Vacation Day 2: Niagara Falls From Below and Above


Diamondqueen's phone shot of the falls from Maid of the Mist.

Frequently I’m less than overwhelmed by tourist attractions. That goes for whether it’s a night cruise on Lake Lucerne or a chairlift in the Smokies.

I have to admit, though, I was pretty impressed by our boat trip on Maid of the Mist. I wasn’t prepared for the impact of cruising so close to the bottom of the falls, complete with the stiff wind and accompanying drenching from the clouds of mist. I expected to get wet because of the blue ponchos handed out en masse to crowds queuing up to board the boat, but the actual experience went beyond simply getting splashed. We were even on the lower deck under some cover, although S.Hooligan and I hung out at the railing. The boat rocked so at the base of the falls, I was a little concerned about S. getting pitched overboard (we got ponchos but not life vests). She was a trouper, though, her little face squinting out of the puckered opening of her poncho, which I’d pulled tight. Diamondqueen was in and out, but J.Hooligan steadfastly refused to come out any further than the very center of the lower deck. He and Diamondqueen downed Dramamine without water before the boat left the dock, but S. and I were too enthralled to get seasick.

Besides the crashing falls themselves, sights I enjoyed included hundreds of gulls gathered on the rocks and gorge walls, as well as tall trees bare of leaves but studded with huge nests; the vista in both directions as we traveled the Niagara River; looking down from the observation deck on the various Maid of the Mist vessels packed with blue-clad crowds.

We had to exit through a gift shop, so the Hooligans got trinkets. Since we got stuck with a $10 fee to park in the area, we decided to leave the van there and walk across the Rainbow Bridge to Canada. It was a stunning stroll on a gorgeous day. Big-mouthed S.Hooligan had to be shushed when she said loudly, “Wait until they find out we have fake passports!” The significance of crossing international borders is currently lost on her.

The Niagara SkyWheel on Clifton Hill.

Once admitted to Canada, we looked in some of the shops, then climbed Clifton Hill, which looks as if all of Gatlinburg was compressed into one steep street. However, ever since we arrived we’d had our eyes on the huge Ferris wheel we can see directly across from our hotel room, and S.Hooligan had convinced herself this attraction was a must. Naturally, she and J.Hooligan were petrified when we first climbed into the enclosed car of the Niagara SkyWheel. By the end, S. was suggesting we could try to rock the car, then asked if we could go on it again. J. was happy to disembark. The view was terrific, though, and it’s the one truly classy attraction in that comic book-like district.

After a stop for fudge, we crossed back over the bridge to the U.S. Diamondqueen had promised we’d stop at the Goat Island gift shop for some stuffed bears wearing barrels that she’d promised the Hooligans last night (the shop was closed when we walked over there). What we didn’t know was we’d have to fork over another $10 for parking. If you broke it down by person, any of us would have gladly paid $2-plus not to have to walk any farther than we did.

We spent the afternoon napping (Diamondqueen and I) and watching TV or playing on electronic gadgets (the Hooligans). Sometime in the late afternoon Diamondqueen and I both awoke when startled by sudden darkness and silence. It was a power outage, and when I poked my nose out our room door to see what might be going on, I found a maintenance man sitting in the doorway across the hall, with his back and fee against the walls.

“Don’t leave your room,” he cautioned. “The card keys won’t work and you won’t be able to get back in.” He told me there’d been some kind of blow-up at power station and the entire area was out of power. Fortunately, less than 10 minutes later the lights and air conditioning came back on.

Originally Diamondqueen said we’d get room service, which she and the Hooligans love, but nothing on the menu seemed worth the trouble. After some fruitless discussion, we finally got the kids to agree to walk up the street to a T.G.I.Friday’s. Service was lousy, S. was a terror, and my margarita didn’t pack the wallop I was counting on; but the food wasn’t any worse than we anticipated. We stopped at what was supposed to be a “souvenir superstore” but was just a tacky market of the same crap we’d been seeing all day, and no less pricey than any other shop.

I insisted on an hour’s rest, which S.Hooligan interrupted continually, before we tackled the pool. It was quite pleasant, though, with only a few other people down there and the water delightfully warm and relaxing. Floating on my back, I could gaze up through the skylights and see the occasional gull winging by.

Then it was back to the room for showers and various pursuits. A tiring but enjoyable day.


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