Day 12 - Day at Niagara

Trip Start Jun 30, 2012
Trip End Jul 15, 2012

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Flag of United States  , New York
Wednesday, July 11, 2012

We slept later than we initially thought we would since we had such a late night at the Falls. We made sure we had the passports and birth certificates and we headed back to the US side of the falls. After hours spent on line researching the different attractions available in the US and in Canada, I had a rough list in my head of the things I wanted us to do in the NY State Park before defecting to Canada. In talking to friends about our plans to visit Niagara, most people who had been there very passionately recommended visiting the Canadian side over the American side. I also took in to consideration the fact that for any of the “official” attractions we would be paying $40. Maid of the Mist, IMAX movie, Journey behind the Falls, Butterfly Gardens, Cave of the Winds....$40, $40, $40, $40, $40. Whatever the attraction was it generally was going to cost $15 each for adults, $10 for William and MC was free for pretty much all of it. In the US visitor’s center they show an IMAX movie called “Niagara -Legends of Adventure” that I thought would be the best movie to see. There is a movie shown in Canada that explains the way the Falls were made, and I think it’s 4D. I imagined water spray hitting us in the face and the floor trembling underfoot as the geological history unfolds on the screen. It sounded awesome, but again....$40. I was glad we went to the “Legends” movie because it explained a lot of the history of the Falls, the story behind the Maid of the Mist name and had re-enactments of different daredevil stunts over the years. It was great to do that first so the kids had some idea of what it exactly was that we were there to see. After the movie we went to the observation tower and bought tickets for the Maid of the Mist boat ride. I kept thinking of Pam and Jim riding the Maid of the Mist in their wedding “Office” episode. (That was such a good episode.) I couldn’t figure out how they stated on the web site that the trip was only 15 minutes long, when you are boarding a huge boat with tons of people and motoring up into the base of the falls. The whole process is pretty amazing. What seemed to be two boats from each the US and Canadian sides methodically pick up a couple hundred people and take them up to the base of the falls where the motor is at 100% capacity, the boat is stationary and the falls are deafening. The boat then returns to the dock, you disembark and another few hundred people load onto the boat for their 15 minute boat ride/photo opportunity. Two things that really surprised me; there are TONS of seagulls at the base of the falls and the water is a very light aqua color that reminded me of the islands. Note to anyone planning on going......There were significantly fewer people in line to ride over in the USA. 

As we were leaving the state park we saw a couple getting married on the grass at the top of the American Falls which was fun to watch and then to cheer. After leaving we drove around in a very disorganized, tourista kind of way looking for somewhere to get lunch in the US before heading to Canada, since it was already pretty late and we had no clue how long it would take to go through customs and find a restaurant there. I’m pretty sure we found the “hood” in Niagara and drove through it for a while before emerging and eating at a chain restaurant called Tim Horton’s that only served doughnuts, coffee and some deli sandwiches all day long. We regretted that decision when we made it to Canada in 5 minutes and saw that wonderful looking restaurants were all over. It was clean and vast with gorgeous gardens and buildings. There were tons of people, but that didn’t seem to be any sort of problem. We parked the Tahoe for $20 (grrr) and walked over to the Table Rock visitor’s center. The primary reason I would recommend the Canadian Niagara over the US side is purely perspective. From the visitor’s center you have a completely unobstructed, clear and overwhelming view of the whole shebang. You can see all of American Falls and Horseshoe Falls and the spray is just coming up into your face as you stand and look over the side. The wind was blowing in our direction as we got there and we had to run with the camera through rain sized droplets, jumping over huge puddles in the sunshine to make it to the doors before we all (and the camera) got soaked.  We bought tickets in the center (which is a HUGE building filled with restaurants, souvenir shops and ticket booths) for the “Journey Behind the Falls” for, yep, $40 and proceeded down some stairs where we got another disposable rain jacket and waited in line to get on an elevator that would take us 150 feet down to a tunnel that has two portals with views out from behind Horseshoe falls. The areas to look out of the portals were about 6 feet wide, so we ended up bottlenecked with all kinds of other tourists in a tunnel, being lightly sprayed with water and trying to elbow our way with the kids up to the handrail. All to look at the back of the waterfall (that I’m almost sure we could have recreated somehow in Atlanta) for about 3 minutes. As not to be completely negative I should say that there was an observation deck outside of the caves that you could go out on and from which you could take some great pictures. Then we got back in line for the elevator up. We also saw a pretty confused baby garter snake trying to make his way out of the tunnel while in line. I really felt for him with all of the tourists down there because I felt, for sure, some idiot was going to do something to him instead of just letting him on his little snakey way. I, though, was reluctant to perform a full Steve Irwin rescue because I was only 80% positive of his species. God speed little Canadian snake, eh? 

We had a 5 pm reservation for dinner in the Skylon Tower revolving restaurant, and had to go ahead and make our way over there after coming up above ground. Skylon tower is a huge concrete structure that looks like a building from the Jetsons. The “stem” has three elevators that take you up to one of two restaurants or an observation deck. Before we were allowed to board the elevator we were required to have our picture taken. This happened to us everywhere and then they wanted $30 for two pictures. The restaurant was spectacular. After the day it was so nice to sit down and order some glasses of pinot grigio (we required the “tower” size) and shirley temples and just sit down and talk. The view was amazing and by far the best one we had the whole time. We rotated 360 degrees every hour and as we did there were little view information placards under the windows that William read as we passed by. The food was delicious and the service was great. When we left we stopped to look at our pictures and couldn't resist. We bought two of the kids going over the falls in a barrel because it is hilarious. See pictures. 

As we rotated around we had the opportunity to really study the other areas of Canadian Niagara. We (really, the kids) decided that we had to go explore. We walked about a half of a mile towards the craziness and passed a dinosaur putt-putt range that had huge replicas of different dinos and a 4 story volcano that erupted every once and a while.There was also a Ferris wheel, a Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum, at least 4 haunted houses/vampire lairs, a Guinness Book of Records museum, an MGM store, multiple arcades, fast food restaurants, an upside down house and much more. We told the kids they could pick one thing to do. William picked the “Crystal Cave - a Mirror Maze adventure” where we all put on plastic gloves and entered a huge maze of mirrors and tried to find the exit while MJ’s Man in the Mirror played on loudspeakers. MC and Will bailed when we accidentally found the entrance and William and I turned around to try again. A couple of times I almost smacked camera and nose first into a mirror that I thought was empty space. After that I started to get slightly claustrophobic and frightened that I was going to lose William at one wrong turn. We held hands and I put my right hand on the mirror and just started following the wall until we eventually emerged, Conquerers of the mirror maze. Mary Claire saw a hot air balloon ride on top of a building and we found our way there and the kids rode it by themselves. 

We finally made our way back through US customs and to our campground where we all thankfully fell asleep quickly and quietly to Chanel’s lovely monster of an AC. 
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Sesame on

What a fabulous trip! Your comments are SUPURB! an't wait to see you all again soon! Sesame

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