Day 1 Niagara Falls

We left the Albany area promptly at 8:00 am, heading west on I-90 across New York State. I had carefully packed the van the night before – including 7 suitcases, electronics for everyone and even my son’s Nintendo Wii, hooked into the Honda’s rear seat entertainment system.

A quick stop for lunch at Panera (ordered in the car 30 minutes out from Kim’s iphone (a first for us)), and them across the border at the Rainbow Bridge. We already had passports for the family from a previous trip to the Dominican Republic, and had heard from many friends that the Canadian side of the falls was better. Additionally, our ultimate goal was Chicago, and crossing Canada on 401 to Detroit is the most direct route.

We parked the car at the Table Rock Welcome Center and were walking alongside the falls and taking pictures by 1:45 PM. We had no interest in the wax museums, casinos and other tourist traps associate with Niagara. Instead, we wanted to see the falls up close and then get out of town. I had pre-booked tickets on the Hornblower Boat Cruise and we walked the half mile along the river to the boat dock, admiring the American Falls as we went. It was a beautiful summer day and the place was mobbed.

We donned our red poncho freebies and I put a special plastic cover over the Canon to get the shots in the incredible mist. Emily, our oldest, manned a cheap underwater camera I bought for the pool.

The 20-minute boat ride was a lot of fun and definitely worth doing once. I doubt we would go again though.   The boat basically leaves the dock, motors upstream to Horseshoe Falls and floats there for a about 5 minutes while everyone gets their photos and soaked. The warm July day made that perfect.

The boat then floats back down to the American Falls and finally back to the dock.   If we had more time, we would have happily experienced the behind the falls tour. Like I said, we had no interest in the wax museum or casinos nearby.

We grabbed ice-creams and strolled back toward the van, admiring the falls one last time. And then we on our way across Ontario. The country was beautiful, even with the hundreds of windmills we passed. The first crop of the 1,000’s we would see on the trip. We stopped for dinner at a great place – Earls – in London, ON. After dark, we crossed the border again into Detroit and made our way to a Holiday Inn Express in Ann Arbor for our first night on the road.

Full photo tour available at :

Sidebar: Hornblower vs. Maid of the Mist. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the difference. Its as simple as Hornblower is now exclusively on the Canadian side (red boats) and the Maid of the Mist are on the American side (blue). The boats seem to do exactly the same thing.