Saturday, August 11, 2012

Niagara Falls Vacation – Day 5: Our Last Day

On our last day at Niagara, we got up early. We had to pack up, check out of our motel, and load the car. But, more importantly, we wanted to get to Cave of the Winds before it got crowded.

Cave of the Winds is a self-guided walking tour at the bottom of Niagara Gorge. The highlight is standing on a deck that is only a few feet from the crashing waters of the Falls. It is the closest you can get to the Falls, so it was something we did not want to miss.

Since the line the day before was prohibitively long, we were determined to get there early on this, our last opportunity.

Sometimes it is hard to predict how long it will take to get Kai going. But on this day, he was excited about seeing this last attraction, and our packing went smoothly. We got to Cave of the Winds 50 minutes before it opened, and were the first in line.

Now it may seem silly to wait for 50 minutes that morning when we did not want to wait long the day before. The difference was that the storm the previous night left temperatures about 30 degrees cooler than the day before. And I think it was much easier for all of us to tolerate the wait knowing the exact time we would get in, and with the knowledge that we would be served first.

When the doors opened, we walked in and got our yellow ponchos, as well as specially designed sandals (which we got to keep) that are made for stepping along on the watery decks. We also remembered to bring swim goggles for me and Kai, anticipating a similar drenching as we had on the Maid of the Mist.

Then we got in an elevator that took us down 175 feet to the bottom of the gorge.

It was great being there early as we could leisurely take our pictures without feeling like we were holding up a big crowd.

As we walked closer and closer to the Falls, we were not disappointed. The view of the Falls from below was amazing. As with Maid of the Mist, I had to put away my camera to protect it from the spray when we got to the points nearest the Falls. But you can still get an idea of what we saw from the pictures we did take.

But more than the spectacular view, I loved that Kai was enjoying this as much as my wife and I were.

When we had finished the walk, we wanted to take one last look at the Falls from the top again.

On the following picture, you can see the people in the yellow ponchos down below where we had just been.

And with that, we had completed our tour of Niagara Falls. We had ended on a truly high note.

But our sightseeing was not over yet.

We drove about 30 miles east of the Falls to Lockport, NY, which is along the Erie Canal.

We took a 70-minute guided tour. The first half takes you along the canal, with the guide telling its history and explaining how its locks work. This was Kai’s first time learning about locks, and he seemed to take interest in it.

But the part of the tour that really grabbed his interest was when we went into a man-made “cave,” which is actually a water tunnel that was blasted out of solid rock in the 1850s. The Lockport Cave was built to provide waterpower to local industries. The guide explained how it was made, and we got to see stalactites and other geological formations.

In the final portion of the tour, we rode a boat though the last part of the tunnel. Called America’s longest underground boat ride, it was what attracted us to visit here in the first place. The ride was peaceful, and we liked that it was a different experience. Kai has enjoyed going in caves before, and he liked this one as well.

During the tour, the guide periodically asked if anyone had questions. Kai did not hesitate to raise his hands several times. At first, I cringed, wondering if he would bring up some silly subject that had no relevance to the tour. But for the most part, Kai asked good questions. My favorite was when he asked whether there were any bats in the cave (which the answer was no). It was another reminder of how far his language skills have come.

When the tour ended, we began our drive toward home.

We decided to stay the night at The Lodge at Geneva on the Lake, the place where we stopped for lunch on Day 2 on the way to Niagara. You may recall that Kai protested going there at first, but later said he wanted to go there again. We loved the nice setting along Lake Erie, and we otherwise would have stayed at a non-descript motel in the middle of nowhere. So this let us have one more day where it felt like we were still on vacation.

The Lodge has two swimming pools, one indoor and one outside, and we swam in both.

And then we enjoyed dinner outside as the sun set behind the lake while we waited for our food to be served. Kai even waited nicely this time, doing the puzzles on the kids’ menu. It was quite a contrast to the tense times we had on our previous visit.

We capped off our evening with a walk along the lake, stopping here at a gazebo.

The next morning, we walked around the grounds once more and used the swimming pools for a final time.

Then, we began the rest of our drive home.

It wasn’t a long vacation, and it didn’t seem like we packed too many activities in, but we were still exhausted.

Things did not go perfectly all the time, and we have come to accept that they often won’t with us. But that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t worthwhile to have made this trip.

We traveled to a place none of us had been to before, a place everyone ought to see at least once. And we had mostly good times. We know that Kai really enjoyed the vacation, and will have fond memories for years to come.

If we had chosen not to go on vacation because of all the challenges we would encounter, we likely would never go anywhere. This trip showed that some things are worthwhile, even if it means enduring some difficult moments.

For having made this trip, we have no regrets. And that is a wonderful feeling.

See our Facebook page for photos from our entire trip


  1. How wonderful to end your vacation on a happy note! You did see some amazing sites!

    I haven't been to Niagra Falls since I was about 10 years old.

    Funny how vacations seem more exhausting than staying home. ha.

    1. Ha, it definitely is nice to end on a happy note... makes you forget (somewhat) the tough moments. :)

      Betsy, Niagara Falls is not all that far from where you are. I'm sure it is hard for you to get away, but if you ever have an opportunity, you should try to get back to Niagara sometime. With your passion for photography, you will get some great shots.

      With vacations being more exhausting than staying home, does that mean we are getting old? ;)

  2. OMG
    those are some stunning pictures
    I know exactly what you mean
    iwe also have realised that we will never do anything if we think about how difficult it will be
    Life is not perfect, but there are perfect moments
    and looks like you had some of them right here

    1. Thanks, K. You say it nice... "perfect moments"... that is what we had. Thinking back on the trip, the memories of the good times endure, while the tough moments are beginning to fade.

  3. Oh man! Another great place I had missed when I had gone to the falls! I simply must go back. Great photos. It was good to hear that all had ended well...and that the overall balance was good. I can see Kai's excitement and happiness in his face in the pictures. Those moments, alone, were worth the trip...I am sure. That is what makes my trips so worthwhile...the smile on my son's face.

    1. That walk at the bottom of the gorge was really worthwhile... you can truly see and feel the power of the Falls from there.

      Yes, the expression on Kai's face in some of these photos really captured how happy he was in those moments. And I will always treasure those times.


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