Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Get Wet: Take An Adventure Vacation to Niagara Falls

budget adventure travel, family adventure vacation

This was one occasion that I was a reluctant traveler. I had seen this place in movies, History Channel specials and pictures in books, so I assumed there was nothing more for me to see.

But the rest of my family wanted to go, so I drove them all to western New York State to see Niagara Falls. I was certain I would be bored into a comatose stupor within thirty minutes…after all, it was just water running over a cliff.

As we got within a few miles of the falls, I began to hear a low sound that at first crept up on me like the white noise of a machine you aren’t aware is on until it suddenly shuts off. But as we got closer, I became more aware of the sound.

It was a deep roar that was set at a constant bass note and I finally realized what I was hearing. It was the same sound that caused Jesuit missionary, Louis Hennepin heard in 1678, to investigate its source and become the first westerner to see the Niagara Falls.

This sound was what made me begin to grasp the enormity of the falls and started me thinking this just might be a little more than some water running over a cliff.

When we finally got to the railings at the edge of the falls, I was completely hypnotized, and I remained hypnotized for hours. At one moment my eyes would gaze at the entire vast panorama of falling water from the American side to the Canadian side, about a mile across. Then my eyes would just focus on the edge itself as 42 million gallons of water passed over every minute. Then they would gaze down at the swirling cloud of mist that rose up from the base. And then I would look up river at the rushing water moving inexorably toward the crest.

But it was the edge that held my gaze the most. I kept thinking, every single drop of water in the four western Great Lakes will eventually pass over this crest, flowing into the eastern Lake Ontario.

On the American side, the town of Niagara, New York is a seedy little burg that reminded me of an old carnival, long past its prime. Its heyday was in the 1950s when Niagara Falls was the number one honeymoon location for every couple in western world.

On the Canadian side, however, everything is clean, modern and reminded me of a park land. The Canadians are friendly, and offer a much better experience in every way. They host a thriving nightlife, restaurants, upscale hotels and the Casino Niagara.

If you don’t mind getting wet, you can take a ride on the famous Maid of the Mist, a very sturdy boat that holds 600 passengers and will take you into the mist below the falls. And let me point out, those plastic raincoats they hand out are essential.

Another way to see the falls is from behind. Take the Journey Behind the Falls tour down a 150 elevator into a series of man-made tunnels that allow you a view of the falls passing over your head.

As we drove back home that evening, every other family member fell asleep and I was left alone with my thoughts. Calling Niagara Falls just a water fall is like calling the Grand Canyon a hole in the ground or the Rocky Mountains just some hills.

If you ever find yourself within two or three hundred miles of Niagara, you owe it to yourself to make a daytrip to see these magnificent falls. It’s spell is nothing short of hypnotic and you will come home having just as much difficulty trying to capture the experience in words as I am having here. But it will still be worth the drive.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown. All rights reserved.

budget adventure travel, family adventure vacation

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