North America is home to some truly extraordinary natural wonders and landscapes. From the Grand Canyon in Arizona to the towering majesty of Denali in Alaska, a vast spectrum of scenery is just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed all over the continent. One of the most famous and popular natural landmarks in all of North America is undoubtedly Niagara Falls.
Niagara Falls is made up of three separate waterfalls situated right on the border between Canada and the United States, shared by the Canadian Province of Ontario and the state of New York. Known individually as the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls, these extraordinary waterfalls have inspired and amazed countless people for many generations.
Many people dream of visiting Niagara Falls someday, and doing a day trip to this North American natural wonder isn't as difficult as you might think. In fact, many people who travel to New York City choose to do day trips up to the falls, and there are a few different options available. Here’s how to plan a dream day trip to Niagara Falls from New York City.
Getting to Niagara Falls from New York City
Niagara Falls State Park is around 400 miles away from New York City. To many people, that distance seems simply too far for the purposes of a day trip. However, if you set off early enough and choose the right modes of transport, you can do a day trip to Niagara Falls from NYC and still have plenty of time to explore and enjoy the falls themselves. Your options for this day trip including driving, taking an organized tour, or flying.
Getting to Niagara Falls from New York City by Car
The drive from New York City to Niagara Falls is a long one. It can take around six and a half hours, on average, and the fastest way is to follow the I-80 out of NYC, then the I-81 towards Syracuse, and then the I-90 over towards Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
It’s a long drive and can be a tiring one, so having multiple drivers and switching halfway is a smart idea to stay safe. Since the drive is so long, it also makes sense to set off early in the morning, with many people beginning their day trip to Niagara Falls at around 4am.
Getting to Niagara Falls from New York City on a Tour
Various tour companies run direct trips to Niagara Falls direct from New York City. A lot of these trips leave from key downtown locations like Times Square, so it's very easy to get to the starting point if you're staying in Manhattan or nearby. You'll travel on a coach, and the trips usually depart at around 4am or 5am in order to arrive at Niagara Falls in good time. The coaches are typically equipped with lots of modern conveniences like Wi-Fi, air conditioning, restrooms, and more.
The drive is a highly scenic one, too, so you can take photos along the way and admire the view. Once you arrive at Niagara Falls, you'll have a dedicated tour guide to show you around, telling you about the history of the falls and taking you to some of the key landmarks and viewing spots, and you'll also get some free time to explore on your own and maybe even dine at the famed 'Top Of The Falls' restaurant before heading home.
Getting to Niagara Falls from New York City by Plane
Considering Niagara Falls State Park is several hundred miles away from NYC and the drive can take over six hours, many people choose to take a plane instead. This is the fastest way to get to Niagara Falls from NYC, and you can take a direct flight from JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark up to Buffalo.
Flight times tend to be around an hour, so the actual journey from NYC to Niagara Falls is much faster in a plane than it would be on the ground, even when you add on the time needed to get to the airport, check-in, and go through security. Once you arrive at Buffalo, you'll be about 20 miles away from the falls, so you can simply rent a car or take a transfer over to the park.
Important Information and Things to Do at Niagara Falls
- Getting Around - Niagara Falls actually has its very own hop-on, hop-off shuttle bus. It's called Discover Niagara and it's totally free, so it's one of the best ways to get around at the falls. The shuttle takes you to over a dozen destinations around the falls and beyond, with several shuttles operating on a daily basis.
- Best Time to Visit - The best time to visit Niagara Falls is arguably in the summer. You'll have to deal with the big crowds of tourists, but you'll also get the best weather and the best overall experiences in terms of viewing the falls, taking photos, and making memories to look back on. If you really want to avoid the crowds, heading to Niagara Falls in the shoulder months of April/May and September/October is a good idea.
- Things to Do at Niagara Falls - There's plenty to do at Niagara Falls in addition to admiring the waterfalls themselves. You can head into the 300+ seat Adventure Theater for a fascinating 30-minute movie about the history of the falls, and be sure to take a walk around the Visitor Center to learn more. The Aquarium of Niagara is a popular spot with families too, being home to hundreds of animals of many different species, including sharks and penguins. The 'Cave of the Winds' by the Bridal Veil Falls is one of the best places to experience the full power of Niagara Falls and get some amazing views, but you'll probably get wet so be sure to take a poncho. Visitors should also head up to the Prospect Point Observation Tower for unparalleled views of Niagara Falls.