While we were at the Old Road Farm in Pennsylvania, I started looking at routes we might take from there once we were ready to leave. I saw how close Niagra Falls was and thought maybe we should take the opportunity to spend some time there next.
So I began digging to see if they were still masking for covid or if they were completely open. I checked on a few RV Facebook groups to see if anyone had been recently and could give me the scoop. About three different people had just been in the previous two weeks, so I started picking their brains. All of them said it was completely open, no masks required.
Brent had found a couple of options for Boondocker’s Welcome host sites to stay, but they either declined our request to stay or they were going to be an hour away. So he was able to snag two nights at a local state park. Little did we know this would be to our advantage when going to see the falls.
We left the farm late afternoon on July 8th and headed for New York.
Where we stayed: Four Mile Creek State Park
City: Youngstown, NY
We ended up driving into this state park around 8:30 pm on a super foggy night. It’s out on the edge of Lake Ontario surrounded by nothing, so the fog made it kind of eerie driving in.
After dumping and getting set up at our site, I had planned that we’d go out to Niagra Falls for the nighttime illuminating of the falls. We figured later was better since we’re night owls anyway and fewer people would be crowding around to see it. I think we made a good choice.
Pro tip: Parking in the falls parking lot is free after 10 pm.
If you know me, you know I love waterfalls. To see Niagra Falls for the first time ever at night and all lit up was just so amazing. I wish the fog hadn’t been so thick, but even so, it was still so beautiful.
They light up the falls in many different sequences of colors every half hour from about 8:30pm until 2am during the summer months. I could’ve stayed out there all night, but we had to get back for some rest so Brent could work the next day.
The campground was super quiet on Friday morning and afternoon. We were literally the only people in our section for the majority of the day.
We’d love to go back and stay at this campground again. Most of the sites had fire pits and picnic tables. Some sites had water and electric, but we opted for the cheaper boondocking site since we were only staying two nights. There was a dump station at the front of the campground. And internet signal was just ok. It did have a playground which Peyton spent some time at. And it was a brief walk to Lake Ontario.
Since we only had reservations at this park until Saturday, Brent got off work a little early so we could head back to the Falls.
Pro tip: Parking in the falls parking lot is free if you’re staying at one of the nearby state parks. When you pull up to the gate where you pay, you either tell the staff person on duty which park you’re staying at or you press the call button and tell the person who answers. They’ll open the gate for you so that you can go right in.
From everyone I talked to and all the blogs I read prior to going to Niagra Falls, there were always two must-dos if you only had a short time to visit: Cave of the Winds and Maid of the Mist. Because Maid of the Mist has boats going until 8 pm, I decided that we were going to head to Cave of the Winds first.
Depending on what you decide to do, know that there are 3 different parking lots at Niagra Falls. Lot #1 is where you want to park for Maid of the Mist. Lot #2 and #3 are found on Goat Island. Lot #2 is where you want to park for Cave of the Winds unless you want to do quite a bit of walking from either of the other two parking lots.
We easily found a parking spot at Lot #2 and went to get in line for tickets to Cave of the Winds. I had been told that it’s best to head there first and get your time slot for Cave of the Winds, then go ride Maid of the Mist and come back for Cave of the Winds. I guess that’s suggested on a busy day. We stood in line for Cave of the Winds and expected to have a late time for the tour and instead had less than a 5-minute wait.
Once you get your tickets for this attraction and get back for your assigned tour, you go into a movie theater where a brief film gives you some history on the falls.
Then you are led into a room where they give you sandals. Don’t feel bad if they don’t fit or break while you’re putting them on, just go back up to the desk and exchange them. Unless you are already wearing some sort of strapped on sandals, I highly recommend you wear the ones they give you. Your kids will enjoy being able to keep them as a souvenir.
Pro tip: Bring a waterproof backpack or bag to put everyone’s shoes in so that they don’t get wet. Trust me, you’ll want that waterproof bag. Lots of people were just throwing their shoes in a stroller parking area hoping they were still there when they returned. I just carried ours with us in our waterproof bag.
Next, you’ll head to the elevators. Here you’ll descend 175 feet and exit into a tunnel that you’ll walk through to get to the deck that leads you to the falls. At the end of the tunnel is a kiosk where you will pick up a bright yellow poncho to wear over your clothes.
Pro tip: Opt to wear a bathing suit with shorts/shirt over it. You’re going to get wet. Very, very wet. If you don’t want to get wet, don’t pay for this attraction.
Cave of the Winds was so worth the price. I’d love to go back on a nice clear, calm, and fairly warm day. We probably would’ve spent more time on the deck had it been ideal weather conditions. But…no regrets!
Cave of the Winds was named because there used to be a cave behind the falls in this location. Subsequent rockfalls closed the cave and now you just tour around the front of the falls.
Once you’re done, you trek back over to the tunnel you came out of to stand in line to take the elevator back to the top. I highly recommend you read the posters on the wall as you wait. Some of them are fascinating as they describe all the early people who survived going over the falls.
As you exit the elevator, there are trash cans available to throw away your poncho and recycle containers to put your sandals in…IF you want to recycle them.
After leaving Cave of the Winds, we headed back to the car and made our way to parking lot #1 so we could go to Maid of the Mist. Unfortunately, the lot was closed because it was full. So we decided to get some gas and go grab dinner and try back again later. When we returned, we snagged a parking space and got to the ticket counter just in time to grab tickets for the last boat of the day.
At Maid of the Mist, you’ll walk along a long platform to the elevators that take you down to the walkway for the boat. Along the walkway, you’re given blue ponchos to wear while on the boat.
There are two levels on the boat. We opted for the lower level because we were at the back of the pack of people loading onto the last boat of the day. Most everyone was going right onto the boat and heading to the top. We just didn’t want to be smushed together with everyone else. But next time, we’d love to have the experience from the top of the boat.
We sat in the chairs as we left the dock and then moved towards the rails as we got closer to the falls. American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls were beautiful, but getting into Horseshoe Falls was a thrill like I’ve never experienced before. I can just imagine it being somewhat close to what it feels like when ships traveling in the ocean run into a strong storm. There were times I thought the movement of the boat was going to throw us off. Such a rush!
Once we got into that turbulent water, the girls opted to sit back in the chairs. But Peyton was up moving around and sure did think it was pretty amazing! Maybe he’ll be the captain of a ship someday.
Just like Cave of the Winds, Maid of the Mist was definitely worth the price. We’re not people who regularly like to drop $200 in half a day for two attractions, but we can say it was money well spent. We highly recommend both attractions.
If you happen to ride on the last boat of the day, you can take the elevator back to the platform and watch the lighting of the falls from the platform if you can get a good spot to watch it from. Because we had seen it the night before, we just left while everyone else crowded around the rails.
Pro tip: If you’re going to the falls just to watch the nighttime lighting, go through the exit of Maid of the Mist to access the platform for a different vantage point of the falls. There will be chains and a gate blocking off the entrance, but the exit gate is open.
We then headed back to the RV for the night, slept, got up the next morning, packed up, took a quick look at Lake Ontario since it was a clear day, then headed out for our next destination. Vermont!
We drove all day to make it to a Boondockers Welcome location that Brent thought everyone would enjoy after driving all day.
Where we stayed: Otter Creek Fun Center
City: Danby, VT
We pulled in and Peyton could not believe that we were staying at a fun center. He was so excited to stay here for the night…or mainly excited for mini-golf.
After getting set up in a spot in the parking lot, we decided to order some dinner from their kitchen. We ordered pizza and burgers. The pizza came out wrong (peppers instead of pepperoni), but the kids still ate it after taking off the peppers. The burgers were decent for food from a fun center. And like any other entertainment venue, the food was expensive.
We had a nice chat with the owner, looked around at the arcade and bounce house, and then the girls and I went back to the RV while the boys played some mini-golf.
Before we wound down for the night, we went back over to their outside ordering window and got some ice cream to end our evening. You know how much we love ice cream! And it was delicious!
It was a great place to stop over in Vermont to get that state checked off our map. Our state count is now up to 26.