The Epic Road Trip – Niagara Falls

Years ago on a trip to Walt Disney World, the Faulk Four dropped in on the Canada pavilon at Epcot for a little break from the hot sun.  We just happened to do so at the same time the “O, Canada!” show was starting, so we ducked into the movie theater, welcoming the break from the Florida heat.  

The show begins, as those of you who’ve seen it know, with a view of Niagara Falls.  Ooooohhhh, aaaaahhhhh.  But they tease you with it, telling you that you’ve probably heard about the American side…. BUT HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THE CANADIAN SIDE?!  Then, they show you Horseshoe Falls, and you rightly conclude, “Canada, you’ve got us beat!” before the show even gets good and going.  By the end when they’re singing that really catchy song “Can-uh-DUUUUHHHH!,” their tourism propaganda has all of the weaker-minded audience members saying, “Why have we never visited Canada, the most incredible country in ALL the world?!”  
Obviously, the Faulk Four bought that Kool-Aid by the truckloads and have been chugging it ever since.  When we began cooking up this road trip, Ana shouted, “CANADA!  WE HAVE TO GO TO CANADA!”  (Kudos to the masterminds behind that show, y’all.)
Getting to Canada from Columbus, Ohio involved a whole lot of not much.  Wes has been collecting Hard Rock Cafe pins since he was a little guy so we made a point to stop in Cleveland along the way to get one there.  The plan was for me to drop Wes off at the door and keep circling around downtown Cleveland until he was done so that we could avoid paying for parking.  (We’re so cheap, I know.)  It wasn’t possible to do that once we got down there, so we ended up parking in a parking garage that ended up being a shady parking lot along the water where I was sure someone would murder us and dump our bodies.  (Seriously.  Shady.  Even at 10am in the morning.)  We got the pin without incident, though, and headed back out, going through Pennsylvania and then into New York right before coming up on the Canadian border.
The Faulkettes’ last experience with immigration was when we left Japan, back when they were too young to even know what was going on.  So, I prepared them ahead of time by telling them that they might be asked questions by officials on both sides of the border.  Simple, right?  Just answer the questions, no more, no less, and we’ll be on our way.  Mentioning this to them, however, had them dreaming up all kinds of paranoid scenarios, so when we were told to park our car to have it searched, they were certain we were getting thrown out of Canada before we could even get in.  (Because I’m sure that happens all the time.)  The paranoia continued on throughout our stay, so that when Emma was asked at the American border why she looked so unhappy in her passport picture, she asked me, in a very loud, suspicious whisper, “Why are we really crossing the border?”  Sigh.
Despite the shady Faulkettes, we made it into Canada without alerting Homeland Security on either side (hey, hey!) and quickly found our hotel, where the girls would send Wes to the sofa for the night and where we had a great view of the falls.  

We headed down there to get a good look and then tried (in vain) to find a cheap place to get dinner.  

I’m about to give you probably the best tip you’ll ever get regarding Niagara Falls.  Are you ready for it?  The Canadian side is like Las Vegas.  There are two parts to the city — the upscale, new side, and the campy, old side.  Unlike Vegas, though, the old side is where the younger people go, and the new side is where the older people go.  Our hotel was on the new side, where most of the clientele was older (and richer), which left us proclaiming, “We can’t afford to eat in Canada!”  Unbeknownst to us, there was a whole lot of fast food and entertainment more geared towards families just a mile down the road on the other side of town.  We ended up paying a fortune for a meal that first night that wasn’t worth half of what it cost because we didn’t know any better.  (And the credit card reader was broken at this particular place, leaving us to pay in American dollars and getting a super awful exchange rate as a result.  Canada, weren’t you supposed to be nicer than this, just like the Walt Disney World movie said you were?!)
We regrouped, did some research, and were better prepared the next day when we made our way back down to the falls for our boating adventure.  Ana and Emma were so excited about getting their cool, red ponchos on and positioning themselves right at the front of the boat so that they could experience “the mist” as we rode up to the falls.  That excitement continued on for most of the trip as we sailed past Niagara Falls and headed up to Horseshoe Falls.  As the water got choppy, we got drenched… and the boat kept going forward!  Ana was laughing hysterically…

… but poor Emma began shouting, “Turn the boat around!”  Just a little too real, y’all.

I left Wes with Ana and took Emmy back behind the glass where she was able to watch without feeling everything so intensely.  As the boat changed directions, she went from shaking and crying to telling me that it “wasn’t so bad.”  It just got better and better until she was standing on the dock telling everyone coming down to the next boat that it was “awesome!”  I love that girl.
We spent the rest of the day checking out the older part of the town, trying poutine, going through all the touristy shops, and heading across the border later in the afternoon so that Wes could get pins from the Hard Rock Cafes on both the Canadian side and the American side.  The girls immensely enjoyed being in different countries from one another, even if they were only separated by a foot.  But who doesn’t enjoy that, if only for the photo op, right?  

Our evening concluded with one more walk down by the falls, a round of laundry at the hotel, and a fireworks show that we watched from the bed in our room, all cuddled up together.  Aww.  Then, Wes kicked the Faulkettes out to the sofa bed and told them they could deal with it.  (He’s not as tender hearted as Mommy, which is probably a good thing.)
Up next… the Faulk Four go to NYC!  

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