On our recent trip to Buffalo, we had decided to make a side trip to Niagra Falls. We initially discussed going to the Canadian side, but one of us had an expired passport and I had already found some kitschy things to do on the American side so I was content to stay in the homeland. After we ogled the Twist o' the Mist, we headed to Niagra's Wax Museum of History.
In my research I had read that most of the exhibits in the museum date from 1968—when the museum opened—which some people might call "outdated" but I couldn't have been happier to find that to be a mostly true assessment. We were greeted at the front desk by the same miner who told my fortune at Howe Caverns, and what I'm assuming is a moving picture of the Falls (it wasn't plugged in).
The museum was everything I wanted it to be from the very beginning—weird, old, dusty, creepy, historical, informative and dimly lit. The group of teens that entered right behind us didn't share my enthusiasm, however, and clearly thought they were going to see a wax museum more in the vein of Madame Tussaud's. I heard one of them exclaim loudly "What is this?? I thought there was gonna be, like, Obama and shit," before they rushed ahead of us and we never saw them again.
A lot of the exhibits were a bit of a head scratcher but ultimately made us laugh and made me love the museum so very much. I don't think the group of disgruntled/confused teens ever made it far enough to see that they did actually have "celebrities," including (a very manly) Princess Diana, Julia Roberts and Mother Theresa, chosen for their very tenuous connections to the falls (they either visited or exemplified the beauty and grace of the falls... or more likely they got these particular wax figures on sale).
The other exhibit that we're still chuckling about is the recreation of the barber shop (and the actual chair!) where Abraham Lincoln "received tonsorial work" when he visited the Falls. The museum was full of disconnected exhibits that didn't really make sense or follow any sort of logical thread, which was really wonderful in its own way.
We definitely got more than our money's worth—46 (exciting!) exhibits in more than 10,000 sq feet for only $7/person. I get so much more joy from a dusty, bizarre old wax museum than I ever would from anything utilizing any type of new technology. Give me a handpainted sign, bad puns, exclamation points, creaking gears and creepy dioramas over anything digital any day.
But the museum definitely saves the best for last with what may be the very best photo-op I've ever encountered. I became mildly obsessed with the photo of "Former Mayor Mike O'Laughlin saying: 'See You Later' on a simulated trip over Niagra Falls" in their collection of Falls memorabilia, and I audibly squealed with delight upon finding that exact same barrel-over-the-falls prop set up before the exit. According to Roadside America, the barrel "once stood in an outdoor photo-for-a-buck booth on the Falls overlook. The museum rescued it before the city could sweep it away..." and I couldn't be happier that they did.