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07/2012: Niagara Falls road trip

Ever since we visited New England last year we came to like road trips with multiple stops, so this time we decided Niagara Falls deserves a road trip. The idea was to drive somewhere in the middle, stop for lunch, drive to Buffalo area, stay for the night, go to Niagara Falls in the morning, sleep on the Canadian side, then drive back with a stop, and return to New York by the end of the 3rd day. What resulted was, actually, a full 4 day trip, and it was very enjoyable despite hitting a couple of snags (only figuratively).

It was the first time I didn’t take any normal zoom lenses on a trip. Intead it was E-M5 + 9-18, 20/1.7, 45/1.8, 40-150 and Rokinon 7.5/3.5 FE, which ended up the only one without real use (I liked shots with 9-18 better every time). 20/1.7 saw very little use as well. Anyway, here are the pictures.

Day 1

For the first lunch stop I picked Christie’s Grill in Johnson City, a friendly steakhouse I used to visit quite a bit about 13 years ago when the company I worked for then had a beta system run in UHS Wilson Hospital there. About 4 hour drive from Brooklyn, we were there at about 1PM on Saturday.

We made a good progress and decided to drop in to Farmland Animal Farm (originally the plan was to visit it on the way back). Turned out it’s a great place for kids – run by a family I believe, very relaxed, with plenty of animals and almost no people. We had lots of fun feeding ducks, goats, horses, donkey, emus, ponies, chickens, turkeys, sheep. My daughter couldn’t stop playing with kittens (there were 7-8, about 1 month old) and little chicks. Animal handler for my daughter’s pony ride was yours truly.

Animal farm took a little longer than I expected. Next stop was Letchworth State Park, a place recommended by a co-worker. A very impressive park indeed, but the road there goes through Dansville, a town with a tricky police force. Let’s just say, they would do anything (well, they did) to give you a speeding ticket. The park is a canyon with a river and some waterfalls. We actually had very little time, less than an hour, because of a dinner reservation and a drive ahead of us, but enjoyed some very impressive views. The restaurant in the park, Glen Iris Inn, is nice too.

We spent the night in Days Inn Tonawanda, just north of Buffalo. It’s a motel rather than hotel, looked reasonably clean, but for $115 I think nothing special…

Day 2

Now it’s time for Niagara Falls. The plan is to visit US side, go to Maid of the Mist and Cave of the Wind, then cross the border and check-in to the hotel. We decided to go fancy for one night and reserved Embassy Suites, 15th floor, both falls view side, but the check-in time is 4PM 😕. Oh well.

First of all, my puny plan of making a water-proof camera by wrapping the E-P1 + 9-18 into plastic failed miserably. The only camera I was able to use was Galaxy S2 in a plastic bag, however I ended up pressing wrong buttons (it was difficult to use in bright light) and screwed up whatever shots I made. 

Maid of the Mist was fun, and there are stairways near the American Fall’s side that get you very close to it. After that, however, my wife and daughter voted off Cave of the Winds… too splashy! That’s OK, there are plenty of views from the edge. We looked at the rapids, crossed to Goat island and had some nice views of the Horseshoe Fall, had a lunch there. The park on American side, btw, is excellent, something Canadian side lacks.

Since we did not go to the Cave of the Wind, we actually arrived to the hotel at about 2:30PM and decided to park, leave our stuff in the car and check-in later. Oops – valet parking only, so, why not, let’s check us in. Well, our room was not ready yet so we got a free upgrade to a 34th floor room with a whirlpool! We spent another couple of hours walking around the Horseshoe Falls, went to Journey Behind The Falls, and returned to the hotel. The view from the room was stunning, whirlpool was a big success with my daughter, who did not want to get out, the illumination and fireworks (Sunday night) were beautiful, the hotel’s great and the restaurant (The Keg steakhouse) was simply excellent. Kudos to Embassy Suites, this $225+$30 parking was a better deal than $115 for Days Inn.

Some views from the room:

Day 3

Frankly, we saw so much Niagara Falls by the morning there was really nothing to do but leave.

Instead of spending the whole day in some amusement park we decided to go to Niagara-on-the-Lake. There are some nice views on the way.

Niagara-on-the-Lake is indeed a very cute town, with plenty of flowers, lots of shops and some nice parks. We reached the lake Ontario, visited some shops, tried to buy me a hat, and, of course, bought a hat with a purse and an umbrella for my daughter. Granted, she did not have an umbrella and they were too cute to pass on.

On the way back we wanted to visit some Keuka Lake wineries and Corning Museum of Glass, but it was clear the museum had to be postponed until the next day, so the plan changed to visiting Dr. Frank Wine Cellars, have a dinner at Bully Hill Vineyards and spend the night in Corning. However, by the time we drove up to the wineries (a little after 6PM on Monday afternoon) they were closed. Oh well, we got some views anyway, and proceeded.

Corning turned out to be a very good looking town (officially I believe it’s a city) and we spent the evening walking along Market Street and stayed in Radisson (where I was able to use my hotel points for the room, which was good since it wasn’t cheap by any means). 

Day 4:

A 5min drive and we are in Corning Museum of Glass. A very nice museum, for kids especially, with beautiful collections and glass blowing demonstration. My daughter was interested and she learned a few new things. We decided not to make our own stuff, maybe next time. 

The last stop is Farmland Animal Park again, it’s right on the way home and we wouldn’t miss it. 

That’s all, about 5 hours later, about 8PM on the fourth day, we were home.


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