Home » 1999 Road Trip to Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, NY

Friday, October 8, 1999 - 4:00pm by Lolo
383 miles and 7.5 hours from our last stop - 2 night stay


I must admit that when Herb first suggested that we go to Niagara Falls, I wasn't that excited about it. All I could picture was a tacky tourist trap with wax museums and gift shops full of snow globes. Well, I'm glad Herb persisted, because what we encountered--at least on the Canadian side--was quite different.

Herb and boys on bikesHerb and boys on bikesWe were at the point in our RV career where we grabbed every possible opportunity to get away in it. The kids had a three-day weekend because of Columbus Day, so we picked them up straight from school and started driving. Poor Herb. It was a pretty long drive for a Friday night and the weather wasn't helping--it poured for the last 2 hours of the drive. The kids didn't seem to mind. They just loved riding in the back of the RV, especially at night, watching TV and the headlights of the cars go by. I made dinner on route--canned ravioli in the microwave. I felt a little like Lucy in the Long Long Trailer. We finally pulled into the Niagara KOA about 11:00 that night. The kids had already fallen asleep so luckily they didn't notice the amusement park right on the other side of the fence from the campground. That was not what we had driven here for. Hopefully, they wouldn't notice it in the morning.

The next morning we got an early start and after a pretty uneventful border check, we drove across the Rainbow Bridge into Canada and found a big parking lot a little south of the falls to safely leave the RV. Our plan was to use our bikes to get around. The Canadian side of the falls is very bike-friendly. A 35-mile paved bike path parallels the Niagara Parkway, which runs past the falls and up along the Niagara River past many parks, gardens, and other attractions.

Andrew at Niagara FallsAndrew at Niagara FallsThe first thing on the agenda, of course, was to see the falls, so we biked over to Table Rock where we stood level with the edge of the spectacular Horseshoe Falls and watched as tons of water cascaded over the edge into the gorge below. It was absolutely incredible. I was very glad I let Herb talk me into coming here. The Canadian side of the falls was not nearly as tacky as what I had expected.

Now that we had seen the falls from above, our next stop was to see it from below. Inside the Table Rock House, we purchased our tickets for the Journey Behind the Falls and put on the yellow plastic ponchos they gave us. We then rode the elevator down to a tunnel system that lead to portals that were actually positioned behind the falls. From there, we watched as the falls cascaded in a deafening roar right over us. It was quite exhilarating. We also found out why they gave you the ponchos.

Next we had lunch on the patio of the Table Rock House, which had a great view of the falls. From our table we could watch the Maid of the Mist boats make their charge to the base of the crashing falls. The boats were loaded with blue people. Apparently, they used different colored ponchos than the Journey Behind the Falls. This looked like too much fun to pass up, so Herb took his wallet out once again, and we purchased tickets for the Maid of the Mist tour.

Boys on Maid of the MistBoys on Maid of the MistFortunately, the line wasn't too long today, but based on the size of the gates they have set up, I can imagine that at the height of the season the wait must be very long. Once on board, we first cruised past the American Falls, which are actually the highest falls, and then right up to the foot of the Horseshoe Falls. We got soaked, but it was so much fun. If I had to pick only one thing to do at Niagara Falls, this would be it.

We had pretty much seen the falls every which way we could--from above, from behind, from below--so we were ready to move on and bike along the Niagara Parkway bike trail. The ride traced the Niagara River and was quite scenic. I also discovered that I was wrong in thinking that we had seen the falls in every way possible. We came across the Whirlpool Aero Car that goes across the river on a cable. There are also helicopter rides over the falls and probably a lot more ways that people have found to make money showing tourists the falls. We passed on these and just enjoyed the pretty gardens and parks along the ride. That was anyway until Tommy decided to do some tricky bike riding, hit a pole with his right handlebar, and flipped off a high curb. He was pretty cut up so we took him back to the RV and cleaned him up.

Since we still wanted to see more of the Niagara Parkway, we decided to retrace our steps in the RV. So we drove back north from whence we had just come, continuing past the spot where Tommy fell in order to get to Floral Clock Park. Here we saw the very unique 40-foot-wide Floral Clock, whose large 20-foot stainless tube hands moved around the face of a clock created from thousands and thousands of flowers. The letters "NIAGARA PARKS" (which conveniently had 12 letters in it) were used as the numbers on the clock. It was very pretty and quite unique.

After crossing Rainbow Bridge back into the states, we decided to make one more assault on the falls--Niagara at night. Every night after sunset, the falls are lit by colorful spotlights, creating a very awesome effect. Niagara Reservation Park is a great place to view them. Although the sight of the lit up falls was pretty awesome, I must admit that we were a bit disappointed, because even though the reality was good, it did not come close to what it looked like on post cards. They must have done a little photographic touching up to make the colors look more vibrant. Still, it was a lovely sight and a nice way to end our visit to the very spectacular Niagara Falls.


Between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, lies the spectacular trio of waterfalls known as Niagara Falls. The 184-foot-high American Falls is the tallest, while the slightly shorter Horseshoe Falls (also called the Canadian Falls) is the broadest. The more modest yet graceful Bridal Veil Falls lies between them in the gap between Goat and Luna Island. Together the three falls pour over 750,000 gallons of water per second into the gorge below.

Maid of the MistMaid of the MistThe Falls were first discovered in 1678 by Fr. Louis Hennepin, a Jesuit priest. Since that time, people have been flocking to see this seventh natural wonder of the world. Today more than 12 million people visit annually.

The American side of the falls is a bit more tacky than then Canadian side with its wax museums, amusement parks, and motels with heart-shaped bathtubs. The smoke-spewing factories along the Robert Moses Parkway also make the American shore less naturally beautiful. The main way to view the falls from the American side is from the Niagara Reservation Park. To get near the edge of the falls, you can walk over the foot bridge to Goat Island and look straight down into the gorge as tons of water plunge over the edge. For a close-up view from the base, you can take the elevator to the tunnels that lead to the Cave of the Winds. They even supply yellow plastic ponchos to protect you from the mist as you look straight out of an opening behind the falls at a thundering wall of water.

Across Rainbow Bridge is the Canadian side of the falls, from which there are numerous ways to experience the falls. The easiest and most accessible way is to stand atop Table Rock and enjoy the close-up view of the spectacular Horseshoe Falls. From this vantage point, you stand level with the edge as millions of gallons of water tumble down into the gorge below.

Lolo and boys diningLolo and boys diningFor a closer view of the falls, there is the Journey Behind the Falls Tour ($8.25 for adults and $5 for children 6 to 12). They supply you with yellow plastic ponchos and take you on an elevator from Table Rock House down 150 feet to a series of tunnels and viewing portals behind the falls. As you watch and feel the falls crashing over you, the sound is deafening and the view exhilarating.

For an even closer view than that, there is the Maid of the Mist boat tour ($11.50 for adults and $6.75 for children $6 to 12), which takes you through the turbulent waters around the American falls right up to the foot of the Horseshoe Falls. You get plenty wet, but at least they supply you with blue plastic ponchos. The experience is not to be missed.

The Canadians have done a much better job at maintaining the natural beauty of their shoreline. The 35-mile Niagara Parkway runs from Niagara Falls all the way to Niagara-on-the-Lake. A great paved bike trail parallels the drive the entire way. Along the Parkway there are meticulously maintained gardens and several attractions related to the falls, such as the Great Gorge Adventure, which has scenic boardwalks along the raging white waters of the Great Gorge Rapids, and the Whirlpool Aero Car, which takes you on a 3,600-foot ride on a cable car high above the whirlpool.

A final way to view the falls is to visit it after sunset when it is lit by 22 xenon gas spotlights in shades of rose pink, red magenta, amber, blue, and green. During the summer months, free fireworks are set off every Friday night at 11 pm.

Niagara Falls location map

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