Through My Lens

Exploring the World Through Photography

Skylon Tower on Canadian Side of Niagara Falls

When you visit Niagara Falls, chances are you will spend most of your time on the Canadain side. This is because the Canada side is the side that looks directly…

When you visit Niagara Falls, chances are you will spend most of your time on the Canadain side. This is because the Canada side is the side that looks directly at the falls head on. One of the best ways to view the falls from this side is to take the ride up 160 feet to the top of the tower. Here is all the information so you can check it out yourself.

Details

  • Cost: $18
  • Hours: 8 AM to 10 PM
  • Location: On the Canada side of Niagara Falls, it’s hard to miss

After crossing the border, make your way to the large Stratosphere looking tower in the middle of downtown. You can access the parking lot from Murray St, and it usually costs around $15 if you want to park there.

After parking, you will head inside where you can grab your ticket to go up the elevator to the top of the tower.

The elevator ride takes less than 30 seconds, and it has transparent walls so you can see directly out to the falls.

Once you get to the top, you are inside the interior ring of the deck, and there is an exterior ring that goes around the entire outside as well.

When I went, it was super windy so people were not staying out too long, but I braved the wind for a while trying to get the perfect photo.

I would recommend a medium zoom lens if you are a photographer as the falls are somewhat far away, so you will want to zoom in for the best views.

Its awesome to see both Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls from so high up though and well worth the price.

You can also see the Rainbow Bridge when you look out to the east, and you can see down into the city to the west.

I like coming up here near sunset as the views are great. You can even stay till night if you want, which is when they light up the falls below you.

After taking it all in, you will head back down the elevator and on to your next spot. If you are looking for more recommendations you can see how I recommend you spend 24 hours in the city here.

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Compton Gap Hike in Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is often said to be a park that you just drive through, however, getting out and exploring on foot is one of the best parts about it….

Shenandoah National Park is often said to be a park that you just drive through, however, getting out and exploring on foot is one of the best parts about it. The Appalachian Trail, one of the premier trails in the USA, has about 100 miles which goes through the park itself. The park is split into two sections though, and most of the hiking is in the Southern part. If you are heading to the Northern section, then consider this great hike in the Compton Gap, which gives you a lot of excellent views with only a little bit of work. Here is all the information.

Details

  • 3.5 miles round trip
  • 1000 feet of elevation gain
  • Leaves from the Compton Gap parking area near mile marker 10

Getting There

After paying the entrance fee and making your way into Shenandoah National Park, head 10 miles to the Compton Gap parking area which can only hold about ten cars. After parking, head across the road to the small path that leads into the forest.

The Trail

The path is almost entirely shaded, with large lush trees all around you. It seems like you are hiking in more of a jungle terrain than you are and it is stunning.

The trail you are on is the Appalachian Trail, and it is marked by white paint lines on the trees. It is easy to follow as it is well trodden.

The trail pretty much goes up the entire way on a gradual incline of switchbacks. It is not too difficult though so just take your time as you go up.

Eventually, the trail will reach its high point, and you will be walking on a flat path for about a quarter of a mile.

From here the trail connects with a four-way intersection. You will want to head right and left before heading back. To the right the trail goes out to the overlook and to the left, it goes down to the columnar jointing which was created by lava.

The right way is easier as you have a small downhill over jagged rocks, but after only two-tenths of a mile, you will reach a break in the trees which is the overlook.

This area is a nice view point as it is clear and lets you see down on the forest below from a set of two rocks.

When you are done, head back to the intersection and proceed to the left (straight in front of you if you are coming back on this trail).

This path leads downhill and becomes steep after the first tenth of a mile. Remember that you have to go back up all of the elevation you are losing right now.

The end of the path is a set of steep stone steps that take you down and around the rock formation.

I was impressed by the columnar jointing as it was bigger than I anticipated and it looked like something you would see in Devils Postpile in California or Giants Causeway in Ireland.

There are two main rocks here, and you can spend some time checking them both out.

Once you are done, it is 1.7 miles back out to get down to where you parked. Hopefully, you enjoyed this nice short hike in the Shenandoah National Park, be sure to spend more time on the trails if you can and let me know what your favorite is in the comments.

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Maid of the Mist In Niagara Falls

If you are going to visit Niagara Falls, then there is a good chance that you know what the Maid of the Mist is and already want to go. This…

If you are going to visit Niagara Falls, then there is a good chance that you know what the Maid of the Mist is and already want to go. This famous boat ride, which takes you directly into the mist of Horsetail Falls is one of the best things I did during my time there and even though it is busy I highly recommend it. Check out all the information and my tips below.

Details

  • Cost: $18
  • Hours: 9 AM–5 PM
  • Location: American side, inside of the Niagara Falls State Park

Maid of the Mist is located in the shadow of the Rainbow Bridge, right in the middle of the Niagara Falls State Park. The ticket booth is at the top with the observation deck; then you have to take an elevator down to the boat.

Ticket Tips – You can’t reserve a particular time online, but the boat does run every 15 minutes. If you go during a holiday weekend though I recommend you get there right when they open as the tickets often reach capacity pretty quickly. You can buy a ticket online if you want to skip the line but they are not time specific, so you can’t guarantee that you will be able to get the time you want this way.

Honestly, I just recommend going early during the day as getting on one of the first two boats (before 10 AM) usually means that you will get a pretty good ride that isn’t too full.

Maid of the Mist

Once you get your ticket and make it down the elevator, you will be given a poncho and loaded onto the boat for your 20-minute ride.

I recommend grabbing the bottom level at the front of the ship as it is an excellent viewpoint and not as busy as the top deck that everyone wants to be on.

The boat heads out and goes past the American Falls first. You get a great view of the falls and can see Cave of the Winds as well.

Proceeding onward, the boat inches towards Horsetail Falls. It doesn’t take long to get there, and before you know it, you are surrounded by the mist.

While you don’t get crazy wet on this trip, you will definitely be a little wet, even with the poncho.

Also, I recommend bringing a GoPro; there are times you can use your phone without it getting wet, but a lot of the time you will want to keep it under the poncho.

After sitting in the mist for 5 minutes, the boat turns around and takes you back to the dock. Also of note, if you are on the Canada side, you can do the same thing, it is called the Hornblower Cruise.

When you get back to the dock, be sure to walk up the steps to the platforms they have made near the American Falls. It is a cool addition to the trip to see the falls like this.

When you get back up to the top of the elevator, be sure also to check out the observation deck.

The deck is one of the better views on the American side of the falls. Let me know what you think of this boat ride in the comments and be sure to have fun with this unique experience.

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Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Museum

If you have never been to New York before, then the trip out to the Statue of Liberty is something you must do. People may tell you that you can…

If you have never been to New York before, then the trip out to the Statue of Liberty is something you must do. People may tell you that you can see it from the ferry without paying or that you can just look at it from Manhattan, and those are great options, but there is something magical about being on the island and looking up at this iconic statue. Add to that a visit to Ellis Island and this is a trip worthy of your time/money. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Cost: $18, more to go inside.
  • Hours: Generally the first ferry is 8:30 AM and last is 5 PM
  • Location: Ferry leaves from Battery Park

Getting Tickets

If you are going on a busy weekend, I would recommend getting tickets online before you go. This is especially true if you want to get a specific time or want to go inside the statue. If you wait until the day of, then you might not be able to get the times you want or go inside.

Tickets are handled in Battery Park inside of Castle Clinton National Monument. If you buy them online though, you can just print your own tickets and head directly to security.Security is the same as you would see at an airport, with metal detectors and x-ray machines.

Statue of Liberty

Once past, you will be able to board the boat for the islands. From Manhattan, the boat stops at Statue of Liberty first then Ellis Island. Coming from New Jersey, it is the opposite.

As you approach the island, you will be able to get a lot of great photo ops of the statue.

When the boat docks you are free to roam around the small island, and if you have tickets to go in then you can do that here as well.

We didn’t get tickets to go in, so we just walked around the outside on the walking trail they have set up.

The statue is smaller in person, but it is still really cool to see it. When I was there, I wished I would have bought access to the pedestal (you can’t buy inside access on the island itself) as it would have been fun to get a little closer.

We didn’t spend more than 30 minutes exploring but it was well worth it to be so close to such an iconic piece of American history.

From there we got back on the boat and headed over to Ellis Island.

Ellis Island

Ellis Island, if you don’t know, is where all of the boats caring immigrants stopped on their way over from Europe. It is where people were interviewed and processed to become US citizens, and it is an important part of our history as well.

There is a large museum on the island that talks in detail about what it was like to make the journey and the process to come into the country.

I found this to be fascinating as I knew little to nothing about it but was excited to learn.

The best part of the museum is the old processing area. It is beautiful with its arched ceilings and large windows.

The also had examples of ship manifests up here which was cool to see.

After exploring for about an hour, we got on the boat and headed back to Manhattan. You could easily spend a half day at Ellis Island just by itself, so if you are into genealogy and history be sure to book enough time.

All in all, this is a great tour in New York City and one that I recommend you take. Let me know what you think in the comments.

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Grand Prismatic Overview Hike in Yellowstone National Park

When you visit Yellowstone, I believe the most impressive thing to see is the Grand Prismatic Spring. This massive hot spring is the largest in the USA and one of…

When you visit Yellowstone, I believe the most impressive thing to see is the Grand Prismatic Spring. This massive hot spring is the largest in the USA and one of the largest in the world. It has so many different colors it is unlike anything else I have seen on my travels. While most people see it via the boardwalk, and it is impressive there, it is much more impressive to see it from higher up on the newly created overlook trail that just got completed in July 2017. Here is all the information.

Details

  • 1-mile round trip
  • 100 feet of elevation
  • Leaves from fairy falls parking lot

Getting There

The trailhead for the overlook is in the Fairy Falls Trail parking lot. This lot is south of the main parking area for Grand Prismatic. The parking area can get full during the summer, so as with everything in Yellowstone, earlier is always better.

The Trail

After parking, walk to the trailhead and make sure to note the two beautiful springs on either side of the lot.

The trail starts by heading over the Firehole River on a small bridge.

From there it meanders along the side of the mountain, and it passes a few more springs.

When you turn the corner, you will see the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring poking out in front of you, but from here you won’t be able to see much.

The trail then splits with the trail to Fairy Falls, and it starts to head uphill to the left.

The uphill trail is not too bad but it can be warm in Yellowstone so take your time.

When you get halfway, you will get your first view of Grand Prismatic through the trees. This will surely get your adrenaline going and help to push you onward.

After a few more bends, you will see the overlook ahead of you and a few small inclines to get there.

The views from here are spectacular as you are at a high vantage point and can see the colors and size of the Grand Prismatic really well. It’s one of those places that you can’t even believe is real, even when you are looking at it.

I spent a good 15 minutes just taking it all in before starting the path back down. I didn’t go to Fairy Falls this time, but if you want to extend your hike, you can head out on the spur for an additional 4 miles round trip.

All in all, this is a spot you don’t want to miss in Yellowstone, check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

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9/11 World Trade Center Museum & Memorial

I will never forget that morning when I was getting ready for school and heard that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. Watching it unfold over the…

I will never forget that morning when I was getting ready for school and heard that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. Watching it unfold over the rest of the day was horrifying, and it is one of those days that will stay with me for the rest of my life. On a recent trip to New York, I got the opportunity to visit the memorial and museum, and I have to say that it is one of the best museums I have ever been to as every room is packed with emotion. Add to that the beautiful memorials outside the museum, and you will be spending at least a few hours taking it all in. Here is all the information so you can check it out for yourself.

Details

  • Cost: $24 for museum
  • Memorial is free
  • Hours: 9 AM – 6 PM
  • Location: 180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007

It is easy to find this area of New York as it is in lower Manhattan and you can see the massive One World Trade Center Building displayed prominently in the New York skyline.

When you arrive, I recommend buying a ticket for the museum first. The tickets are time specific so you can visit the memorials after seeing what ticket time you are able to get. Also, there are ticket vending machines on the outer walls of the museum opposite the ticket windows. It is much better to buy at one of these than to wait in line at the ticket window.

The Memorials

If you have to wait for a little while, then head over the memorials first. There are two, to represent the two towers, and they are stunning. The memorials form a square, right at the base of where the buildings were, and they have water flowing into the middle.

Along the exterior of the memorials are the names of the people that lost their lives etched into the metal.

On the person’s birthday, you will see a rose sitting in the etched holes of their name, it is beautiful. Both of the memorials are the same, but I recommend taking some time at each.

Survivor Tree

Also, pay a visit to the survivor tree when you are at the memorials. You will see a person who works for the museum standing by the tree, so you know which one it is. This tree is called the survivor tree because it was the only one that lived through the attacks. It was replanted here after the museum was finished.

The Museum

The museum is one of those rare places that spotlights a recent time in history, so it has access to an incredible variety of media to tell the story.

Through the multiple levels, you will hear audio quotes from the people on the plane, videos of the towers collapsing and photos showing the aftermath.

I cannot stress how emotional this museum is and how well they did in creating it. I was close to tears at many times during my visit.

Here are a few of the stand out exhibits.

Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky

This art piece was created by one artist who asked people to paint the color of the sky on that day. He took all of those colors and displayed it on one wall of the museum with a quote that read, “No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory of Time.”

Pillar

The pillar that you see in the Foundation Hall is one of the last pillars that was left standing after the attack and clean up. It was decorated by the people that worked on that cleanup.

Historical Exhibition

No pictures were allowed in here, but this area told the story of the entire day, minute by minute, through audio, visuals and written word. There were timelapses, photographs and more stories than you can read. It was incredibly hard to see but beautiful at the same time.

You could easily spend a half day in this exhibit if you take the time to read and explore it all.

As you can see, this is a pretty special place to visit in New York City. I was moved by my time here, and I highly recommend you add it to your list. Let me know what you think in the comments.

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