Road Trip, Part Two: Elvis, a Waterfall and a Ferris Wheel

What do a golden Elvis, a waterfall and a ferris wheel have in common?

You guessed it: the sights of our next stop on the summer road trip, Niagara Falls.

The Maid of the Mist boats, approaching Horseshoe Falls
The Maid of the Mist boats, approaching Horseshoe Falls

After our enjoyable day in Toronto, our sweet friends from said city (the mom and daughter) meet us at our hotel and we drive off to see the Canadian side of Niagara Falls together. It’s about a one hour drive from our hotel.

First, we must find a parking spot. A local hotel offers parking in their lot for about $10 a day… in fact, the lot is so large, I must wonder if this is the bigger part of their business?! We find a spot, it is not too far away, and then walk down a very busy street full of tourists toward the Falls. First impressions? People, lots of people, from all over the world. Secondly, the wacky touristy stuff is here. It made it to Niagara. What amazes me is that a beautiful waterfall actually draws in this size of a crowd and this kind of tourism. The usual is here: the wax museums, candy shops, arcades, restaurants, the Ripleys museum, mini-golf, you name it, it’s here- including a live Elvis impersonator, whom we see later in the day, at nightfall, but here’s the picture since I’m mentioning it:

No touristy vacation is complete without a sighting of Elvis spray painted gold.
No touristy vacation is complete without a sighting of Elvis decked out in gold! He stands on a pedestal and looks like a statue– until he moves!

The Elvis impersonator occasionally moves and dances to his recorded music. My son walks up to him and asks, “Can you also do the Gangnam style dance?” Now, this is getting interesting. This would be fun to see– Elvis doing the Gangnam style dance. Gold-decked Elvis-man, however, says, “No.” And that’s the end of that. :)

But back on the walk to the Falls. Our first stop: the Maid of the Mist boat ride… and it happens to be the stop of about half a million others too, the same day, haha! Though the line is a bit long, it is not overwhelmingly so. We get our tickets for the boat ride and walk in a serpentine-type line. Finally, and I do mean much later, as in about an hour later, when we get close enough, an attendant hands us each our very own royal blue rain poncho. When it is our turn to get on the boat, the top deck is almost full– yet the kids are able to squeeze themselves in an open spot on the edge of the boat for an unobstructed view.

The view of the Falls is much better from the Canadian side. From Canada, both the American Falls and the Horseshoe Falls are visible.

As the boat moves closer to the Falls, I put the camera away, as there is too much mist and water dripping. In fact, there is so much water, without the rain poncho, we’d all have been drenched. Our shoes and feet, however, do get thoroughly soaked. Actually, though, our shoes dry out so quickly in the hot sun and it doesn’t bother us at all the rest of the day. (Taking an extra pair of shoes, however, would not have been a bad idea!)

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After the Maid of the Mist ride, we drive to a small town called Niagara-on-the-Lake, where we have an appointment to meet some friends; actually, the aunt and uncle of friends of ours. We’d only met this aunt and uncle once before, yet they called us –twice– to invite us to please visit.

We have such a wonderful time with them. They are babysitting their four young grandchildren, who had just moved from Australia with their parents. We enjoy some blueberry muffins in their backyard and talk about many things. Our common faith and like mindedness make for easy, pleasant conversation.

It’s such a sweet little break from the usual pace of touring and sightseeing. On a trip like this, we aren’t usually pausing for a visit like this. But it makes our visit special to stop and talk like this.

We learn that Niagara-on-the-Lake is a small town with a micro-climate. Though this is snowy Canada, our friends only need to shovel their driveway a couple times per year. Wow– that’s more than where I live, and we’re more south. In fact, there are even vineyards nearby! It is a beautiful, charming town, a place I would not mind visiting again and spending more time. Who knew? We exchange e-mails, take pictures, and plan to stay in touch.

After our delightful visit, we drive back to Niagara Falls. The kids have their eyes on the ferris wheel, so that is our first order of business. They enjoy their ride which offers a gorgeous birds-eye view of the entire area. They literally watch the sunset from high above the Falls in the ferris wheel.

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This is the mini-golf park right underneath the ferris wheel. The elephant? Unlike the Elvis, he's not real.
This is the mini-golf park right underneath the ferris wheel. The elephant? Unlike the Elvis, he’s not real.
The sun begins to set...
The sun begins to set…
A stunning sunset in Niagara Falls
A stunning sunset in Niagara Falls

I don’t like heights, so I happily wait below, and decide to try a famous Tim Horton’s pastry while waiting, which happens to be conveniently located right across from the ferris wheel. After their ride, the kids join in the snack time, and we all enjoy a little treat.

Apparently this place is famous.
Apparently this place is famous.
Enticing, eh? Tim Hortons has much more than just doughnuts and pastries, though. Good stuff here.
Enticing, eh? Tim Hortons has much more than just doughnuts and pastries, though. Good stuff here.

By now it is time for the Falls light show at night and the fireworks. We walk among throngs of others for a view from a bridge on the Canadian side. First are the fireworks from the American side, which we can clearly see– a beautiful sight. After those, barely a moment later, the Canadian fireworks begin. Unfortunately, the mist, coupled with the wind direction and the smoke from the fireworks, obscure much of the view.

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Our evening ends much too soon, and I realize that in Niagara Falls there is much more to do than one day will allow (such as the “Journey Behind the Falls”, the Botanical Gardens, and much more).

We are enchanted with Canada. The kids want to return, and even concoct a sample itinerary that includes Montreal and Quebec City for a future trip.  Getting together with our friends from Toronto and Niagara-on-the-Lake is also in the plan.

For me, this portion of our trip to Canada proves to be a surprise. I did not expect to enjoy Toronto so much, and despite the touristy portions of Niagara Falls, it is a place of natural beauty and with gems nearby that invite further exploration. Finally, we experience the joy of visiting friends, in two separate places.

The journey continues… watch for part three. :) You don’t want to miss it.

 

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* The photo credits go to my daughter, N, who took all of the above photos.

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