Posted in: Animal Sightings, Campground Review, Exploring New York, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Niagara Falls/Grand Island KOA: Campground Review

For our stay near Niagara Falls, we stayed on Grand Island at the Niagara Falls/Grand Island KOA.

Niagara Falls/Grand Island KOA Campground Map
Click to enlarge

The campground had a camp store, laundry room, paddle boat and banana bike rentals, two pools (1 cool, 1 heated), basketball hoop, pickleball, horseshoes, and fishing ponds. Garbage was placed at the end of your site and was collected.

The campground was located on Grand Island New York. There was a grocery store (Tom’s) close by, a dollar store, post office, and several restaurants on the island. It was about a 15 minute drive to Niagara Falls State Park and a 18-20 minute drive to Buffalo. The one thing to know is that every time you leave the island you will be charged a toll. There was a Tim Horton’s and Adrian’s down the street (just about walking distance). There was also a go-kart/arcade/batting cage/putt-putt within walking distance.

Laundry room and book exchange

There was a change machine in the laundry room/arcade area, which were located on the bottom side of the office building. It was a nice laundry room with plenty of machines. There was also a book exchange shelf in the laundry room.

Arcade and change machines in laundry room)

The smaller pool by the office was the “cool” (aka unheated) pool. There was a dog park, bike and boat/kayak rental, and playground located here as well. The larger pool towards the back of the campground was the heated pool. There was also the basketball hoop, pickleball court, jump pads, and rec building/planned activities were back here. The one thing I did not like was that there was no parking for the larger pool. All parking spots were parked “Cabin Parking”. It wasn’t a horrible walk from our campground, but would have been nice to have pool parking spots for guests who have mobility problems.

Top row: Front/cool pool and pond with boat rentals. Bottom Row: Rec building and heated pool.

You could fish in the pond as well, but you were not allowed to swim in it.

Sites were pretty nice. Each had a fire ring and picnic table. There was not a lot of shade though. This campground had two sewer connections per site! Both were on the same side, but were spread out. It made it nice for being able to choose how to place the RV in the site. The campground also backed up to an Amusement Park (Fantasy Island), but it had been closed. It looked like at one point the train ride stopped directly at the campground. There were tent camping spots, as well as several different types of cabins. There were a few geese and lots of killdeer birds around the campground.

The campground also teamed up with a local tour group to allow campers to see Niagara Falls, ride Maid of the Mist, and tour Cave of the Winds. The tour bus picked up at the campground. We found it to be more expensive than just paying for the Maid of the Mist tickets, Cave of the Winds, and parking at the State Park. However, it is a good option if you do not have a separate vehicle and want to tour the area.

VIDEO: Niagara Falls/Grand Island KOA Walk Through

SUMMARY OF CAMPGROUND:

Our rating: 3.5/4 out of 5 hitches

Cell Phone Reception: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile

Laundry: Yes

Bathrooms/Showers: Yes

RV Sites: Pull Through, Back-in (grass/gravel)

Pop Up Tents/Gazebos/Outdoor Rugs On-Site: Yes

Amenities: picnic table/fire pit/cable at site, playground, banana bike rentals, paddle boat rentals, planned activities, cool pool, heated pool, pickle ball, horseshoes, jump pad, arcade, laundry room

Cabins: Yes

Tent Camping: Yes

Full Hook-ups: Yes

            Amps: 20/30/50

Pool: Yes

Food On-Site: No (some grocery items in store)

Camp Store: Yes

WiFi: Yes

Accepts Mail: Yes (will not forward)

Fishing: Yes

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring New York, Museums & Tours, Sightseeing

Niagara Power Vista

We saw a brochure for the New York’s Niagara Power Vista. The power plant offers free tours. On our last day in New York, we hurried over to the Vista when Ben was off of work. Unfortunately, the brochures were not updated with COVID restrictions and they now required reservations and were full for the day. The woman at the office did give us directions to a service road that led to a fishing pier at the base of the plant. She told us the views there were pretty good too.

click to enlarge

She was right! There was a small visitor parking lot at the base of a hill (before the gated employee entrance). We walked down a few flights of steps to the metal walkway. The waves from the river and plant occasionally splashed up onto the walkway. It was right on the river and we saw butterflies, a snail on the fence post, fighter jets, and some birds.

If you are in the area, I think this is worth a stop!

Posted in: Exploring New York, Sightseeing

Western NY Visitor Center

The boys and I stopped here on a whim. We were on our way back from the Carousel Museum and wanted to check out the Visitor Center.

This one is a modern welcome center with electric charging stations, a covered area for motorcycles, a dog park, a playground, and even a food place inside the Visitor Center! They had paper NY state maps, as well as and electronic interactive map to find local attractions and activities. There was another interactive screen that had a New York trivia quiz.

There was truck/RV parking as well.

Posted in: Exploring New York, Museums & Tours

Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum

The boys and I went to the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum.

It was a lot of fun and we all learned something new as well. The Museum has an audio tour (716)566-2772 with 7 stops. Since the museum closed at 3 every day, Ben wasn’t able to go with us. He did however, look at our pictures and listen to the audio tour later.

The Museum used to be an actual factory where they made the carousel horses. Each horse was carved by hand! The original horses had real horsehair tails and ears that stuck up. However, people started using the ears to pull themselves on and off and to hold on to. When the ears started breaking off, they switched to the ears laid back design that we see now. The horses also just slightly rocked back and forth in the beginning before they went up and down like they do today. Today’s new carousels are made from fiberglass molds.

Other fun facts we learned: The non-horse animals are called menagerie animals, although the only one to wear clothes is the Jumpy Fog! The carousels in the US run counter-clockwise, which means the animal face to the right. If you look at an older carousel next time you ride one, you may notice the public facing side is decorated more elaborately than the inside facing side. It helped save on costs. There is also usually a lead horse, who is slightly bigger than the others.

It was fun to find pieces of Ohio in the museum. The Wurlitzer Company made band organs and began in Cincinnati, Ohio! The organs are what gives the carousel it’s music. King’s Island’s carousel is an Allen Herchell carousel!

It wasn’t too expensive and we all really enjoyed our time there. Each ticket came with 2 ride tickets that worked for either carousel (kid only or the larger carousel).

DETAILS:*

  • TICKETS: $10/adults, $5/child (ages 2-16). COVID Restrictions: masks required
  • HOURS: Wednesday-Saturday 10am-3pm, Sunday 12pm-3pm
  • PARKING: Yes
  • BATHROOM: Yes
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 1-2 hours
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.
Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring New York, Hiking, Sightseeing

Beaver Island State Park (Grand Island, NY)

We were out exploring the island and stopped at Beaver Island State Park. Normally there is an entrance fee, but there was a sign that said that since there was no attendant on duty, there was no fee. It was located on Grand Island, so it was just a short drive.

This park had a marina, a small beach area, a concessions area (only open on the weekends per the sign on the window), and a Frisbee golf course. The park also had a playground and picnic area by the beach.

It was a decent park, but there were a ton of flying bugs.

Bottom right: Bug swarm “cloud” in front of the trees
Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring New York, Hiking, Sightseeing

Buckhorn Island State Park

Ben and I took a “date day” walk at Buckhorn Island State Park. It was located on Grand Island, so it wasn’t far from our campground.

We took the Buckhorn Island Trail on the AllTrails App. The trail was about 4 miles long and ran along the water. The trail was nice and flat, although a little muddy in some spots due to recent rain. We saw a few butterflies, lots of birds, a few bunnies, and even a snake along the trail.

Most of the trail was pretty boring, as you couldn’t see the water. There were a few spots where you could see waterways. The highlight of the trail is definitely the at the tip of the jetty. You end up standing in the middle of the Niagara River with Canada on your left and Niagara/USA straight ahead and on your right.

Top photo: Looking back from where we came

NOTE: There was not a fee to use the park while we were there, but there are not any restrooms either.

Posted in: Exploring New York, Food, Newbie Mistakes

Eating New York: Tomato Pie

We were at Wegman’s grocery store and saw something called a tomato pie. It was in a cardboard box, so we couldn’t see it very well, other than it had crust and a tomato based topping. We thought we would give it a shot.

We got home, unpacked, made dinner, and thought we would try the “pie” for dessert. Did you catch the quotes there? Yup, it was a pizza pie, as in a pizza with no cheese. What?! Who in their right mind makes pizza without cheese.

You would have thought I had learned my lesson that New Yorkers, who are supposed to have great pizza, are weird and don’t always put cheese on their pizzas. Nope. A few days later, I was ordering pizza online from a restaurant down the street from the campground. I ordered a few different things, including and “Old Fashioned Pizza” with half pepperoni. Guess what? No cheese! The other specialty pizza we got had cheese listed, so I just assumed that cheese came on all their pizzas (like it should).

So, if you are in New York and ordering pizza, make sure you ask if it comes with cheese (no matter how ridiculous you feel asking, because pizza without cheese is just sauce bread.

Posted in: Exploring New York, Museums & Tours, National Park, National Parks, Sightseeing

Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site (Buffalo, New York)

Hey guys, this is another blog post with Will! I am here today to talk about something I love…HISTORY! Today we are going to be talking about the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, where President Roosevelt was sworn in as president. You have to make a reservation for the site because of Covid, but if you are fine with that I would recommend going. The front of the building is much like it was except with the addition of a modern stairway so that guests don’t ruin the old stairway of the house. The house originally belonged to Roosevelt’s friend who was living in Buffalo at the time. The entrance to the building is where the National Park Service set up their office and reception area.

To start off the tour they play a little introduction with an actor playing Theodore Roosevelt. After that you are allowed to enter the room to the left which is an exhibit for the “Rainbow City”. This is an exhibit on the Pan-American Exposition featuring Edison’s light bulbs, the finished monograph and other wonders of the modern world. See how Americans have welcomed immigrants into the workforce, and how we have tamed the natives of these lands. See our power over nature, and visit the moon in our exhibit: Visit the Moon! Sadly when President Mckinley visited our great city it would be for the last time. While talking to the crowds of onlookers an anarchist shot our fair president. Vice-President Roosevelt has left the city after being told that the President would live bringing his family into the wilds to explore. Sadly I bring news that our president has died. Roosevelt is hurrying back to Buffalo to mourn with the rest of the city over the president’s death, but he is still somewhere in the wild back roads of America.

This is the spiel of the guide as he walks us through the exhibits and shows us several pictures and videos that have been gathered by the park service. Next we walk through a narrow corridor to the right of the entrance to the room, and come into the main part of the house. To the left is the dining room where Roosevelt dined with his friend’s family, and up ahead is the front door. To the left of the front door is a room that our guide brings us to, but first we must go to the room on the right. This room features the problems that Roosevelt faced as the new president, such as what to do with the military, how to face racism, and the problems of the working class. Then we watch a short video on president Roosevelt’s inauguration, or swearing in, as president. Then we get to walk in to the room on the left which is where all of the action really happened. This is the recreation of the room that Roosevelt was sworn in as president. There are even some original pieces such as the book shelf in the right hand corner of the room which was originally going to be thrown in the garbage, but was saved by the neighbors. They also have books from before the 1900’s that might have been featured in this room. Sadly, there are no photographs of the inauguration as Roosevelt wanted the attention to be more on McKinley’s death rather than the new president.

Next the guide led us up the steps and through a barren room with a fireplace, and through another room decorated as a parlor. Next we are led briefly through another corridor filled with signs, which I wish we could read, but our guide had other ideas. Lastly, we enter an interactive room where we can pretend to be president and make decisions and see what Roosevelt did instead. We also got our pictures taken in the president’s chair, and got it sent to our emails.

After the tour we got our National Park passport stamps, and left. Thank you guys for reading my blog and make sure to check out our YouTube videos where we have a lot of good content. See you guys next time!

DETAILS:*

  • TICKETS: $12/adults, $7/child. Included in the America the Beautiful pass. COVID Restrictions: masks required, prepay/timed entrance (does require a $1 fee if you are an America the Beautiful pass holder)
  • HOURS: W-F (10:30am-3:30pm, tour every hour), S-U (11:30am-3:30pm, tour every hour)
  • PARKING: Yes
  • BATHROOM: Yes
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 1 hour
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.
Posted in: Exploring New York, Food

Eating On Grand Island: Adrian’s Custard & Beef

The boys and I picked up lunch from a restaurant down the street from the campground called Adrian’s. Every time we drove by, there were people there, so we figured it must be good!

Menu
Click to enlarge

We picked up a few things from the menu: hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken finger sandwich, roast beef sandwich, and some custard. The beef sandwich was called a Beef On Weck. The weck is the bun, a bun topped with salt and caraway seeds. The sandwiches were delicious and I loved the taste of the weck bun.

There were a ton of choices for the custard. We tried peanut butter swirl, peanut butter chip, and Kahlua Almond. It was all really good. We got the small, which had 2 scoops!

Posted in: Exploring New York, Sightseeing

Porchfest

We were driving around Buffalo and stumbled upon Porchfest. We had no idea what this was and did a quick search. Porchfest is an annual free music event that happens in US and Canada. It started in New York and is held on…you guessed it, porches. This year Buffalo held theirs on 6/12.

We saw some porches decorated, some serving/selling drinks and food, and even a food truck at one location!

It looked like a huge neighborhood party and was a really neat atmosphere. People were traveling from block to block finding new music. Some of the restaurants in the area had musicians set up outside as well. I wished we had one back home. Maybe I can convince Nick to give it a go next year.