4 days. 2 countries. 1000plus miles. After picking John up from camp in rural Pennsylvania we took a family mini-vacation to Toronto via Niagara Falls (with lots of side-trips and stops along the way).
The Falls themselves were the obvious star of the trip. We did the famed Maid of the Mist boat ride which is totally touristy but also totally awesome. The kids asked to go a second time.
The CN tower in Toronto was another star of the trip. David conquered (somewhat) his fear of heights by ascending to the 114 story high observation deck with us and even tiptoeing on to the glass floor section.
Although the big attractions were enjoyed by the whole family, each kid had their own personal highlight. For John it was finally getting to drive a go-kart at Dalgrsso’s Amusement Park in Tipton, PA (We had a fun hour at this great little park that has no admission but allows you to pay by the ride.) For David, it was feeding the lorakeets at the Bird Kingdom in the Canadian Niagara Falls.
And for Ruth: it was staying in the hotels.
We ate well. Buffalo wings in Buffalo. Ramen noodles in Toronto’s Chinatown. Also 99 cent kids’ meals and really good salty soft pretzels in rural Pennsylvania. And surprisingly good avocado gelato at a burger joint in Toronto.
H. puts a ton of time into planning any trip we go. He looks up tons of places to eat and things to see and do at our destinations but also along our route. This means we rarely have to resort to fast food or chain restaurants and the journey becomes part of the vacation instead of just long days in the car. We fed the carp and water fowl at the Pymatuning Spillway, toured the free (and suprisingly fascinating) Zippo/Case Museum in Bradford, PA and worked on David’s fear of heights again at the Kinzua Skywalk.
The best thing about any trip isn’t the things we do or see but who we are doing them with. Travel offers lots of benefits but I think the biggest one is the space it creates for our family to be together away from distractions: school, chores, errands, work, friends, toys.
John went to two summer camps this year. After the first one there was a little stress in the family dynamics as he was “campsick” while David, who had missed him terribly, was expecting his big brother to come home excited to get back to all their usual games. After the second camp, it was an easier transition and I think that was partly due to this trip.
In addition to the time together, travel also provides us with a lot of shared jokes and memories. No one else will ever probably understand why we now refer to Zelienople, PA as the black hole of Pennsylvania or see just why we think that 13-foot snowman is so funny but that’s ok. Those kinds of “just us” stories and jokes and memories are what cement us together.
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