Saturday, September 3, 2011

Wagons East: Falls in the Family

We wrapped up our journey to Ontario by bringing Vera along with us to Niagara Falls.  Audrey and I had not been there in years, and the girls never had, with the exception of the visit Fenya made there with Oma and us when she was less than a week old, so it hardly counts.

This was the portion of the trip that derived the most from our fanatical accumulation of Air Miles over the past 6 or 7 years: the flight to Ontario, gas in Vera's Subaru, the motel we stayed at and the meal we ate at Boston Pizza, as well as most of the attractions we enjoyed, were all obtained via Air Miles.

It doesn't cost anything besides parking to just stand and marvel at the falls, which we did a couple of times; they are awe-inspiring in a visceral way that can't be easily explained; something to do with the primacy of water and the sheer scale of it, I suppose. The attractions pass, however, got us free parking, tickets on the Peoplemover bus, and admission to Journey Behind the Falls, Whitewater Walk, Niagara's Fury, and my favourite, the Maid of the Mist.

Figuring it would have the longest lines, we started out on the venerable boat ride. In no time at all we were garbed in the first of three disposable rain slickers we would wear that day, and boarded our sturdy craft for a close look at the falls from their base.

We got pretty wet here,but it was nothing compared to the drenching we got at Journey Behind the Falls, which takes you underground directly behind the falls, and then to a viewing platform right beside them.  Good thing another slicker was provided!

It also gave us a great vantage point to see the Maid of the Mist and to witness just how close it gets to the falls themselves.
We got our third slicker at Niagara's Fury, a "4D" motion theatre experience that uses movement, water, snow, lighting effects, wind and lots more water to give you a fantastic perspective on the forces of nature that created the falls themselves.  We all enjoyed this quite a bit more than I thought we would, and it is very professionally done.

Standing in stark contrast to the natural beauty of the Falls themselves, Clifton Hill has every manner of tacky exhibit, wax museum, souvenir shop and arcade imaginable, so we stopped in long enough to shop at the Hershey Store and a couple of other places.

Glory and Auntie Vera also had an opportunity to test their strength, midway style...

And I totally thought it was worthwhile to spend $2 to subject my two darling daughters to a Hurricane Simulator:

After a late dinner at BP, we headed to the Best Western, and were asleep within an hour or two, but upon awakening, we took advantage of the courtyard pool.  While Audrey and I packed, Auntie Vera and the girls tried out some of the exercise equipment.
After checking out, we parked at the same outskirts lot and took the Peoplemover to Whitewater Walk, which takes you by elevator right to the shores of the Niagara River downstream from the Falls, where you can stroll along wooden boardwalks right besides treacherous Class 6 rapids.
The highlight of the day, however, had to be the Butterfly Conservatory, where you can walk around a beautiful enclosed garden amongst hundreds of exotic butterflies.

With more time and money, it would have been surprisingly easy to spend another day around Niagara Falls, and go to the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum on Clifton Hill, or to ride the Whirlpool Jetboats.  I guess that will have to wait until our next visit, because after lunch, we had just enough time to get back to Magda Farm, do some laundry, and get ready to return to Alberta the next day.

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