donuts; donít miss it.

Clifton Hill is fun, especially after dark when all the neon comes to life. Your kids will love it. For adults-only fun, the city boasts two casinos: Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara.

Lodging
While there are ample hotel rooms and options in the city, some of the most convenient are the large high-rise hotels surrounding

Clifton Hill. Staying within walking distance of Niagaraís hot spot means families can park their car once and walk for most of the trip. Rates may run higher than other area options for this privilege, and be sure to ask about per-day parking rates. Some hotels will charge a per-day parking fee, which may not be advertised ó or included ó in the nightly hotel rate.

Beyond Niagara
If you have time, there is a whole lot of Ontario to see beyond Niagara. The countryís largest city, Toronto, sits just 1 hour and 20 minutes north and could offer an entire vacation all on its own (toronto4kids.com). A trip up to Toronto will swing you around the southwest coast of Lake Ontario and through one section of the provinceís extensive wine country (winecountryontario.ca). If youíre a wine lover (and can convince the kids to tag along), itís worth the trip.