LoAnn Loves… A North American Icon
Story and Photos by LoAnn Halden
I have heard rumors of Grand Canyon visitors who dismiss it as nothing more than a big hole in the ground. This, quite frankly, horrifies me. After more than two decades of road trips, I'm still gleefully working my way through the natural beauties of my continent of residence. Last month, at long last, I made it to Niagara Falls, where 50,000 annual honeymoons come with a whopping side of cheese, nutty adrenaline junkies occasionally take the plunge in a barrel, and tacky souvenir shops are as prevalent as the mist over the roaring waters. And I loved every minute of it.
It's worth it to pay respects from both the U.S. side, a protected stretch of state parkland enveloping the American Falls (180 feet tall and 1,100 feet long), and the Canadian side, where hotels and casinos crowd the bank and the more impressive Horseshoe Falls arch along 2,500 feet of the Niagara River. (The Canadian side provides easily accessible viewing of the top of Horseshoe Falls, precariously close to where the water races over a 170-foot drop.) Admittedly, it's hard to imagine spending days there, so make Niagara a day trip during a Toronto vacation (it's less than two hours from the city) or part of a tour through upstate New York.
Time a visit between mid-May and late October in order to don a blue plastic parka and climb aboard North America's oldest tourist attraction: the Maid of the Mist boat ride, which launched in 1846. Departing from both the U.S. and Canadian sides, the 30-minute tour makes the soggy trek right up to the base of Horseshoe Falls. You will get wet; Splash Mountain has nothing on this!
Cynics need not try to tell me otherwise. To me, Niagara could never be just a lot of water.
LoAnn Halden is a contributing editor to OutTraveler.com who has spent time in 46 of the 50 states so far.