10 Things You Need As A Full-Time RVer (with kids)

Every beginner RV’er has one burning question: “What do I need?!”  Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not an Insta-pot (don’t have one), the latest shelving system, or a bike rack made out of PVC pipe.  The things you need are basic, require no creativity or visits to your Pinterest boards, and they are laid out for you below.  You are welcome.  Now go get started traveling!

1. Water jugs- You need them!  Because having them makes your life BETTER!  If you drink and use the jug water for cooking and washing you can stay parked in a site that provides no water for LONGER!  Do you understand what this means?  No?  Let me elaborate then.  First you need to know that when you have no water connections you only have the water in your 80-100 gallon RV water tank(Joe and I argue about the precise capacity of this tank, I say 80, he says 100 and both of us are too lazy to actually look into this, so we just argue about it.  We call it flirting).  This is all the water you have for 5 people to drink, bath with, cook with, wash dishes with, and flush the toilet with.  And 80-100 gallons goes fast!  Enter water jugs!  We have 5 of them and I wish we had 10!  People say that for every cigarette you don’t smoke, you add minutes to your life.  Well for every time you use the jug water instead of tank water, you add minutes for your stay.  You see, moving your RV means packing it all up, cleaning, pulling in the slide, hooking up the truck, pulling up levelers, making sure none of your kids get run over, driving to the dump/fill station, waiting in line (there’s ALWAYS a line), doing your thing, driving back to your site, parking that big motherfucker, and setting it all up again!  I didn’t even put in the part about the exhaustion that comes from the mental preparation this takes and it somehow ends up taking a whole half day to do.  Sooooooooo, anything we can do to put this off for as long as possible is an important thing.  Enter water Jugs.

2. Box Wine- Box wine is perfect and nessessary for a Family RVer on SO many accounts. It is not glass and therefore no worry about it breaking in transit.  It’s 4 bottles of wine in 1; how awesome is that?!  Once removed from it’s box, the space it takes up shrinks with the amount it holds in that classy bag with the spout thingie it comes in.  And if you need more space, just drink wine. (editor’s note: classy, sassy, or safe: choose 2)

3. Electric Heater- You might know enough about RV’ing to think this is that I am so cheap when electricity is included in your RV stay regardless of how much you use, whereas our RV heater runs on propane that I have to pay out of pocket for.  But no.  I must have an electric heater so when Joe is adamant about 64 being an acceptable temperature to sleep in, I can aim that bad boy right at me, and me alone while I read a book under a queen comforter and wearing sweat pants, a sweater, and fuzzy socks.

4. Hair Wrap- I know, I know; I should throw that thing away!  I look like a sister wife, trying to pull off looking like a hippy when I wear it.  But I LOVE it!  And, it’s very important, cause you see back to that limited water thing at the top of this list, you don’t take that many showers in this lifestyle.  I mean, I’m sure there are some that do, and there are some that will lie and tell you they shower frequently.  But my truth is that I get two a week.  For realz.  So my system is this:  shower, rock great bangs for a day while keeping rest of hair that I haven’t gotten around to brushing yet in a sloppy bun.  Day two, still rock the bangs and finally get around to brushing my hair, but still wear it in a bun because I have 3 kids and stuff to get done.  This ain’t no beauty pageant; this is real, yoga pant wearing, get shit done, life!  Day 3, The hair wrap comes out, and when it does I’m actually relieved!  I don’t have to have any hair AT ALL touching any part of me!  I have an excuse now (my hair is too greasy to any longer be acceptable to be seen in public)!  Yahoo!  And that is why the hair wrap is a MUST; for Day 3…..and maybe Day 4 as well.

5. The BOB or any good/BIG stroller- I could not live without the BOB!  When we first started this RV lifestyle, we questioned even bringing it.  Where would we put it was the biggest question.  But my stubbornness won out when I insisted that we had just bought the thing, NEW, and I was bringing it if for no other reason than I had spent so much.  Now I would gladly drive with that thing sitting on my lap if I had to.  On days when Joe’s working and I have all the kids it’s like having 75% of a husband with us.  It holds all our crap.  It picks up 2 and sometimes all 3 kids at once and takes them places (okay, maybe 90%).  Everyone is happy when they don’t have to even walk to the places we go!  And it has cup holders to hold Mama’s coffee, or wine depending on the time of day. (editor’s note: wine and strollers together? see previous note)

6. Sound Machine- How do you do it!?  How do you keep a baby asleep with 5 people in 200sqft and no real doors?!  With a sound machine.  That hugely annoying imitation of a water fall sound is what keeps my sanity.  It gives me my nights so I can stay up until 2 a.m. scrolling FB or watch episodes of The Office on my phone, all the while telling myself that this really is going to be the last one, and making plans for distracting Joe when he gets the ding on his phone from AT&T the next day notifying him he went over on his data plan (again), so I can erase the text before he sees it.  And once in a blue moon, when the stars aline and we are actually home at Jonah’s nap time, it gives me an hour or two to cook, or teach, or read without someone stuffing their hand down my shirt.

7. Quarters- You can NEVER have enough quarters!  You need them to do laundry.  You no longer have those magical machines 5 feet from your bedroom.  You have to actually haul all your stuff (Thank you again BOB!) to a place separate from your home then pay (with quarters) to do your laundry and then actually move clothes from the washer to a dryer in a reasonable time.  So mildew smelling clothes caused by them sitting in the washer for 3 days, is a thing of the past.  But clothes washing is a much more intense chore now!  You have to be on your game.  You first have to scout the wash room to check out the situation in there.  You have to sometimes case the place to get a spot near a washer if it’s busy.  You have to engage and  talk to the other launders to find out what dryers actually dry the clothes, if any.  You have to have all your ducks in a row.  Soap-check!  Bounce sheets-check!  Stain Booster- Check!  Quarters-Shit!   So then begins the task of finding quarters.  This single task can sometimes take 3 days to accomplish, while you all trip over the 2  huge laundry bags sitting in your tiny living room.  And when I do finally find a place that will give me quarters, I always say the same thing, “I’ll take $10 worth please.”  Doing our laundry typically costs around $15 each time.  I always ask for $10 in quarters.  I cannot explain this behavior.  So mid wash, I am out hustling for quarters again, but this time with wet clothes depending on me and glares of waiting launders staring me down.  If you ever come across one of those change machines, get as many quarters as you can!  You can NEVER have enough quarters!

8. Good Hand Soap-There is not much time for a full timer with 3 kids to slip away to the spa, get your nails done, or even get a haircut.  And we’ve already talked about that showering thing.  What I do have time for, on a good day, is to wash my hands.  Yep, that’s it.  So you better make it GOOD!  I use Meyers Rosemary, and for that minute it takes me to wash I imagine I’m being massaged with hot stones while my feet are bathed in a tub rose petals and my cuticles are shaped to perfection, and then someone opens the door and tells me they have to poop.

9. Dish Towels- Man I love a good rag.  You use them for every task!  Washing dishes, drying dishes, cleaning up spills, napkins, wiping off counters.  You need lots and lots of them, especially with 3 kids and Darby!  When I’m down to my last dish towel, that’s when laundry is at def-con level 1 (editor’s note: the lower the def-con level, the higher the chance of nuclear winter, or, in this case, something much worse).  Must be done now.  Get your ass up and go find some quarters; we are no longer playing around!  That’s what I want in my stocking this Christmas; more dish towels.  In Estes Park we went to a once annual, huge, weekend long craft show with artists from all over the country offering their makings and guess what I bought?  Dish towels.  But the cool kind that button onto your oven.  So….  Anyways, they are very important to me and I probably spend too much time thinking about them.

10.Google- Thank the good lord for Google!  Never in our lives has the omnipotent Google been more important!  Because when you are on the road, in new places, and doing new things you will need to look up things like: “How to remove ticks from belly buttons” and “Do alligators live in ________ lake” and “What repels skunks.”  And these are all VERY important things to know when you are in the moment (moment of panic).  And so I salute you and thank you Google!  We could not do this without you!

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Finding Family in Milford, OH

20150725_145127smOur time in Milford, a suburb of Cincinnati, OH, was one that I’m so glad we did!  The entire purpose of visiting this town was to see my Aunt and Uncle and cousins, all of which my kids had never met before.  Road life can be a bit lonely at times especially for the kids; not that this trip up to this point had allowed for much loneliness at all (Lucky US!).  But there’s just something about family.  The kids know it instinctively.  If you say this is your cousin, they are OFF, it is DONE, best friends are made immediately and for life.

Lou and Taylor.  It was back to back sleepovers for these two!
Lou and Taylor. It was back to back sleepovers for these two!

We arrived, late as usual, at a state park 20 mins from and recommended by my Aunt Yancy called East Fork Lake.  It was a fabulous, huge, EMPTY park on a lake.  We liked it, especially when I found out they take Passport America, making our stay just $14 a night.  But we didn’t spend much time there, since the party is always happening at Aunt Yancy’s!  So getting there; we try to enter the park from the wrong side and had to drive all the way around it, making us later then our usual late.  We pull in, get parked, and all that that entails, and book it over to my Aunt’s, whom I haven’t seen since I was 3 months pregnant with my first child.  Sweet as she is, she’s waiting for us with dinner!  Dinner is always good on a travel day…..okay, on any day!  We hugged and talked and caught up and got to know Laura, who is a family friend and living at the house as well, which is awesome cause Uncle Scott travels most days of the week and company is always good, at least in my family.

I think Jonah had a little crush on Ms. Laura, but I hear this is the case with all babies.  Don't tell Jonah.
I think Jonah had a little crush on Ms. Laura, but I hear this is the case with all babies, just don’t tell Jonah.

The whole week was filled to the brim with family hangouts, last minute sleepovers, and trying all the food that Cincinnati has to offer.  I’m still working the pounds off from this week!  I just hope that Joe and I are half the hosts to our visitors that The Leglue’s were to us this week!

My Aunt Yancy!
My Aunt Yancy!

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The first few days were mostly just Aunt Yancy, Laura, and Us.  And that was just fine!  We hung out at their house while they worked those pesky jobs of theirs that I tried to convince them to quit.  And while they went to work with hangovers, Joe LOVED working in Uncle Scott’s basement office with their blazing fast internet, and I did ALL of our laundry while the kids grossly over-watched CABLE!  It was glorious and very little school work was done this week, as well as grocery shopping.  They just kept feeding us!

This is the Skyline Chili Man.  Ever had it?
This is the Skyline Chili Man. Ever had it?

We really didn’t want to do anything but hang out with our peeps while we were there, so that’s mostly what we did!

We finally on Day 4 were approved for our memberships to the Redneck Riviera and allowed access to the pool.  My family is VERY classy!
We finally on Day 4 were approved for our memberships to the Redneck Riviera and allowed access to the pool. My family is VERY classy!  But mostly HILARIOUS!

 

Here's a pic of the kids doing "something" while Aunt Yancy and I drank beer.  Turns out they were reaping havoc on Uncle Scott's lawn in their attempt at making a dam.  We started to care enough to check into it when it was already too late.  I was trying to put plugs back in the lawn as Uncle Scott pulled up and Aunt Yancy yell/whispered "Get up!  You'll call attention to yourself!"
Here’s a pic of the kids doing “something” while Aunt Yancy and I drank beer. Turns out they were reaping havoc on Uncle Scott’s lawn in their attempt at making a dam. We started to care enough to check into it when it was already too late. I was trying to put plugs back in the lawn as Uncle Scott pulled up and Aunt Yancy yell/whispered “Get up! You’ll call attention to yourself!”
Jonah managed the water flow.
Jonah managed the water flow.
I got to babysit 6 kids for just an hour 1 day, at we all went on a walk around the neighborhood.
I got to babysit 6 kids for just an hour 1 day, and we all went on a walk around the neighborhood.
I packed our littlest cousin, Harrison, on my back and pushed Jonah and Juliet in the stroller.  Thank you BOB!
I packed our littlest cousin, Harrison, on my back and pushed Jonah and Juliet in the stroller. Thank you BOB!
Our evenings looked a lot like this.
Our evenings looked a lot like this.
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My cousin, Mallory, or Mal Mal. This pic totally wasn’t take #47. Got it on the first try.
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Mark and Joe. They had a little Bromance brewing with their love of whiskey, and music, and others things.
One night we all went and watched Laura play volleyball.  It was really fun!
One night we all went and watched Laura play volleyball. It was really fun!
At least Jonah had a good time.  Sand and popcicles?  Totally his scene!
At least Jonah had a good time. Sand and popcicles? Totally his scene!

We did venture out a couple of times on our own just so we didn’t appear too clingy, and since everyone was so tied up with those darn jobs!  One day I did make the trek into The City, Cincinnati, to take the kids to Dollar Day at the zoo.  We found the zoo easily enough, but one look at the half a mile long line outside of the gates and the full parking lot, and I made the executive decision that we were NOT going to the zoo, but to the museum instead, and taking advantage of our National Museum passes!  Cha-ching!  Free!  That’s cheaper then Dollar Day!

We all thoroughly enjoyed this museum once I was able to push, pull, and jigsaw our double stroller through their 100 year old doors.
We all thoroughly enjoyed this museum once I was able to push, pull, and jigsaw our double stroller through their 100 year old doors.
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We really liked the whole exhibit they had on the ice age!

We also snuck away one afternoon to meet up with my old friend, Meredith, and her boys for a playdate!  Meredith and I were in a very close mom’s group when our oldest kids were just babies.  She contacted me when she saw that we were just over the state line from her in Kentucky, and I’m so glad she did!  We’re always up for crossing state lines, especially when it means seeing friends!

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We started out our playdate at a sweet little café with very over priced goldfish.
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It was so good to catch up with this girl and see her doing so well. PHD bound and great mama to two awesome boys!
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We played at a park and then headed to the YMCA for some swimming. Jonah was having none of this and played on a little toddler playground just to the right of the pool, while the mamas chatted.
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I think they had a pretty good time!

And then it was right back to Aunt Yancy’s, now that we had done our job of showing that we weren’t the clingy type!

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I just thought this pic was so sweet.  Had to include it.
I just thought this pic was so sweet. Had to include it.

We finally got Mallory to hang out with us one day and it was awesome!

We took the kids to an indoor playland with trampolines and huge playscapes, and sports courts.  Right up their alley!
We took the kids to an indoor playland with trampolines and huge playscapes, and sports courts. Right up their alley!

And she showed us this cool bridge on the way back to our RV, that we drove over.  I just LOVE covered bridges, and this was the first one I’d ever driven over!  It was nothing like that scene in Beetle Juice; thank goodness!

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And one day everyone came out to see our RV and try to wrap their minds around how we all fit and live in such a small space.  And it was awesome times!

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See. We all fit!
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My cousin John and his Honey, Melody.
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Being on the road, I was super anxious about where we would end up for Lou’s birthday. I didn’t want her to feel like she didn’t have any friends or a party, so I bought a cake and everyone was sweet enough to sing happy birthday to her two weeks early, and Aunt Yancy even got her a gift. :) She loved it and felt very special!

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Right before heading out on the road again, we got a little playdate over at John and Melody’s house. These girls!

This was a very hard place to leave!  A VERY VERY hard place to leave!  We were so greatful for all the time everyone spent with us, and the fish fry, and the dinners, and the late night talks, and the KIDS!  We hope to return again soon!  We love you Leglue’s!  So very very much!

And just like that, we are on the road again!  In matching shirts.  Joe did this; I had mine on first.
And just like that, we are on the road again! In matching shirts. Joe did this; I had mine on first!
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Upstate New York

20150711_185456smFrom Conneticut, we headed north again to Up State New York on one of our many quests to see all things GREAT in our country; this time Niagra Falls!

We decided to make a stop in Ithaca, NY which sits at the bottom of the Cayuga Finger Lakes and is home to Cornell University, at the suggestion of a friend.  And that’s where we happily spent the better part of our week.

Our 100th Day on the Road!
Our 100th Day on the Road!

Getting to Ithaca was filled with our usual misadventures.  We left CT with no place in mind to stop overnight on our way there, and so yet again arrived at a state campground in somewhere NY at closing time, with no reservation.  But we’re old pros at this now, so we found a campsite that was open from the many, and parked.  A ranger stopped by later that evening to collect the outrageous fee for our one night with electric only connections ($37).  So it worked out, as it always does in one way or another.  We stayed there just one night and the kids and I explored the lake and grounds on an accidental LONG, HILLY walk/bike ride that ended and also practically began with me putting Bean’s heavy bike on top of the jogging stroller and pushing her and Jonah up and down the hills when she decided she couldn’t ride them, while wearing malfitting flip-flops.   Somehow exactly this happens to me about every day.  They lure me away from the RV with cries of, “Just look at this MOM!” and “Come over here, I want to show you something.” And before I know it, I’m miles from the RV with all 3 kids, in bad shoes (if any at all), and no food or water.  They get me every time!

We left “Somewhere NY” when Joe got off work and drove the remaining miles to Ithaca.  We had decided this was the weekend to turn Jonah’s car seat to front facing, thinking it would help him to stay entertained in the car longer if he could watch shows with the girls.  Ha!

The calm before the storm.
The calm before the storm.

We started driving and everything was going fine, but we’d gotten a later start then we wanted.  Because of this we did not beat the dreaded darkness that we try so desperately to try to evade when driving and especially parking the RV!  So night descends as we are pulling into Ithaca and still have another 20 minutes to our campground.  It’s at this time that the road starts to fog, and we start climbing the hills, on windy roads, that are poorly lit, and narrow and Jonah starts to whine.  Ya know, no big deal.  Then the fog gets really bad, meaning we have to drive really really slow and are taking longer to get there, and Jonah’s starting to amp up.  And Up. And UP!  Tick-Tock.  Family sing along of “Wheels on the Bus” (the only song that calms my crying babies in the car; all of them).  Girls fight over who gets to pick the next verse topic.  Parents yell, “Stop”!  Singing stops working.  Baby just cries.  And I pull him into my lap as soon as we enter the campground.  FINALLY!  Joe turns Jonah’s car seat back to rear facing that very same night after we take 40 mins to park the RV in the DARK.  Hello Ithaca!

20150710_121031smWe had a really sweet spot at Pine Creek Campground in Ithaca with lots of privacy and shade.  There was a pool, playground, lots of green space and best yet a fishing pond that was adorned with frogs that we would try to catch in the evenings.  As cheap as I am about camp fees, staying at a nice, roomy place makes all the difference!  ….Just got to find one that’s cheap too!

20150710_121036smIt was a super sweet few days with lots of campground walks and attempts at fishing and hunting down the many waterfalls that Ithaca has!

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We don’t usually catch much, but we sure enjoy trying….for like 10 mins, then we are board and want to RUN! Maybe that has something to do with it?

The Ithaca Farmers Market BLEW US AWAY!  I’d run across a mom going on and on about “The King of All Farmers Markets” on a website while I searched for things to do in the area.  And being the farmers market lover that I already am, that’s all I needed to hear to make sure the farmers market made our to do list.  So we all went and checked it out one afternoon.  We were intimidated just by the parking situation.  We couldn’t even SEE the farmers market from the parking spot we managed by the grace of God to fit our big dually butt into just as someone was pulling out!  Whew!   When we finally got our first glimps of it after our half mile  hike, I think I heard angels singing.  I was in a happy place for as long as I could keep my kids there without embarrassing me.  THEY HAD EVERYTHING!!!  And GOBS of it!  Good thing we came hungry!  We each got lunch from a different booth and shared family style!  After of course we had to get $1 ice cream cones and play in an old tree stump that had been turned into a playhouse while we looked out on the lake.  Sweet!!!  Oh, and not to mention I just had to buy more produce than we were able to fit into the RV!  And the hummus!  OMG THE HUMMUS!

As God as my witness, I will get more of this!!!
As God as my witness, I will get more of this!!!

My hippy self was so so happy there!  Probably my most favorite thing we did while in Ithaca.

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The place was shaped like a cross. This is just one cross arm of the market!
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They loved this; simple.
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If we lived here, this would be our Saturday every week!

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A very close 2nd Fav of ours was Joe spotting this little stream that flowed under a road near our camp. We packed up the fam and went down for a swim and it totally renewed us!

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Deeds had so much fun running free!
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Joe showed Loralai that there were minows in the water and then we found some crawfish. The kids were BUSY the entire time after that!
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“Come on Bean! Over here!”
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I love when just a little thing can make you all so happy, especially when that little thing is nature.

Our 3rd Favorite thing we did while there was go to the Science Center in Ithaca.  I had seen it while we were driving around and it looked cool.  Going was the BEST decision of my life!  Okay, maybe a little of an overstatement, but not much.

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This table was right at the front door when we walked in and was a topographical map that the kids could change by moving the sand around to create lakes, mountains, or deserts. They could make it rain by holding their hands over the map. It was such a cool teaching tool and all 3 kids loved it!
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Jonah just hangin’ with the boys. He loved this coin funnel.
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While Jonah wolfed down pretzels at the snack table, the girls made sound cones and learned that sound travels best over tight lines, wet lines. Cool!

 

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They played and played and we shut the place down! We also got our museum pass there that would get us into museums all over the country as we travel. Yay

And our 4th fav thing was done on our last day in Ithaca.  You see Ithaca has this saying, “Ithaca is Gorges”, cause it’s chalk full of gorges, and where there are gorges, there are waterfalls!  We had the town brochure that boasted 10 waterfalls in the area.  We got around to seeing 1 of them; Ithaca Falls.

20150713_185433sm The falls were beautiful, but would have been enjoyed much more if there hadn’t been a yellow caution sign at the start of the trail warning about lead poisoning from the water, and the couple playing grab ass on the rock would have been a little more discrete, and the dude who had never ever fished before hadn’t been learning to cast right in front of where my kids were sitting.   But even with all that, we had a good time.

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“Ithaca is Gorges!”

It was hard to leave Ithaca, but after 4 wonderful days there, it was time to see those Falls!  Niagara Falls that is.

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They were MASSIVE! But totally not in the way I’d been imagining. I should pay more attention while watching movies. I thought the falls would be some of tallest in the world! They were not. What was so breath-taking about them was the total volume of water that poured over them on 3 sides!
It was cool, but very crowded all around the falls!
It was cool, but very crowded all around the falls!  Must be a popular destination or something?
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We rode on the boat, The Maid of the Mist to get as close as possible to the falls. It’s a MUST DO when at the falls! We all loved it! Even Bean, who hates getting wet!
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Rainbow! and Sisters!

We did pop over on rainbow bridge and drive into Canada for a bit.  We parked for $18 and got this shot of the falls from the Canadian side.

20150716_125634smEveryone says the falls are so much prettier from this side, but I wasn’t that impressed.  The CA side seems super commercialized with stuff like Rainforest Café, and water parks, and Malls, and Ripley’s right over the boarder.  The major viewing place to see the falls was right outside the mall.  I mean, I totally could have been doing the whole thing wrong, as doing things for the first time that is usually the case, but I just didn’t see the appeal.  Where as the US side had FREE parking, an overlook that stretched way over the river below to get pics of the falls and was lined with state park after state park along the river.

While in the Niagara area we stayed at Four Mile Creek State Park on the shores of Lake Ontario.  It was one of our favorite camping spots so far!  Huge spaces and GREEN!  And as we pulled into our spot, two sisters, about our girls ages stood on their scooters at their spot directly across from ours and watched us park.  It didn’t take our girls long to spot them and demand out of the truck and 5 mins later, this was happening…

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I think they are making mermaids out of clay, all orchestrated by Lou including finding everyone a smock to wear.

So definitely one of the best things that can happen to you while traveling is for you to find friends for your kids to paly with!  But even better than that (and we are talking white buffalo rare here) is when the kid’s parents are awesome and fun to hang out with too!

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Very intense game of “Spa” going on here.
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Me and Leah.
Eric and Joe.
Eric and Joe.

They had us at “We raised our own pig to eat.”

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Rock collecting, that quickly led to…

 

swimming in Lake Ontario.
swimming in Lake Ontario.

This was a very cool week.  We left with mad respect for Upstate New York, our first trip to Canada story (not that interesting, but still), and some new friends to visit in PA!

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Our amazing spot at Four Mile Creek State Park.

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