Thursday, July 30, 2015

Journey to Niagara Falls

Originally published on July 12, 2008

Journey to Niagara Falls

My parents as we wait our turn to ride the Maid of the Mist.

My family celebrated Independence Day by leaving the country. My son and I visited my parents at their new house east of Cleveland last week, and on July 4 we were on the road before 6 a.m. on a family road trip to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. We crossed the border in Buffalo, N.Y. Travelers are still able to cross without a passport, so long as they have a photo ID and birth certificate. 
My mom bought four Niagara Falls and Great Gorge adventure passes on-line the night before we left. The pass included tickets to four Niagara Falls attractions. After parking, we took a People Mover bus to the top of Horseshoe Falls. Use of the bus came with our adventure passes but paying for parking at select lots also gives you a day pass for the bus. 
The falls were incredible. 
Experiencing Niagara Falls in person uses almost all your senses. The river water looked like liquid jade that turns white as it pours over the edge. You feel the mist on your skin and hear the roar of the water. 
Following the advice of the girl at the welcome center, our first destination after staring in awe at Niagara Falls and snapping some photos was the Maid of the Mist boat ride. Each person is given a disposable blue rain slicker, and the boat travels past the American Falls and brings visitors to the river in the middle of Horseshoe Falls. Its the best way to feel the power of the falls as the boat struggles to stay in place for a few minutes. My son asked if we could take the boat ride again. My mom and I are not big fans of boats, but I think we would have both been willing. 
After disembarking, we decided to use the tickets to the Butterfly Conservatory. Another bus ride brought us to the botanical gardens for a light lunch and then a walk among over 2,000 butterflies. There were an amazing variety of butterflies in a rainbow of colors. The walk through the butterfly garden ended in the gift shop (as did nearly all Niagara Falls' attractions) and we scooted through there to find a mob scene in the entry way. 
The cause of the furor was a celebrity. Jay Leno was there, looking exhausted, but graciously having his picture taken with fans. He's not as tall as I thought he'd be. No one in my family wanted to trouble him for a photo, so we left. 
Our next stop was the White Water Walk along the rapids. While the rapids on the river are incredible, walking the boardwalk along the river isn't worth the wait and a cramped elevator ride. If I had to do it again, I would try the whirlpool aero car. 
Wanting to indulge in some souvenir shopping, I talked my family into a short walk up the road to a shop. Along the way we stopped in a store specializing in Native American crafts, and I found a good deal on postcards and couldn't resist an owl carved out of sumac. At the next store, my mom bought maple and chocolate fudge. After an early dinner at the restaurant closest to the falls, we took the Journey Behind the Falls, an elevator ride to tunnels that bring you behind the falls and to a viewing platform near the base of the falls. 
My mother wanted to stay for the fireworks show and nightly illumination of Niagara Falls, but she was vetoed. It had already been a long day, and there was a three and a half hour car ride back to my parents' house. We took a brief detour to head toward Lake Ontario. We got far enough to see the Toronto skyline and the Welland Canal before heading back to the border. 
We got back to my parents house pretty late, and the only fireworks we saw were the occasional burst of sparks from communities along the highway. Since most American tourists stay home to celebrate the holiday, the crowds at Niagara Falls weren't too bad. It is such an international destination that I am sure we saw (and heard) people from six continents. I've now been to 21 of the 50 states and can finally say that I've traveled outside the continental USA. This trip also means I've been to all five of the Great Lakes. My son still needs to visit Lake Huron. The only thing that could have made the trip better was if we'd talked my sister into driving up from Indianapolis to join us.

1 comment:

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