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I Took a 14-Year-Old YouTube Addict to Niagara Falls

I Took a 14-Year-Old YouTube Addict to Niagara Falls

A mother-daughter weekend in Niagara Falls felt like a preposterous idea. So I tried it, and here are the seven surprises I got.  

If you have a child between the ages of 12 and 15, you’re often confused.

They change friends, their taste in clothes, their favorite foods sometimes overnight. They’re with you physically, but their minds and spirits definitely are not, as they look down at their phones for hours on end.  

Some days, nothing you do, or offer to do, is right. My 14-year-old daughter, Amelia, a good kid by any definition, jumps out of the car before I’ve even come to a complete stop at the home of her BFF of the week, and doesn’t look back. She stiffens a little when I hug her, remarking, “Mom, you’re like really close to my face right now.” Together time is now largely limited to mani-pedis--if she can bring a friend.

A mother-daughter long weekend seemed like it might be tough to pull off without tears (on her part or mine) before the end of it. But a long weekend to Niagara Falls, that classic vacation destination where her grandma honeymooned circa 1960? And without a friend in tow? I like a challenge, so I convinced her to go. (Fine, I pointed out we’d need mani-pedis for the trip).

Here are the seven discoveries we made:

1. We can agree on something. 

The flight from JFK was only about an hour, less time that many of us spend commuting to work. On the other end, Buffalo Niagara International Airport is as easy to get through as my garage. Maybe easier. There was no line (not one person!) in security, and it looked unusually clean for an airport. Or, at least, if you had a toddler who put a pretzel bit found on the floor in his mouth, you wouldn’t consider calling 911, as you may in LaGuardia.

Amelia marveled, “This isn’t even like an airport…”  

I couldn’t agree more, I said.

I feel hopeful.


2. She’s not beyond noticing when I’m not nearby.

At Sheraton at the Falls, from which it is  a 10-minute stroll to see the fireworks over the Falls at Prospect Point, the pool area has two tropical aquariums. If you upgrade to a club-level room, well worth the splurge, you get free breakfast, hot food and all, so there is minimal morning rushing. And then at 5pm, they have gratis beer and wine and hearty snacks laid out, conveniently in a lovely glass-enclosed space right next to the pool. So there I sat, with my pinot noir, waving to Amelia when she looked up to see where I was.

Wait--Did she just look around to see where I was?

RELATED: Discover the best day trips around the NY region with our FREE guide.

3. I’m still allowed to help her.

Yes, it’s kitschy, and been around forever. But we donned the garbage bags they hand out as ponchos and got on Maid of the Mist. How wet could we get, I wondered? I’ll just say this: If you go to Cave of the Winds first, keep the foam sandals they give you. This boat ride gives you a perspective you really can’t get any other way. When we got off, we looked like two madwomen, our hair wet yet somehow still windblown, and black mascara streaks running down our cheeks, donned in foam sandals and bright blue trash bags. We laughed. “Can you get my face?” she asked. I wiped her cheeks with a tissue.

She did not say I was too close to her face.


4. My utensils are not necessarily contaminated.

When we arrived at Hibbard’s Original Frozen Custard in nearby Lewiston, which we were told has the custard to end all custard, Amelia tried the thick soft serve in cookies and cream. I got black raspberry. We ate our treats at picnic tables. She tried mine, off of my spoon, without saying “Ew, no…”

A view of Niagara Falls from the air

A vew of Niagara Falls from the helicopter


5. She knows better than me sometimes.

I’m the one who climbs the 377 steps to the crown of the Statue of Liberty, then, frozen in fear, tells everyone I’ll meet them back down in the lobby. I didn’t share Amelia’s enthusiasm about a Rainbow Air helicopter ride over the Falls. But she cajoled me, saying it would be fine, and what could happen when they do 40 rides a day, and she would hold my hand if she “really had to.”

The floor was see-through. So unless I closed my eyes the whole time, there was no way to avoid seeing that I was really, really, really high up.

I resolved not to let my 14-year-old daughter, who was giddy with excitement, see me close my eyes. And it was awesome. Somehow, it didn’t bother me as much as I anticipated, though admittedly I avoided looking down at the floor. I just told myself I was on a plane, which somehow doesn’t bother me. Taking in the amazing views knowing I would only be able to see them for five minutes of my life distracted me from my distance from the Earth.


6. She’s not too old for the Rainforest Café.

Who else remembers this place? They had a few around here years ago. It’s fun, what with the indoor thunderstorms and animatronic tigers and all, but it’s definitely a place for kids. Something Amelia has been insisting she no longer is for a good two years now. But it was getting late, we were hungry, and the Rainforest Café is attached to the lobby of Sheraton at the Falls. You don’t even have to go outside. Turned out, she loved it. We shared a monstrous plate of nachos we barely put a dent in, and then she dug into pasta with veggies. I had a surprisingly good steak. Surprisingly because, well, steak at a kid’s place seemed dicey. But the gamble paid off.

Seeing her sip raspberry lemonade from a plastic kid’s cup made my night.


7. A little bit of the paranormal makes history cool.

At my insistence, we hit a bounty of historic (read: educational) attractions just outside of Niagara Falls. The first was the NYPA Niagara Power Vista in Lewiston, with sophisticated, teen-friendly exhibits that made all that science information relatable to their day to day lives. Amelia didn’t leave a hydropower genius, but she loved the motion simulator ride that replicates the journey of a single drop of water as it turns into energy. The ride sprays mist all over you, perchance we didn’t have enough back at the Falls.

Go to Old Fort Niagara in Youngstown before or after the Power Vista, since they are only 10 minutes apart. At the fort, we explored the very same buildings that were occupied by Native American, French, British, and American soldiers in the 18th century, and get a feel for what life at the fort was like with re-enactments by blacksmiths, coopers, and bakers. Our tour guide told us the story of a local newspaper reporter who wanted to stay overnight in one of the buildings that was reputed to be haunted. He barely lasted two hours. An episode of the erstwhile Syfy series Ghost Hunters had been filmed here. Amelia and I used to love that show--but when she got to be 12, she became lots less interested in watching TV with mom than staring at YouTube.

The next day, we ventured underground at the Lockport Cave & Underground Boat Ride. As part of the 70-minute guided tour, you walk through a misty water tunnel that was blasted out of solid rock, and examine artifacts left behind by the Irish immigrants who did the work in the early days of the Erie Canal. Our tour guide, who was quite the character, informed us that if water drips on your head, it’s a year of good luck. Well, our tour group now has enough luck for our children’s children. I don’t think it’s going too far to bring an umbrella. The boat ride is a damp proposition, too. (Clearly, there is no eluding water in these parts.) A zipline across the canal is coming soon, they told us. And--what are the odds!?--this tunnel was also the site of a Ghost Hunters episode.

When we got back to our room that night, Amelia and I stayed up and streamed the episodes. Just like the good old days.  

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Christina Vercelletto


 Christina Vercelletto is a former editor at NYMetroParents, ParentingScholastic Parent & Child, and Woman’s Day. She lives on Long Island with her kids, a chiweenie, Pickles, and a 20-pound calico, Chub-Chub.

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