What to do on a rest day? Take a ride, of course! But first, more of the Falls…
Visiting Niagara Falls is not a place to just stop the car, get out and take a few pictures, and then drive away kind of thing. There is so much to do, and so many ways to enjoy them, that it does take more than a day. Last night after dinner, we walked over to the viewing platform, and observed the Falls at night. Lights from the Canadian side shine on the American Falls with multi-colors–not entirely sure how I feel about that, but succumbed to it anyway. And it was here just a few days over one year ago today that Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd were the first same sex couple to be legally married in NY state during a midnight ceremony with the rainbow-lit falls as a backdrop.
This morning, we took the Maiden of the Mist boat tour for the short journey upstream, by the American Falls and practically right under Horseshoe Falls. Yes, you need ponchos to stay dry. Next, we walked around Goat Island, which is the bit of land between the two Falls, and enjoyed multiple perspectives right at the lip of the falls as well as rapids upstream. It is kind of amazing that “just” a railing and less than a few feet of land in some places separates you from the rapids that would instantly sweep you over the falls. I have a definite fear of heights, and felt skittish at a few places, but for some reason the thrill of the water rushing by was a sight to behold. But probably the most fun part of the morning excursion was to what is referred to as “Cave of the Winds,” a viewing platform at the base of the American Falls. The water is crashing down from on high, landing on rocks and proceeding to flow over other rocks before flowing into the Niagara River. There is a portion of the platform that is built directly under the far left portion of the American Falls. The platform takes you as far into this cascade as possible without getting swept away. The wind and flow of water over the ponchos was like being under thousands of showers, and would make standing out in a hurricane feel like a sprinkle, which is probably why it is called Hurricane Deck. There is no comparison with anything else I’ve ever felt. It takes tremendous effort to maintain your position, much less look up at the water deluging you.
Walking back to the hotel we then ran into one of the leaders who had just come back from what he described as a “must see” loop south of the falls, back on the Canadian side, to a town called Niagara on the Lake. There were so many fun things to see along the way: massive hydro electric plant, aerial tram from one side of the river to the other with rapids flowing below, and wine country vineyards. The town sits at the mouth of the Niagara River and opens onto Lake Ontario. That is now 3 Great Lakes that I have seen in a week: Michigan, Huron and Ontario. The road along the lake was lined with gorgeous old homes/mansions, and we stopped on a grassy knoll and waded into the lake, which is as clear as the Caribbean. The town itself is a picture perfect resort town, someplace you could definitely see staying in overnight. I found it far more charming than say Easthampton NY, which bills itself as the “prettiest village in the US.” It was bustling with stores and restaurants, but they had charm and character and unique offerings. It did not have the sort of chain store blight that every US resort town has (i.e. no Rugby/Ralph Lauren or J Crew stores etc). We had an awesome lunch on the sidewalk at a great cafe (best blueberry pie, ever). And, on the route back we detoured to a winery for a brief tasting visit. All in, about a 33 mile loop.