Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tripping in Toronto--Part 2, Niagara Falls

I first saw Niagara Falls when I was 16 years old, as part of a wonderful cross-country trip I took with my family. Six weeks in a car, driving across the country, without portable DVD players, iPods, cell phones, or even walkmans! We had books, and our family of five camped in three pup tents. The entire trip, we stayed with friends and family or camped. I think we stayed in a motel 2 nights because of severe weather (although we also camped in severe weather, including record 1-1/2-inch rainfall in New York in July!). At any rate, we camped in Ontario to view Niagara Falls. All I remember is seeing the Canadian falls (but how could we not have seen the American falls??). I don't remember anything touristy about them at all. When I've asked my mom what she can remember, she recalls seeing a very touristy gift shop. I laughed at that and said "you have no idea." The area around the falls is the single most overtouristed, kitschy, and trashy place I've visited...on a par with Las Vegas. It's very sad to see what this spectacular place has become. Needless to say, the children LOVED it.

We stayed in a great hotel called the Country Inn & Suites--I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Niagara Falls. We again had a suite, and breakfast was included. It's a short walk from the falls (and the tourist attractions, alas). We plowed through the tourist schlock and were rewarded with these wonderful views--the American Falls:
And the even more spectacular Horseshoe (Canadian) falls:
The first thing we did was get our tickets to the Maid of the Mist, a boat that takes you right up to the falls. They provide passengers with ponchos, because everyone gets soaked. (Mike's parents went to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon in 1962, and Mike's mum still remembers the Maid of the Mist! When we were there in 1981, we did not go on the boat.) It was a spectacular ride! I don't have any photos of the actual ride, because I don't have a waterproof camera...here we are before our journey:

And the kids playing afterward at the viewpoints:

In the evening we drove out to the Falls Manor restaurant, an old-fashioned diner off the beaten track. It got a good review in our Frommer's Niagara Region guidebook, and it was very family friendly. After dinner we went back to the falls to see them illuminated. This web site shows some nice views of the night-time falls. Here are Chris and Kieran in front of the night falls:

The next morning we took another swim and went back down for another look at the falls. Here are some views of tourist hell, Clifton Hill, with its wax museums, haunted houses, and other tourist traps (I counted no less than three wax museums!):

Yuck. Finally at the lookout for one last view:

The maid, once again:

The boat, heading to the falls:

Our one concession at Clifton Hill was a trip on the sky wheel, which offered some wonderful views of the falls:

And, alas, more views of Clifton Hill--note the ubitiquous Tim Horton's, which seems to be on nearly every street corner in Ontario!
Kieran was desperate to go to the Harley Davidson store (I recently got him a "Danny Zuko" leather jacket on eBay, and it has a Harley Davidson patch on it), and Chris was chomping at the bit to get to the WWE store. Here he is on the $25,000 motorcycle:

After leaving Niagara Falls, we drove through the lovely Niagara-on-the-Lake, a ritzy area of wineries, farms, homes, and B&Bs. Mike decided he wants to move there! We stopped at a little park on the water to take in the views:

After we dragged Mike away from Niagara-on-the-Lake kicking and screaming, we headed off to the great metropolis of Toronto!

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