Niagara Falls Trip Report
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We’ve been back from Canada for a little over a week now and we had a few rough days on our trip but overall, it was a great experience. I’m going to actually split my trip report up into two separate posts. For one, it would get crazy long if I didn’t but also I feel like each city deserves its own spotlight. Since we went to Niagara Falls first, I will start there. After my trip reports, I’m going to post a few reviews, including our hotels, so look forward to those.
Our drive to our lunch stop in Syracuse was uneventful. Taylor slept for a short period of time, around an hour, so I wasn’t worrying about her getting carsick and throwing up. We found our lunch stop – Empire Brew Pub – at around 1:00 PM and had a delicious meal. We sampled some beers (me more than Kenny since he was driving) and I ate some delicious nachos. If you find yourself in Syracuse, do yourself a favor and eat at Empire Brew Pub.
The shorter leg of the drive, between Syracuse and Niagara, was also uneventful but mostly because this time I slept. Taylor didn’t but unless she’s car sick, she’s very good in the car. We made it to Niagara Falls, NY around 5:00 PM, which is what I was hoping for. We got a little bit of a late start but we made good time. It helps that I ballparked in some extra time because I know things happen (i.e. traffic, slow servers at lunch) and also, we have a 4 year old.
We found street parking and got out to walk around and stretch our legs. My intention had been to eat dinner at the Rainforest Café here, grab our Discovery Passes from the Niagara Falls State Park Visitor’s Center and maybe check out the observation deck before crossing the border into Canada and checking into the hotel. What actually happened was no one was hungry so we walked down to the viewing point to see the falls, and a tired and cranky Taylor (who claimed she wasn’t hungry but probably was) started losing it so we made an effort to get our passes and then cross the border, check into our hotel, and then find dinner. We did in fact get our passes, spent only about 15 minutes waiting in line to go through border patrol, and checked into our hotel – Quality Fallsview Cascade – with ease. That’s when the trouble began.
We decided, “Hey, it’s not far to walk to Clifton Hill and we don’t want to pay parking/we don’t want to lose the last parking space left at the hotel, so let’s put Taylor in the stroller and walk!” The walk wasn’t bad and we got to see the area a bit. After it took us entirely too long to make a decision on where to eat (my husband will blame me for this and he’s not wrong) we picked the busiest restaurant in Clifton Hill – the Rainforest Café. (There are 2 in Niagara Falls, one on each side of the border, and I thought it would be fun for Taylor.)
By the time we were seated, it was 9:00 PM. We hadn’t had lunch since 1:00 PM that day and for whatever reason, Taylor hadn’t had any snacks. Also, I feel like now I should mention that before we left the hotel room I gave Taylor her medicine (she was on antibiotic for an ear infection she started coming down with the 4 days before we left. This is important, don’t forget this). Flash forward to 9:00 sitting down at the Rainforest Café and Taylor has been whining that her stomach hurts and she’s going to throw up. We thought she was just hungry and feeling nauseous from that (that happens to me if I wait too long between meals). She keeps saying this so jokingly I said “Just throw up on the table, it’ll be easier to clean up.” Next thing we know, she’s throwing up on the table.
Turns out, giving medicine to a preschooler on an empty stomach is a bad idea. Mom fail. Taylor refused to eat anything so Kenny and I quickly ate our dinner and began the walk back to our hotel. We stopped to take a couple of photos of the Falls at night (beautiful!) and next thing we know, Taylor is throwing up again. At which point, we rush back to the hotel, get her cleaned up, and hey! Now Taylor feels totally fine! But our long day had come to a close.
The next morning came, we got our complimentary breakfast from out hotel, and crossed back over the border to the Niagara Falls State Park, which is the oldest state park in America. If you are wanting to tour Niagara Falls, this is where you want to do it. Don’t get me wrong, Canada has the best views, and some similar options (i.e. Hornblower) but you can get up close and personal on the US side.
I had done my research and knew that the Maid of the Mist gets packed early on and you can stand in line for 2 hours or so in the height of the day. So I knew to get there when it opened at 9:00 AM, which is what we did. We were still on the 3rd boat of the day, but we probably waited in line for only 10 minutes. And the trip was incredible. I got as many photos as I could (we also had an amazing spot against the railing) but once we got too close the falls, I put my camera under my poncho because even with a waterproof covering, I didn’t trust all that water. It was basically like standing outside in the middle of a thunderstorm, minus the thunder and lightening. SO MUCH WATER. And it was unbelievable. The power the falls have and create is immense and humbling.
After we got off of the boat, we walked around a couple of observation points, one along the edge of the falls, and one on the big observation deck. Then we hopped the trolley, rode over to Goat Island, and entered the queue for Cave of the Winds. At this time I would like to point out the advantage to the Discovery Pass. Each activity is ticketed. If you purchase the Discovery Pass, you only need to stand in line for the pass itself. Afterwards, you can skip the ticket line and boy, does that save you some time. Even though it was only about 10:30 in the morning, we easily saved an hour and a half by not standing in the line to get tickets to the Cave of the Winds. Instead we only had to wait in the much smaller line for our sandals (they give them you so you can keep your shoes dry/they have better traction than a lot of shoes out there and they are yours to keep) and our ponchos.
The Cave of the Winds might be my favorite thing we did in Niagara. You get to stand RIGHT NEXT to the Bridal Veil Falls (the smallest of the three falls). So close you can reach out and touch the water. Which we did. Basically, for this you walk up a series of platforms and stairs that are built right next to the falls. At the top is the Hurricane Deck, which is exactly what it sounds like. The wind and the “rain” falling on you make you feel like you are in the middle of a very small hurricane (or maybe a really intense severe thunderstorm). I would know, I’ve been in the middle of multiple hurricanes (Hurricane Dennis in FL 2005, Hurricane Irene in PA in 2011, Hurricane Ernesto in Mexico 2012, and Hurricane Sandy in PA 2012). Also, I used to live in the middle of Tornado Alley – lots of thunderstorms folks.
But I digress. We ate lunch at the Top of the Falls restaurant, overlooking Horseshoe Falls. The view was pretty, the sun was shining, and the food hit the spot. When lunch was over we started walking around the islands and various observation points, working on our photography. Taylor finally fell asleep in the stroller so we decided not to wake her up and kept walking towards the aquarium.
The aquarium was cute, but very small. It has a nice sea lion show that we watched, but everything else could be done in about a half an hour. Still, it was included on the Discovery Pass so we enjoyed our time there.
We finished up with a quick run through of the Discovery Center, which is a museum full of information about the falls, the history, and even some of the geology. We walked through here fairly quickly and caught the trolley back to the parking lot.
At this point, Taylor started to complain that her ears were hurting. She hadn’t done this at all throughout the week before, so I immediately started worrying, because that’s what I do best. Nevertheless, there was nothing I could do from the parking lot so we got in the ridiculously long line to cross back over into Canada, with Taylor complaining the whole time. We all tired and hungry by the time we got back to the hotel so we just ordered Dominos. Because they delivered. We took it easy that evening, eating pizza and watching Shark Week before bedtime.
Monday morning dawned bright and early (aka too soon because Taylor hadn’t been sleeping well). She looked miserable and was complaining her ears hurt. And by complaining I mean screaming and crying. So I spent the morning on the phone with our pediatrician trying to figure out what was going on and what we could do about it. Turns out Taylor had swimmer’s ear and the antibiotic she was on doesn’t treat swimmer’s ear. We spent most of the morning in the hotel room (with a brief foree to the mall across the street just to get out of the room) and went to our lunch reservation at the CN Tower.
This was easily our most expensive meal of the trip but it was also worth it. We ate lunch in the revolving restaurant. It takes about an hour for 1 revolution. We had an amazing seat, right by the window to look out over Niagara Falls. Taylor enjoyed this as much as I did, even though she wasn’t feeling well.
After lunch, my husband was on a mission to get the prescription we needed for Taylor and to go to urgent care for himself. Turns out he had a sty in his left eye. Meanwhile, Taylor and I stayed in the hotel room to wait for his return. I felt horrible for Taylor, she just kept screaming (and by screaming I mean crying very loudly) because of course, even though I thought “Self, don’t forget to pack the children’s Tylenol, just in case” I had in fact, forgotten to pack it. I felt pretty helpless and horrible for her. It wasn’t until about 4:30 in the afternoon before Kenny returned with a prescription for himself, Taylor’s prescription, and children’s Tylenol.
But by then, wouldn’t you know, it started raining. So all of our plans – walk around Queen Victoria Park and take some amazing photos of the falls, go play mini golf, maybe ride the big ferris wheel – were thwarted. We ended up making a run for it to the Jimmy Buffet’s behind our hotel to get dinner. How Canadian.
By that evening though, the rain had pretty much stopped so the fireworks went on! Thank goodness. We took Taylor to watch the fireworks (she LOVES them) in an effort to do one last fun thing while we were in Niagara since most of the day was shot.
Then we woke up in the morning, we had a quick breakfast, packed up the car, and headed to Toronto.
Our trip to Niagara was pretty enjoyable despite my daughter not feeling her best. There was more we had wanted to do vs staying in a hotel room most of the day on Monday, but we had to do what was best for our daughter. Luckily, the day we had spent at Niagara Falls State Park was the day Taylor was feeling her best so that worked out. And even my 4 year old daughter was able to enjoy all the activities with ease. Overall, we had a good time. Would we go back? I would love to sometime in the future. Maybe in 10 years or so. In the meantime, there are other places in Canada I want to explore.
Check back next week for my trip report on Toronto!