Niagara Falls Day Trips From New York
Visiting the most popular waterfalls on the planet is the perfect scapeshift from the lights and chaos of New York. Here’s a list of the best organized tours and a couple tips to find out wether this trip is worth it or not
12 min read
Located on the border between the United States and Canada, Niagara Falls are three breathtaking waterfalls that make any visit an unforgettable trip. Seeing this imposing wonder of nature at least once in a lifetime is completely worth it, and even more so if it only requires one day of your time in New York. Here is a guide on the best excursions to Niagara Falls from New York:
Excursions To Canadian Sites
One of the best things about Niagara Falls is its proximity to its twin, Niagara Falls, Ontario. Here, you will find a variety of tourist attractions, including some unique ways to enjoy the natural wonders of the river and falls. Visitors can take a peek at the underside of Horseshoe Falls from portals carved into the rock beneath, accessed by tunnels that were carved more than 130 years ago.
To get a thrilling view of the whirlpool, the vintage 1916 aerial cable car called the Aero Car offers unparalleled views from above. Visitors will also enjoy the Clifton Hill amusement park with a plethora of entertainment options, from midway games to bowling, arcades, and coaster-track go-karts. It is also home to the Niagara Skywheel, Canada’s biggest observation wheel, which offers stunning views of the falls and Niagara Gorge.
Will The Round Trip To The Falls In One Day Be Too Much Of A Hassle
One of the big dilemmas that you will face when considering the option of going to Niagara Falls from New York is this: Is it worth it to drive so far to see the Falls in just one day? For me, the answer here is yes.
The scenery you are going to see is just spectacular . The road is packed with beautiful landscapes so you will have plenty of entertainment on the way to the Falls, although in my case the jet lag worked its magic and I slept almost all the way back, so I can say that I almost didn’t even get the chance to admire the scenery.
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Where To Stay On The American Side Of Niagara Falls
The neighborhood in Niagara Falls USA gets sketchy if you get too far from the falls, so dont try to skimp on where you stay. My top vote goes to the Giacomo by Choice Hotels: walking distance to everywhere and a lounge with views of the Niagara river. Generally speaking, if you can easily walk to the waterfalls, your hotel will be in an okay neighborhood. The hotels by the outlet mall are fine, too, though a bit of a drive to the tourist attractions.
In Buffalo, I recommend Hotel Lafayette. Its chic, central, and rooms are large. It can make a good alternative if youre only popping in to the parks for an afternoon. Buffalo is about a thirty-minute commute.
Bonus Activities In Niagara Falls New York
There are a few other things near Niagara Falls USA that have nothing to do with the waterfalls:
Old Fort Niagara: This fort was built in the late 1600s and saw action in the French & Indian War, Revolutionary War, and War of 1812. Theyve done a great job at restoring it. There are staff in period costumes as well as musket demonstrations in addition to touring the fort sites. On a clear day, you might be able to see Toronto as you look across Lake Ontario.
Niagara Wine Country: The US version of Niagara wine isnt as well known as Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario but you could still spend a day or more visiting the 20+ vineyards. The wine trail is 30-60 minutes from the falls, so plan accordingly. If time is short, my two favorites are Arrowhead Springs and BlackBird Cider Works.
Art Alley: If youre into art, take twenty minutes to view the street art at Third & Niagara Streets.
Buffalo is only 20 miles from Niagara Falls, so you can get more ideas in my Buffalo travel guide as well.
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Which Side Of Niagara Falls Is Best To Visit
There are certainly pros and cons to visiting either side of Niagara Falls. While neither side is better than the other, there are certain things to consider. The Canadian side of Niagara Falls might offer great views, plenty of attractions and casinos but it is always so crowded that it is difficult to see everything you want, especially in one day.
The New York side of Niagara Falls has beautiful views, a glorious state park and plenty of attractions. The New York side of the falls is cleaner, has fewer tourist traps, and in general, better food. Maid of the Mist boat tours allows you to get close to both sides of the falls without having to choose one or the other.
From New York City To Niagara Falls By Train
Two major Amtrak lines connect the Niagara region to cities on the East Coast of the U.S. and Canada. Those traveling from New York City can get on the Empire Service to the Niagara Falls International Train Station and Intermodal Transportation Center from Penn Station in Manhattan. The Empire Service train operates daily and has Business Class and Reserved Coach Class. The scenic ride takes about nine hours, with stops along the way in Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo.
Alternatively, visitors can take the Maple Leaf train that connects New York City with Toronto, with stops at Albany, Syracuse, and Niagara Falls. The total journey is 12.5 hours. Both trains come with WiFi and Cafe cars.
Once there, the Niagara Falls State Park is less than a 10-minute drive. Niagara Falls State Park is open year-round and offers interactive exhibits, hiking trails, and dining at the Top of the Falls restaurant. The state park’s Discovery Pass allows visitors to enjoy the falls on the Maid of the Mist boat cruise.
You can also take the hop-on/hop-off shuttle called “Falls to the Fort” right at the train station. The 14-mile route stops at highlights such as the Niagara USA Visitor Center, Niagara View Points, Old Niagara Fort, Aquarium of Niagara, and Castellani Art Museum, among others.
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Visit Old Fort Niagara One Of The Best Things To Do On The American Side Of Niagara Falls
Visiting Old Fort Niagara is one of the most popular things to do around Niagara Falls, NY. Located in Youngstown, the colonial fortification sits at the edge of the Niagara River where it meets Lake Ontario. Its about a 20-minute drive from the falls, but you can take this tour to visit it.
Old Fort Niagara is home to over 300 years of history, so its the perfect Niagara Falls USA attraction for history buffs. The old French Castle was built by the French North American Empire back in 1726. The land was later seized by Great Britain, followed by the United States.
18. Visit Old Fort Niagara, one of the best things to do on the American side of Niagara Falls
The Visitors Center doubles as a public museum where you can see over 100,000 artifacts, including arrowheads, weaponry, furniture, clothing, military accouterments, and the original War of 1812 Flag. Dont forget to stop by the historic lighthouse, constructed in 1872, and keep an eye out for the supposed ghost that haunts the grounds. Legend says hes a decapitated French soldier looking for his head.
The entire area is part of Fort Niagara State Park, which provides plenty of recreational areas, including hiking paths. The stone entrance, the Gate of the Five Nations, is named in honor of the Iroquois Confederacy.
Things To See At Niagara Falls
What should you expect the perfect day in Niagara Falls, New York to be like? Niagara Falls can simply be a quick stop to see the falls in person, but there are countless places in Niagara Falls to explore and a full day or two is best to truly get the most out of a visit. While it might be difficult to see all that this new Wonder of the World has to offer, listed below are the must-see places.
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Niagara Falls In February
Ive updated this article as we went to see Niagara Falls in February after experiencing a lot of freezing weather. As always, it was absolutely gorgeous. Niagara never disappoints. The American Falls were mostly frozen over, and the Horseshoe Falls was frozen down below.
Clumps of snow and ice were everywhere and covering every surface: barriers, trees, plants, you name it. The water is powerful, as always, no matter the season.
What Is The Cheapest Way To Get From New York City To Niagara Falls
Whether you go by bus, train, or plane, there isn’t a huge difference in prices. However, the bus tends to be slightly cheaper than the other two. The company OurBus offers daily journeys that start at $45 for a one-way trip. The bus route is direct but takes nearly eight hours, so be prepared to spend an entire day of your vacation in transit.
Buses leave New York City from the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal, located in Washington Heights at the northern tip of Manhattan. The station in Niagara Falls is right in the heart of the town next to the Niagara Falls Visitor Center, so you’ll be able to step off of the bus and immediately see the falls.
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From New York City To Niagara Falls By Plane
Visitors can also take a planned one-day tour by air, which includes round-trip airfare between NYC airports and Buffalo, a half-day guided tour of the attraction from both sides, a boat cruise, and a buffet lunch at the Top of the Falls restaurant. The Maid of the Mist cruise operates only during the warmer months when visiting during winter, participants are taken to the Journey Behind the Falls observation decks and portals located behind the falls. The entire tour takes approximately 14 hours and hotel transfers to and from the airport are available from properties located between 23rd and 74th streets.
Luna Island: The Rainbow Connection
Sights Youll Get in Your Photo: American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls
Dramatically straddled by the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, tiny Luna Island offers a unique vantage point to both. In case you missed it , the island is named after the lunar rainbow phenomenon a rare occurrence that can manifest over the island. Now thats what we call photo op!
Ready to experience these amazing views? Download our Travel Guide today and start planning your Niagara Falls USA adventure.
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Go Wild At Seneca County
Drive west into New Yorks Seneca County, and be sure to check out Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge an area which offers of 10,000 acres of swampland and has been a national landmark since 1973.
The area is largely untouched with a variety of migratory birds in the area. You have options to take the wildlife drive or park up and hit the hiking trails.
Be sure you have the correct Hiking gear, check out our reviews here: Hiking Gear
One Day Itinerary Niagara Falls
What were some of our favorite things we saw at our Niagara Falls day trip?
Because we had our golden retriever with us and couldnt go on the Maid of the Mist boat tour or the Cave of the Winds, we decided to just enjoy walking around Niagara Falls State Park and viewing the falls.
We were NOT disappointed!
View of Skylon Tower Ontario Canada from Niagara Falls, NY
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Best Time To Visit Niagara Falls
If you dont mind the crowded months, then the best time to visit Niagara Falls, New York is the summer. June to August offers the best weather and more open attractions.
Although summer temperatures can reach the 80s, the cool mists and breeze from the waterfalls can help cool you down. If you are looking to spend less on room rates, winter is a good time to visit. But keep in mind that the temperature can reach freezing levels, causing some attractions to close early.
Is It Worth Going With Children
If you’re not too sure the excursion will appeal to the little ones, I’ll answer the question right away: they will be amazed. The scenery, the loud sound of the water, the waterfalls, the boat trip… If it’s easy to be impressed as an adult, children will literally live the adventure of a lifetime.
However, keep in mind that the bus ride is not a short one, so the decision will depend more on whether they tend to fall asleep during the trip, if they get tired or dizzy on the road, etc.
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The Scheschoellkopf Power Plant Ruins Site
The Schoellkopf Power Station was constructed in three sections between 1905 and 1924, and at the time of its completion was the largest hydroelectric power station in the world.
The complex included offices, gatehouses, and other buildings at the top of the Niagara Gorge, and turbine-generator stations located at the base. Water was diverted from the Niagara River above the falls, by a 4,600 canal that ran through the city to the edge of the gorge.
Observation Tower At Prospect Point
Another cool thing to do is head to the Observation Tower at Prospect Point. This is where folks going on the Maid of the Mist tour queue up to descend in the elevators to the rivers edge.
Though you do have to wait in the same queue, you can still appreciate the view from the tower, and you ride one of the four elevators down into the gorge.
Instead of boarding the boat, youll head toward the American Falls along a trail that will take you close enough to be drenched in mist. Climb a series of stairs to the Crows Nest for an incredible natural experience. Not bad for only $1.25!
You will get wet, as do the steps and any personal belongings you have. Plan to have something waterproof with you, like those beautiful blue and yellow rain ponchos used for the Maid and Cave attractions.
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Hotels Near The Niagara Falls
On the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, there are plenty of options for families. From kid-friendly resorts like Trekaroo family-favorite Great Wolf Lodge to Oakes Hotel Overlooking the Falls with impressive views, there is a wide variety of hotel options near the falls and right in the action. If you do choose the Great Wolf Lodge, we have a great article filled with Great Wolf Lodge tips.
The hotel options on the US side of the falls are a bit less plentiful but still diverse. Options include favorite chains like Holiday Inn, DoubleTree by Hilton, Sheraton, Comfort Inn, and more.
Check rates on Niagara Falls hotelsBest Rates Guaranteed.
How Long Does It Take To Drive
If you have a vehicle, the drive takes six and a half hours and passes through all of New Jersey and northern Pennsylvania before re-entering New York State and continuing up to Niagara Falls.
Niagara Falls State Park on the U.S. side of the border has four parking lots that are open 24 hours a day and seven days a week, which cost $10 to park for the day during the week. However, on weekends and holidays they fill up quickly and cost $15 for the day. If they’re full, there are paid parking lots around downtown Niagara Falls as well as metered street parking, all of which are just a short walk from the waterfall viewing points.
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The Best Ways To See Niagara Falls
When traveling to Niagara Falls it’s all about the views, but what are the best spots? Here are a handful of places on both the American and Canadian side that offer spectacularly breathtaking views that will make your trip one to remember.
The Maid of the Mist is the most iconic of activities to give tourists unforgettable views of Niagara Falls as its history dates back over 170 years to when the first ferry took passengers to the brink of the Falls in 1846. From then on people were hooked. Now, you can take a boat ride from mid-May to early November roughly every fifteen minutes. The tour lasts twenty minutes and takes visitors through the Niagara Gorge, past the American and Bridal Veil Falls, and into the mist coming off of the Horseshoe Falls. It’s the only opportunity to get this kind of perspective for each of the three waterfalls that make up the natural landmark and it won’t cost you a ton. Admission for adults runs $18.25, for kids six to 12-years old it’s $10.25, and children under five are free.
Dine At The Top Of The Falls Restaurant One Of The Best Things To Do In Niagara Falls Ny For Couples
If you want something to eat while visiting the American Niagara Falls, head to the Top of the Falls Restaurant. Its the only dining spot that overlooks the falls, making it a top Niagara USA attraction.
The restaurant has a family-friendly atmosphere, although dining here is a nice thing to do in Niagara Falls, NY for couples. The building has a semi-circular design with rows of tables lining the floor-to-ceiling windows. Also, since the restaurant is on the upper level, everyone gets exquisite, uninterrupted views of the falls while they dine.
16. Dine at the Top of the Falls Restaurant, one of the best things to do in Niagara Falls NY for couples
The menu is a modern take on American favorites and some classic dishes. For example, you can order fish and chips, Niagara-inspired burgers, vegetarian dishes, craft beer, delectable desserts, and more. Through a partnership with Taste NY, many of the restaurants ingredients are locally sourced. Top of the Falls has a casual vibe and is moderately priced, so most visitors can afford to eat here.
This dining spot is only open May through September, but its the best place to view Niagara Falls, USA while staying comfortable and satiated.
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