The American Side of Niagara Falls and Appalachian Mountains: Two Great Things that Go Great Together


After a day and a night on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, we escaped Canada to see the falls on the American side, which was only the beginning of a long and, some might say, torturous (I’m looking at you, Laura), trip back to Richmond.IMG_4364

With all of the traffic, it was a little more difficult getting out of Canada then it had been to get in.


They must be able to smell our freedom.

Once over the border, we went up to the observation area for the falls on the American side. Everyone that we talked to before making this trip advised us to go to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls because the views of the falls are more spectacular. Those people were correct – it was possible to see the entire landscape from the Canadian side and the views of Horseshoe Falls were far superior over there. However, I would recommend that anyone who has time should se both sides. The views and park on the American side were great.


It sure would be fun to go over that in a barrel…



From the observation platform we took the elevator down to the Maid of the Mist boat tour of the falls. The mists are pretty thick at the base of Horseshoe Falls, so we had our ponchos ready.


The last time we took McKenna on a boat, the canoe at the Mahoney cottage, she kept accused us of trying to sink it. We were hoping for a better outcome this time,

Everyone who goes to the falls should do this boat tour. I promise you, seeing the falls from river level was even better than the tourist trap in the city. Even counting Castle Dracula. No, really. Niagara_America

Although Maid of the Mist boats disembark from the American and Canadian sides, after the trip on the American side passengers can climb stairs that run right beside the waterfall. This is where our ponchos were put to the test, and, having neglected to put my hood up, my shirt was drenched by some spray. Laura informed me that the water-soaked shirt looked like I had been sweating a whole lot, which was not a problem because I am used to that look.


McKenna was up there with us as well. You might notice that there were no other three-year-olds. We are awesome parents.

Since we had also planned a drive through four states on this day, we only had time for a quick walk through the park on the American side, but we did get some cool views of Horsehoe Falls.


Skipping the tourist trap on the American side, we headed back toward Virginia. Sort of. Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 8.37.39 PM

First, we stopped at Rim Rock Overlook in the mountains of Pennsylvania.


Tripadvisor ranks Rim Rock Overlook the #1 attraction in Warren, PA. That’s #1 out of 5. Not having seen Warren’s other 4 attractions, I am prepared to validate Tripadvisor’s ranking of the overlook. At any rate, it seems clear that Tripadvisor was justified in ranking the overlook above 35 on the list, the Warren County Visitors Bureau.


There’s even a secret cave-like tunnel at the overlook. Match that, Warren County Visitors Bureau!

Leaving the overlook, which McKenna credited Dede for taking her to,  we had a long trip through Pennsylvania. At about midnight, we pulled into Winchester, Virginia, where we had a Groupon for a room at the Aloft Hotel. Because so many people bought the Groupon, the Aloft had overbooked, so they did not have the room with two queen beds that we reserved. Instead, we had the option of one room with a king or two rooms, each with a king, at no extra cost. Laura and I have a king bed at home, so we have ample experience trying to sleep with McKenna in the middle of us. She is a rotating kicking machine, something like this:

That made our choice easy: we took the two rooms. I took the hit for the team, letting Laura take the room by herself, and I lucked out as McKenna was so tired she only did a quarter spin in the bed. The next day, we could have gone straight back to Richmond. Instead, we had a leisurely brunch at Cracker Barrel, which I’m ashamed to say McKenna can recognize by the logo alone, and then drove along Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park. Because we can. IMG_2955

McKenna was a fan of the mountains but not as much of the short hike we took. Apparently, the forest looked a bit to much like some evil Disney forest, leading her to later announce that her favorite experience of the trip was where we “drove and didn’t walk.”


Fortunately, this scene was visible from about ten feet away from the car.

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