Getting Our Feet Wet… at Niagara Falls
Normally, we look for family outings when we have a few days off in a row. This trip was different. Our Sept-Oct tour was booked very aggressively to allow for more days off in November, when we are expecting a new baby. Michael noted that we were going to be very near Niagara Falls and that we should make a point to see them. We looked at the calendar, and I realized that we would have to make an effort to fit it in. We had one day off after Cecilia's birthday, which would be perfect. We normally try to take a fun outing for birthdays instead of buying gifts. We put the "Discovery Pass" in our budget and marked the calendar.
There are some tourist things that we do because it is a rare opportunity, but the kids do not always appreciate them. Growing up in the midwest, a lot of things are just out of reach, geographically. When we went to New York City last fall, the kids had a hard time appreciating it. They were not old enough to understand why it was special. I was worried this trip would be like that. They had no clue what the Niagara Falls were. Cecilia told me that she "heard there was a water fall" there. We have seen several waterfalls. Usually small, quaint ones on hiking trails, but some have been quite impressive. I wondered if this massive landmark would get categorized in the same group as random hiking trip.
It was a Monday morning. We found a campground close to the falls and got settled in and had lunch. We were glad that the weather had warmed to the high 60 degree mark. When we arrived at the state park, the parking lot was full, so we parked off site and made the short walk to the gate. We were bombarded with noise from all sides. A busy road in front of us, construction to the side, music from the Hard Rock Cafe to the other side. Of course, Michael's phone rings and it is impossible to make out the phone call while navigating through the front gate. I started to worry that this was a miserable tourist trap.
We found a quite spot and Michael kept the kids while I bought our passes. Since it was a bit cool, we had considered visiting all of the dry areas first and then taking the tours of the falls. Once we got a glimspe of the falls, there was no turning back. The kids all thought they were amazing and encouraged us to go straight for the boat ride. They ran straight to the front of the ship. The workers confirmed that was the best view, and then giggled under their breath that it was also the wettest. We totally missed any facts or history that they announced over the loud speaker because the kids were jumping in amazement. Just when we got settled in to take pictures, the boat made a turn and it started pouring water on us. We all laughed and shouted.
MJMJ was most excited about riding the trolley. Honestly, everything was walking distance, so there was no need for the trolley. We decided to take a snack break and watch the short movie in the adventure theater. There were no lines, so the day went by easily and quickly. The kids did not understand much of the movie, but it was nice to sit for a while.
With the request for the trolley ride still pending, we decided to catch a ride to the aquarium, saving the wettest tour for last. Some of the trolley stops were closed, due to construction, and we walked the wrong direction and ended up at another viewing platform for the falls. We were not tired of looking at them yet, so we made a stop and realized we were right at the walking tour. Because the aquarium closed earlier than the tour, we kept our original plan and boarded the trolley.
The aquarium was small, but we were able to get right up close to the sea creatures, which was cool. A sea lion show started right after our arrival. We only had 45 minutes until it closed, but that was just enough time to see everything. We hopped on the trolley and went back for our final tour.
As I was reading reviews of the tours, someone had noted, "If you are older and want to WATCH the falls, go to the Canadian side. If you are younger and want to EXPERIENCE the falls, go to the United States side." This tour is what they were talking about. Equipped with sandals and a poncho, we walked down steps onto a platform that spit water onto your feet. The kids giggled and stomped and squeeled. Then we climbed to a higher platform, where the falls rained on your head. Some of the kids loved it, others ran away. It was exilarating and unpredictable how the water would splash on the rocks and a previously dry spot would be suddenly drenched. Everyone there wanted a picture, but no one wanted to risk their phone's life. No one left without getting sprayed. Some of the kids would have stayed longer, but most of the tourist were courteous about taking turns on the platform in order to take pictures.
By that time it was about 6 PM and we were ready for some hot chocolate and dinner. Had we been dry, we may have opted for a restaurant. As it was, we were glad to have chosen a campsite that was just 10 minutes from the falls. We came home to warm showers and chicken noodle soup.
The kids exclaimed that it was the "best trip ever!" We were quick to ask them if it ranked above Disney World. They quickly changed their answer to "We love them all equally, but that was fun."