Day 2

Much Better! After the frustration that was day one and our entry into Canada, today was a huge success. Last night we had to set up mostly in the dark, which was fine, and then we all crashed and slept surprisingly well. It was the first night in the camper for our new puppy Fitz. He’s seven months old now and is really getting big. Of all the things we were worried about for this trip, Mr. Fitz was by far our biggest. We didn’t know how he would do spending a long time in the car, especially with Jessie (7-year-old lab) in the far backspace of our Suburban. Yesterday he passed that test with flying colors. 

The second concern was how he would do sleeping in the camper. We brought his collapsable crate, but the kids want him to sleep with them. Last night we decided we’d try him sleeping on the couch/bed with Claire with the thought that if he wouldn’t settle down and sleep he’d go in his crate. Last night he calmed down immediately and slept at Claire’s feet for the entire night. He woke us up at 6:30 which is late for him but otherwise he made it all night long and didn’t cause mass destruction. 

The third concern was how he would do in the camper all day while we were out and about exploring. Well, today we ate breakfast, loaded up the car, put him in his crate and Jessie in the camper with her blanket, turned on the air conditioner so it wouldn’t get too hot for them, and set out for Niagara Falls. We returned seven hours later to an intact camper and two happy dogs that slept most of the day. (We also installed a wireless camera so we could check on them throughout the day, which worked decently except for the terrible wifi reception we have in Canada.) They both went out to the bathroom and were generally happy to see us and suddenly that concern was also put to rest. 

Not our dog, but the vibe is accurate.

The other success of the day was, as I noted, Niagara Falls. Allison and I had gone there for our honeymoon almost 19 years ago. We knew we wanted to get the kids there on this trip but initially planned to do so on our way back from Maine, not on our way out. When we decided on our route we knew we had to go there when we were camped outside of Toronto and today was that day.  

We had pre-bought “Journey Behind the Falls” tickets a few months ago and planned to also walk over to Clifton Hill. It was just over an hour’s drive from our campsite to the Table Rock Welcome Center. Included in our tickets were parking passes which made the parking situation much easier. We parked quickly and walked into the center to figure out when we’d need to do our trip behind the falls. 

It was crowded but not too terrible for a Saturday, let alone Memorial Day weekend in the US. I jumped in line to redeem our vouchers and Allison headed for the gift shop to buy Claire a pair of sweatpants because it was a little too chilly near the falls for shorts. I signed up for the 12:00 time slot and met everyone outside the store. We decided to grab lunch before the tour because we were already hungry and the tour could take a while. Allison and Claire got sushi, the older boys split a too-small personal pan pizza, Grant had chicken nuggets and I got a cheeseburger. We timed lunch perfectly, by the tie we had finished eating the lines were crazy long for food.

Does not do it justice.

We started our journey behind the falls with a group picture. Then we marched in line to the elevator that takes you down to the tunnels behind the falls. A quick ride down with a little speech from the elevator attendant and we emerged out into a windy… and smelly tunnel. We took the first right to go toward the holes that put you directly behind the cascading water. There are two holes, one further into the falls than the other. We decided to go to the far tunnel and soon regretted that decision. Near the opening we stood in line and slowly shuffled forward as people took their turn getting photos, videos, etc. before heading back down the tunnel. I can only imagine this was a much faster process before camera phones, Instagram, and selfie sticks. It seemed every group was much more concerned with getting their photos than they were actually taking in the experience. I say that with some frustration but also being well aware that we did the same thing.

As I said it turns out we should have just gone to the first opening because it was pretty much identical to the second, only with no line. We quickly moved to the guard railing and watched the water pour downward. A moment to vent here: Did everyone forget how to stand in line due to COVID? All sorts of people just walking in front of other people. No consideration for those who’ve been waiting patiently! Being an Eneagram 9 I was almost frustrated enough to say something!

Our last stop on the tour (self-guided btw) was to the viewing platform at the base of the falls. This was what made all the lines and waiting well worth it. It was incredible. The mist floats all around you and slowly drenches anything not covered by a rain-coat or poncho. The clear blue sky hovered above the falls as the sun illuminated what it could through the mist. The views around the gorge were breathtaking and the kids marveled at the sheer size of the falls from below. We took our pictures and videos and decided to slog our way back to the elevator and up to the visitor center. We watched the falls with the masses for a while before we started our walk over to Clifton Hill.

Clifton Hill is quite the conglomerate of arcades, shops, restaurants, ferris wheels, fun houses, and museums. It really is a bit overwhelming, especially to kids. Ours for instance argued back and forth between putt-putt golf and the mirror fun house before settling on Midway, the giant arcade. $50 dollars, 3o minutes and a few cheap knickknacks won later and we b-lined for Dairy Queen and some ice cream. By now it was nice and warm and in ice cream cone for the walk back to the car was a welcomed addition. The kids were tired and hot which meant it was time to load back into the car and drive the hour back to the campground.

A few pieces of advice for Niagara Falls:

  1. Absolutely do the “Journey Behind the Falls” it is worth the money and the lines to be able to go down to the observation deck and see the falls up close. Purchase the vouchers online before you go and then when you get there you can decide on what time slot you want to do the tour.
  2. Purchase the parking pass when you buy your vouchers. The parking lot is right next to the visitor center and having the pass makes getting in and out really easy. All you do is scan the barcode on the paper, which means you should print the parking pass before you go if possible although you can scan it from your phone too.
  3. Get there early and dress warmer than the forcecast calls for. Near the falls it is always misty and cool, and the sweateshirts in the gift shop are not cheap.
  4. Wear a rain coat on the tour. They give you ponchos but we all had our Columbia rain jackets with hoods and they kept our persons dry even down on the observation deck. Before and after we just shoved them into our backpack.

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