Our Visit to the Cincinnati Zoo

Our Visit to the Cincinnati Zoo

Our visit to the Cincinnati Zoo was a great experience. I understand now first hand why the Cincinnati Zoo is often ranked as one as the best in the United States (US News). It is actually considered amongst the best zoo’s in the world! That would explain why more than 1.5 million people visit the zoo each year.

Located in the city of Cincinnati and founded in 1873, Cincinnati Zoo is the 2nd oldest in the United States. Home to more than 500 animal and 3,000 plant species many cool and unique things to see. We will definitely return on another trip.

Getting to the Cincinnati Zoo

We planned a road trip to visit a friend in Indianapolis and decided that we would add a stop at the Cincinnati Zoo on the way home. When we left Indianapolis, the drive to Cincinnati only took about 1.5 hours. The drive home to Rochester, NY from Cincinnati took us about 7 hours. If you choose to fly into Cincinnati, the airport is only about 20 minutes from the Zoo.

Parking when you arrive at the zoo is easy. The parking lot on Vine Street is mostly covered parking which is a nice convenience. Cool fact, the solar panels on the covered parking lot power aspects of the Zoo including the electric train!

There is overflow parking for those peak visit times in an additional non-covered lot. You pay for parking by scanning a QR code before you leave. The QR code posters are located around the park and on the walkway to the parking lot. You can also pay at the parking kiosk prior to your exit. Parking is $10 per car.

African Penguins

Tickets and Pricing

We purchased our tickets online. I used ticketsatwork.com to purchase my tickets at a discounted rate but you can also buy them from the Zoo website. Our tickets were $16.00 each for adults and $10 each for the kids. Adult prices start at age 13 and child/senior pricing is in effect for ages 2-12/62+. Our visit took place in last August. My family likes to take advantage of the fact that most kids are back in school during late August, so prices can be cheaper and venues are far less crowded.

If you purchase tickets online at the Zoo website, you will need to select the day of your visit and then you will see the price for that day. Ticket prices can change daily based on attendance. According to their website, the price you pick when you plan ahead will definitely be cheaper than if you wait until the day of your visit. If you do wait, you can purchase tickets at the front entrance. There are also different tickets prices for zoo members, Good for any Day tickets and Twilight Admissions tickets.

Sights to See at the Cincinnati Zoo

Cincy Zoo Lions

At the time of our visit, the newest addition to the zoo was a part of the hippo family. Baby Fritz was just a few weeks old! We did manage to catch a glimpse, but the baby was sticking pretty close to mom in the 70,000 gallon home of Hippo Cove. A few years ago, Fritz’s big sister Fiona made quite a splash when she was born.

There are so many things to see and experience in this zoo. A few things that we noticed that we really loved were the bamboo lined pathways, cleanliness of the areas and clear signage. Another observation was how healthy the animals looked. Their eyes often looked bright, their coats shiny and the habitats well kept.

In total, there are 21 different animal habitats and we hit many of them. The favorites of the Kent Crew included spotting the Asian elephants in the Elephant Reserve, the playful gibbons on Gibbons Island, funny penguin’s at African Penguin Point and animals of Africa. As big Lion King fans, finding real live Meerkats is always a treat along with the lions, cheetah’s. We watched as other fed the Masai Giraffe’s but we didn’t join in.

The absolute favorite for them was however the Spaulding Children’s Zoo. This habitat in the zoo is dedicated to many friendly farm animals like, llama’s, goats and alpaca’s. You enter into a gated area and can walk around with the various animals in the petting zoo. Their favorite goat was a black Nigerian Dwarf goat named Neil.

This section of the zoo also features a small playground where parents can grab a seat while they little one’s let off some energy. Between the slide, monkey bars, crawl tunnel and balance bean the smallest zoo goers can enjoy some run and play time.

All Aboard the Zoo Train

The Zoo has a train and a carousel. Although we didn’t die the train, we did club aboard the train before we left for the dat. Train tickets are $5 per person. My son didn’t want to ride, so Camryn and I hopped aboard for the brief train ride through the park. In 2022 the Zoo switched out the beloved classic diesel train for an electric train. Other attractions include Kanga Klimb and Scooter Pals (Zoo attractions).

Autism Friendly Features

Since we made our visit at a slow time of year, we didn’t run into issues with crowds and lines. The Cincinnati Zoo has done a great job of making the zoo and the attractions accessible to individuals with developmental disabilities. They offer things like Sensory Maps, Zoo Social and Video Narratives and calming rooms. I also thought it was neat that they offer sensory bags with oral motor chewy tubes, fidget, noice-canceling headphones and sunglasses for checkout at the Welcome Center.

Where to stay near the Cincinnati Zoo

With the zoo being located in the city of Cincinnati there are a variety of hotels to pick from within a short distance. The official hotel of the zoo is Graduate Cincinnati on the University of Cincinnati campus.

Since I’ve been partial to Marriott for years, I picked a Springhill Suites hotel in midtown approximately 10 minutes from the zoo. For our family of 4, the suite accommodations that come with a sitting area are always preferred over regular rooms where the bed takes up all the space. Hotel parking was free. We paid about $200 for a double-queen suite studio suite.

We loved our time at the Cincinnati Zoo. My kids have asked to go back and see Neil the goat.

Visiting the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Visiting the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

We packed up the kids and headed to the midwest on a roadtrip to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Our 9 hour road trip from Rochester, NY to Indianapolis, Indiana took us to the one of the best children’s museums in the United States.

Coming from Rochester, NY the home of the Strong Museum of Play, we had high expectations for our visit to the largest children’s museum in the US. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis did not disappoint!

Getting There

For this road trip we drove straight through only stopping for gas and food. The 9 hour trip took us west and south through Buffalo, Erie, PA and Columbus, OH.

If you choose to fly, the Indianapolis International Airport is only seven miles from downtown.

Where to Stay

I like Marriott brand hotels. Years ago when I used to travel about 3 months of the year as a college recruiter, I became a loyal Marriott guest.

We stayed downtown at the Courtyard Indianapolis at the Capitol. For this trip we picked a downtown location for convenience. Everything was close by so we only drove a few blocks or in some instances we just walked.

I redeemed credit card points for our 3 night stay at the Courtyard Indianapolis at the Capitol. At the moment, I am not a credit card reward points collector. It just happened that we had a credit card with some points available and decided to use them for this trip. without points, our room would have been over $350 per night.

The hotel was recently renovated and is less than 2 miles from the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. We were close to attractions like the Indianapolis Zoo, the state capitol, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Fountain Square and Lucas Oil Stadium. We booked a room with 1 king bed and a sofa bed. We find that with the kids, it gives us more room during the day to have the sofa bed vs two doubles. Also, it gives them somewhere to sit, eat and play other than the bed.

This hotel also had a pool. Since our kids have learned to swim, a hotel with a pool is a must. It is a great way to entertain them for free without much effort. Courtyard as a brand generally does not do free breakfast, but there was a small Bistro onsite where you can order cold or a hot breakfast. Parking was $30 per day which you can often expect with downtown hotels. That was the trade off for not having too drive much.

monument circle

Getting Your Children’s Museum Tickets


During this visit I was also visiting one of my best friends. On our first full day, we hung out at her place for our kids to play with her dogs. On day two we excitedly hit up the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

The friend who we visited was able to score us free tickets to the museum through a friend! Ticket prices range according to the time of year and when you buy tickets. If you buy at least two weeks in advance, you can save 20% according to their website.

Adult tickets (age 18+)range from $23-33 while youth tickets (age 2-17) range from $19-26. Children under 2 are free. You have to check online to find the best rate for the best dates. The prices can change. Between driving our own car, using hotel points and free museum tickets we were making out like bandits on this trip!

Our tickets were emailed to us. If you buy tickets online you can download the ticket barcode as well. Once you reach the entrance you will scan your barcode. You can print off tickets if you choose.

Our hotel was about a 5 minute drive from the museum. If we were feeling more adventurous we could have walked or even have taken one of the many scooters located downtown for rent. The parking garage is located directly across from the main entrance. You can access a covered bridge from the parking garage if the weather isn’t the best. There additional outdoor parking lots as well. Parking is always free.

Timing Your Visit

Our visit in late August yielded an almost empty museum. In upstate NY, our kids don’t return to school until after Labor Day. We use this to our advantage and schedule most of our longer trips during late August when most of the country is back in school. We find the prices to be cheaper for attractions and hotels, and often many major attractions less crowded. Since one of our kids is in public school and one is homeschooled, we still have to follow the school calendar.

As we crossed the covered parking bridge into the building, we could see the really cool and large sports park! Once we made it inside we were never without something cool, interactive or educational. We spent nearly 3 hours at the museum. For us, that is pushing the limit before my the kids start to get tired or meltdown.

In addition to the time of year or the time of day, you can also check the Children’s Museum site to see which exhibits are starting or ending. This is a great way to help plan when you want to take a trip to Indianapolis.


Exploring Exhibits

Once in the lobby, we peeped the bigger than life version of Bumblebee from the Transformers movie franchise.

At the time of our visit, there was a Scooby-Doo! Mansion Mayhem exhibit which was perfect for a our Scooby obsessed son! The interactive exhibit featured the iconic blue van as well as the opportunity to solve mystery clues like a real member of the team.

Like many museums, the Children’s Museum changes exhibits seasonally and they then often rotate exhibits to other children’s museums throughout the country. At the time of our visit, we were able to the Scooby-Doo! Mansion Mayhem exhibit which is now moving throughout the country until 2025 (see dates and locations). When you are planning your visit, visit the museum website to learn about  upcoming exhibits.

There are some areas and experiences that stay the same for visitors to enjoy year after year. Things like the 35-foot-long, 55-ton steam engine train, the classic Carousel that is over 100 years old (costs $1 to ride), the Playscape area for kids 5 and under, the Power of Children, and the Beyond Space immersive exhibit that details NASA’s Project Mercury program just to name a few!

Playscape for the Littles

Playscape is an area of the museum for children ages 5 and under. This was the perfect spot for our smallest Kent Krew member to engage in activites that fit her perfectly.

The pre-schoolers can build giant block towers, play with a huge water table, explore a pond habitat and there is a Babyscape section for the smallest visitors. This section also includes a private nursing area, bottle feeding space, family restrooms, and diaper changing station.

There is a really fun, safe and create climbing structure that my daughter enjoyed but she liked the dinosoar dig site best. Kids get to dig for din fossils in real sand at tables built to their height. 

The World of Sports

Indianapolis has a rich sports history and culture. From the home of the NCAA Final Four, Indianapoist 500 Race Series, the home of the Indiana Pacers and the Indianapolis Colts too! The museum has an indoor and outdoor celebration of sports. The indoor exhibits are open year round.

Thw World of Sports lets guests interact with exhibits and practice their skills on a balance beam, play the role of sports broadcaster, block hockey goals, learn about the History of Hoops and even more. The Children’s Museum is also home to the National Art Museum of Sport, a celebration of sports through art.

The Outdoor Sports Legends Experience

Indy Childrens

We had great weather take full advantage of the outdoor area. As a fan of our local Rochester Strong Museum of Play, I have to say the Outdoor Sports Legends Experience area is really one of the things that sets it apart from all other children’s museums. Since Indy is in the midwest, the outdoor sports area is only open from March – October.

There are 12 outdoor sports experiences and 3 indoor activities that make up the Outdoor Sports Legends Experience. You will find football, basketball, soccer, hockey, racing, golf, baseball and the huge tree of sports. What makes this even more unique is the fact that many of the sports activities are made for all ages and have kid-sized equipment.

There are regular sized basketball goals where you can run a full game of 5-on-5 but the other courts have basketball goals that players can easily crank down for the littlest baller. My 5 year old was able to make a basket on a lower goal on her own and feel proud. Additionally, they offer adaptive equipment for those who have visual and other physical impairments.

The Tree of Sports

The tree of sports is like a big tree house. When you reach the top, you can look out over the entire sports park area. The kids had a ball running in and just hanging out at the top. This is also where we decided to eat lunch.

tree of sports Tree of Sports at the Children’s Museum

There is a food court on site inside the museum. The food court was a little pricey as I paid $9.00 for a bag of chips an a soda. There is a snack bar in the sports section as well. We ate mostly the snack we had brought with us.

After lunch, the kids continued to try out the different sports experiences. We ended our day at the basketball courts.


Sensory and Autism Services

The museum offers select days called Museum My Way. It is an adaptive museum experience with limited capacity for visitors with disabilities and/or sensory sensitivities.

On their website you can also find a sensory map so you can easily identify exhibits with bright lights, loud noises, flashing lights, strong smells or other sensory effects. Lastly they also provide a social narrative complete with pictures you can view online so you can walk your loved one through a visual experience and explain what will happen.

For our son, before we visit new places we try to do social narratives. Walking him through the visual pictures helps reduce his anxiety of entering a new environment and sometimes he is able to pick the things he wants to see most.

Activities in Indy

While downtown we checked out Monument Circle, got some Chicago style pizza from Giordano’s (awesome!) and went to the mall. Chicago is only about 3 hours away and we considered driving over but decided it would be too much for the kids.

The other advantage to being downtown was that we were able to access the city Canal Walk. Canal Walk cuts through White River Sate Park in downtown Indy and is a lovely walk along the Canal. there are paddle boats available to ride the canal if you don’t want to walk. We walked to the Colts Canal Playspace, a playground dedicated by the Indianapolis Colts. It is an very nice park offering a lot of space to climb, jump and swing.

IndyColts Park Colts Playground at Canal Park

On one day, I met my friend for lunch downtown and she took me to a spot called Dave’s hot Chicken where I got my first taste of Nashville Hot chicken. The food was great, service was quick and the chicken wasn’t too hot. I had a medium (spice level) chicken slider, fries and we split the mac n cheese (it was just okay) but my chicken sandwich was bomb!

Other activities that we did not experience but that are major attractions in the area:

Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Home of the Indy 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, you can watch an Indianapolis Pacers or Indianapolis Colts game, the Indianapolis Zoo, and Fountain Square to name a few.

We also couldn’t pass up a trip to Long’s Bakery, a local institution and voted repeatedly as the best donuts in Indy.

Overall, if you are visiting the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, you can definitely fill in few days with other activities and experiences. Indianapolis is a major city offering major fun.

Canal Park
Five Reasons to Take a Family Road Trip

Five Reasons to Take a Family Road Trip

As a kid, our summer family road trips were the most exciting part of summer. Now with my own family, my husband and I have embraced road trippin’ as part of the experience we want our kids to have. He didn’t travel as much as a kid, so many of these experiences are new for him too. The Kent Crew defines a road trip as any trip that has an overnight stay and requires at least one bathroom and gas break to get there. These are my five reasons you should take a family road trip.

Distraction Free Conversation

There is no escaping when you are in the car for hour. We talk to each other and the kids. We sing songs, point out locations or landmarks and cool license plates. If the kids are watching DVDs or sleep, my husband and I are able to have uninterrupted conversations. No little voices asking for snacks, phone calls, catching up on work, cleaning up the house or other distractions. We are a captive audience for each other to laugh and share.

Some of the best conversations my husband and I have ever had are on the road, while the kids are sleeping. Sharing our goals, visions, expectations, or funny things that have happened. Distraction free conversations are life to a relationship.

The flip side can be distraction free conversations with yourself. When I am sleep, husband listens to his choice of music (jazz) uninterrupted. When I drive and he sleeps, I actually prefer to turn the radio off and enjoy the silence. With two littles always on the move, I don’t always get to just enjoy the sound of quiet.

A family road trip can save money

Family road trip

There are always deals to be found on airfare. Even with the cheapest airfare, flying 4 people can be a budget breaker. According to GasBuddy, the 2,450 mile round trip driving to Orlando in our SUV would cost $285.00. Four round-trip tickets from Rochester (ROC) to Orlando (MCO) on Southwest airlines would cost about $1,500. Even if we stopped in a hotel overnight there and back for $200 a night, the total would still be less than half the cost of flying.

Our actual trip costs on a road trip to Disneyworld with a rented van for seven days (gas was cheaper).


  • Gas: $225 Rental Van: $500 = Total $785
  • Flying: $1500

Depending on where you live your numbers could look very different. When we lived in Maryland, we had access to three major aiports (BWI, Regan and Dulles). Flying from BWI to MCO on on a deal on Southwest would be as low as $1,000 for 4 people. Just so happens that flights from Rochester are some of the more expensive around.  Also, I have a family member that works for a rental car company so when we do rent vehicles, it is at a big discount.

While driving might mean it takes longer to get there, for us a family road trip saves money.

Move at your own pace

For most of my career as a recruiter I traveled about 30% of the year, so I’m a fan of flying. But getting me, myself and I on a plane is way different than trying to wrangle up the Kent Krew. I like being able to move at my own pace, leave when we decide, and being able to stop and check out something new. 

“Part of the joy of the journey is getting there. “

You can’t beat the speed of air travel, but we aren’t in a rush right now. Part of the joy of the journey is getting there. Choosing our own schedule is more relaxing. And, when the kids start bugging out, having meltdowns, can’t find “must-have” toy and what not, I’m not concerned about leaving late or missing a plane or train. With a special needs child, there are times when he may have a meltdown, anxiety attack or just need a moment. Being able to pull over and tend to his needs is comforting to us all. We do plan to introduce him to air travel at some point.

Being able to move at your own pace also means we get the chance to check out random things we find interesting. Perfect example, we were on the road traveling for the 4th of July from Washington, DC to Rochester, NY. We knew we’d miss the fireworks shows, but we figured somewhere along they way we’d see something pop up. Around 9:00 PM we were in Williamsport, PA when a show was fireworks show was starting. We pulled over into the parking lot of th eLittle Leauge Baseball Museum, got out the car and created a core memory. There we watched the fireworks from a cliff overlooking the city.

Williamsport, PA Roadside Fireworks

Learning Happens Everywhere

As a homeschool family, we embrace the philosophy that learning happens everywhere. You can create a road trip that will double as an educational experience, or you can just take the learning as it comes. Whatever works for you.

Learning isn’t limited to classroom and books. Your trip can include visitng historic locations and landmarks, museums or exploring nature as part of the learning however, just getting there can be a lesson too. On a road trip you can infuse geography, history, social studies and science into your time on the road. Listen to audio apps to learn a foreign language, study a map of where you will travel, and observe the scientific changes in nature. Driving through mountains, swerving through valleys, discovering different bodies of water, rock formations, clouds and weather patterns, all out the car window.

Doing some research about a location is a great way to prepare kids for what they might see, and get them excited about the trip. It’s cool to read and watch YouTube videos about Niagara Falls, but another to experience the force of nature in person. The same can be said for so many of God’s creations like the Grand Canyon, our many national parks and the oceans.

The life learning comes in the form of doing new things, stretching imaginations, shifting comfort zones, developing patience when it’s “taking forever” to get there, meeting different types of people and navigating new surroundings.

You can bring more stuff

Since we are now out of the diaper phase, packing is a much better. No longer require a diaper bag, portable high chaire, cooler for milk and so many other things babies and toddlers need. Since I breastfeed, we even travled with my Medela Breast Pump for a few years. Now, they kids carry their own bags!

My husband is a thrifter and Ebay resller. He can’t pass up a good thrift store, Salvation Army or Goodwill. So it is inevitable that we end up at least one thrift store while on the road. When he does discover something he wants, he doesn’t have to hesitate to get it because we can’t fit it in a carry on bag. I also get to shop a little less concerned with how we will get the items back home.

Time to hit the road

While driving might not be for everyone. There are long rides, car fights, and the occassional sick child who vomits after getting car sick. Long road trips are not all cupcakes and rainbows. They can be stressful and chaotic, but also fun and memorable. Since we live about 6 hours from some of our family, our kids have been taking trips since there were born. Don’t be intimidated!

Try a short trip a few hours from home to just get your feet wet first. Pick a location and do a short trips of just a few hours away. Decide if you will rent a car of drive your own. If you drive your own make sure you check all of your fluids, tires and brakes. We have a roadside assistance emergency kit that includes jumper cables and road side flares in case of emergency. Also, check your spare tire to make sure it is inflated and ready to be used, as well as your car jack.

Organize and understand what to pack for your car ride and your trip. For longer trips we carry a small cooler for water and juice boxes. We must have our portable DVD players or Amazon Kindle tablets along with the car chargers and ear phones. Also make sure to have phone charges and the dual charger that plugs into the car so we can charge multiple devices at one. We also keep in the car paper towels and wet wipes.

Whether it is a trip to grandma or a trip to the Grand Caynon, get out and experience the road!

Day trip to Niagara Falls USA

Day trip to Niagara Falls USA

Growing up in Rochester, NY, a trip over the border to Canada was a pretty common thing. Living about an hour from another country doesn’t seem like a big deal, until you are old enough to appreciate that you live an hour from another country. 

I don’t remember my first visit across the northern border. I was likely a baby. Back in the day, you didn’t need a passport so Canada was a frequent summer destination. Rochester, NY is about 1:15 minutes away from the border crossing at Niagara Falls. Depending on who is driving, could be little more or a little less. 

Visiting Canada now requires a valid U.S. Passport, passport card or NEXUS card. Children under 16 only need proof of citizenship. When we relocated from Maryland to New York, my husband and I chose to get the Enhanced Drivers License which allow us to cross into Canada without a passport, by land or sea. We can also cross into Mexico and some Caribbean countries with our enhanced license too. 

Exploring Niagara Falls USA

For all of the times that I’d been to Niagara Falls, Canada, I’d never bothered to explore Niagara Falls, USA. In 2020, the borders were still closed so we decided to take the kids on their first falls adventure. A new experience for all of us. Earlier that summer we checked out Letchworth State Park which has some impressive waterfalls, but of course few things compare to Niagara Falls. 

When we arrived we found parking to be pretty easy and convenient to the attractions. Parking near the visitor center at Prospect Point is $5 to $10 per car depending on the time of year.  We went mid-week in late August. 

Unique finds on the American side

The American side of the falls doesn’t have a lot of the same attractions as the Canadian side. There is no ferris wheel, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, the epic haunted houses along Clifton Hills or the most direct view of the American Falls and Horseshoe falls. But, there are some unique American side only attractions like the Cave of the Winds Tour behind the falls, Seneca Niagara Casino, the Observation Tower, and hiking trails directly along the rapids and the falls in the park. Other Niagara USA experiences include restaurants, shopping, the Maid of the Midst ferry, the Aquarium of Niagara and Top of the Falls Restaurant. 

On the U.S. side there is more nature to experience and explore as the Niagara Falls State Park is designed to embrace the power and beauty of the falls in the most up close ways possible. I’ve never been that close to the top of the falls before this visit. The views, although different from the Canadian side are just as remarkable. And, the power of the water is even more evident when you hear and feel the rushing of the river combined with the crashing of the water pouring over the falls. So, fun fact, the Niagara Falls is where the five great lakes converge!

We spent most of our time exploring the park and the various trails. We did a lot of walking. The kids were 4 and 8 during this visit so we didn’t get into the more exciting attractions like the Cave of the Winds. I know my children, and at the time there weren’t very ready for that experience, however it is kid friendly. Prices range according to the time of year. 

The Maid of the Midst is also a another must do for many that we didn’t do this time around. On a previous trip my husband and I have taken the ride from the Canadian side. The rides are very similar no matter which side of the border you are on. The ferry boats from the Canadian and U.S. side actually pass each other often at the base of the Horsehoe Falls. Prices for adults are around $28.25 per person, children 6-12 $16.50 and five and under are free.

We walked a lot. Were comfortable shows. At the time we visited, it wasn’t very crowded so there was space to move freely. There are peak seasons however, when the Observation Decks is too crowded, you have to compete for space and the attractions have long lines. Try to plan your trip around less crowded times or just pack your patience.

We started at Prospect Point which where you catch the Maid of the Midst ferry or take a stroll across the Observation Tower. We stayed a little closer to the ground and observed the falls from the ground level. 

We were able to take in the American Falls and the American Rapids as close as you can get. Though it was a hot August day, we enjoyed the midst that blows from the force of the falls as nice way to cool down. 

Exploring Goat Island

We headed over the American Falls Pedestrian Bridge to check out the island that leads to the more famous Horseshoe Falls. Goat Island sits between the two falls and makes for some of the most impressive views in the park. The island is accessible by car if you go over the American Rapids Bridge. Parking is available on the island. There is a trolly that goes through the park and over to the island that we didn’t catch.

There are plenty to places to stop and enjoy the view and have an outdoor picnic. thought the park. We didn’t have a full picnic but of course, we kept our usual snacks and water for the kids to munch on throughout the day. We spent a little over two hours at the park with was about the limit for Camryn at the time. 

The trails the run through Niagara Falls State Park run along side the river rapids right to the falls. When you are on the Canadaian side, you get the complete view of American Falls and Horseshoe Falls all at once. When you are in the U.S. side, your direct view is mostly of Canada. Not a great trade off, but still cool. 

If you are within a few hours of the falls and have never been I definitely suggest adding it to your stops. If like me, you’ve been there but only explored one side of the great wonder, go back and take a different view. You won’t disappointed. 

Visiting both sides increases your appreciation for the wonder of nature that is the falls. 

Our Visit to Letchworth State Park

Our Visit to Letchworth State Park

A short 30 minute ride from our home in Rochester, NY, Letchworth State Park has been voted one of the best attractions in New York State. Sometimes referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the East” for the magnificent scenery, it was also in the past named the “Best State Park in the US”.

Our family is down for riding bikes, walking, easy hikes, and just taking in the views. I wouldn’t say we are the “most” outdoorsy people around, but we definitely enjoy nature. In a time where it’s very easy to be distracted by electronic things, I’m happy that our kids are engaged and enjoy exploration around parks and trails. Western NY is full of some of the best parks in the country including, Letchworth State Park. 

Exploring Letchworth State Park

I can’t recall having ever been to Letchworth State Park before this visit. I wanted to take the kids especially so they could get a glimpse at their first major waterfalls. The Genesee River runs through the gorges that host three major waterfalls and a bunch of smaller ones as well. In addition there are 66 hiking trails, a massive outdoor pool, and a nature center. You can go kayaking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, ride a hot air ballon and in the winter skiing, and snowmobiling. You can even camping at the park in a cabin, RV or tent. The Glen Iris Inn is a restaurant and Inn located on property in the park. Not really what I would consider to be kid friendly, but a nice place for a date. 

All about the waterfalls

Letchwortth Falls
Middle Falls

We didn’t intend to do all of the wonderful things they have at the park, we just wanted to hike an easy trail and see the waterfalls. Luck would have it, we chose an extra hot day, so the mist from the waterfalls was a welcome reward when we got close enough.

We entered the park at the south entrance. Just driving through the 17 mile park can take about 20-30 minutes. If you stay on the main park road, it is easy to park and get out at the various overlooks, which is what we did.  Getting in and out of the car also allowed for water breaks and AC on a 90 degree and humid day. Throughout the park, bathrooms were easy to find. We brought snacks from home so we didn’t visit the concession stands. 

After stopping at a few of the overlooks to check out the views, we made it to Middle Falls. Parking is easy near the Glen Iris Inn and a short walk down to the falls. It’s a pretty cool view to be able to take in how massive and powerful the Middle Falls are. Measuring in at 107 feet, it is the tallest of the falls in the park. It’s not Niagara Falls but pretty impressive!

You can also park near Upper Falls and take a bit of a walk to get a closer look. We didn’t have a stroller and on the return trip up the stairs the three year old gave up on walking. So the husband ended up with an extra 30 lbs weight to carry (aka Camryn). Nonetheless, since it was our last stop for the day, it was a nice way to end things. 

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