Thursday, August 28, 2014

Our life has just been a whirlwind basically since the day we married. We've moved eight times in five years and have lived in four different states. We were on a tight budget since basically day one and not much has changed in that time - each year when our anniversary comes around we always contemplate whether to celebrate by going somewhere new. So far, we've always said yes and no matter the cost, it's always been worth it. We spent our honeymoon at Disney World, our first anniversary in Savannah, Georgia, our second in Dallas, Texas, our third on a motorcycle ride through the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico, our fourth in New York City, and our fifth at Niagara Falls. We haven't come close to seeing all that we want to see or taken many extravagant vacations, but I feel incredibly lucky to have experienced these places and more together. I'm a firm believer that traveling is never financially convenient for most people - you just have to make it a priority. You just have to do it.

It's about a seven hour drive from New York City to Niagara Falls using toll roads, but we always try to avoid paying tolls because East Coast tolls are straight up ridiculous. You might as well drive down the road with the windows down just throwing money into the air. We also wanted to have more to look at than the sides of an interstate, so we took a scenic route (scenic byway 97) and it ended up taking about eight and a half hours, but quite a bit longer with stops. The view was beautiful - rolling hills, farmland, winding roads, green saturated mountains with their tops hidden under a blanket of fog. We found this perfect little park to eat lunch in off of highway five called Clarence Town Park. If you ever make a similar drive, it's definitely worth the stop. It was like hitting the road trip with a toddler jackpot. They have three different playgrounds nestled in beautiful trees and a pond with a fountain that Ev spent a good 20 minutes throwing rocks into and pointing out a rainbow above it.

We spent the majority of our time on the American side of the falls, but stayed in a cute little place in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. We were just there for a few days and most of our time was spent driving, so we didn't get much time to explore anything more than the Falls, but I wish we had. This town was just idyllic. If there are any fellow Gilmore Girls fans out there, it was like Stars Hollow come to life, but even cuter. Outside of the town, along Niagara River Parkway, are beautiful homes and vineyards that we drove past each day. They became more enchanting each drive. I would love to come back to the area sometime just to explore this little town more. Friday night we walked into town in search of some good food and ended up at The Irish Harp Pub. We weren't sure how kid-friendly they might be, but they welcomed us two year old and all and we had a blast. They had live music, delicious food, and a good drink selection. Ev loved the music so much she didn't want to leave at the end of the night.

Saturday was a little rough as we spent two hours sitting in line at the border crossing with a screaming toddler going to the Falls and two hours sitting in line at the border crossing with a toddler that needed to poop and couldn't hold it any longer leaving the Falls. Hashtag real life. That's the only downside to staying in Canada and exploring the American side of the Falls - there are almost always long wait times at the border crossing. The one time that we zipped right through was at 9:00 A.M. on Sunday morning. We were able to laugh it all off though and had a good time regardless. We had been talking with Ev about seeing the big waterfall for weeks now because we knew we would be getting close at some point and didn't want her to be too scared. She was so excited and asked every day leading up to Saturday if today was the day we would drive to the big waterfall. I didn't want to stress too much about seeing all the tourist attractions in one day, so we just picked one, The Cave of the Winds, and that ended up being plenty for us. We put on our ponchos and climbed the stairs and platforms, closer and closer to the Falls. I left my camera safely tucked in the backpack for fear of it getting wet, but I bought a waterproof disposable camera and brought that along. By the end of it, the ponchos hadn't done much to keep us dry and our faces hurt from laughing so much. For a toddler, it seems that talking about getting wet under the waterfall and ACTUALLY being under the waterfall are two very different things. She didn't shed a tear, but changed moods between smiling, scared, and done with this attraction every few minutes. She's still talking about getting wet 'under da big watuhfaw' and asks if we're going back every day now.

The one thing that we had heard about the area around Niagara Falls was that the food was lacking. There are some chain restaurants and pizza joints, but we couldn't find much more until we stumbled upon the restaurant inside the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute. The food was delicious and their lunch prices were reasonable. It seems to be a well kept secret in the area as it wasn't very crowded, but trust me when I tell you to skip everything else and just eat here. My other piece of advice is that Smokin' Joe's has the cheapest deals on souvenirs, but if you don't fancy going there, the gift shops near the attractions in the National Park carry the same things and are also cheaper than the shops that border the park. The trolley tickets are also worth it - Ev flipped her lid about riding on a trolley like Daniel Tiger's.

I was really surprised and relieved to find so much in the area that was kid-friendly. All of the attractions allow babies and toddlers and most let them in free if they're under 6. We almost always bring Ev along on our adventures and it can be frustrating when places aren't welcoming towards families. 'See Niagara Falls' has always been on my bucket list and I have to say I wasn't disappointed. Though the trip was tiring, it was nice to get out of the city and reconnect with each other. The beauty was astounding and life is just a bit more enjoyable today as I think of all the smiles we shared and the experiences we had together. I love to think about all the memories we've made together and the ones yet to make. I hope my girl can look back on her childhood and trips like this and know that she belongs in this family, that she is loved.

(P.S. We took a different route home and ended up stopping at Dinosaur Barbecue in Syracuse. If you're ever close by, it's worth it.)


  1. Love Gilmore Girls! Haha and I love love Niagara Falls. I stayed on the Canadian side and was surprised there was so much to do besides the falls themselves. Your photos are gorgeous!



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