A Visit to the Gardens of Ontario’s Niagara Parks

Niagara Falls, less than 90 minutes from home, it’s our go-to for a quick and easy getaway – not too bad to have a world-recognized landmark so close to home.  Our family’s come to love and appreciate the natural side of Niagara Falls on display in New York’s Niagara Falls State Park (the first state park in the entire country).  Therefore, we thought it was high time to discover the natural beauty of Niagara Falls in Ontario’s Niagara Parks, and what better time to visit than Mother’s Day to take in the glorious spring blooms.  Continue reading for more of the gardens and nature you can find in Ontario’s Niagara Parks.

Niagara Falls Parks Ontario

Floral Showhouse

Our first stop was the Floral Showhouse.  For the past 60-70 years, the Floral Showhouse has delighted plant lovers with a tropical oasis filled with succulents, orchids, and flowers blooming in all seasons.  During our visit, the magnolia trees were in full bloom forming a brilliant pink canopy that arched over the walkway leading from Niagara Falls to the Floral Showhouse itself.

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The Floral Showhouse is open year-round with each season featuring a different exhibition of blooming plants.  Our visit coincided with the opening day of the annual hydrangea show filled with hydrangeas, delphiniums and foxgloves.

Niagara Falls Parks Ontario

In addition to the greenhouse displays inside, outdoor walkways and paths surround the Floral Showhouse inviting guests to wander among the gardens.  A fantastic spot for nature lovers or photographers, the Floral Showhouse costs $5 per adult (ages 13+), $3.75 for children 6-12, and those under 5 years old are free.

Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens and Butterfly Conservatory

Downstream from Niagara Falls is an even larger and more elaborate horticultural display, the 100 acre Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens and Butterfly Conservatory.  By the time we arrived on Mother’s Day, dark clouds were rolling and a breeze was picking up making outdoor exploration less comfortable, but it was perfect to examine the free-flying tropical butterflies.

Niagara Falls Parks Ontario

Over 2,000 individual butterflies from 45 different species float through the tropical rainforest environment – flitting about from plant to plant.  The lush, warm conservatory features streams, waterfalls, and an emergence window where pupae break free of their chrysalis to prepare to for their first flight.  At 11,000 square feet, this is North America’s largest glass-enclosed butterfly conservatory.

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It was fun trying to see how many different butterflies we could spot, and admiring the vivid colors of all the different species.  Take time to watch the brief 7-minute video before entering the conservatory.  It helps to appreciate the wonders inside.  Entry to the Botanical Gardens is free, but the Butterfly Conservatory costs $14.25 per adult (ages 13+), $9.25 for children 6-12, and those under 5 years old are free.

White Water Walk

In between the Floral Showhouse and Butterfly Conservatory was a pleasant surprise for our family.  The White Water Walk is a short, quarter-mile boardwalk perched along the powerful Niagara River.  The path allows you to get amazingly close to the rushing water of the river and its Class 6 (extremely dangerous) white water rapids.

Niagara Falls Parks Ontario

The rushing water was mesmerizing and hypnotizing, and the waves of the rapids reminded us of “The Great Wave,” that famous Japanese woodblock print.

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There are excellent views of the many layers of rock stratification along the walls of the Niagara Gorge, and there are even places to get your feet wet that could be refreshing on a hot, summer day.  Admission to the White Water Walk is $12.25 per adult (ages 13+), $8 for children 6-12, and those under 5 years old are free.  Of all the attractions we visited, this fee seemed on the high side.  However if you plan on staying in the area longer, purchasing a Niagara Falls Adventure Pass bundles together many of the most popular attractions at a 25% discount.  This is could be a good deal for those on an overnight getaway to Niagara Falls.

Niagara Falls Parks Ontario

As this was Mother’s Day, we had a dinner reservation on the American side [click here for our review of Water Street Landing], and needed to end our visit after these three attractions.  However, there was so much more to see and do in the Niagara Parks including the Whirlpool Aero Car (celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016), the Hornblower Niagara Cruise, and an aerial adventure course with a MistRider Zipline to the falls opening later this summer.  Founded in 1885, Ontario’s Niagara Parks commission strives to conserve the natural beauty and cultural heritage along the Niagara River.  Combined with a visit to New York’s Niagara Falls State Park, the Niagara Parks allow visitors to surround themselves with the beauty of this natural wonder.

Disclosure: Adventures by Daddy was hosted by Niagara Parks, and provided with complimentary admission to the experiences described in this post.  However, all opinions expressed are those of the author.  For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.