The number one thing I wanted to do on our trip to Niagara Falls was ride the Maid of the Mist, the boat (several boats actually) that drive tourists right up to the falls, but when we got there, as awesome as the falls were, I began to have second thoughts. We travel a lot, but we are not generally touristy types and we are definitely not crowd tolerant types. I knew that our visit to Niagara would require us to let go on both fronts. However, the view of the falls from the surrounding walkways was so spectacular. I really couldn't imagine anything better. I saw the long, hot lines of tourists in their sweaty blue plastic rain ponchos and wondered if it was worth it. We even went to an IMAX move about the daredevils of the falls and were thrilled by the fantastic footage recreating the experience of going over the edge. What more could we want? Would it be so terrible to leave having gotten our up-close view through the lens of an IMAX camera?
The Maid of the Mist claims to be America's oldest tourist attraction and there must be a reason for it, so I set my doubts aside and planned to get everyone up early the next morning to get a jump on the crowds and the heat. It was an excellent move as we avoided both for the most part. Hilariously, everyone in line urgently put their blue raincoats on as soon as they were handed out and then quickly pulled them off again when they realized that the mist from the falls actually felt pretty good, certainly better than being inside a translucent blue trash bag. As the boat pulled out into open water, we wondered if we would even want to wear the raincoats. Yes, yes we did.
Within moments, the cooling mist turned to pelting rain, pouring down through bright sun, magnified by the roar of the crashing water. That's where my description will end, because there is no way to describe the experience of being in the midst of the spray, looking up at the water and sky. Niagara Falls is a total tourist trap for a very good reason. Everyone should visit and a ride on the Maid of the Mist is absolutely worth it.
Follow-up note: After six weeks of fun and adventure, traveling the country in the motorhome, if anyone asks the kids what the best part of the trip was, both will instantly and enthusiastically answer, "Niagara Falls!" - our very first stop.