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August 26, 2011

“I waited all night for this, and it was over in five minutes?” You’d think that after all of these years Shannon would be used to that; but, at least in this instance, she was talking about the fireworks over Niagara Falls.

We spent our first afternoon on the Canadian side of the falls the same way we usually do when arriving in a new town: driving around (or hopefully walking if the area permits) trying to get our bearings. The $20 flat rate parking we encountered kept us in our car on this initial excursion.

First impressions were not positive. Touristy chain establishments on every corner, a casino and wax museum close to the falls, strip clubs and strip malls further afield. We weren’t really surprised. Fortunately we didn’t come here to enjoy local culture. We came to see a natural wonder. From our vantage point inside the Jeep we could only catch short glimpses of the falls. So we made a plan to come back that evening and watch the fireworks they display every Friday and Sunday night over the summer.

I’ve been blown away in the past by far smaller waterfalls. The power of rushing water is a surprisingly awesome thing. I expected Niagara to be one of those experiences, like seeing the Grand Canyon or stepping under the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, where your mind short circuits a bit from sensory overload. It wasn’t like that for me.

We arrived around dusk and saw the American Falls first. Both the American and most of the Horseshoe Falls are on the U.S. side of the Niagara River, so the best views are from Canada. From that distance, though, you can appreciate their size and their beauty but not their power. We could have gotten much closer to the Horseshoe Falls, but the crowds were already thickening at that end of the boardwalk. Instead we staked out a still-vacant place by the railing farther downriver to wait for the fireworks.

The sun fell and large spotlights mounted on the hillside behind us came to life. In fairness, the illuminated falls are a far better sight than what you’d see in total darkness. But the colored lights diminish their greatness in the same way that a tutu does to a grizzly bear: a majestic creature ensconced in a ridiculous outfit.

The fireworks started on time and the cacophony startled an enormous flock of birds who circled chaotically in front of the falls; their movement reflected brilliantly in the spotlights. That unexpected moment was a highlight.

The fireworks ended nearly as quickly as they began. The whole experience left me a bit underwhelmed. I did discover something important, though. I prefer my natural attractions a bit more, well, natural. Give them to me straight up, and hold the cheese.

One Comment leave one →
  1. grant permalink
    August 30, 2011 8:54 am

    Totally agree with the last bit.

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