Scheduling trips is an activity that I always enjoy. I often have two or three in my mind at a time- not all definitely planned, but ideas of places we could go or things I'd like to see. Before we had children, my husband and I were privileged to take quite a few nice trips, including an anniversary trip to Hawaii and a two week marathon trip along the west coast, stretching from San Francisco, CA,
|Napali cliffs on Kauai|
But I found myself wishing we could go more places, see more, with the kids. This was illustrated one day when my son was riding the back seat of the car while we were on the expressway that runs near our house. This "highway" is actually below street level, and is built with little dips and rises so that any water on the road will drain toward the storm sewers. But on our little trip that morning my son noticed that the road was "hilly." Admittedly, our little corner of southeastern Michigan is rather flat- some would say extremely flat- but still, the dips in the road should not constitute "hills." Clearly it was time for my kids to experience real hills.
And so for our vacation this year we decided to take the Lake Erie circle tour, with a detour into the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. The kids were excited that we'd get to see Niagara Falls, but other than that they really had no idea what we were going to see.
|View of the American Falls (left) and Horseshoe Falls (right)|
|Fireworks over the American Falls|
Niagara Falls was fun for all. We avoided the touristy areas that teem with souvenir shops and focused strictly on the falls itself. The kids loved the Maid of the Mist, the Journey behind the Falls, and watching the fireworks over the falls from our fallsview hotel room.
|American Falls overlook|
Once on the American side, we found my daughter's highlight of the entire trip, the Cave of the Winds. It was quite an experience, being virtually under the American Falls and so close. Unfortunately, my son was rather intimidated by the experience, so I rushed through with him. But we did stick around
|Stonework stairs at Letchworth State Park|
After those thrills, I was hoping the other destinations I had planned wouldn't seem anticlimactic. And while I think the excitement of Niagara Falls was the most impressive to the kids, they definitely enjoyed the other sights we saw.
Our next stop was Letchworth State Park, about an hour and a half southeast of Niagara Falls. It is home to three fairly large waterfalls. Entering at the north entrance, we enjoyed a leisurely drive along the Genesee River, through the park to the falls at the southern end of the park. The kids were a bit antsy until we found the falls, but they appreciated them once we got there.
|Blowing her own glass ornament|
The next day, we headed farther south and east to Corning, NY, home of the Corning Glass Museum. While I was unsure just how welcome two occasionally rambunctious kids would be in a glass museum, it was actually very kid friendly. In fact, admission for kids and even teens is free! They have demonstrations of glass blowing, flameworking, and a glass breaking demo that we had to see twice! And we splurged and made our own glass creations in their glass studio to take home as souvenirs.
Our final day in the Finger Lakes region we spent at Watkins Glen State Park. This gorge, located at the southern tip of Seneca Lake, is truly magnificent. The first mile of the 1.5 mile gorge path ascends 400 feet through a gorge created by Glen Creek, and passes (or in some cases passes under) 19 separate waterfalls.
I was a bit concerned about the kids being able to handle the hike, but to my surprise they were full of energy, and the call of more and more waterfalls farther on kept them moving. Of course, the promise of swimming at the pool which is also located at the state park may have also helped them keep moving, especially on the return trip back down. We also found an interesting park with unique play equipment near the pool facility.
All in all, I think our first traveling vacation as a family was a definite success. Granted, it wasn't one of those relax and forget it all kind of vacations. But we'll make up for that next summer. I think the Sleeping Bear Dunes are calling again.