Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Notes from the Road

The Matron has discovered the most unpleasant tourist attraction in the United States –and there’s a lot of competition for that title.

The armpit of consumer culture?

Niagara Falls.

First, let her acknowledge that her expectations and reality were pretty much separate planets. She was thinking state park, roaring blue falls, white caps, crystal skies and the sound of water and sea gulls. Sorta sanctuary-like.

Instead, her family stumbled into an enormous plastic city built around the falls—a city defined by junky trinkets, trashy clothes, fast food, candy, and outrageously expensive services. Truly, she had no idea so imagine her shock when instead of chirping birds and an oasis, she drove into something resembling Las Vegas; yes, there are casinos and hotels along the falls (and a haunted house, how logical).

Perhaps the road-weary Matron took the capitalist blow to the belly a little harder because of extenuating circumstances:

· Air temperature? Nearing 100 cloudless degrees

· Holiday? Check that, too. Monday was the official national day of rest following the fourth and people were spending it, well, like she was – at Niagara Falls.

· Road-weary and in search of respite? They’re back on the road, heading from New Jersey to Minnesota.

· Three days in the minivan with the three children? No comment necessary

After a gruesome two hours, the family crawled back to the minivan and escaped. Yes, yes the falls themselves were astounding – beautiful, majestic, bright, and all that. And, He Who Cannot Be Named enjoyed the opportunity to hone his skills as a cultural critic, skills that are shaping up to be razor-sharp and insightful. Much like HWCBN himself. The Matron enjoyed watching that brain at work.

But the Niagara Falls pink princess sweat pants with “Fall For This” written on the butt or the mini-driver’s licenses or “I luv NY” plastic leopard print purses?

Not so much. . . .


Catherine said...

There's a beautiful botanical garden and butterfly museum on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Did you enjoy the Maid of the Mist?

We felt the same as you about the commercialization.

Rudee said...

My son hated Niagara Falls. He said, "what's the big deal about water falling over a rock"? Of course, what he really wanted to see was the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto and no amount of pretty falling water would deter him.

Driving through the Niagara Gorge is prettier than the falls.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the warning. I heard the Canadian side is better so I will take note if we ever plan to head that way.

Daisy said...

We drove through the Falls a couple years ago. Luckily, we passed through the Strip early in the morning on our way elsewhere, so there wasn't a huge crowd. I completely agree;how sad to make it Vegas Falls.

Deb said...

Very Vegas-y...you're spot on.

Still, you're kids will remember it long after you've forgotten!

Suburban Correspondent said...

I bicycled all the way to Niagara Falls and was similarly disappointed. I, too, have heard that the Canadian side is better. But really? Where I was living at the time (Ithaca, NY) had prettier waterfalls than that.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Four words: Goat Island State Park.
It's the only way my husband could even stomach Niagara Falls, and it kept us fairly removed from the commercialization. We camped up the road on Lake Ontario and never went over to the Canadian side (passports for 6 is rather cost-prohibitive).

Anonymous said...

I have made a career of avoiding over-commercialization, so I somehow missed much of what offended you. The Maid of the Mist was fun, there was a loon floating on the river, and lots of good people-watching.

Then again, I was not there on the day after July 4th when the temp was 100˚, and my boys were 14 and 18, old enough not to be overly tempted by the kitchy/expensive stuff.

Rosebud, PhD said...

I am sorry you did not like the American Falls. Don't be too hard on Niagara Falls. I agree with kcinnova; Goat Island and then continue to Three Sisters Island are the best place to go. You can reach out and touch the Falls! (or nearly) Yes, there is a lot of commercialization. Yes, it looks a bit run down. Yes, everyone loves the Canadian side (better view), but it also has commercialization. The wax museum? Unfortunately, Niagara Falls has had some hard times, economically. It isn't the only place in the US that is like that. If you get to take another family trip like the one you have described, I hope you (and your other readers) consider taking another look, beyond the casinos and plastic kitsch at the gift shops. I also hope that Niagara Falls does a better job.