We lived in Michigan a decade before I realized we were 6 hours from one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world. How could I not know this from day one? Oh I knew of its existence, just not the proximity of it to me. Hubs knew and might have kept this knowledge to himself, assuming once I experienced this breathtaking adventure I’d nag and beg him to take me every other week. Unfair. I’ve never asked to go more than once a year.
I’ve written about this place before (with bubbling enthusiasm) because it’s something everyone living within our magnificent shores should experience. Seriously. When I backpedal to count the times I’ve been there, I’m pretty close to a dozen, (in 25 years) but that can’t be right. Every single trip feels new and fresh, and I savor every second. Even more fun when we bring ‘newbies’ along and see their eyes light up like Christmas morning when they were kids.
We issued invitations to friends and family over the years, “Come visit us, we’ll let you rest up for a day and then we’ll take a road trip.” Surprisingly, several have taken us up on that offer (which makes me happy).
I was more than ready this time. Our last trip was in December of 2019 when our grandson Landon (Drew to the rest of the world) played a college basketball game in Buffalo. I mean it’s a mere 30 miles away. A slam dunk! Who could ‘pass’ that up? That’s the first time we’d ever been there during the ‘off’ season. Cold but very little snow.
So we got a call a month ago from John’s nephew Ken and his wife Jeannie (we stay with them when we visit our native Iowa). Jeannie had just retired and they were anxious to explore their new world of retirement with some travel. Jeannie had gone once with her family right before she had Brandy 46 years ago. Ken couldn’t take vacation time and had to work.
They remember the litany I’ve repeated for everyone, “Niagara Falls gets 12-14 million visitors a year, probably 10 million during June, July and August when the kids are out of school. If you don’t mind waiting in long lines for the observation deck, souvenir shop, Maid of the Mist, Wind Cave, Aquarium, Trolley or getting up close and personal with the guard rails at The Bridal Veil, come whenever you want. If you want to have the ‘run of the place,’ it’s better to go in May, September or October.” Thus the mid-April phone call.
There have been some recent changes to the oldest state park in the United States. They seemed a little off and a bit behind this May. There was a huge construction site near the observation deck with a mesh fence surrounding the area, so we couldn’t see or walk through. Part of this cordoned off section was home to a large trellis covered in Wisteria. I sure hope that’s been replanted somewhere else but I didn’t see it during our stay.
The Top of the Falls Restaurant (where we planned to eat lunch) was closed. The sign said they hoped to be open by the end of May. (Memorial weekend with hundreds of thousands of tourists descending upon them, sure hope they’re open). The Cave of the Winds was open but not offering flip-flops or a rain poncho, (but rain gear was included with your ticket for Maid of the Mist, which had gone up significantly). Plus most of the platforms/steps allowing you to stand kinda underneath the Falls wasn’t complete. These platforms and steps are installed every spring. (Hey, it’s spring). Half the Trolleys were running/half the time. Each attraction is now a la carte so you can no longer buy a ‘booklet’ of tickets containing passes for everything.
This trip was the first time the Holiday Inn (2 blocks from the Falls on the American side) had no rooms available, but we did find a nice hotel a couple miles away on the Niagara River. The big souvenir shop in front of the observation deck was closed on Friday, but open on Saturday. We saw no Trolleys on Friday but a couple were running Saturday. My favorite gnarly tree beside the Rapids has disappeared. Luna Island now has a huge, new platform/steps/ramp leading to the Bridal Veil Falls (my favorite spot).
The Maid of the Mist has always been a big attraction and has a couple of new features. The boat is now ELECTRIC and as soon as passengers disembark, an electric plug-in (hydraulic) was attached (as big as a teen). The diesel engines always growled as it worked to keep you as close to the Falls as possible. The electric engines are pretty quiet.
As we were leaving the Mist, I decided to use the long, winding ramp instead of the stairs. (My knee needs to be replaced and I use a walking stick when a lot of steps are included in my day). The 3 Musketeers took a hard right to the stairs and I turned left behind a mom pushing a stroller. I stopped by a Mist guide because I couldn’t see the ramp (lots of people). He pointed to head left when I spotted something out of the corner of my eye. Aww, it’s the new ‘Cautionary Petting Zoo!’
“Sir, is that a rattlesnake slinking in the rocks behind you?” “Ummm, yes ma’am it appears to be. (The snake was 30-36 inches long and as thick as a 50 cent piece) Why don’t you go quietly up the ramp? We’ll leave him alone in his natural habitat and contact the appropriate workers of what’s going on so we can keep our guests safe.” I was a couple feet from the snake but he (the Mist guy) wouldn’t let me take his (the snake’s) picture. Soon he pulled a large gate blocking people from getting within 5 feet of their new animal attraction. Yikes.
Wouldn’t be a righteous trip to Niagara Falls unless we stopped at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo where Buffalo Wings originated in the mid-60’s. Wonderful trip with easy going family. We had a great time and hope they did too…