I didn't think I was going to want to do "any of that touristy shit" (to quote Beth) when I arrived at Niagara Falls. I thought a quick glance and a few photos would satisfy any initial curiosity about the tumbling water, but as we coasted down the hill of the tacky tourist mecca that leads to the falls, I quickly discovered that I was going to need a closer look.
I had planned to use today's final rest day of the tour to ... rest. Instead, I set my alarm for 7am so that I could handle personal business on my laptop before venturing out early. And I wasn't the only cyclist with plans to head back over to Canada for the day.
I bought the Niagara Falls Adventure Pass, "four top attractions at one low price", and walked around with a large, doppy plastic badge holder and lanyard around my neck that screamed, I've been had!
I was pleased with the Journey Behind the Falls, an opportunity to walk under the gushing water and "feel the thunder". And I enjoyed the ride on the Maid of the Mist that allows guests to "explore the roar".
However, Niagara's Fury was moderately entertaining and incredibly disappointing. In the "4D" theater, which was primitive in comparison to attractions at Disney World or Universal Studios, they bump you around, drench you and subject you to loud noise and bright lights, but the educational value barely surpassed that of a third grade level. Unfortunately, I ran out of time and energy for the White Water Walk, which I later heard is far more authentically and naturally scenic.
I had hopes that Niagara's Fury would provide a little more substance than the poorly produced and absurdly theatrical Legends of Niagara Falls, the 3D/4D feature on which Beth and I wasted $10 the night before. The best part of sitting in that theater was the photo we took just before the lights went down.
I was also disappointed by the tasteless urban planning surrounding Niagara Falls, on both sides of the border. If I wanted to gamble in a Mini Vegas, I would go to Reno. If I wanted to enter a wax museum or see two-headed animals, I'd visit Times Square. And what the hell is Shamu doing between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario?
In my opinion, there should have been stricter commercial zoning. No structures above tree level. More refined regulations regarding building design. The Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park have been able to generate revenue while maintaining the general dignity of their natural habitat.
But Niagara Falls, one of the most awe-inspiring, nature wonders of the world has been over-processed into a dry, tourist trap of corny architecture and crude marketing. The community that exists takes so much away from the natural splendor of the falls, and - as it is now - I have no desire to return here in the way that I might wish to revisit the Grand Tetons or Mount Rushmore.
Make no mistake, however. If you block out the architectural profanity around you and look over the edge, the falls are spectacular.