Monday, September 21, 2009

Hi Ho, Hi Ho...To Buffalo We Go!!!

(March 19, 2011--edit to add. A friend asked for some travel tips for her family vacation to Buffalo. I wanted to just send her the link to this post, but I have some post travel comments and observations to add. So, look for the italicized edit to add comments for the scoop on what we thought of each stop. I'm also throwing in one or two of my favorite photos from some of the stops.)

The laundry is almost done...though I think the monster under the bed must be eating Toa's underwear. I need to buy him another pack before we leave.

The Jedi is printing google map after google map.

The house shall remain occupied during our vacation. (Hear that, creepy people? The house isn't empty. Swiper no swiping!)

So, as the creepy people are snapping their fingers and saying "oh man!", I am safe in posting our trip itinerary. Wow. I even spelled that correctly on the first try. Will wonders never cease.

We're leaving on Wednesday, and stopping in Columbus to eat at a Schmidt's Sausage Haus, highlighted on Man Vs Food. (edit to add: The Jedi liked this restaurant. The kids and I aren't as big of sausage fans, so not so much. Walking around the German section of Columbus was very cool and the fudge shop was super yummy.)

We're stopping for a sleepover at Nana and Bapa's house in Canton, Ohio...then leaving early Thursday morning.

Thursday late morning should bring us to Presque Isle Park in Erie, Pennsylvania. After an hour or so of exploring the beach, we're having lunch in a little restaurant close the dogs, chicken fingers, onion rings, and vanilla-orange swirl ice cream served in a little red and beach side diner.

(edit to add: WELL WORTH THE STOP. The kids loved playing in the sand on the beach. The little road side 50's style hamburger stand was a real treat. This was old-school family road trip all the way.)

Back on the road, and hopefully we'll hit Buffalo early enough to visit the Buffalo & Erie Canal Military and Naval Park.  Can you say, Battleship? I knew you could. I think there's a submarine there too.
(edit to add: If you are in Buffalo, take an hour or two to do the self -guided tour of these three naval vessels. It is really interesting and well done. Many thumbs up for this one.)

Then, Thursday evening, the Jedi is going to his barbeque judge certification class, which was the imputus for the trip. (Hey, I spelled impuptus on the first try too!) While the Jedi is learning the fine art of being a bbq judge, the kids and I are going swimming in our hotel's indoor pool.

Friday morning kicks off with a brief visit to the Iron Island Museum, of Ghosthunters fame.(edit to add: We decided to skip this in favor of more time at the falls. We didn't think the kids would really be interested, and honestly, the day we spent at the falls was busy enough without adding something extra.)

Then we are on to Niagara Falls, where we will begin our visit with a ride on the Maid of the Mist. After a change of clothes and shoes, we'll grab lunch somewhere.  

(edit to add: If you do NOTHING ELSE in Buffalo, YOU MUST RIDE ON THE MAID OF THE MIST. This was by far the coolest experience of Niagara Falls. DO NOT buy your tickets at the jacked-up prices at the info desks inside the tourist trap buildings by the parking lots. Instead, walk into the park...we got ours on the America side...and find the departure site for the Maid of the Mist. Buy your tickets there. The tourist trap info desk wanted ~$30 for an adult ticket rather than the ~$12 the park was selling them for. ALSO, a change of shoes is a must, especially if you are going in cooler weather. Be prepared to get drenched. Soaked. Imagine getting into a multi-directional shower in a wind tunnel fully clothed. It's like that. We don't have as many pictures, for fear of water damage to the camera. Of note though is that Maid of the Mist also gets you access to a section of trail at the foot of the American falls which was really neat and not open to the general public.)

Then its on to the platform viewing and Journey Behind the Falls.
Another change of clothes and shoes (I don't know where I think I'm getting all these extra pairs of shoes from,) and then perhaps a snack. Well fed children are happier children. A kind soul gave us a big bag of Canadian coins to split between the children, so we're hitting some souvenir shops on the Canadian side.

(edit to add: The viewing platform of Journey Behind the Falls was really cool. This photo was taken there, despite the 'maid of the mist' information plaque beside Sweetling. The tunnel behind the falls was not so cool. It was worth it for us, for the viewing platform under the falls. Again, a change of shoes and socks. We got soaked. BUT if we had gone in the height of tourist season and had to stand in a narrow, long, boring tunnel in a huge slowly shuffling line of people, it would have been a waste. In the middle of a weekday in September, we just strolled through the empty tunnels and spent most of our time on the viewing platform. But it would have been a totally different, and unpleasant, experience in a crowd. IF YOU MUST GO IN THE SUMMER, go on a weekday. I was given a tip, from the elevator operator in the tunnel, that the crowds on summer weekends are so thick most people can't even get close to the railings at the park overlooks to even see the falls for the sheer mass of people.)

Sunset that night is around 7. We're debating whether we should stay until sunset to see the falls with lights OR hit dinner first and come back for the falls after dark. Either way, dinner is going to be at LaNova Wings. (edit to add: We didn't go back at night. We were wet and cold and tired. Also, I recommend a different restaurant. We picked this one so we could grab some Buffalo wings and go back to our hotel room with them, but the prep was slow, and the wings not that great.)

Are you tired yet? We are. Something calm and quiet at the hotel that night. Maybe a couple of Penguins of Madagaskar cartoons.

 After breakfast on Saturday, we drop the Jedi off at Oinktoberfest, where he will be judging in the big barbeque contest. Then the kids and I are heading to the Buffalo Museum of Science.We'll explore and play and eat lunch at the Brown Bear Bistro inside the museum. (edit to add: The kids were still young enough to really love this museum. It has a lot of hands on activities geared for elementary, and young elementary, aged children. Several favorite family quotes came from our time there. The staff, one worker in particular, really made our time there super-fun. Adults and older youth would be bored and not very impressed. Hands-on younger learners will be totally in their element here. If you have museum membership to your local museum, this museum is on a reciprocal you can likely get in free with your membership. )

Sometime that afternoon, we'll head back to Oinktoberfest and meet up with the Jedi. We'll wonder around Oinktoberfest together and dine on many delicious foods sold at the various vendors and competitors.

Another dip in the hotel pool will wrap up Saturday.

Sunday will see our departure from Buffalo. Our last stop before heading home will be Letchworth State Park, home of the "Grand Canyon of the East". After a nice hike along the scenic gorge, lunch at some nearby restuarant, we'll turn the van towards the long drive home. We're planning on driving strait through, stopping only for dinner. When it gets late, the kids can bunk down in the van. 

(edit to add: Totally worth the extra drive time. After Niagara Falls, we thought any other state park would be anticlimatic. It wasn't. It was beautiful, it was scenic, it was full of breath-taking views and lovely trails.)

Monday....home sweet home! (and the long process of unpacking and doing all the laundry we generated!)

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