** I have made few notes about badges throughout this post. I will update it when all the new badges and program materials have been released.
I went on a trip to Niagara Falls, Canada a few weeks ago and had an amazing time! It may be one of the biggest tourist destinations in our country, but it is one I always love to return to.
I went with another leader … and we had such a good time that we started wondering, what if we brought our Brownies here next spring for our big end of year trip ….
Something that makes Niagara Falls such a perfect experience, IMHO, is that it is a great blend of educational, adventure and nature tourism. A perfect combination for an organization like Girl Guides of Canada!
Based on my experiences, and a little bit of research, I am putting together a sample trip below. This will be my cheatsheet for next year if we decide to bring our unit, or it can form the basis for your unit’s trip. You can modify it based on your length of stay, unit age / interest, or fund-raising goals.
First off, I would HIGHLY recommend making this either a mother and daughter trip or at least having one adult to every 3-4 girls. This makes it easier for hotels (one adult and 3-4 girls per room) when you sleep over and fills a charter bus if you decide to take one down. Alternately, you could keep those same room assignments and have them double as car assignments.
Disclaimer: I have attempted to incorporate Safeguide levels within my description of each activity but I have not done this trip yet or verified anything with GGC, so you must do your own research to make sure everything you are doing is appropriate! If you charter a bus, that is green level, but if you decide to have the girls drive in cars and carpool, this is yellow! Overall, this is a yellow level trip, as long as it is less than 72 hours in length.
For your first full day in Niagara Falls, I would recommend doing all of the “traditional” activities that normally highlight your trip. I would definitely recommend purchasing either the Classic Pass (for a shorter trip) or the Adventure Pass Plus (if you’re staying 2+ days). It saves you money, and you can book specific times for each attraction, which is important when in a large group. ** With the Classic Pass, you can opt to add-on 1-2 attractions for an additional cost. I would do this, choosing the Butterfly Conservatory and the Whirlpool Aero Car.
I recommend booking your first appointment for the White Water Walk. Book the Whirlpool Aero Car for one hour after this and the Butterfly Conservatory for another hour later. After a break for lunch, hit up some of the local gardens and let the girls either take a rest in the park, or play some great group games to keep them entertained during your “rest period”. If you prepare a nature scavenger hunt ahead of time for the gardens, this is a great opportunity to bring it out. There is a great gift shop a 5 minute walk from the White Water Walk, if you have extra time. You can also purchase snacks and drinks here and use washrooms.
In the afternoon: book the Journey Behind the Falls attraction for about three hours after the Butterfly Conservatory to allow for travel time and your lunch break, and an hour later schedule the Niagara’s Fury ride. This is both fun and educational! An hour afterwards, book your boat trip on Hornblower Niagara Cruises (formerly, the Maid of the Mist). Niagara’s Fury isn’t that long but there is a short walk between these two attractions. If you have the Adventure Pass, you can use the Incline Railway to get back to the top of Clifton Hill for supper. It saves you trying to drag a group of tired girls up a steep hill to get to restaurants and/or your hotel. Plus, there is a great view and it is a unique experience for many of them!
10 am: White Water Walk (green level activity)
11 am: Whirlpool Aero Car (green level activity)
12 pm: Butterfly Conservatory (green level activity)
3 pm: Journey Behind the Falls (green level activity)
4 pm: Niagara’s Fury (green level activity)
5 pm: Maid of the Mist / Hornblower Cruises (TPSP)
** Optional 5:45 pm: Falls Incline Railway (green level activity)
6 pm: Supper break and rest time
If you have time and energy before bedtime, the girls would probably love to do one of the following activities on Clifton Hill: Dinosaur Adventure Mini-Golf, Niagara Skywheel, or Ripley’s Museum (all green level activities).
This is more of a historical / cultural day than yesterday. It also really makes use of the Adventure Pass, so if your unit opted for a less expensive one, you might want to skip this part of the itinerary or just choose one or two things to do.
This route requires taking the WEGO bus all the way to the end of the line at Queenston Heights Park. Transfer to the Niagara-on-the-Lake busline and travel three more stops to historical McFarland House, where you will take a guided tour from costumed staff. Take the bus back towards the Falls for one stop, where you will get off at the Laura Secord Homestead. Costumed guides will give you a tour of her home and tell you about her life. This is a great opportunity to make a connection to Girls First programming and girl empowerment. You can purchase ice cream and souvenirs here, making it a great place for a small rest and snack.
The Mackenzie Printery is located at the next bus stop and it is a historical landmark, containing Canada’s oldest printing press, the Louis Roy Press. This is one of just seven wooden printing presses remaining in the entire world! It was used to print Canada’s first newspaper and some of our first laws, dating back to the 1700s. Girls will have an opportunity for hands-on learning with a couple of types of presses.
Brock’s Monument and Laura Secord’s Monument are located inside the Queenston Heights Park. The Six Nations and Native Allies Commemorative Memorial is also found in the park. At the top of the Niagara Escarpment, the scenery from this location is beautiful. The Park also has numerous gardens, a playground and a splashpad. If you are able to pack picnic lunches, this is a fantastic place to relax, eat and play for a couple of hours. There are also a snack bar and washrooms at this location.
10 am: McFarland House (green level activity)
11 am: Laura Secord Homestead (green level activity)
12 pm: Mackenzie Printery (green level activity)
Afternoon Option 1:
Take a charter bus to Old Fort Erie, a short drive away. Here, your unit will take a guided tour around the historic fort that was so pivotal during the War of 1812. Along the way, you will run across costumed staff portraying British, American and First Nation soldiers and see an exciting musket demonstration. Girls will see what life was like during this time period. In the on-site welcome centre, girls will view a short film introducing the sights of Old Fort Erie and visit an interactive exhibit. Washrooms and snacks are available at this location. Admission is included in the Adventure Pass Plus. (green level activity)
Afternoon Option 2:
Take a walk to the Fallsview Indoor Water Park, within walking distance of Clifton Hill and the Falls. Girls can spend a fun afternoon playing in the wave pool and riding a variety of water slides. Washrooms (including public showers), change-rooms and a restaurant are on-site and towels are provided. This water park has been TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Award Winner for two years. The park also provides customized educational programming included with the admission, if you make arrangements at booking. Admission to the water park is not included in any of the Niagara passes I’ve mentioned above. (I think this is a green level activity [facility lifeguards present] but girls may NOT access the rooftop pool which has no lifeguards). *All swimmers must have passed the swim test.
6:30 pm: Supper break and rest time
If you have time and energy before bedtime, the girls would probably love to do one of the following activities on Clifton Hill: Dinosaur Adventure Mini-Golf, Niagara Skywheel, or Ripley’s Museum. (all green level activities)
Start with an early morning visit to the Cham Shan Buddhist Temple. You will need to take the WEGO bus to this stop, but it is a short ride. There is an impressive collection of statues and architecture both inside and out. This is a functioning Buddhist monastery where tourists are welcome to join in worship services. During weekends, volunteers provide guided tours of the building, and share beliefs and practices involved in Buddhism.
Next, hop back on the bus and continue to the Niagara Glen Nature Centre and Trails. This is a fantastic opportunity to go back to guiding roots and take a gorgeous hike on trails that roughly follow the Niagara River. Guided tours can be arranged, where staff will happily educate your unit on the geological and biological history of the area. After watching the Niagara’s Fury film on day one, it should be easy for girls to understand and envision the world their tour guide paints. If possible, bring packed lunches and enjoy a picnic or hit up a restaurant on the way to the next destination.
After lunch, visit the Whirlpool Adventure Course, appropriate for ages 6+. You will climb high above the Niagara whirlpool to have fun on a series of ziplines, and climbing and jumping courses. No where else will you be able to experience this with such an epic backdrop. Afterwards, visit the Bird Kingdom, the world’s largest free-flying indoor aviary. You will travel through this indoor rainforest to meet exotic animals and it is a rare chance to take amazing photos of different species. This is another fantastic opportunity for a nature scavenger hunt in your unit. The aviary is within walking distance of Clifton Hill and the Falls.
Finish your trip by visiting Crock A Doodle pottery centre. Visit their studio for hands-on fun that can be arranged to match your itinerary or upcoming badge goals. This is a fun way to wind down the excitement of an adventurous trip and give all the girls a little something to remember their trip by. Who doesn’t love a good craft?! Especially when the guider doesn’t have to source materials or deal with the mess!!! Crock A Doodle is within walking distance of Clifton Hill and the Falls. This attraction is not included in any of the passes.
From here, catch your vehicles or charter bus back home, eating supper on the bus. I find it is super convenient to pre-arrange kids meals with a local subway or pizza joint. Parents can indicate their child’s meal /drink preference during the trip planning process and leaders call it in the day before to the chosen restaurant, and indicate the time they are picking it up. Super easy way to get through the meal, get on the bus and have everyone happily munching for the first part of the drive!
9 am: Cham Shan Buddhist Temple (green level activity)
10 am: Niagara Glen (green level activity)
12 pm: Lunch break!
1 pm: Whirlpool Adventure Course (TPSP)
3 pm: Bird Kingdom (green level activity)
5 pm: Crock A Doodle (green level activity)
This is the last day! Time to head home.
Question: Why should you book passes?
Answer: You save a lot of money, they will help you plan out and book your attraction times and they very helpfully put your pass on a lanyard around your neck. This helps make sure passes don’t get lost, and you can use your one card for the bus and all the attractions you book. With a large group, this is super helpful!
When you purchase a pass you can ride the WEGO buses for 2 days. With a large group of children or adults, this is another huge benefit, plus you don’t end up having to pay for parking everywhere. The buses run regularly and we used them the whole time we were there. With the Adventure Pass, you also can ride the Niagara-on-the-Lake bus system, which is used in day two of my proposed itinerary.
Question: What Safeguide forms do we need?
Answer: IR.1, SG.1, SG.2, SG.3, SG.4, SG.5, SG.7, H.1, WA.1 third party’s waver (if required by third party), a list of all adults in attendance. H.3 is required if any girl will require medication to be administered during a trip. A Home Contact Person must be set up. Girls must be paired up in a buddy system. H.2 is required for adults.
Question: In addition to Safeguide forms, what other information should we provide parents?
Answer: Information on transportation, personal kit list, clothing for outdoor activities, contact information, location, meeting times, etc, details of activities taking place, cost.
Comment below if there is anything that I have missed or you think is inaccurate about the forms! I am new to that aspect of guiding 🙂