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Niagara Falls (and Buffalo, NY)

After a week visiting family we are on the road again; and this time with company! We headed off to Niagara Falls with myself, my 4 year Sidekick of course, and my father (in his own car). After spending almost an hour and a half with the car in park on the highway 30 minutes from our destination we made it! We made it! And just in time for a late dinner!

We were staying in Buffalo, about 30 minutes from Niagara Falls, for easier accesses in and out of town to make the road trip part a little smoother. So on our first night we headed out to drinks and dinner in downtown Buffalo. We started with a beer at the Pan-American Grill & Brewery, to take in the décor and history; it was heavily outfitted with Theodore Roosevelt nostalgia. I picked it because I thought it would be of interest to my father who’s a bit of a history buff. We both thought it was interesting and worth a stop-in. What neither of us could figure out though was why it was celebrating Theodore Roosevelt.

That was until we were befriended by a local tour guide whole was leading a pub crawl; I think he was bored with his group, and found our group, 4 year old and all, much more interesting. News to me (although not my father who had just not made the connection), Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as President in Buffalo, NY. – So between all the national parks, Mount Rushmore and now Buffalo, NY we are fully up to date on our Theodore Roosevelt landmarks. – Anyhow, back the lonely tour guide. We told him we were headed to Niagara Falls the next day, another place he gives tours, and he basically gave us his tour in 3 minutes or less. I actually took notes, and we had our plan for the next day! It was time for us all to head off to dinner; which happened to be the same location the tour was heading as well (apparently I can always fall back on tour planning); Pearl Street Grill & Brewery (& more Teddy memorabilia). After a good dinner and a little history lesson we headed back to the hotel for the night.

The next day we were off to Niagara Falls with a very excited 4 year old! We headed out pretty early (at least for us), and made it there before much of the larger crowds. We parked on Goat Island and started off with a visit to Cave of the Winds, per our tour guide’s recommendations.

Cave of the Winds – Is your quintessential tourist attraction. That being said, the price wasn’t outrageous and there was almost no one else there first thing in the morning so it was actually a lot of fun. I don’t think it would have been nearly as enjoyable mid-day with crowds, and I don’t think I would have wanted to waste too much time in line. We didn’t wait in line at all, we headed right to the elevators that take you down almost to river level. From there you follow a path outside where you gear-up in your poncho and follow a self-guided path out to the base of the falls. There are some wonderful views, if you dare to take your camera out; but mostly it was just fun to splash around in the water. There was no way you could go through the path and stay dry but you can fully submerge yourself in waves, splashes, and winds if you want to go all out. It’s not a must do, but with no wait it was a fun activity and my Sidekick loved being able to splash in the waves that rolled up over the boardwalk.

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From the Cave of the Winds we checked out the view from Goat Island, had a snack and then headed over to the mainland for a boat tour; again, per our tour guide.

Maid of the Mist – If there’s only one thing you are going to do at Niagara Falls, this would be it. We didn’t need any advance tickets. Boats fit 400 people and leave every 15 minutes. By the time we moved rapidly through the ticket line and took the elevator down to the boat level we only had to wait about 15 minutes. Again, we downed our ponchos and were ready! ‘You will get wet’ does not fully explain the level of wet and wind you will encounter. I image it’s a bit like what being in the middle of a hurricane would feel like. My Sidekick was ready to be done with the wind driven water about half way through, but she burrowed into me ang toughed it out. The ride is 30 minutes long and I’m just guessing but I think we spent 10 minutes at the base of the falls just being clobbered by water. To the point that my Sidekick is convinced we actually went underneath the Niagara Falls; no convincing her otherwise. – Overall, if you are going to go all the way to Niagara Falls you should go all the way and do the boat trip to. You wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity to wear a poncho!

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After regaining our composure we wandered about a bit and checked out the view from that side, then we returned to Goat Island and the car to have a picnic lunch. Lunch was then followed by ice cream, of course and a pleasant walk to Luna Island. Overall the whole area and walking trails were very nice to wander about on. We were left with an awkward amount of time before dinner and while there were certainly other things we could have done there was nothing else we had to do so we pushed our dinner reservation back to 7:00 and headed back to the hotel to give someone a nap. After 2 ½ hours I had to wake my Sidekick so we could head back to dinner at the Top of the Falls restaurant. The restaurant was pretty casual, but the prices were also fair, so no complaints here. The view was nice and overall is was a pleasant dinner. We had hoped with the later dinner time we would get to see the falls lit up. They light the falls from the Canadian side and the view is best from there but we should have been able to see them from NY, unfortunately construction had closed off the best place to view them and we a chain link fence to look at.

Over all a wonderful trip to Niagara Falls! The next morning we said good-bye to my father who headed home and we headed west; on the road again!

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