Wanderlust has overcome me again, and so we’ve headed east. It’s been too long since I’ve seen the Atlantic; we are ocean bound. With as little a plan as possible, we are easing our way along the southern edge of the Great Lakes—Michigan, Erie, Ontario. No such trip could be complete without a stop at Niagara Falls. Chris and I first saw the [singlepic=1207,300,300] Evening comes over the Falls Falls during our Canadian road trip in college. I remember it was our first major stop of the journey, as well, eager to get someplace beyond our familiar worlds.

Slow as we are (the near-noon departure doesn’t help) with our desire to drive secondary roads as much as possible (not much of a road trip on the interstate), we arrived in Buffalo, NY after 11pm, so we packed it in and set our sites on the Falls for the morning. We didn’t want to stay in the immediate Niagara Falls areas, as too much kitschy tourism can be pretty expensive, not to mention irritating, so we opted for the 30-minute drive or so from our hotel to the Falls—not too bad.

In the morning (okay early afternoon), we drove north to the Falls. After the battle for affordable parking, we took our time strolling around; the high temps and crushing humidity ensured we didn’t move too quickly. I’ve got to say, while the beauty of the falls is stunning, it was tough for me to see through the tourism and truly pushy people. Seriously, I’ve been to a few tourist destination in my time but haven’t been pushed around (literally) as much as I was at Niagara Falls. There were a lot of people in a big hurry, jockeying for the best views, to get to the front of this line or that, or just to shoulder their way past you. I grew tired of the experience rather quickly.

Chris and I had been to the Falls years before on the Canadian side. I remember tourism being pretty thick then, too, but I don’t remember it being quite so tacky. Perhaps we Americans like our garish gimcrack a tad more than our neighbors to the North, but even so, all those years ago Chris and I spent only a few hours seeing the Falls before moving on. (We couldn’t even afford the local campsites.) It all makes me a bit sad, because they are indeed beautiful. Why the beautiful Niagara Falls had to become the “Niagara Falls Theme Park,” I will never truly understand. It seems beauty alone isn’t enough without snow globes, overpriced tee-shirts, and souvenir DVDs. (Ahh, now I’ve turned all negative. I didn’t mean to.)

Honestly, I really was looking forward to experiencing the natural beauty of this landscape with Aidan for the first time. There is something pretty cool about sharing something you’ve experienced years before again this time with your child. Funny, though, as we walked around the park, Aidan mentioned that he’d thought it would be more remote—somehow more “natural” in its setting. It seems he and I aren’t so different in some regards.

Still, determined to make the best of it and embrace all the tourism (maybe not all) the park had to offer, we queued up for the hour and a half wait to board the famed and historical Maid of the Mist (dating back to 1846). This would be a new experience for us all. Despite the unbearably long wait (again in the heat and humidity), the 20-minute-or-so tour nearly under the falls really was worth it. It was a blast. Both Aidan and Chris screamed with joy and we all got soaking wet. Of course, Aidan never even put on his souvenir raincoat, being too cool to stay dry. Honestly, they did very little to keep anyone dry and it was so much fun feeling the force of the Falls so close and the mist covering us in all her glory.

In the end, we had a nice day at Niagara Falls, but we all agreed that one day was surely enough and set our sites on the next stop of our easterly, impromptu road trip.