Just over a week ago I had the honour and pleasure of being one of 50 influential Family Travel Writers and Bloggers to be invited to Niagara Falls, NY. It was the Third Annual TMS Family Travel Conference, a unique event that promised to introduce us to exciting travel experiences in Niagara Falls, allow for an unprecedented kind of bonding between brand and writer, and of course squeeze in some good old fashioned hands on learning. To say I was looking forward to it, well that would be an understatement.
I left my house on a rainy Friday morning, fighting not traffic but nearly torrential rain; my windshield wipers not able to keep up with the speed of the fat drops assaulting my car. By the time I arrived at our host hotel, The Sheraton at the Falls Hotel, the sun was out and the honeymoon and romance capital of Niagara Falls was ready to show us her best. For three days we were shown the sites, treated to incredible local eats, and had the opportunity to mingle with some pretty amazing people.
Including Mickey Mouse!
This conference left my heart full, my head spinning with new ideas, my feet aching to take another trip, and my fingers itching to tell you all about everything Niagara has to offer. One of the most memorable events? Dinner at the Top Of The Falls and then a true “inside” view of the powerful attraction itself, walking through the falls at night and living to tell the tale! After a half day crammed full of learning, we were treated to cocktails and dinner with a view of the falls.
Musicians played on the sun lit terrace while media mingled and marvelled at the awesome site and sounds of one of the true wonders of the world mere steps away. There was some sweet pomp and circumstance as we were welcomed by the crew of TMS Travel and the Mayor of Niagara himself. We had the pleasure of hearing Keith Bellows of National Geographic speak. He remarked “A passport is the new diploma,” and we all nodded along in agreement. How many times have I pulled my daughters out of school so we could travel? You learn so much planning and taking a well organized vacation! Following speeches a hot dinner was served as a warm-up for the true show stopper of the evening, the night walk under the falls.
Before long we were taking a short stroll to Cave Of The Winds. It was truly dark by now and I was just a wee bit nervous. Walking under the falls in the dark? This was either truly brave or really dumb.
Each attendee was handed some bright yellow ponchos and oh so fashionable slip proof shoes (mine were a tad big) before we were led to an elevator with only one button. Direction down. We crowded in and felt our ears pop as we descended 175 deep into the Niagara Gorge. When we emerged we were met with a light mist on our faces and this astounding view!
Wow! Decision made. This was brave and this was fabulous! Since we had the privilege of taking this excursion in dark, I might have been a little excited, and become a tad Motherly. Announcing that people needed to “Stay with their buddies.” With some trepidation our group began mounting the steps towards the thunderous white water. The closer my new found friends and I got to the top steps, the louder the rush and power of the water. (the more my hands shook) We were about to get good and wet, and no little pair of sandals and poncho was going to save us. The beautiful thing? I didn’t care. Suddenly the girl who was afraid to go more then one set of stairs towards the power of the falls wanted to go all the way to the top, to feel the raging waters on my face. I was caught up in the excitement and the astonishing ferocious beauty of one of the seven wonders of the world. For a few brief moments I was able to forget every single little trouble in the world, to even forget myself. I screamed, laughed and dodged the waves as they crashed relentlessly towards us. I didn’t fully submerge myself, but it was close enough for me!
When it was over, it wasn’t! The grand finale of the evening, fireworks at 10PM.
A brilliant display of cracks and pops to help warm your soul after a quick dash through the warm water of the falls. It was a truly unique travel experience. I found myself wishing my family was there with me. What an incredible family adventure this would be. After the last big bang, we chatted and padded our way back up to the elevator. All marvelling that we had just taken on the falls and won. I was exhausted from a day of travel, ready to lay my head down but already eager to see what lay ahead for us tomorrow!
I must send out a huge thank you to the organizers of the third annual TMS Family Travel Conference; TMS Family Travel, the Family Travel Forum, Taking The Kids and the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation. Thank you for all the passion and hard work you put into creating this incredible event, and for sharing the Niagara region with all of us. The Cave Of The Winds is just one tiny sampling of what this area has to offer. From Whirlpool Jet Boat Rides, to Apple Picking, Maid Of The Mist to Golf, Street Fairs to the Old Fort Lodge, Erie Canal Locks and Wineries, there is really something for everyone in your family to explore and enjoy.
I will be back, family in tow!
Disclosure: Accommodations and travel arrangements were taken care of by TMS Travel all opinions reflected in this post are my own.