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Lynn Magdol: Daylong staycation is an eye-opener

People talk about going on a staycation to save on the cost of gas, helping the environment and one’s pocketbook at the same time. A staycation has another advantage: a new appreciation for one’s own home turf. The other day I took one and had a wonderful time.

Where did I go? Niagara Falls, of course. I saved a lot on gas by taking the bus and got a new view of our local features by avoiding the falls altogether and taking the shuttle (free) to Old Fort Niagara and back, with all the attractions in between.

My day started on the No. 40 bus to Niagara Falls via Grand Island. Aside from the locals, my fellow riders included a couple with a college-age daughter who rode with me all the way to the Visitor Center. Seeing them inspired me to imagine that I, too, was a foreign visitor looking around as I do when I travel. Playing tourist, I saw an urban downtown, a low-income neighborhood in the city, an industrial area, suburban communities with their inevitable strip malls, some very green semi-rural countryside, and superb views of the river that I have never seen when driving. As an outsider, I would have gotten a good sense of the Buffalo area.

After checking in at the Visitor Center, I got on the new Discover Niagara Shuttle and spent the next few hours discovering. The shuttle stopped at many interesting places along the way for riders to hop on or off.

For animal lovers, the Aquarium of Niagara was about to have a sea lion show as we arrived. For hikers and nature lovers, the bus stopped at the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center and Whirlpool State Park. For history buffs, the Underground Railroad Center will be on the route soon, along with the new train station. For science nuts, the Niagara Power Project has an educational center, also great for those who appreciate stupendous views of the water.

The shuttle stopped at Niagara University’s Castellani Art Museum, a local treasure for art lovers, and at Old Fort Niagara, an important site in the War of 1812. The small-town charm of Niagara County was evident in Lewiston, an exceptionally pretty place with some intriguing bronze sculptures illustrating the local history, including Native Americans and the Underground Railroad.

Two hours later, I got off the bus feeling like I had been halfway around the world. After a bite to eat and a short wait, I got back on the No. 40 bus. Still feeling like a tourist, I tried to imagine the stories of my fellow riders. A few were going home from a shift at the casino. Some were heading back into Buffalo from whatever had brought them to Grand Island. Passing through the Black Rock/Riverside neighborhood again, I regretted how rarely I get to see this historically rich place.

Back home, I reflected on the day. I had left the house at 9 a.m. and it was now about 4 p.m. Not bad for a single day. I had enough to think about and plan for several more trips. I will try to borrow some grandkids for the educational stops and I will consider bringing my hiking boots for the nature walks.

I will definitely take a camera for those incredible views; I even saw the Toronto skyline from the road. All in all, a staycation is a great idea. This one worked out quite well and I’m confident that a little research would generate a list of others.

Even a cheapskate like me can feel like a world traveler for a day.

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