Road Trip
March 29, 2005 9:58 AM   Subscribe

I'm getting married in October, and our honeymoon is a long leisurely drive up to Massachusetts. We know we'll be stopping at Niagara Falls for one night, but are there any other places we should stop and see, weird roadside attractions, etc? We've already been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland...any roads less traveled to consider?
posted by agregoli to Travel & Transportation (33 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Be sure to cross over to the Canadian side of the falls. I say this 100% objectively: The view really is prettier.
posted by duck at 10:04 AM on March 29, 2005

It depends on where you plan to start the drive.
posted by repoman at 10:05 AM on March 29, 2005

I second the Canadian side of the falls. Also, plan to cross on the Rainbow Bridge, but if the traffic is too heavy, the Lewiston bridge (which is primarily a truck route) might be quicker.
Near Syracuse, check out Grean Lakes State Park. If you go through the southern tier of New York State, go to Howe Caverns.
General: Plan to enjoy the fall colors in October.
posted by Doohickie at 10:21 AM on March 29, 2005

I really can't recommend spending any time in Niagara Falls, the town (on the American side). Spend a couple of hours at the falls themselves and get out of there.

(Also, if you cross to the Canadian side, it's possible to spend hours queuing at customs to get back in. You probably won't, but allow time for it)
posted by cillit bang at 10:22 AM on March 29, 2005

Based on the tag, it looks like you might be coming from Chicago? If you like the theme park thing, Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio is definitely worth a trip. Also, if you are into football, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is in Canton, Ohio.

Also, agree that if you are doing Niagra Falls, Canadian side is the only way to go. The American side is not as nice and the view is not as good.
posted by rglasmann at 10:26 AM on March 29, 2005

I second Cedar Point as a great amusement park, but in October you have to keep in mind that it will only be open on the weekends.
posted by mmascolino at 10:35 AM on March 29, 2005

The Finger Lakes area of New York State really isn't on your way per se, unless you're really into detours. However, it's delightful.
posted by Vidiot at 10:38 AM on March 29, 2005

Response by poster: Oops, sorry. Starting from Chicago.
posted by agregoli at 10:42 AM on March 29, 2005

Let me expand on the .us/.ca differences in Niagara...

The little area of parkland right on the US side of the falls is nice, well worth going to, and the Red Coach Inn on the road bordering it makes a nice lunch.

Other than that, Niagara Falls NY is a shithole to be avoided unless you really really like Denny's, buying t-shirts, and closed stores. It's not that it is "less nice" or has a worse view. It is an actively unpleasant place to be, except for the little park.

You *definitely* want to stay on the Canuckian side, and you want to be *very* careful about where you stay -- many places with "Fallsview" in their name or description actually only have a view of the hotel on the falls side of the road, and only the rooms on the falls side have a falls view (which is really cool at night 'cuz they light 'em up with colors and stuff).

We stayed a couple nights at either the Sheraton Fallsview or Marriott Fallsview in a room with a nice big bubbly-tub, and it was tres nice.

If you like driving, you might make a detour down to Watkins Glen at the south end of one of the Finger Lakes and see if you can take your car on the track or rent a car so to do.

If you like airplanes and don't mind a detour, go south to Dayton and hit the USAF museum. I haven't been, but keep meaning to... it's very big. They have an XB-70!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:57 AM on March 29, 2005

You don't say where you're driving from, do you? Between Niagara Falls and Massachusetts, anyway, it's the long and boring NY State Thruway, though you could instead try Route 20 [awful music on the link].

The US side of the falls allowed uncontrolled growth and industrialization through the years, then things went bad economically, so the US City of Niagara Falls is now a Rust Belt depressed city with derelict or still working and stinking factories, run-down housing, and a relatively poor parks system considering the natural wonder around which the whole place is built. Attempts to revive the economy have not succeeded.

If you do go to the US side, go to Goat Island, where you can park, walk around, have a picnic, see the American falls from the brink, and pay to take an elevator down to the base of the falls, where you wear very stinky loaner rain gear but get soaked anyway as the falls crashes down near the catwalk you're standing on.

The Canadian city is better and the park system around the edge of the falls and gorge are much, much nicer. And the Canadian city (on Clifton Hill) has plenty of tourist trap stuff (as opposed to the factories and bad nighborhoods on the US side), so you can still have a cheesy time as a visitor.

Look at for tips on other stuff to see while roadtripping in the US.
posted by pracowity at 11:00 AM on March 29, 2005

The Cleveland Museum is one of the overlooked museums in the country; it really is quite impressive for a city like Cleveland. It has a good collection of Medieval armor and such if you're into that sort of thing. If you want to take a slight detour and you're interested in Amish stuff, Holmes County Ohio is home to the highest population of Amish in the country. It's about an hour and half south of Cleveland.

Mansfield Ohio, about an hour/hour half south west of Cleveland, has a closed Ohio state reformatory (old, closed prison) that you can tour. It's been used in movies and TV--including Air Force One and Shawshank Redemption.

In Massachusetts, there's a lot of stuff, depending on where you're going. In Cambridge, MA, there is a very interesting clothing store called The Garment District including buying clothes by the pound. Fun place. If you end up in the South Shore region (although I'm not sure why you would), Whitman still has the sign from the original Toll House that invented Toll House chocolate chip cookies next to a Wendy's, in side of it they have some pictures and other historical stuff about the Toll House that burned down in the early 80s. It's right on Rt. 18 near the downtown of Whitman, which is about 20 or 30 miles south of Boston and just east of Brockton.

In the area north west of boston, there's all kinds of historical stuff that's somewhat off the beaten path. Author's Ridge in Sleeping Hollow Cemetery, in Concord is good if you like cemeteries (has the graves of Thoreau, Hawthorne, Alcotts, Emerson and more).
posted by skynxnex at 11:09 AM on March 29, 2005

Response by poster: Anything before Niagara Falls? Ohio is particularly boring, we find...there's got to be something good there?
posted by agregoli at 11:09 AM on March 29, 2005

Response by poster: Aha, missed on preview.
posted by agregoli at 11:09 AM on March 29, 2005

I've made the drive from Chicago to Massachusetts a lot. I agree with what everyone else says about Niagra. A few things that are loosely on your way

- Cooperstown - Cardiff Giant, Baseball Hall of fame
- Seneca Falls - interesting stuff, first women's rights convention
- Erie Canal - history, walking tours
- Corning Glass Museum - outside of Ithaca

Depending where you are going in MA, you should consider taking a non State Thruway route through New York. Route 88 is pretty nice and scenic and then you can hook up with the Mass Pike on the Eastern end of the state. I grew up in MA my whole life so if you're looking for anything in that part of your trip, let me know where you're headed and I'll give you some advice.
posted by jessamyn at 11:13 AM on March 29, 2005

While in New York:

In the Finger Lakes, you can go on winery tours.

Cooperstown is a nice town/village, and if you like baseball, try the Hall of Fame.

There's also the 1000 Islands, the Erie Canal, and the Adirondacks. Many of the New York state parks have some good history to them.

When in doubt, check out the I Love new York campaign.

And skip Ohio!
posted by jasonspaceman at 11:19 AM on March 29, 2005

Response by poster: Wow, so much good stuff. My finance is from MA, so he knows all the ins and outs of that state. Thanks for all this, this is great!
posted by agregoli at 11:23 AM on March 29, 2005

I-94 will take you across southern Michigan, which is a much more interesting drive than the Ohio turnpike. (Then again, I'm from southern Michigan, so I'm biased.) The western half of the state has wineries and orchards and some pretty scenery. The dunes along Lake Michigan are worth stopping at, although it'll be too cold to swim or camp in October.

From there, you can go to Ann Arbor and Detroit if you're into cities — both have some good museums and restaurants. Or if you're into the rural thing, get onto I-69 after Kalamazoo. That'll take you well clear of Detroit, which has nasty traffic, and take you through the much more pleasant border crossing at Port Huron.

Southern Ontario is also nice, in a farms-and-Amish-people sort of way. Or — again, if you're into that sort of thing — you can dip up into Toronto for more culture before coming back into the US at Niagara falls.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:57 AM on March 29, 2005

> My finance is from MA...

So he's paying for everything? Take the slow, expensive route. First, head down to New Orleans...
posted by pracowity at 12:19 PM on March 29, 2005

Response by poster: Ha! Are you kidding me? He's from East Bridgewater, MA. Not exactly Cambridge...

I'm the breadwinner in this family.
posted by agregoli at 12:45 PM on March 29, 2005

While you are at the Falls, you can take a tour behind them. Loud, but fun.

If you're a photography buff, you might want to check out the Eastman House in Rochester.
posted by Marky at 12:56 PM on March 29, 2005

Ausable Chasm is cool, and Lake George is funky and kitschy.
posted by amberglow at 12:57 PM on March 29, 2005

If you have the time and are driving both ways, definitely come back another way.

Like through Ontario with a stop in T'ronna. If you go that way, don't take 401 to Windsor/Detroit. Get on 402 in London bound for Sarnia / Port Huron. Nice farmland, no Detroit, and you'll end up home a smidge quicker (you get to the land of 70mph speed limits much sooner). Downside: you see Flint, MI.

Or through NYC and west through PA. I've heard that God's own ice cream is for sale in State College from their research dairy. There's mountains and stuff too.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:02 PM on March 29, 2005

The ice cream in State College, PA is at the Creamery on the Penn State campus, corner of Shortlidge and Curtain roads. Info here. It's pretty good. And that area of PA is very nice in the fall, if it's early October.
posted by drobot at 1:17 PM on March 29, 2005

You could drive past the Longaberger basket building, which is a bit east of Columbus.
posted by cillit bang at 1:37 PM on March 29, 2005

Rt 17 is the prettiest road through western and central New York. It also runs near Ithaca, which I second as a wonderful place to check out (try the Hillside Inn--it's cheap and kinda dirty but charming). From 17 you can pick up I-88 which is a beautiful drive along the Susquehanna river valley. That takes you to Howe Caverns which is awesome. From there you can head into the Berkshires--Great Barrington is a cool little town with the best sushi restaurant of all time (in America anyway), Bizen.

posted by recurve at 2:04 PM on March 29, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks!
posted by agregoli at 2:24 PM on March 29, 2005

I second Howe Caverns, but don't bother with the nearby Secret Caverns. (The secret is - sshhh - that the 90-foot underground waterfall is pumped in from the surface.)

Keeping with the cave theme, that wet-catwalk thing on the American side of Niagara Falls is billed as the "Cave of the Winds Tour." There's no cave. When we went, there were no winds. As for the "tour" part, it was just like walking around on a series of decks, only wet. Save your money.

After you cross the Mass border, if you detour to North Adams, you can go to Marble Arch State Park, (AKA Natural Bridge S.P.) It's neat, if not spectacular. Afterwards, you can eat at the restaurant at the famous Hairpin Turn on Rte.2, which has a great view.

I recommend the DeLorme Atlas and Gazeteers for finding good destinations in unfamiliar territory. That's how I found Marble Arch.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:26 PM on March 29, 2005

and there's Mass MoCA in North Adams.

Howe Caverns was cool too.
posted by amberglow at 6:58 PM on March 29, 2005

All I can say is (1) congratulations, and (2) you're getting fantastic, fantastic advice here. Everything I've done along that route has been recommended. I'll just third the Baseball Hall of Fame, and second Ausable Chasm and the Corning Glass Museum which was actually really cool. The whole US/Cda Falls thing is great too, but I will second Goat Island on the U.S. side, which is beautiful for a picnic and freaking each other out by standing close to the "point of no return" sign. Brr.

Oh, and I think pracowity was pointing out that you wrote finance instead of fiancee. Kinda funny. :)
posted by livii at 7:21 PM on March 29, 2005

I don't know that "skip Ohio" is really justified... there's a lot of nice, low-key things one can do in and around the Cleveland metropolitan area. Another vote for Cedar Point, if it's open when you're in the area and if you like roller coasters. If I recall correctly, close to half of their roller coasters held the "tallest in the world" title at one point or other... If you're interested in historical stuff like the Erie Canal, you may find a visit to the Cleveland Metroparks to be interesting - the Metroparks are a set of parks [mostly in river valleys or along the lakeshore] which surround Cleveland, and many of them have historical stuff, like rebuilt canal sections, small exhibits, etc. Furthermore, the Metroparks can be stunningly beautiful during autumn, with the foliage and everything. Along those lines, if scenery along the highway is important, you might want to consider driving through PA and heading north later instead of taking the I-90 route from Cleveland through Erie PA straight into NY. I've always found the Appalachians to be beautiful in a desolate sort of way, and a relief after the flat Midwestern farmland.

If you're interested in classical music, the Cleveland Orchestra is considered one of the best orchestras in the world, and is well worth hearing. Not that the BSO is bad, mind you. But talk about culture - Cleveland has a great deal of it, left over from its wealthier industrial days, and I think you'll find that it's got as much or more than cities like Ann Arbor or Detroit. Other cultural stuff - the Cleveland Museum of Art, as recommended upthread, often has very good feature exhibits, supported by a large and surprisingly varied permanent collection. The Cinematheque may be worth checking out if you're into film. If you're a fan of some variety of what the kids today call 'rock music,' you may want to see who'll be playing at venues like the Grog Shop, the Agora, the Odeon, or the Beachland Ballroom during your visit. [Get to hear bands say "Hello, Cleveland!" with minimal irony!] This isn't to say that other Midwestern or Canadian cities won't have some great stuff too, but people who lump Northeastern Ohio together with the rest of the state and think it a wasteland of farms and hicks are missing out on a lot.
posted by ubersturm at 10:05 PM on March 29, 2005

Yo Marky - right on with the Eastman house suggestion.
Well, if you are from Massachusetts, at least you won't have to worry about the Sox occupying another October for another 100 years.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 10:48 PM on March 29, 2005

While you're in Niagara Falls, I reiterate that you should hit up the Canadian side. While you're in Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, on the main drag, there is the greatest Italian restaurant ever. If you dig Italian food, this is the place to be. It's called Mama Mia's. I lived in Buffalo for about 10 years, and would make the hour+ drive every couple of weeks.
posted by grahamux at 3:14 AM on March 30, 2005

Salem Cross Inn.
posted by brent at 7:59 PM on March 30, 2005

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