One of the advantages of traveling in the off-season is that it is possible to visit those kinds of places everyone wants to see without everyone actually being there. Well we definitely visited Niagara Falls in the off-season – mid January, cold, snowing, and windy – definitely off. We hit the state park in the morning and scored first row parking! (Try that in the summer). The Visitor Center staff were very helpful and took a lot of time, with just us, to share what was open and what was good to see this time of year. There were a few other brave, off-season, explorers but we never felt crowded. Amber did not even have to wait in line to use one of those 25 cent mounted binoculars.
The one thing there was plenty of was ice. It was everywhere. It surrounded the falls, clung to the railings, coated the trees – it dominated the landscape. In most places the beauty of the formations upstaged the grandeur of the falls. I say most places because when you are on the Canadian side, right where the water breaks over the edge and plunges into the cauldron of spray and mist and roar, you cannot help but be mesmerized by the absolutely relentless, absolutely steadfast power of it! At that place it seemed much more like a massive living thing than simply H2O succumbing to gravity. It is easy to understand why so many visit this Leviathan more than once. It has an affect on the soul.
We made sure to visit the area specific shops and attractions just to complete the experience. We resisted paying 10 Dollars Canadian for a five ounce jar of maple syrup or a bottle opener in the shape of a barrel. (as in the type daredevils used to ride over the falls in – aaaaaaah). We did, however, buy a couple post cards. Yes, real old fashioned postcards that we addressed, put a stamp on, and put in something called a mail box. It felt more genuine somehow than so much of what we call communication in modern times. It is hard to describe, but that simple act seemed to tie us, across time, with all the millions who have done it before. It could be 2016 or 1916. We could be from anywhere in the world. Neither time nor origin matter. We all came, were enthralled by the splendor and were affected as only humans can be.
On a completely practical note. If you decide to take the walk across the bridge to the Canadian side, (and we definitely recommend you do) make darn sure your passport is in your pocket! You can pass through the one way turnstile onto the bridge with absolutely zero interaction with any government official. You can walk over the bridge, cross over the Canadian border at the mid point and take a selfie on the bridge, literally, completely in Canada. But you wont be able to get off that bridge into Canada proper without your passport. And when you try to get back to the U.S. side to get your passport out of your car, guess what? You would have to pass through the border station just as if you had actually been allowed into Canada and you will have to prove your citizenship. There are plenty of signs on both sides to warn you of this but I have to think it has happened often enough to warrant the signs. We, of course, had ours at the ready for both stations and had no trouble because we are the Awed Travelers!
Stay tuned for four more states in only five days, our first days in Maine (yes, we made it!), monuments and historical sites and other food and beer adventures.