Our family just returned from our summer vacation farther north. We spent one day at Niagara Falls, NY, after many months of planning what we'd most like to do on this side of the border.
I had been to the falls twice decades ago, but always on the Canadian side in Ontario. There isn't quite as much to do on the American side, and my kiddos gazed longingly across the Niagara River at the large hotels, ferris wheel, and tower that they could clearly see from the US.
But we spent plenty of time hiking the many trails along the Niagara River to take in every possible view of the American Falls and the Horseshoe Falls. We were on our feet most of the day.
We started out walking from the Niagara Falls Visitor's Center and approached the falls from up high near the rapids. Then we crossed the bridge to Goat Island and hiked down closer to the tip of the American Falls.
If you stood close to the railing, you almost felt as if you were going over the edge.
And you got wet.
Some of us stood back and simply took pictures.
Even though I have heard great things about the Maid of the Mist ferry ride that takes you up close the base of the falls, I wouldn't agree to doing that because even with the poncho they gave you, those people looked drenched.
So we simply kept on hiking until we got to the Horseshoe Falls, which were definitely more impressive to our boys, but because of the mist, they were harder to photograph and see well.
After walking through the crowds of people from all over the world for an hour and a half, our kids were drooping, so we popped into the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch.
Our children had never been to this franchise before and raved about the size of the hamburgers for days. It was mostly 80s music playing with music videos on the screens from my teen years, which was kind of nostalgic for me, I guess. But I have to say that seeing Billy Idol and a bunch of big-haired, leather-wearing young women dancing rather provocatively doesn't seem cool anymore now that I'm seeing it through the eyes of my children.
After sustenance and resting our legs, we made the 1.5 mile walk to the Aquarium of Niagara. We like to support small museums with a family membership each summer wherever we travel, so we did the same here.
Even though my younger children enjoyed watching the sea lions show off and swim around, I have to say I was rather disappointed. After having been to the aquariums in the Baltimore Harbor, Charleston, and the penguin house at the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, this one paled in comparison.
We spent about an hour and a half there, but only because our daughter kept wanting to look in the gift shop. It was small, rather rundown, and very crowded. Plus the layout of it was kind of weird. I definitely wouldn't go again.
After hiking back down to the parking lot and getting more pictures of the falls from yet another angle, we were ready to call it a day. We were being approached by a number of strangers asking for money---something my children have never experienced before---and it was getting hot and very crowded. We spent about five hours there, which felt long enough, and I was glad we hadn't made this a week-long destination like I had considered doing. It was awesome seeing these famous waterfalls as a family, but we were pressed to find enough interesting things to fill our day that weren't...tacky. I think if we went again, we would probably visit some places in nearby Buffalo, but my kids just really wanted to veg out and not walk anymore. So we drove the two hours back to their grandparents' house, stopping at a college (more about that another day) and a restaurant for a light dinner, and everyone slept late the next morning because we were beat.
And being the list-maker that I am, I can now check that off the bucket list of places I'd like my kids to see.