Days 13 to 14 – Chicago, Illinois to Niagara Falls, New York
Reaching day thirteen of my epic road trip across America, we were on the home run with just a couple more days before our trip came to an end. Before then though, we still had an exciting couple of days ahead taking in Amish Country, the huge Cedar Point Theme Park, spectacular Niagara Falls and of course celebrating the 4th of July at the beautiful Seneca Lake.
Day thirteen was spent on the road to our night stop at Sandusky, Ohio, where we would be visiting Cedar Point Theme Park. Our journey was broken up with an insightful visit to Menno-Hof, an interactive exhibition telling the Amish-Mennonite story.
I’ve been fascinated with Amish culture for a while and was looking forward to learning more about their way of life. The Amish live a simple life wearing basic dress and without the conveniences of modern technologies. Our first sighting of the Amish people was on the way to the Menno-Hof museum in Shipshewana, Indiana. We saw an Amish family riding along the road in a traditional Amish buggy, and people dressed in traditional Amish dress riding bicycles. Its strange at first to see people in such traditional dress and transport in these modern times. In respect of their culture I didn’t take any pictures of them.
We soon arrived at the Menno-Hof museum. This fascinating museum tells the story of the Amish and Mennonites in a well constructed, interactive tour. The story begins with the Swiss Anabaptists and the eventual migration of many Amish to Pennsylvania in the early 18th century. The exhibition explains how poorly the Amish have been treated over the years for their faith, some even held captive in tiny dungeons with no means of escape.
Before the tour I had never even heard of the Mennonites: essentially, I think they share the same basic faith as the Amish Anabaptists but choose to live and dress like those around them, wearing modern clothes, embracing new technology and working a variety of jobs. The museum is really well put together, certainly it’s worth the $6.50 admission. You can easily spend a couple of hours taking in the exhibition and exploring the gift shop. If your ever in the area, it’s definitely worth stopping to visit this friendly museum.
After our tour we ate a lovely picnic on the lawn. Mary Rae, our tour leader, had bought a variety of lovely handmade cheeses and cold meats from a local market. Now I enjoy a bit of cheese and this was some of the nicest cheese I’ve tasted this year! We had a variety of flavours and they were all really nice.
We were soon on the road again and heading to one of the worlds best theme parks – a huge contrast to the quaint little town we had just left – Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. We arrived at the park just in time for the twilight entrance, at around 4pm. Mary Rae and a couple of the others kindly put our tents up that night as wouldn’t be back before dark.
Cedar Point is one of the most famous theme parks in the world, and I can certainly say it definitely gives Alton Towers and Port Aventura a run for the money! (the only other theme parks I’ve been too). It’s packed with 16 roller coasters including the amazing Millennium Force; the world’s first roller coaster over 300ft tall and the second longest roller coaster in North America. This ride is such an intense thrill its amazing!
Throughout the course of the night I think we managed about six roller coasters in total which also included: Gatekeeper, Wicked Twister and Mantis – a wicked STANDING roller coaster! We even managed a ride on the awesome Giant Wheel with stunning views of the park. After a thrilling evening Mary Rae came back to pick us up and even stopped of at a McDonald’s so we could have something to eat before returning to camp! Definitely visit Cedar Point if you love thrill rides. You can easily spend an entire day here!
The next morning we were back on the road and heading to one of the most stunning landscapes I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing with my own eyes. The thundering Niagara Falls lie on the USA – Canada border between the province of Ontario, Canada, and state of New York. Niagara Falls is actually the combined name for three separate falls: American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and the Canadian “Horseshoe” falls. Despite not being the tallest waterfalls in the world, it is the combination of height and volume which makes these falls so impressive! – over six million cubic feet of water go over the falls every minute!
We arrived in the early afternoon on an overcast and dull day. This didn’t put a damper on our spirits though! Today we were getting wet and that was all part of the fun! The first sign that we were close to the powerful falls was the massive cloud of mist visible from the car park! It literally looked like the falls and sky were one! As we approached our first view of the falls we were in awe of the power and beauty of them. No words can really describe just how spectacular the Niagara Falls really are – you just have to see them with your own eyes.
After a few photos and enjoying the views from the American side we headed to our included Maid Of The Mist boat tour. This was another amazing once in a lifetime opportunity. Seeing the falls up close really is incredible. It’s loud, wet, and lots of fun. I didn’t take any photos using my DSLR on the boat as I didn’t want to risk water damage, but Mary Rae did offer clear food bags that we could put our phones in to keep them dry and use for photos, which was much appreciated!
Later we took the pedestrian bridge over to Canada (tip – make sure you bring your passport so you can get back into the USA). You’ll also need two US or Canadian Quarters to get through the turnstiles at the border. The bridge itself offers brilliant views of the falls, and its even signed where the border line is so you can have one foot in the USA and the other in Canada!
It was brilliant to be able to spend a couple of hours in Canada enjoying the fantastic up close views of the Horseshoe falls. A couple of rainbows even appeared making the views even more beautiful. With that, our time at the Niagara Falls came to an end, with memories lasting a lifetime created and new stories to tell!