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Trip Report - Weekend at Niagara Falls with children

Trip Report - Weekend at Niagara Falls with children

Old Nov 11th, 2011, 12:38 PM
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Trip Report - Weekend at Niagara Falls with children

My two daughters, ages 9 and 4, and I took advantage of a long weekend last month to travel to Niagara Falls. It's about an 8 hour trip from our house so we split up the drive by stopping at a Hampton Inn in Erie, PA. We arrived in Niagara Falls, NY around 11 the next morning. It was a drizzly Friday and there weren't many people around. Older Daughter had picked up a brochure about Niagara Falls State Park at the motel in Erie and we decided that the Park's Discovery Pass would be the best way to go. The Pass includes a trip on the Maid of the Mist, the Cave of the Winds Tour, admission to the movie about the Falls and admission to the Aquarium of Niagara and the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center. The cost of the Pass is $33 for adults and $26 for children over 6. Children under 6 are free, so this turned out to be very cost effective for us.

We parked the car in the $10 parking lot and headed to a big glass building with the words VISITOR CENTER written on it. The building was right across from the parking lot so it seemed like the logical place to start but once we figured out it was not where we wanted to be. There was a food court that smelled terrible, a cheap souvenir area and an information desk where they were trying to sell different sightseeing packages, but not the State Park Discovery Pass that we wanted. We went back outside and found the State Park Center on the other side of the parking lot. We purchased our passes and decided to do the Maid of the Mist boat ride first. This turned out to be a good choice because even though it was raining it was warm and turned out to be the warmest day of the weekend. We took the elevator down to the river, were given our big blue ponchos and got right on the boat. The boat departed about 5 minutes later; there were about 50 passengers. Older daughter LOVED it and wanted to be right in the water; younger daughter wasn't so sure. I think the noise of the Falls was overwhelming for her. The ride lasted about half an hour and despite the ponchos we were drenched - happy but drenched.

We went back to the Park Center, thinking we would watch the movie but it is only shown on the hour and we had about 45 minutes to wait. The snack bar did not have much to offer so we walked back to the car to dry off and get a snack out of the cooler I had packed. We changed into dry socks then went back in to watch the movie. There were not many people in the theater and the movie held both girls' attention. The movie was ok - not great - and I understand it's been shown there for decades.

When we came out of the theater the sun had come out so we decided to go ahead and do the Cave of the Winds tour. The walk from the Park Center took us about 20 minutes and was beautiful. The leaves were brilliant colors of orange, red and yellow. We were given yellow ponchos and sandals, which amused the girls to no end. We took the elevator down to the wooden walkways and walked around the falls. The girls were thrilled by the rainbow we saw on the way back up the steps. We emerged soaking wet for the second time that day.

By the time we got back to the car it was almost 5:00. We decided we would finish up the other two activities on our Discovery Passes the next day. We headed for the border since I had reserved a room at the Embassy Suites in Canada.
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Old Nov 11th, 2011, 12:58 PM
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We crossed the border a total of 4 times on the trip. The border agents we encountered varied widely in strictness and questioning. The first time we crossed into Canada the agent had many questions about my husband - where was he? Why wasn't he with us? Why didn't I have a letter from him granting me permission to thake the children into another country? I have taken the girls on international trips by myself twice before and was never asked for a permission letter. She also had many questions about my intentions once in Canada. The next two times we crossed the border the agents asked a few questions, and the last agent barely looked at me, asked no questions, just swiped our passports and let us go. It was a very interesting experience.

Our room on the 41st floor at the Embassy Suites was extremely spacious and had a great view of the Falls. We arrived in time to attend the manager's reception for free drinks and snacks. We were all exhausted so after the girls soaked in the room's giant jacuzzi tub we all hit the sack.

We were up early at the breakfast bar the next morning. After claiming the car from the $20/night park and ride we drove back into the U.S. and found the Aquarium of Niagara. The parking there is free. The girls really enjoyed this. It's not a huge aquarium but just big enough. We got to see the sea lions perform and watch a feeding at the tidal pool. It was not terribly crowded. We stayed for about an hour and a half. Then we crossed the footbridge to the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center. This was not crowded either and we were there about 45 minutes. It is small but there were some good interactive displays that Older Daughter particularly enjoyed. Younger Daughter didn't get much out of it. We definitely got our moneys' worth out of the Discovery Passes - I felt like we got a lot for our money.

After this we got back in the car, crossed the border and drove up the beautiful Niagara Parkway to Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was a cloudly, chilly day. Older Daughter really wanted to visit Fort George, the War of 1812 military fort that sits on the Parkway just before entering Niagara-on-the-Lake. I knew Younger Daughter would be miserable since it was cold and windy, so we did not stop. It looked very interesting and there were only a few cars and one tour bus in the parking lot.

I found a parking place on the main street in the charming town but the meter would not accept my Visa or my MasterCard. I was very low on change and could only scrounge up enough for 30 minutes. Younger Daughter was really cold and the wind continued to pick up. We found a bakery just down from where we parked the car, bought a few things to eat then got back in the car and started back for the hotel. I would love to return and spend more time there.

We drove back to the Embassy Suites. It was so windy we could hardly get the car doors open. I had originally thought we'd walk somewhere to eat dinner but it was so windy we decided to stay at the hotel and eat in the ridiculously overpriced TGI Fridays. It was a typical dining experience but it was convenient and we were tired so it was the best option. We also attended the Manager's Reception for some snacks and free drinks. The girls took another soak in the jacuzzi tub and we were done for the day.
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Old Nov 11th, 2011, 01:11 PM
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The next day was cold and rainy. We got up early to beat the crowds at the breakfast bar then got our bags together and checked out. We collected our car from the park and ride. We didn't really need to be back home until the following night so we had more time to explore. One of the girls had picked up a brochure for the Strong Museum/National Museum of Play in Rochester. We drove there and thanks to GPS had no trouble finding it. The parking was free and we got there about 20 minutes before they opened. This turned out to be a real hit with the girls. We spent almost 4 hours there, exploring all of the fun exhibits. They loved the Wegmans grocery area where they could shop and check out their purchases. The Berenstain Bears area was also a lot of fun. I enjoyed the toy of fame. The whole museum is so well done - what a treasure for Rochester! We ate lunch in the food court and I finally bribed them to leave by letting them take a ride on the carousel. They had a ball.

We got back on the interstate and drove west. I was surprised at how many tolls I had to pay on the New York roads so I was happy when we crossed the border into Pennsylvania. We ended up stopping at the same Hampton Inn in Erie that we stayed in on our way up, then drove the rest of the way home the next day.

The girls had a great time on this trip. Older Daughter is planning a return trip and Younger Daughter said "it was the best trip ever!"
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Old Nov 11th, 2011, 01:20 PM
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I'm glad you had a good time. Niagara gets a bad rap from a lot of people on this board, but I love the falls and think they're well worth visiting.

I hope when older daughter goes back she has better weather.
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Old Nov 11th, 2011, 03:10 PM
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Great report! Glad you enjoyed Niagara Falls. We really loved it this summer.
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Old Nov 11th, 2011, 03:57 PM
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Thanks for the report!
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Old Nov 11th, 2011, 04:12 PM
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thanks for the report...this is one trip i look forward to taking with my boys in a few years.
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Old Nov 11th, 2011, 06:36 PM
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Thanks for the TR, it brings back the trip my folks took me and my brother and sister on about 60 years ago. We had the big raincoats back then too. I still remember that trip and I'm sure your kids will too.
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Old Nov 11th, 2011, 08:00 PM
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Make sure you come in the summer and take them on the Whirlpool Jetboats... best attraction at the Falls!
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Old Nov 12th, 2011, 07:26 AM
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Great trip report! Thanks for posting, we love the Falls and usually go every other year. We always stay at the Embassy and feel it is a good value. We have dinner at the Keg and enjoy it because of the view. (same place as breakfast)
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Old Nov 13th, 2011, 08:08 PM
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Thank you for taking the time to post your report. Niagara falls is on our "must-see" list. We have two girls as well, and hope when we get a chance to go they will have equally memorable experiences as your daughters.
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