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.
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:
The all-inclusive, most comfortable option to discover the stunning Niagara Falls in one day
Perfect if you are looking for the fastest, most comfortable, and complete option to live the full experience of visiting the Falls at the most affordable price. Includes the Maid of the Mist cruise
This is the fastest way to visit Niagara Falls, as the tour takes you there from downtown New York and back in just one day. The trip is done by bus, so it will be a busy day but fully worth it. You will have to wake up early and return in the evening.
During the trip, you will visit Niagara Falls State Park, with entrance tickets included in the price. Once at the Falls, you will take a boat ride over the Falls on the legendary Maid of the Mist boat, which for me was the highlight of the day. In addition, you will have enough time to roam the Niagara Gorge Trail, a beautiful route full of leafy trails, and you will also pass by Goat Island and Luna Island, two small islands located in the middle of the Falls that are a lookout for breathtaking views.
Why I like this option: in just one day you will visit all the essential points of Niagara Falls State Park, without missing anything relevant. The Maid of the Mist cruise will take your breath away, but the views you'll get from other points in the park do not fall short either. The expert guide will make sure you don't miss a thing and the price is very reasonable for all that is included.
Recommended if... you prefer not to miss out on this unique natural site in the world without having to spend an excessive amount of time taking away from your New York trip.
A slower two-day tour to enjoy this natural park to the fullest (with hotel included)
You will tour the entire Natural Park, with plenty of time to hike and see the waterfalls illuminated at night. On the way back, you will stop at an outlet store for a shopping experience
If you have enough time to spare, taking a two-day tour of Niagara Falls is a great option. This tour has a great price, as it also includes accommodation and will allow you to visit Watkins Glen State Park and its fairytale-like waterfalls, and see Niagara Falls at sunrise, sunset, and night.
This trip will take you by bus to Niagara Falls, touring several waterfalls on the way: you will pass through the impressive Watkins Glen State Park, and visit She Qua Ga Falls, a famous waterfall in the village of Montour Falls.
You will arrive at Niagara Falls before sunset and tour Goat Island and Moon Island on the U.S. side as the sun sets over the Falls. In the evening you can watch the Falls light up, and when morning comes stand in awe at the sunrise over the Falls and take the Maid of the Mist tour.
On the way back to New York, you will stop at Crossings Premium Outlet, so if you were thinking of shopping for some American brands to bring home as souvenirs, this is the perfect place to do so. If you are particularly interested in going on an excursion to the New York outlet, here are the best options you can find.
Why I like this tour: this is the full experience as it allows you to see Niagara Falls at three different times of the day. Most people who visit this amazing place usually do so for a few hours. In two days you will be able to connect on a deeper level with the unique environment of this place.
Recommended if... you have enough time to savor the scenery and want a more authentic experience in Niagara Falls.
Comparison of the two options
The most comfortable, all-inclusive option to discover the Falls in one day
In just one day, you will visit the must-see places of the park, without missing anything important. The Maid of the Mist cruise and the views from Luna Island and Goat Island will take your breath away
A more relaxed trip to enjoy an in-depth experience at this natural park
It allows you to see Niagara Falls at different times of the day, illuminated at night and with the magical colors of the sunrise. You will also have more time to hike around the National Park
Is it really worth it going to Niagara Falls from New York?
Obviously, this will depend on each kind of traveler, but I'm going to try to answer this question as honestly as I can, giving you the tips, pros, and cons that I think are important for you to make the decision that best suits your travel style.
How long is your trip?
If you are going to be in New York 5 days or more, you have enough time to consider the option of going on a day trip outside the city. Spending the day out of the chaos and dazzling lights of Manhattan and into a very unique natural setting will be an uplifting experience to keep exploring New York with a renovated excitement.
On the other hand, if you are short on time during your trip, skipping a day of exploring New York might leave you without seeing some of its neighborhoods or must-see attractions. In that case, it would not be worth visiting the Falls.
Is this your first time in New York?
If it is your first time in New York and you want to enjoy the city to the fullest, you will probably prefer to stay in the Big Apple as long as possible, as it has endless things to discover. In that case, it may not be worth leaving New York to embark on a full-day trip, especially if, as I mentioned above, you don't have much time in the city.
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 (in fact, I had been to Iguazu Falls before and I found the Niagara excursion equally remarkable). 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.
Do you feel like rounding out your visit to the city with a wonderful natural landscape?
If you are the type of traveler that mostly enjoy outdoor experiences on your vacation and discovering unique natural places, this is a great way to give your trip to New York the perfect counterpoint. After a few days strolling through the traffic, lights, and noises of the city, spending a day in nature (and what an awesome display of nature) will be the perfect break in your vacation.
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.
What to see in Niagara Falls
On your visit to Niagara Falls from New York, be sure to include these highlights on your route to make the most of this wonderful natural setting:
Niagara Falls State Park
Niagara Falls State Park is a perfect location to soak in the sights of the three falls. From the lookout, you will be able to observe the waterfall on the Canadian side from afar while walking very close to the Bridal Veil waterfall.
Maid of the Mist
On this iconic boat tour you will get to see the three waterfalls from up close, and it is an experience you should definitely try as it is the main attraction of Niagara Falls. One of the best things about the tours I have recommended to you is that they all include tickets for the Maid of the Mist.
The boat leaves from the U.S. side daily (with few exceptions), and will take you on a tour that departs near the Rainbow Bridge and takes you down the Niagara River to the American Falls, then to the Bridal Veil Falls, and finally to the Horsehoe Falls, making its way through the dense mist.
Niagara Gorge Trail
Along the Niagara Gorge, there are many roads and trails to take a stroll along for some breathtaking views. There are trails of varying lengths, and in the interest of time, we recommend the Great Gorge Railway Trail, an easy and short one-mile route (one way).
On this island located in the middle of the Niagara River you will find the famous Terrapin Point lookout and a statue dedicated to the inventor Nikola Tesla, in a setting of natural beauty. Goat Island is also home to Cave of the Winds, a popular Niagara Falls attraction.
The second of the small islands of Niagara Falls is located between American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, and walking on its edge you will be only a few meters away from the falls. The origin of its name is sure to give you an idea to try on your visit: it is said that on full moon nights, it is possible to see rainbows in the falls with the reflection of the moonlight.
Although you can do this tour on your own, my recommendation is to go on an organized tour because, in addition to learning about what you are seeing, it will take away the stress of planning everything to match the itinerary you see above. And by the way, you won't have to worry about the round trip, as everything is included.
Alex's Traveller Tip
Don't miss the breathtaking views of Horseshoe Falls from the Table Rock Welcome Center!
Plan your Niagara Falls excursion from New York City
Visiting Niagara Falls is almost a must if you are a nature lover: in addition to the breathtaking sight you will find in the Falls, hiking the trails of this wonderful place is something you will want to check off your bucket list. And if photography is your thing, I assure you that in few places will you have the opportunity to capture the water in motion as in Niagara Falls. And of course: you'll be able to take some stunning photos for your Instagram.
Niagara Falls with kids
If you visit Niagara Falls with kids, they'll have a blast: the area is perfect to visit with your family and has plenty of attractions and places designed for the little ones. Just keep in mind their sleeping and eating schedules, since to get to Niagara Falls you will take an early morning bus and it will take about 10 hours to get there from New York, counting all the stops along the way.
The groups for the Niagara Falls trips are usually about 50 people and include admission to the one experience you don't want to miss: the Maid of the Mist.
Meals are not included on any of these tours, so you'll have some free time to explore at your leisure at lunchtime. If you want some tips on where to eat in Niagara Falls, keep reading.
Best day of the week to take a trip to Niagara Falls from New York City
As it is the case of many other tourist attractions, you'll find fewer crowds at the Falls on a weekday. That said, I recommend that you check the fireworks calendar on the official Niagara Falls website to try to time your trip with a show that will add a very special touch to your excursion.
Best time of the year to take a trip to Niagara Falls from New York City
The typical temperature around Niagara Falls changes greatly throughout the year. While in the winter it can be freezing, in the summer it is usually quite nice, with sunny and warm days. If you visit the Falls in the spring, it will most likely rain, and in the fall you can find very pleasant weather, as long as you go before November.
If possible, my recommendation is to visit Niagara Falls in mid to late May and between September and October. You will certainly have better weather and you will also avoid most of the tourists, who mostly come in the summer.
If there's a possibility the weather might kind of ruin the trip, we recommend you switch plans and take a day trip to Washington from New York or visit Philadelphia from New York, where the weather will be a less important aspect of the experience.
- December - March
- Weather: Snow
- High 11ºC
- Minimum 0ºC
- March - June
- Climate: Temperate
- High 27ºC
- Low 2ºC
- June - August
- Climate: Hot and humid
- High 29ºC
- Minimum 18ºC
- September - November
- Climate: Temperate
- Maximum 25ºC
- Minimum 6ºC
Typical Niagara Falls food
Around Niagara Falls, you will find typical American food, but also Canadian food with a strong French influence. There are barbecue bars and restaurants for all tastes, where you can try the typical dishes: poutine (fried potatoes with cheese and gravy, a meat sauce) and Canadian bacon (pork steaks marinated in maple syrup sauce).
Although to be honest, you're not going to find spectacular food in Niagara Falls. My recommendation, and this usually applies to every excursion you go on that doesn't include food, is to take some food in your backpack (and a bottle of water to refill and stay hydrated!).
- Flip Burger - If you're craving for the typical American flavor, Flip Burger is reasonably priced, has great reviews, and is also next to the Maid of the Mist tour departure point.
- Mother Cluckers Inc - an interesting mix of Portuguese and American cuisine that is also quite well located, next to the visitor information point.
- Smoke's Poutinerie - If you don't mind walking a bit, you can cross the Rainbow Bridge and try Smoke's Poutinerie's popular poutine.
- Savor - The best option if you'd rather not stray too far from the more touristy Niagara Falls area.
What should I take to Niagara Falls?
The best advice I can give you is to wear the most comfortable clothes you own. You will find that most people visiting the Falls do the same. If you visit in winter, it is best to wear several layers to adapt to the changing weather.
Regarding footwear, I recommend (highly) that you wear sneakers or waterproof footwear, as you will most certainly get wet at the Maid of the Mist. For the same reason, a rain jacket and a GoPro-type camera are good inclusions in your backpack (although the price includes a poncho and flip-flops).
A few final tips
- Very important! Don't forget to bring your passport, as you will be crossing the US-Canada border regularly.
- If you visit Niagara Falls in the fall, don't miss Niagara Falls Park - the colors of the leaves are beautiful!
- Don't worry excessively about the kids as it is a very safe place.
- And lastly, truth be told the Canadian side of the Falls is much more manicured and better looking than the US side, so try to spend as much time as you can on the other side of Rainbow Bridge.
The Niagara Falls tour is a unique experience - you'll remember it for a lifetime!