Buffalo Soldier: Niagara Falls in February

It feels like spring!! Yayyyyyy! We are super excited that spring is finally on its way, so we can get outside and ride our bikes. Before we post more about biking we want to do a quick throw back to our trip to Buffalo/Niagara Falls this winter.

When we decided that we wanted to do our cross-country trip, I expressed concern that we would become too focused on getting to June, when we would leave for the trip. I wanted to make sure that while we looked forward to summer, we were also enjoying ourselves as much as possible. To do this, we decided we could take a couple of our long weekends and get out of town for a few days. We both had MLK Jr day off and President’s day, so we planned a trip to Torch Lake in January and a trip to Niagara Falls in February.

Our trip up to Torch Lake was really nice. We didn’t end up staying as long as we planned (a recurring theme), but it was nice to get away for a few days. After that trip, Ethan started researching for our trip to Buffalo/Niagara Falls. We decided to save some $ and try CouchSurfing for the first time. We researched CouchSurfer Hosts in the area and came across a couple that was around our age and were also avid bicycle tourists! Awesome! Ethan found a bunch of other cool things to do in the area in addition to watching falling water. We set out as early as we could that Friday. We decided to drive through Canada (or Canadia as I call it) because Google said it was faster. It snowed pretty much the whole way, but we made it through customs, unscathed, at both border crossings (phew!).

Before we got back onto American soil, we decided to check out the Canadian side of the falls in the dark. We drove along the road that parallels the river and were treated to the lovely sight of the falls cascading over the edge highlighted by colored lights. With the snow and the mist it looked like a huge glob of cotton candy. Ethan decided he needed a closer look, so we drove around looking for a parking space for about 10 minutes. There were signs pointing to parking lots, but we struggled to figure it out for some reason. Eventually, we found the parking lot that was attached to the visitor center (or “centre” in Canada…). Of course, it was 10 o’clock at night, so the center was closed. Ethan found a sidewalk, though (why wouldn’t he?), and decided to take it back down the the viewing area. The sidewalk, however, had not been shoveled as it was closed for construction. I had not planned my shoes accordingly and about halfway I decided to turn back. It was freezing and my boots were just going to get soaked. They’re sweater boots – more for looks than actual winter usage. I went back to the car, while Ethan continued on. He took a bunch of pictures and while he always says “photos just don’t do nature justice,” I think he did a pretty good job at capturing the sight!

Once he was back from the falls, we headed across the border and, like I said, we made it back to US soil in one piece. It was another 20 or so minutes to our destination in Buffalo. We pulled onto the street on which our hosts lived and ended up finding it just fine. Finding somewhere to park was another story. We drove down one side street and there was nothing. Next street, nothing. Finally, on the third street we found one! Hooray! We figured that normally there were more spots, but there was so much snow (so much snow!), and no where to put it, that it was taking up spaces that would usually be there. After we parked, we grabbed as many of our bags as we could (mostly mine) and headed to our hosts place.

We looked like we were moving in, but our hosts, Joey and Emmaleigh, didn’t seem to mind all the stuff. As soon as we walked in, we knew we would get along with them. There were bikes, bike gear, bike decorations and travel pictures everywhere. And they even had the same bicycle clock as us. Small world! We spent some time chatting with them about their big bike trip that took them from Buffalo to Alaska, then down the west coast, and back across the US. They have been to all but two states on their bikes! What?! Yup. They are awesome. We later found out that they are considering a world tour. A world tour!! So cool. We also chatted about some cool stuff to do in the area and made a plan for the next day.

When we woke up it was snowing pretty hard. Like thick, blizzard, giant flakes of snow. And it had been snowing all night apparently. I wasn’t super excited (shocking, I know) about standing outside in the snow and looking at a waterfall, but Ethan was not about to let a little snow get in our way. We headed out, but first breakfast. We looked up breakfast places and found one that was one of those old diners, called Lake Effect Diner. They always have good, greasy food so we decided that would help us feel better about the weather. We were pleasantly (and highly) surprised by their menu and the interior of the diner. Everything had been redone and updated. It was awesome. Their menu was also awesome as it included a few vegan options and everything seemed to be a healthier version of normal diner food. I got banana pancakes with candied pistachios. They. Were. Amazing. I don’t remember what Ethan had, but I’m sure he loved it.

After our lovely breakfast we headed for the falls on the American side. Ethan and his dad had been the year before, so we parked where they had parked. This involved a bit of walking that I wasn’t super excited about, but I held my tongue and put on all my layers. We walked toward the falls through the state park. The walk took us over a bridge that gave you a pretty cool view of the river. The bridge took us to Goat Island where you view the American side of the falls from. It was a bit more walking to the falls, but eventually we made it. I think it’s pretty widely known that viewing from the American side isn’t nearly as cool and I would say that is true. The falls were cool, don’t get me wrong, from this side, but you can see them much better from Canada. We spent a bit of time there taking pictures and getting snowed on then headed to another spot to view the falls.

         

The second spot was definitely better for viewing and the viewing tower was pretty awesome too. We took more pictures and it continued to blizzard even worse than it was when we got there. Check out the video below. That’s a lot of snow! After we were thoroughly frozen, we headed into the visitor center to warm up. Once thawed, we headed back out when I saw a sign for the aquarium! Yay! I love aquariums!  I decided this was our new plan. But first, lunch! We tried to find a cool place to eat, but ended up at TGI Fridays. It was way over priced, but I guess that’s what you get in a touristy area.

After lunch, we drove over to the aquarium. Before you go inside they had an outdoor exhibit for the harbor seals. They were my favorite. One of them, Cruz, had been rescued last year from the California Coast and he was also completely blind. He was super cute. We walked inside just as they were about the feed the penguins! Yes! I can’t remember what kind of penguins they were, but they were adorable. There was one sitting on a nest of eggs, too! So cute! The aquarium worker came out to talk to us before he fed them and told us that they were molting, which is why some of them looked a little funky. He also told us that they are picky eaters, so we would see them choose what kind of fish they preferred. And they did! It was hilarious. Even though they were picky, they still got enough to eat. The aquarium is pretty small as aquariums go, but they had some jellyfish, some exotic fish and some black tip reef sharks. They also had a bunch of fake sharks including a great white. The fake sharks were pretty weird.

The last exhibit was the sea lions. There were three and they were housed in a big tank in the middle. You could also go upstairs and view them from up there. It was fun watching them glide back and forth and they would look up at us once in a while. We left the aquarium (without a stuffed animal…sadly) and headed to check out the Canadian view of the falls.

We decided we wanted to walk to avoid waiting in the car line to get through the border. We parked at a super weird tourist store and walked over the Rainbow Bridge. The view of the falls was pretty great up there so we stopped for pictures. Once on the Canadian side, they checked our passports and let us through. Yay! Seeing the falls from this side during the day definitely solidified the fact that the view was better over there. You really get the full effect of both falls and it’s awesome. It had also stopped snowing, which was great for viewing and pictures. We walked a ways down to a good view point and snapped a couple pics. We also saw a couple get engaged. It was cute, but I’m sure she was like “ok, now let’s go inside and celebrate,” because it was FREEZING (she was probably a better sport than me… but I like to think she was cold)! Anyway, the falls were great, but as I said, it was cold. We spent about 30 minutes out there then headed back.

    

We made it back to US soil and it was time for dinner (this trip pretty much revolved around food). We decided on the Buffalo Tap Room and it was good, but not what we were expecting. It was more of an Applebee’s, but we thought it would be more like HopCat. Whatever. It was food. It was pretty good. Also, it was Valentine’s Day, which we pretty much forgot until we were eating. We’re real romantic…

After dinner, we picked up some cookies and headed back to Joey and Emmaleigh’s house. We hung out with them and watched Netflix before hitting the hay. T’was a loooong day and we were pooped.

Sunday morning, we had a hard time deciding where to eat, so we decided on bagels and peanut butter. After our quick breakfast in the car we were off to the science museum. It took a second to find, but we made it. It’s actually attached to the back end of this massive school for science and math. It was pretty sweet. The museum is four stories and has a huge atrium right when you walk in. The schools library, on the second floor, looked into the atrium with huge glass windows. I want to go to school there! It was so cool.

          

We strolled through the exhibits of stuffed animals, ancient artifacts and dinosaur bones. There were several really cool exhibits, but I really enjoyed the Explore You exhibit. It was all about the human body and it was pretty neat. After the museum, we headed out to the house that President Roosevelt was inaugurated in after President McKinley was shot. When we got into the parking lot, we realized we should probably get lunch. For some reason, though, I got in a mood and decided I really wanted to go home. I don’t know if it was the fact that the temperature was below zero or what, but I just was not feeling it. So we skipped lunch and decided to check out the museum and head home after.

The house has been turned into a museum and they offer tours. Ethan thought it would be cool knowing how much I like nerdy, history stuff. And it was pretty neat. The tour guide pretended like it was the day that McKinley was shot and it was cheesy, but I liked it. They took us through “the whole day” and we were allowed to walk around the upstairs on our own. They used one of the rooms as a replica to Roosevelt’s office in the White House. His “desk” had a touch screen in it that you could do things like, approve or veto bills and take a picture for the newspaper. Of course, we did all the things. Because we are children.

We left the museum and headed back to Joey and Emmaleigh’s. We had already packed our stuff in the car because they were having friends over that night and we didn’t want our stuff in their way. We wanted to bring them something for letting us stay and we wanted to say goodbye. We stopped at the nearest grocery store and got them an apple pie. We dropped it off and said goodbye to them. They were really great hosts and we recommend them to anyone wanting a free place to stay in Buffalo! We got on the road and got Chipotle as we left town. We decided to drive through the US to get back this time and while it was the longer route, it was pretty cool driving next to Lake Erie for a while.

So that was our trip to Buffalo! We’ve decided we really need to go back when it’s warmer so we can enjoy some more of the outdoorsy things to do there. But it was beautiful in winter and we definitely recommend a trip to see the frozen falls!

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