Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Summer road trip, part three: Niagara Falls

The last major destination on our family road trip was Niagara Falls.
We entered Canada from the west, which seems odd because the country is north of the continental U.S. We crossed over the St. Claire River at Port Huron, Mich., and got grilled by a very stern Canadian border control officer in Sarnia, Ontario.
After being waved through, we proceeded to drive several hours across flat, dull southern Ontario.
We entered Niagara Falls, Ontario, in the early evening hours and checked into our room at the Sheraton On the Falls hotel, which had a nice view of the falls.
We then explored the carnival atmosphere of Clifton Hill, shopped for souvenirs, ate dinner and walked to the riverfront park to experience the falls at night. The falls are beautiful any time of day, but at night they’re lit up with colored lights.
The next morning, after a nearly $100 breakfast for four at IHOP, we decided to board a boat to get up close to the falls.
On the U.S. side, the boats are called Maid of the Mist. On the Canadian side, they’re called Hornblower.
Passengers on the U.S. side wear blue plastic rain ponchos, while tourists on the Canadian boats where red ponchos. At least that’s what it looks like from a distance. Up close the cheap coverings on the Canadian side are pink.
You need the rain gear because the falls pelt you with a fine mist of water. It’s like a light rain, but you’re in it long enough to get soaked.
The boat ride took us below the American and Bridal Veil falls where we saw tourists on the wooden walkway for Cave of the Winds. That attraction reminds me of the 1953 Marilyn Monroe movie “Niagara,” which was filmed on location.
The boat then cruises to the Horseshoe Falls where it parks in the mist for a few minutes to let passengers experience the roar of the water and the majesty of the largest of the three falls. My glasses got all wet so it was all a blur after a while.



I was impressed by the falls. But the kids were antsy and could only be calmed by agreeing to take them to the Bird Kingdom.
I was expecting a tourist trap, but I actually enjoyed myself. The Bird Kingdom has lots of different feathered friends on site and the kids were entertained by a scavenger hunt game.
Soon it was time to hit the road and head home.
We could easily have spent a few days in Niagara Falls enjoying the sites and attractions. On the Canada side, I would like to have seen the White Water Walk and maybe done the Whirlpool Aero Car. On the U.S. side, I would have done the Cave of the Winds walk and checked out the Niagara Falls Observation Tower.
But we had a long ride home ahead of us.

Up next: The kids’ perspective

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