NY Road Trip: Niagara Falls & “Maid of the Mist”

Every morning we woke up slowly and cooked our own breakfast – a huge perk of Airbnb-ing over a hotel. When we went grocery shopping a few days before, I decided that I needed to buy Shake ‘N Pour pancakes like I was living in a college dorm. I don’t care if they’re full of crap. I am in insta-pancake bliss.

One morning we were visited by a rouge goose. I looked out the front door and he was just standing there on the welcome mat. I laughed it off after nearly spilling my coffee all over the floor, thinking he would get scared and quickly fly off. Instead he hung around for hours as we went about our morning—by our breakfast table, watching from outside while we washed dishes, poking his beak against the screen. He stood next to the car like a small abandoned child as we finally drove away for the day. We named him Gilly and seriously hope he makes some friends.

A big reason why we came to this area was to see Niagara Falls. It would be my very first time visiting. Despite repeatedly hearing that the “Canada side is way better”, we were excited to ride on the “Maid of the Mist” and see the falls up close. Canada is still (rightfully) not allowing Americans across the border, so all we could do was gaze longingly at the shuttered footbridge that would have cost just $1 to cross. One day soon this thing will be over. Just having the chance to see some place new at all in 2020 is a gift.

The town of Niagara Falls is a tale of two cities. Parts of it are deep in disrepair, lined with shuttered storefronts and neglected streets. Then there is a popular “Little Italy” section of town that is supposedly home to some good Italian bakeries. By the falls, it is overrun with gaudy displays of tourist-trap restaurants and souvenir shops that stretch up several stories. All of it was ghostly quiet on our weekday September visit. Only the sporadic snack shop or pop-up information booth sat open amongst a sea of abandoned neon and commercialization.

Luckily this meant that the line for Maid of the Mist was also short. We received our tell-tale blue ponchos (to match our blue masks, naturally) and were ushered onto a boat, where we had more than enough space to socially-distance. The boat toured past the smaller sections of falls – American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls (for the shape it resembles), leading up to the main waterfall that most of us know – Horseshoe Falls. The mist intensified and whipped our bodies, so any inch of exposed clothing was instantly soaked. Taking photos is a daring feat that requires ninja-like reflexes. But as the boat got right up against the falls, we put away our phones and took a rare moment to just experience it. Up close, the booming rush of water felt infinite and magnetic. It felt like a brief slowdown of time.

We drove home after a quick lunch at The Silo in Lewiston for some juicy chicken burgers and a chance to dry out in the sun. That night it was far too windy to manage a firepit, so we spent another evening enjoying the hot tub, playing board games, and watching the lights of Toronto in the distance mix with stars.

I’m not sure what I’ll do when I’m no longer falling asleep to the rush of waves against the shore. It’s meditative and consuming at night and deeply peaceful on quiet mornings, watching ships pass on one side of the house and cornfields on the other. That wild and wonderful juxtaposition.

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