3 Myths About Niagara Falls

So I recently took a trip out to Niagara Falls, something I’ve been wanting to see for years. When I mentioned my plan to friends, the general reaction was always, “Why?”. Their opinions ranged from indifferent to overly negative whether they’d been there before or not. Undeterred, I hopped a 7-hour bus from Chinatown up to Niagara to see for myself. So did any of those negative insights hold true? Let’s see…

1 falls

“You’re gunna get soaked!”

The highlight of any trip to the falls is a boat ride out into the mist. These boats run from both the Canadian and American sides, with the American Maid of the Mist boats beginning operation in 1846 and Hornblower Cruises operating the boat tours from the Canadian side since 2012. Now, it’s true that it’s cold, windy, and wet…but this is why they provide you with the biggest ponchos I’ve ever seen in my life. Americans get blue while Canadians get red and believe me, they’re gigantic. Definitely longer than I am tall, with long sleeves and drawstring hoods. You can barely tell there are people on the boats rather than giant walking garbage bags. You’d have to put in serious effort to get yourself soaked.

“Eck…it’s SO commercialized…”

Niagara Falls are arguably some of the most famous waterfalls in the world, and definitely the most famous in North America. Yeah, it’s true that the name and image is plastered on everything from t-shirts to shot glasses, but ya know what? So is Angkor Wat. So is Mt. Everest. So are the pyramids at Giza.

Passing by souvenir shops or paying admission doesn’t mean the falls have lost any of their power or presence.

“It’s boring…once you’ve seen it you just turn around and go home.”

This was the most common complaint I heard and I’m convinced that people who believe this never took a whole 2 seconds to look around. While it’s true that the Niagara, New York is a somewhat empty town, it does boast historical Fort Niagara, a remnant of New France built in 1726. For those with an interest in history, architecture, or photography, it’s an incredible must-see. Beyond that, Niagara, Canada has casinos, museums, waterparks, arcades…it’s seriously like a tiny Vegas.

This was one of those trips that revived my conviction to always make my own opinions. Don’t let naysayers discourage you from getting out there and experiencing new things…it’s all about perspective. Yeah, sometimes you’ll be disappointed, but more often than not you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

-Ashley

#TRAVEL – ALASKA: Frosty Fur Rendezvous

Alaska is rife with untamed wilderness and is the ideal location for climbers, hunters, and fisherman alike. Much of its appeal lies in the fact that there are still areas yet unexplored, offering the chance to walk where no one before you ever has. Whether you’re seeking the calm of a perpetually dark winter or the energizing vibes of 24-hour summer sunlight, Alaska is the escapist’s dream.

Yet even beyond its breathtaking landscapes, the Land of the Midnight Sun holds a rich cultural history filled with tradition. At no time of year is this more apparent than during Fur Rondy, the largest winter festival on the continent. For those who don’t have the time to travel Alaska at their own pace, Fur Rondy offers the best sample of what Alaskans are most proud of.

Fur Rendezvous has been taking place in Anchorage in late February and early March since 1935, when the celebration was first added to annual swap meets held by fur trappers. To date, the festival still hosts some of the city’s largest actions of fur, hide, and horns, as well as a three-day Native Arts market featuring hundreds of vendors & artists from the local tribes, including the Athabaskan, Eskimo, and Aleut cultures.

If fur & handicrafts don’t pique your interest, Fur Rondy is host to well over one hundred separate events, including winter sports tournaments—you can plan ahead to take part in pond hockey, snowshoe-softball, ice-bowling, and even cornhole competitions! For the more daring adventurer, the Running of the Reindeer is definitely a prime event. Much like Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls but mellowed out for the laid-back Alaskan lifestyle, this footrace through downtown Anchorage presents the challenge of outrunning a herd of reindeer all while raising funds for Toys for Tots.

Naturally, the competitive spirit has carried over into less-traditional events as well, with one of the most popular events being the Outhouse Races—participants take their favorite outhouse, dress it to the nines, put skis on the bottom, and race them in the streets! That essence of foolishness carries over into many light-hearted evens, including the “Mr. Fur Face” beard competition at the Miners & Trappers Ball, and the giant blanket-toss used to send revelers flying high into the air!

By far, the biggest event of the 10-day festival is the 3-day, 75-mile World Championship Sled Dog Race, which has brought together mushers from all over the world since 1946. The timing of the event is instrumental in getting residents pumped up in anticipation of the 1,150-mile Iditarod, which begins at Fur Rondy’s end.

Of course, Fur Rondy holds your fair staples as well, including carnival rides, ice & snow sculptures, skating, and fireworks—so there’s definitely something for everyone.

-Ashley