Author Topic: TR Niagara Falls NY/Letchworth SP/Finger Lakes 8/23/2020-8/28/2020  (Read 3608 times)

Offline itreu001

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We took a COVID-19 road trip this summer. We got home Friday, I wanted to post this in case anyone this report would be helpful to anyone.

We live in the NY/NJ area and did not want to quarantine, so we only traveled to NY/NJ/PA. All non quarantine states.

We left Sunday morning August 23, 2020 from NNJ and the plan was to stay in Niagara Falls, NY because the border is closed. We wanted to break up our driving both ways, so we would not have the 6.5 drive in one shot. I researched before to the best of our ability to do stuff, and to make sure that things were open, and if they were open the restrictions were not insane, that made traveling to the location not worth it. I used Dans Deals forums, Tripadvisor, other weibsites, as well as a guidebook. I find that if you plan properly, guidebooks are a good resource to fill in the missing cracks.

Some people in our family are fans of The Office, so we decided to break up the trip, and stop in Scranton. It took us about 2 hours to drive to Scranton. We stopped at National Bakery which is a kosher bakery in Scranton to pick up lunch, and to scout it our for our trip back. They take cash only. They close at 12 noon on Sundays. Monday-Friday they have square pizza that is fresh but cold pizza. Some of us liked it, and some didn't. Down the parking lot from the Bakery is a mural of Dwight Schrute. We also went to Steamtown USA. Because of Covid-19, there are no train tours, but the museum is open and there is no admission fee. It took us about 20-25 minutes to walk through. It is really cool and a nice diversion if you want to stretch your legs. There is also a trolley museum, that was open but we did not go there. We also went to the Steamtown Mall (or shops at Steamtown). The place is about 65% vacant. Only go there if you want to take a picture with the "Welcome to Scranton" sign there which is on the second floor. If you are a fan of the show, go there, and then leave. The rest of the mall is a community college, an aquarium (which didn't look appealing), vacancies, and various overpriced stores that seem to be barely making it. There is normally a bridge from the mall to Steamtown USA but it is closed because of COVID-19.

There is also a kosher Krispy Kreme in Scranton, which another car in our party went to, and they said it was good.

We left at about 1pm, and then started our trek to Niagara. We wanted to stop along the way somewhere to break up the trip again, so we decided on Dinner in Rochester at Sabra Grill. We got there at about 5pm. (They close at 7). They have indoor dining with social distancing. The food was very good. The service very good, and the place is run like a real restaurant. They have typical Israeli fare, and the salads were amazing. The prices were very affordable, we paid about 40% less for the same food that we would have ordered in the NYC area. We spent about an hour there. We were very satisfied with the restaurant, we would gladly go back again if we were in the area, and would recommend it.

We ended up staying in the StayBridge Suites in Amhurst (free on IHG points). We had two rooms for our party. For the hotel, it was on points, but we were disappointed. When booking we were told we had interconnected rooms, but the hotel then told us no such rooms exist, We were told the pool was open, but it was not because of COVID-19. We were told that we could have an extra air mattress, but when checking in we were told that no such thing existed. We were also supposed to have 2 double beds, but we were only given a king bed. I confirmed a few times before we got there, but basically the hotel did whatever they wanted. The place was clean. The hotel's pool was closed as stated. Breakfast in the land of COVID-19 is different with no buffet, and you have to wait 1 by one, for the staff to give you what you want. The kosher options were yogurt, milk, muffins, granola bars, and fruit. No cereal was provided. The hotel really caters to parents of U of Buffalo Students with the Campus across the street.

The hotel was a 5 minute drive from all the supermarkets in Amhurst. Within 2 blocks there is a Wegmans, Aldi, Tops, and Trader Joes. The Tops has a kosher bakery in the supermarket, a kosher "deli" and a significant kosher section in the supermarket with frozen and refrigerated foods. We strongly recommend the bakery and the sections to buy kosher foods there. The "deli" is hit or miss, they close at 7pm each evening. If you want to get any food, I strongly recommend that you get there no later that 4:30/5pm. There is one person working the counter and frankly takes his time. You may wait for 30 minutes to 45 minutes just to place your order if one person is ahead of you. The "menu" is basically taking the stuff out of the refrigerated section (hot dogs/hamburgers/knish) and reheating them or putting them in a warmer. We gave up waiting in line and ended up buying refrigerated stuff and kashering the microwave and eating. There is a seating section in Tops to eat as well.

Trader Joes has significant kosher food including A&H hot dogs (at affordable prices), and all the kosher breads (though not as fresh as Tops), but kosher smoked fish and tuna. We would have been better off getting dinner from there. Enough with food at Buffalo.

We then drive to Niagara Falls at night. We spent about 2 hours there. There were no crowds and it was really nice. There is the light show, and no fireworks this year because of COVID-19. We parked a block away from the falls (parking on the street is 5 bucks an hour, I would recommend parking on Goat Island, near Cave of the Winds) and walked around. Walking around Goat Island at night is really nice, and make sure you got to Terrapin Point by Horseshoe falls. Also make sure to view the American Falls near Maid of the Mist. There is allot of walking, but beautiful. Its really nice at night there.

I strongly recommend breaking up the trip to the Falls by doing the night one day, and the day another day. If you do both the same day, you will be very very tired, and tired seeing the same exact thing in a different form. Just my two cents.

We then drove back to the hotel (took about 30 minutes).

The next day, our goal was to do at least 2 things, Maid of the Mist, and Cave of the Winds.  The problem is that there are times tickets for Cave of the Winds, but you can ONLY purchase them there. Plus is there about a 3 hour lag for when you buy tickets (if you are there at 930, they didn't have tickets until about 1240pm). For Maid of the Mist there are no timed tickets, you have to wait in line, and the boats (the same boat) only runs every 30 minutes at half capacity, so the wait is long. What I strongly recommend is as follows: a) Get there early. b) Drop off someone to wait on line at Maid of the Mist. c) Then drive to the parking on Goat Island and Cave of the Winds (more on this later) d) Buy tickets for Cave of the Winds - Make sure they are for at least 3.5 hours later, or you risk missing your time. e) walk to maid of the mist from Goat Island (about a 15 minute walk). f) Get your tickets.

For those who do not know the Maid of the Mist is a boatride that goes into the falls, it is amazing, and a must do. Its worth the wait. The Maid of the Mist is only allowing 175 people at a time on the boat. It is a great experience on the boat because there is no pushing and shoving to get a good view, however the waits are insane. If you are pressed for time when its time to get off the boat, make sure to get off the boat first, because the waits for the elevators are insane because they are only allowing one party to be in an elevator at once. Also try to be on the left side of the boat ride because you will get a better view of the American Falls.

The Cave of the Winds is in Niagara Falls State Park, and is a must-do. Basically they take you down into caves behind the Falls, and then you walk under and into the Falls (its safe don't worry) and get soaked. Because of COVID-19, the movie and exhibits they would show are closed. Don't worry, its still worth it. Also they give you a poncho, but normally they would give you slippers to wear, and you would store your shoes. If you wear shoes on this, they will get soaked and ruined, you must wear water shoes. That is why parking near the attraction is vital, because you can just change there an go. There are snack shops (with kosher ice cream) right there. They are very strict on the timed tickets, they will not take you early, and if you snooze, you lose. This was a highlight of the trip, and well worth it.

Goat Island is an Island in Niagara Falls State Park and really nice. I recommend looking around especially where it faces the falls. There are also two bridges which connect it to the mainland to the Maid of the Mist Area and you literally walk over the entrance to the American Falls. Spend time doing this, its worth it.

Also the parking by Goat Island is $10, and is good for all State Parks for the Day, so if you go to any other park that day, admission will be free (more on that later). Save your parking stub.

We then went to Fort Niagara State Park. We wish we had known about this before. This is a must do. People go for the historic Fort. We did not. The park is on the tip of NY which borders Canada and Lake Ontario. There is a $10 car admission (which was free to us because we already parked at Goat Island). It is about 25-30 minutes from Niagara to the North. Drive along the Canadian Border which gives nice views. (We did not stop in Whirlpool State Park, but next time we will). The Park is just gorgeous and relaxing. Had we known we would have prepared differently. We loved it and our kids loved it. There is a public pool which was open and charges admission for $1.50 a kid and $3.00 for adults. There are places to make bbq on the Lake, and the weather was perfect. We would have brought food for a bbq had we known. We could have spent an entire day here. The fort is historic, but we did not go. You can see Toronto across the Lake from 24 miles away. This is a hidden gem, and if we are in the area, we will be back.

Our hotel was only 35 minutes from the park, and we went back and then attempted to get dinner at Tops (see above), and then just bought some stuff and ate at the hotel.
In terms of activities at night, we went to a drive in movie theatre in Lockport, however we didn't realize that we needed to bring lawn chairs to sit so it wasn't as relaxing as we thought. Also, the movies start late after dark, so by the time it starts and ends its really late (midnight). Live and learn.

The next day (Tuesday) it was time to go. We checked out of our hotel, got breakfast and lunch at Trader Joes, and drove (about 90 minutes) to Letchworth State Park. For some of us, this was the highlight of the Trip.

This Park is a hidden Gem. I will try to give helpful hints and Tips. First admission is $10.00. The park is sprawling and a Wonderful delight. It is called the Grand Canyon of the East for a Reason.

Some tips, There are a few entrances. I strongly recommend the Portageville Entrance. It is close to the waterfalls. (There are three in the park). I would either park right when you come in and hike to the upper and middle waterfalls (there are massive stairs there), if you dont want to really hike, skip the first parking lot and make a right to the second one. For the amazing gorges, I would drive to them. Make sure to drive to Big Bend Vista. It is breathtaking. We lunched by trailside lodge which has bathrooms, a hill for the kids to roll down from, and a nearby nature center indoors and outdoors. The park has no trash bins, so you need to take it with you. I cannot say how amazing the park is. It is a must go.

The North side of the park has the Mt. Morris dam, which they normally give tours, but it is closed because of COVID-19, also you can take Balloon rides over the park (at $300 a pop), but closed because of COVID-19.

We spent about 4 hours in the park. We then drove to Corning. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Corning. Once again on Points. The hotel was clean. We got adjoining rooms. The pool was open, BUT only in 30 minutes slots, with 30 minutes after to clean it. We asked if we could have longer since we had 3 rooms, and were told no. It was ridiculous. They wanted us to have 6-630, break for cleaning, 7-730, break for cleaning, 8-830. What a waste of manpower. No complementary breakfast here.

We made a BBQ in Denison Park in Corning it was nice, there are no lights in the park, and we used our headlights after dark. We purchased food in the Wegmans in Corning. They do not have any kosher chicken/meat etc... For some reason they have a substantial section of kosher cheese and cholov yisroel.

The next morning (Wednesday) we went to the Corning museum of Glass. The museum opens early at 9, and there are timed tickets. You should order them in advance and plan your day. Kids are free and adults are $20 a pop. The also have "make your own glass" and stuff like that. You need to reserve a spot in advance. We did sandblasting, and you get to take home your project. The kids liked it. The museum is a world class museum. I would recommend coming early, going to the 2 presentations right away, and then see the museum, especially with social distancing the shows fill up and they are hard to get to. If you do "make your own glass" schedule it for 2 hours in so you can see the other stuff before people get there.

We went back to the hotel for lunch (travel time 2 minutes). We then spent the rest of the day in Ithaca (travel time an hour). We first went fruit picking. We went to Indian Creek Farm. They do not have a picking fee, and its a real farm, and the prices are very reasonable. I strongly recommend it. We then went to Cornell University to walk around. Because of COVID-19 the kosher dining is NOT open to the public. Its a shame. I recommend parking at the Johnson Art Museum, and walking around campus. Also across the street from it, is the suspension pedestrian bridge over a gorge to Cayuga Heights. Do it, its a must do.

We made a BBQ at Stewart Park in Ithaca by Lake Cayuga. It was really nice. There are grills by the playground. Also remember this is a garbage in-garbage park. The park is really nice and relaxing. There are wooden swings on the lake. There are bathrooms and grills.

We got refrigerated food to grill at Wegmans in Ithaca (Do not go to Tops, they do not have any kosher chicken/hotdogs meat etc...). They had hotdogs, sausage and empire chicken.

The next day (Thursday) we checked out of our hotel, and drove towards home. We stopped in Owego, NY in the Early Owego Antique Center, which is a 2 story antique place in an Old Department store. It something to see if you want to stretch your legs. We then drove to Scranton for lunch, and then ended up in Kalahari for the night.

We had a really nice trip. I hope this was helpful for people. We would go back to Letchworth State Park and Fort Niagara State Park in a heartbeat.

Feel free to PM me with any questions.

Offline g8trgr8t

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Re: TR Niagara Falls NY/Letchworth SP/Finger Lakes 8/23/2020-8/28/2020
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2020, 09:50:30 PM »
Lechworth is truly a hidden gem. Limited lodging but great place to explore. Would love to see it when the colors change

« Last Edit: August 31, 2020, 09:54:36 PM by g8trgr8t »

Offline lakewood34

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Re: TR Niagara Falls NY/Letchworth SP/Finger Lakes 8/23/2020-8/28/2020
« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2020, 01:22:51 AM »
The Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour  in scranton is great but closed because of covid .If anybody goes after it reopens especially with kids it's really good

Offline fresar

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Re: TR Niagara Falls NY/Letchworth SP/Finger Lakes 8/23/2020-8/28/2020
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2020, 03:24:27 AM »
Thanks for the TR, more pictures if possible

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: TR Niagara Falls NY/Letchworth SP/Finger Lakes 8/23/2020-8/28/2020
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2020, 07:50:02 AM »
Thanks for the report. Nice to see some things from Letchworth as we had decided on Watkins Glen over Letchworth and didnít really like it.