Monday, December 30, 2013

Maid of the Mist

When I think of Niagara Falls, I automatically think of the Maid of the Mist.  This boat tour takes you into the very heart of the waterfalls...literally!

At the end of our trolley ride, we walked over to get in line for the Maid of the Mist.  There were a few people ahead of us, but not so many that we had to wait for another boat (love going in the off season!).

Once on the boat, I suddenly realized that some of the kids might get sea sick... Nah!  The boat was rolling quite a bit from the waves the falls make, but I think everyone was simply too excited to be affected by it :). 

sillies :)

We found a great spot on the top deck...and away we went...

First we passed the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.  There was a steady, wet breeze blowing off of these falls for sure.  It was such an odd experience to go from dry and no breeze to suddenly the opposite!

the wind was puffing out their ponchos!

the Cave of the Winds boardwalk

After a short lull, we approached Horseshoe Falls.  Whoa!  Talk about strong winds!  To say the breeze was wet was a definite understatement...more like a fierce gale with not mist, but rain!  From the falls!  It was awesome :)!!

The boat got right up close to the waterfall and just stayed there for a while, giving everyone a chance to really experience the force of God's mighty creation...

It ended all too quickly and at the same time it was just the right length.  We got a good feel of it, but left still wanting more :). 

**a quick tip that was passed on to us...we went to the Cave of the Winds first for a reason:  the shoes!  You get to keep the water sandals they give you at the cave, so we kept those on for our boat ride as well.  Your feet get soaked on the boat, so having these extra shoes was nice!**

After the boat docked, we got off, once again tossed the poncho in the recycling bin provided, and took the elevator up to the top of the viewing area that is included with the boat tour.

If you aren't going over to the Canadian side (we didn't), this is the only place (that I know of) to take in the view of all three falls at the same time...

The sun was going down and taking the temperatures with it.  Our sandaled feet were getting cold and our tummies were empty, time to get something to eat and call it a day :).
The next morning we were up bright and early, our first stop of the day was the visitor center.  The Discovery Pack we bought included tickets for the Niagara Adventure Movie.  We got there a little too early, so we browsed around the visitor center while we waited.  There was some really interesting information about the history of the falls that we good, in fact, that I would not recommend buying tickets for this movie.  It was pretty much just the same thing you can get for free by reading the stuff right outside the theater door!  Haha!  Oh well :).

When the movie was done, we loaded up and took a short drive over to another place that was included in our ticket pack... Aquarium of Niagara (I didn't even know they had an aquarium, did you?).  This aquarium was really (really) small, but still fun.  We got there just as the Sea Lion Show was starting and boy am I glad we did :)!  Hands down the highlight of the aquarium.

The sea lions they have there are rescues that were unable to be reintroduced to their native habitats.  They have no place else to go.

Judging from their playfulness and the amount of fishy treats they were gobbling down, I'd say they have it pretty good there :)...

We checked out the rest of the facility...the other exhibits were ok, but nothing compared to the sea lions :).

Then it was time to hit the stop, Vermont! 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Niagara Falls, New York

While we were staying up in Pennsylvania, Dan surprised us on his days off with a side trip up to Niagara Falls (and beyond...).  The kids and I had never been, so we were all super excited :)!

As we got closer to our destination, we began to see what would anywhere else probably be smoke rising in the air.  Not at Niagara, though!  It was mist from the massive waterfalls...

It was only about a four hour drive, so we still had plenty of time to sight-see the same day we drove up.  We found a place to park the car and set off to buy some tickets to get up close and personal with the falls.  

America's oldest State Park!

We ended up springing for a package of tickets called the Niagara Falls USA Discovery Pass.  By getting this package, we were able to do all the attractions on the American side for about a third less $.  Since it was supposed to be quite a bit colder the next day, we decided to do all of the "get wet" activities that first day (it was still pretty chilly, we were there the very last weekend of the season before they closed some of the stuff for the winter).  Tickets in hand, we took a scenic walk along the river, across a bridge, and over to...

...the Cave of the Winds!  EEK!  Ya'll, this was my least favorite thing we did at Niagara.  I did not like it.  It is basically a wooden boardwalk that is smooshed right up next to Bridal Veil Falls. Practically right up in it!  I read online that the whole thing is taken down each winter and rebuilt each I couldn't help but wonder how well fastened this walkway was??  *sigh*  Anyway, my man went, my kids went, so...I went, too.

From the amount of zig zag line control whatnot, I gather that this place is PACKED in the summer.  Not so when we went.  No line at all, we just walked right in, handed over our tickets at the first window, and walked back to the shoe area.  The lady handing out the water sandals asked me everybody's sizes...I don't know :)!  She laughed and handed us each a pair in the size she thought we'd need and they ALL fit perfectly!  I SO need to take that lady with us the next time we go to buy shoes for the kids, hehehe...

Down an elevator, through a tunnel, and we were at the edge of the water.  This is where we were given our lovely yellow ponchos.  We were glad for this poncho in just a few minutes.  Very glad.

A short path leads to the beginning of the boardwalk.  It starts out ok, remotely dry and going down towards the water (away from the falls).

Then it turns and you see exactly where you are headed.  Oh poop...

that's not sky...that's a WALL of water

At this point I was still following along.  Last in line, but following.

they loved it!

Then it started to get really wet.  Along with that water there was quite a bit of green slippery stuff.  Not the best combo when you are heading straight towards a gigantic waterfall!  I still followed along...

...until the last set of stairs, that is!  The final climb that went the closest to the falls led up to the Hurricane Deck.  I don't mind a good storm, even a hurricane (being from Florida I've seen my share), but NOT when said hurricane is in the edge of a waterfall.  Nope.  I decided to stay one level down and take a picture of the ones that wanted to go all the way up.  When my husband saw my face, he commented on how white it had gone and agreed that this was probably a good idea ;)!

I was happy that they got to go all the way up and even happier when they came back down so that we could put a little distance between us and that wet, slippery boardwalk!

We ditched the ponchos in the recycling bin, caught the elevator back up to the top, and got in line for the trolley.  I was glad trolley tickets were included in our Discovery Pack because my knees were still feeling a bit wobbly, hehe...

waiting for the trolley

The kids were happy to be riding a trolley, something we haven't done very often (maybe never?).  We kicked back and enjoyed the views...

Next stop...Maid of the Mist (which I LOVED :)!)