Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Niagara Falls road trip! Part 3

Niagara Falls State Park, NY

The next day we checked out of our hotel, got free cookies (we stayed at the Doubletree hotel in Niagara Falls, ON and one of Doubletree's signature amenities is free cookies at check in.  They had run out when we checked in the day before, but we were given vouchers and told that they would be available fresh the next day. ), and had breakfast at Tim Horton's.  Tim Horton's, as far as I can tell, is Canada's version of Dunkin' and is something for which Canada is known for.  They call glazed donuts "honey donuts".  

We crossed back over to the US, and were one of the first people in Niagara Falls State Park when it opened.  Here is a bad map of the park:  http://www.niagarafallsstatepark.com/destination_PropertyMap.aspx

We walked over to Goat Island, the island in the middle of the map above, and waited about an hour for the Cave of the Winds attraction to open.  At one point the Cave of the Winds was once an actual cave at the base of the Bridal Veil Falls--but it has since collapsed.  The attraction now just takes you to the bottom of the falls, where you get drenched with a generous amount of spray.

The entrance to Cave of the Winds is near the Nikola Tesla Memorial.  I had no idea that he was Yugoslavian.  (Click to enlarge all pictures)

After getting tickets, you are allowed into the building where you are given a yellow plastic poncho, and a pair of foam sandals.  You are also given a plastic bag to put your shoes and socks in.  You leave the ticket building and wait in line in front of the elevator building.  When we were  there, one of the two elevators was still broken.  The elevator takes you down to the bottom of the falls, where you exit via a long hallway:

 And end up on a wooden walkway at the edge of the Niagara River:

The area also happens to be a seagull rookery (and smells like it):
(All those white 'spots' on the ground and in the water are gulls)

The walkway takes you towards the falls:
See all the banana people!

Until you can stand right next to them:

This would be where the ponchos come in handy.  

And then up to the Hurricane Deck:
I think the "No Smoking" sign is supposed to be ironic...

Because THIS is what it's like to stand on the Hurricane Deck:
Or this:
(This lady has a blue poncho because it is from the Maid of the Mist boat ride...see later)

The walkway then curves around and takes you back to the elevators.  Here is a view of the Cave of the Winds walkway from above:

We put our ponchos in the large recycling bins at the exit, but kept our sandals, because they were surprisingly comfortable for cheap foam sandals (and mine were two sizes two big).  Our next destination was Maid of the Mist.

First, however, the trolley took us past Terrapin Point, which overlooks US side of the Horseshoe Falls.  We got out for a look:

It was then back to the visitor's center for the Maid of the Mist!

The Maid of the Mist is the boat that takes you to the bottom of the Horseshoe Falls.  Once again, an elevator takes you down to the bottom of the falls level.  Unlike Cave of the Winds, however, these elevators are fairly new, and there are 4 of them.  Once you get out of the elevator, you are given a blue poncho.  

We were lucky.  We got to the dock right as one of the boats was pulling in.  There are at least 2 Maid of the Mist boats on the river at a time.  One boat leaves from the US side, and one leaves from a dock on the Canadian side.  

The boat takes you up past the American Falls:

And then into the middle of the arc of Horseshoe Falls:

Before turning back to the starting dock:

Once again, ponchos were collected in a large bin at the exit.
There was an overlook in the Maid of the Mist area called the Crows Nest:

(This is the American Falls)

Here is the American Falls (foreground), and the Horseshoe Falls (background), as seen from the observation tower above the Maid of the Mist dock, before you go down the elevators:

It was a little after lunchtime at that point.  We took the trolley back to Terrapin Point, where we had lunch at the Top of the Falls Restaurant.

It wasn't a bad restaurant.  It offered a beer and wine list.  My husband had a veggie wrap, which looked delicious, and I had fish and chips.  There was a gift shop on the 1st floor of the building (the restaurant was on the second floor), and I got some souvenirs: a magnet for me, a pen for my brother, and a postcard to mail later.  

It was nearing 3 o'clock at that point, and we were expected at my husband's grandmother's house that evening.  It would have been nice to stay longer, but we had seen the two major attractions (Cave of the Winds and Maid of the Mist), so it was not too much of a loss.

There were lots of vineyards on the way to Grandma's house as well.  

[The penny remains.]