The Niagara Falls consist of three sections. The large Canadian falls—with their distinctive curved shape—are also known as the Horseshoe Falls. They are separated by Goat Island from the American Falls, which are separated from the narrow Bridal Veil Falls by a small island at their south end.
Each side of the falls offers a different perspective, and it is always best to visit both sides to maximize your experience. In contrast to the panoramic view of the falls afforded by the Canadian side, what is seen from Niagara Falls, New York is a heart-pounding, sidelong, close-up look at the rushing water at the moment it tumbles over the precipice. On the American side, the immediate vicinity of the falls is part of Niagara Falls State Park, the oldest state park in the nation. The presence of the state park (originally laid out by renowned landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted) serves to preserve the natural beauty of the area and prevent the kind of commercialization that you'll find on the Canadian side. Visitors looking to experience the falls as a natural wonder will appreciate this.
During the winter season, a lot of maintenance of the falls, tours, and surroundings takes place. Many areas, such as Terrapin Point and Luna Island, are closed due to slippery conditions. Winter brings a different kind of beauty to the falls and a visit during that time is certainly worthwhile, but if you want to experience the full range of tourist amenities described in this article, plan to come in the warmer months.
- You might check out the 2016 independent film The American Side, an old-fashioned hard-boiled noir film set in Buffalo and Niagara Falls (thus the name).
- 1 Niagara Falls International Airport (IAG IATA). Is the closest airport to the falls, served by two low-cost commercial airlines as well as charter and private flights.
- Buffalo-Niagara International Airport (BUF IATA), just outside of Buffalo, is a major airport, with flights across the United States. It is about 30-40 minutes away.
- Buffalo Airport Shuttle, +1 716-685-2550, offers service from the Buffalo-Niagara airport to Niagara Falls. A family of 4 can expect to pay $22 per person and the drivers often have great tips on where to go and what to avoid.
- BUF Buffalo Airport Taxi Service, +1 716-292-4425, provides service from the Buffalo-Niagara Airport to Niagara Falls. Expected cost is $65 total for 1-7 people.
- John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport (YHM IATA) is about a one-hour drive west of Niagara Falls in the Canadian province of Ontario. The airport hosts low-cost Canadian carrier Swoop which offers frequent flights all over Canada. In addition, Transat Holidays offers weekly direct flights to Cancún, Mexico and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
- Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ IATA), in Mississauga is about a 90-minute drive from the Falls, assuming ideal traffic conditions on Toronto-area highways, which is not a good thing to assume.
- See also: Rail travel in the United States
Niagara Falls is served by Amtrak via its twice-daily Empire Service from New York City and the once-daily Maple Leaf between NYC and Toronto. 2 Niagara Falls station has been relocated to just north of the city centre and just a few feet away from the border, at 825 Depot Ave W.
- From Buffalo-Niagara International Airport: Take the I-90 East to the I-290 West to the I-190 North. Take the I-190 North (over both Grand Island Bridges, $1 toll) to the Niagara Scenic Parkway.
- From Toronto Pearson International Airport: Take Highway 427 S to QEW towards Hamilton. Drive for about 60 mi (100 km) and then keep left to take the Regional Road 420 E/Roberts Street toward Niagara Falls Bridge to U.S. Continue onto Falls Avenue and then cross via Rainbow Bridge. Roberts Street changes to State Route 384/Niagara Street once in the U.S.
- From New York, Boston, and the East Coast: Take I-90 W towards Buffalo to the 290 W. Exit onto the 190 N towards Grand Island and Niagara Falls. Follow I-90 N through Grand Island, then take exit 21A immediately after the North Grand Island Bridge (as you're leaving the island) for the Niagara Scenic Parkway. Continue until in downtown Niagara Falls.
- From Chicago and the Midwest: Take I-90 East towards Buffalo to the 190 W. Follow signs for Grand Island and Niagara Falls. Follow interstate through Grand Island, then take exit 21A immediately after the North Grand Island Bridge (as you're leaving the island) for the Niagara Scenic Parkway. Continue until in downtown Niagara Falls.
Greyhound offers service from Buffalo. There are two daily departures from the Municipal Transportation Center in downtown Buffalo, at 7AM and 9:30PM respectively, which drop you off in the Falls at the Quality Hotel at 240 1st St. The trip takes half an hour and costs $7. If you're headed in from elsewhere, you'll have to transfer at Buffalo first; see Buffalo#By bus for information on service from destinations further afield.
A cheaper ($2) but slower (50 minutes) option from downtown Buffalo is NFTA Metro Bus #40, which you board at the Buffalo Municipal Transportation Center and will drop you off at various locations in Niagara Falls. See the linked schedule and map for details.
OurBus serves Niagara Falls from New York City with intermediate stops in Binghamton, Syracuse, Henrietta, and Amherst. There are six weekly departures from New York (8AM every day but Wednesday) arriving at 4:30PM at the Niagara Falls USA Visitor Center at 10 Rainbow Blvd. Fares are about half what Greyhound charges.
You can really do a lot without a car once you get to the immediate vicinity of the Falls. If you are staying downtown you may be able to get by without a car. The toll for walking the Rainbow Bridge westbound to Canada is $1 (both U.S. and Canadian currency accepted), paid on the Canadian side coming into Canada. (There is no eastbound toll.) If you travel with any baby carriage, you pay no extra toll. Do not photograph or film on the Bridge without getting Bridge Commission approval and signing a liability waiver first. You cannot walk across the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.
Bicycling can be faster than walking to get around. The toll for bicycling and walking the bridge across the national border is the same. On the bridge sidewalk, bicyclists are officially supposed to walk their bikes, but you may bicycle on the far right lane of the Rainbow Bridge and Lewiston-Queenston Bridge like a car.
Reddy Bikeshare, Buffalo's bike-sharing network, expanded to Niagara Falls in 2019, with about three dozen locations spread out citywide but (as you might expect) most heavily concentrated in the downtown tourist area. To use a Reddy bike, sign in to the SoBi mobile app to find and reserve an available bike at any of the various Reddy racks around the city (or simply walk up to a rack and enter your account number and PIN on the bike's keypad to unlock it). Then, when you're finished, simply lock your bike up at whichever Reddy rack is nearest you. There's a $2 fee for locking a Reddy bike up anywhere other than a Reddy rack. If you need to stop off somewhere along the way, you also have the option to "hold" your Reddy bike, which will enable you to lock it temporarily without incurring the $2 fee and without the bike becoming available for reservation by other users. When you're ready to take off again, simply enter your PIN number on the bike's keypad and you're good to go. Rates are $8.50 for a 30-day membership or $55 for an annual membership, after which point use of the bikes costs 6¢ and 1¢ per minute, respectively. If you're planning on visiting Buffalo before or after your trip to the Falls, your Reddy membership works there too.
Car is a convenient option to get around, and to see the attractions surrounding the Falls.
Parking at Niagara Falls State Park is a breeze, with four ample-sized parking lots that charge $10/day. Parking on the American side and walking across the bridge may be an attractive method of getting to the Canadian side for a day trip.
Once you leave the park and enter downtown Niagara Falls proper, rates get steeper and availability gets scarcer. There are four public parking ramps downtown that each charge the same rate: $20/day M-Th and $30/day F-Su during tourist season (May-Oct), $10/day offseason. On-street parking is more expensive still, at $5/hour during the tourist season and $3/hour offseason.
If you're parking downtown, there are clearly posted signs directing you to the tourist area. Most shops and attractions are within walking distance from downtown.
Crossing the border
If you want to see the Canadian side, you can cross at the Rainbow Bridge (downtown) or the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge (north of the city). Be sure you have proper documentation for yourself (passport or other approved alternative) and your vehicle (registration, insurance card, etc.) If you're driving a rental car, pay particular attention to your rental contract. Unlike driving into Mexico, most national rental firms in the US don't have an issue with you driving into Canada; however, there's a decent chance that Canadian travel is not included in your unlimited mileage allowance (unless the rental originated in New York State) and surcharges may apply. Remember, you can always park in downtown Niagara Falls, New York and walk across the Rainbow Bridge to enjoy the sights on the Canadian side.
In addition to the aforementioned #40 bus, the NFTA municipal bus system includes five additional routes serving Niagara Falls. The two of most interest to tourists are:
- Bus #55T (Trolley), which begins at Niagara Falls International Airport and runs westward down Niagara Falls Boulevard past the factory outlet mall, then along Pine Avenue through Little Italy as far as the Aquarium of Niagara, then descends southward into the downtown casino and hotel district, and
- Bus #50 (Main-Niagara), which begins at the outlet mall, proceeding westward from there into downtown via Buffalo Avenue and Niagara Street, and from there northward, with service to the destinations in the upper Niagara Gorge (Whirlpool State Park, DeVeaux Woods State Park, Devil's Hole State Park, and the Niagara Power Vista) en route to its terminus in Lewiston.
Views of Niagara Falls are free and accessible. Access to the riverside walks and parks offer great views. You can walk across to Goat Island on the pedestrian bridge.
There are a number of attractions designed to give different experiences of the falls.
- 1 Cave of the Winds, ☏ . Daily 9AM-7:30PM from Spring 2013. An elevator takes you 175 feet down to a walkway that leads you right to the bottom of the Bridal Veil Falls. You will definitely get a feel for the true power of the falls! This is the closest you can get to the falls on either side without actually leaping into them! Ponchos and sandals are provided, and you will definitely need them. $12, 6-12 yr: $8, younger children Free but must be 42 inches or taller.
- Maid of the Mist. A boat ride, taking you down around the bottom of the falls. Some information is given about the falls, but the real experience is looking up at the falls from below and feeling the mist coming off the falls (hence the name). Wear a poncho to avoid getting wet. Boats leave from both the American and Canadian sides, so you may want to check the exchange rates to see which will be more cost-effective when you visit! Apr-Oct.
- 2 Niagara Falls Observation Tower (Prospect Point).
- 3 The Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, ☏ . Although its easy to enjoy the falls visually, the Discovery Center provides another way to appreciate the magnificence of the falls; geologically. Exhibits show the history of the entire area, including the falls, how they were originally formed, and how they've changed over time.
- 4 Aquarium of Niagara, 701 Whirlpool St, toll-free: . 9AM-5PM. The aquarium at Niagara Falls. $10.
- Niagara Adventure Theater.
- Niagara Scenic Trolley. Use this to get around the park more quickly if needed. $2 adults/$1 children for the entire day. Hop on and off.
You can combine all these attractions with a Niagara USA Discovery pass for $35, which you can purchase at the attractions.
- Whirpool Tours in nearby Lewiston is a jet boat ride that will take you to the falls.
- Helicopter Rides Howard Johnson's on Rainbow Blvd.
Must stay a night and see the night view of the Niagara Falls. It is equally beautiful.
- Niagara Falls State Park.
- Niagara Wine Trail. Not at the Falls, but within driving distance.
- An Underground Railroad interpretive centre is scheduled to open in the former customs house in March 2018.
- 5 Niagara Aerospace Museum, 9990 Porter Rd (Old terminal building at Niagara Falls International Airport), ☏ .
- 6 Prophet Isaiah's Second Coming House, 1308 Ontario Ave. This off-the-beaten-path local landmark was the brainchild of Isaiah Robertson, a Jamaican-born house flipper who, so the story goes, had a religious vision wherein God told him that the end of the world would happen in Niagara Falls in 2014, and that he was to take his house and decorate it as garishly as possible with colorful wooden trinkets so that anyone who passed by would be so impressed and inspired that they'd be saved. The centerpiece of the decor scheme is the cross to the east of the house, which stands 25 feet tall, supposedly the same height Christ would be at the Second Coming. Undeterred by the fact that 2014 came and went without any such happening, Robertson continued his work until shortly before his death in January 2020.
There are literally dozens of operators offering tours of the area; only a few offer value-added services on top of simply ferrying you place to place and describing the sites.
- Rainbow Air Helicopter Tours. It's safe to say it's hard to replicate the experience of flying over the falls without booking a helicopter tour. It's an awesome experience, though $90 may seem like a lot for a 15-minute ride.
If you get bored with the scenery and don't much care for probability and statistics, the local Native American tribe has just the place:
- 1 Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino, 310 4th St (between Niagara St and Rainbow Blvd), ☏ , toll-free: . Casino and hotel complex with stores and restaurants, a short walk from the falls.
- 2 Niagara Falls City Hall, 745 Main St, ☏ . 8AM-3PM weekdays. A couple may obtain a marriage license in person from any city or town clerk in New York State at least 24 hours (and not more than 60 days) before the ceremony. The $40 cost includes the issuance of a Certificate of Marriage Registration.
- 3 Niagara Falls State Park, 332 Prospect St, ☏ . Tie the knot at the Top of the Falls restaurant or in the park itself, year-round.
- Falls Wedding Chapel, ☏ . Multiple locations ranging from a chapel at the Quality Inn ($200) to an airborne helicopter ($900).
- Weddings by the Falls, 360 Rainbow Boulevard South (on the 7th Floor at One Niagara Welcome Center), ☏ . Multiple venues from small chapel ($190) to helicopter ($700), flowers, video/photos and wedding cake available at extra cost.
There is an outlet mall, which may be of interest to bargain hunters crossing the border.
- 1 Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls (Prime Outlets), 1900 Military Rd (I-190 to exit 22 and head S), ☏ . Designer names like Coach.
There are numerous places to pick up gifts and souvenirs including:
- 2 Three Sisters Trading Post, 454 Main St (between Rainbow Blvd and 1st St), ☏ . A wide selection of unique gifts and souvenirs.
Book lovers should definitely check out:
- 3 The Book Corner, 1801 Main St (at South Ave), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M-W, F-Sa 9AM-5:30PM, Th 9AM-7PM. Western New York's largest independent bookstore. Three floors filled to the brim with new books and used treasures. Shows and other events on the third floor.
- Niagara Falls Culinary Institute, 28 Old Falls St, ☏ . The new home of Niagara County Community College's Hospitality & Tourism programs opened in 2012 and they're serving up some of the best food in the city. And by dining at their restaurants, you're helping to train the next generation of hospitality workers.
- Savor, ☏ . Lunch: Tu-Sa 11AM-2PM; Dinner: Tu-Th 5PM-9PM, F Sa 5PM-10PM. The Institute's fine dining restaurant offers pizza, pasta, steaks, and seafood. The seasonal menu is based on locally grown products. $6-36.
- La Patisserie, ☏ . Su M 9AM-6PM, Tu-Th 9AM-8PM, F Sa 9AM-9PM. A French-style bakery with breakfast pastries and desserts. $2-4.
- [dead link] Old Falls Street Deli, ☏ . Su M 11AM–6PM, Tu-Th 11AM–8PM, F Sa 11AM–9PM. Soups and salads, and paninis and wraps made to order. $5-9.
- Collaso Taco II, 2440 Pine Ave, ☏ . A high rated Mexican restaurant.
- David's, 7616 Niagara Falls Blvd (just south of the city proper), ☏ . Home of the cheesesteak hoagie. It has some of the best cheesesteaks in the area.
- Great Wall, 8233 Niagara Falls Blvd, ☏ .
- Halal Mobile Foods, 102 Niagara St. The food is filling and is in a tourist location.
- Misty Dog Grill, 431 Main St, ☏ . The place for cheap eats. With over 100 menu items, you can't go wrong. From several different styles of hot dogs to venison, ostrich, buffalo, and Kobe beef burgers, this is the best place to eat lunch. Beef On Weck, a Buffalo favorite, is also available here.
- Taste Good Chinese Restaurant, 1609 Military Rd, ☏ .
- Twist O' the Mist, 18 Niagara St, ☏ . Huge portions of frozen custard, ice cream, Italian water ice, and other specialties for very reasonable prices. It is located one block east of the Rainbow Bridge. The building is hard to miss as it's shaped like an ice cream cone.
- A Taste of India, 626 Niagara St, ☏ .
- Casa Nova Restaurant, 3041 Military Rd, ☏ .
- Chu's Dining Lounge, 1019 Main St, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 11AM-11PM daily. $6-13.
- India Palace, 539 Main St, ☏ .
- Kohinoor Indian Restaurant, 200 Rainbow Blvd, ☏ .
- Michaels, 3011 Pine Ave (Little Italy), ☏ . Very good prices and big portions of American and Italian fare.
- Royal India Buffet, 421 3rd St, ☏ .
- New Punjabi Dhaba, 26 Niagara St, ☏ .
- Passage to India, 441 3rd St, ☏ .
- Punjabi Hut, 26 Niagara St. Home-style cooking.
- Fortuna's, 827 19th St, ☏ , fax: . W Th, Sa from 4PM, F from 11:30AM, Su from noon. Main courses include handmade gnocchi, ravioli, steaks, veal, poultry, and fresh seafood. They use the freshest ingredients and even their salad dressings are all made there and there is a substantial wine list.
- Koi, Seneca-Niagara Casino and Hotel, toll-free: . Su-Th 5PM-9:30PM, F-Sa 5PM-midnight. A fairly new fine dining Chinese place.
Aside from a single Papa John's location inside the Quality Hotel downtown and a Pizza Hut way out by the outlet mall, the big national pizzeria chains don't have much of a presence in Niagara Falls. So you may as well take the opportunity to get acquainted with the local style, a closely guarded local secret that's practically unknown even to folks from elsewhere in Western New York. Classic Niagara Falls pizza is cooked in a square pan and always sliced into squares, with a crust that's thin like New York-style but with a pillowy consistency and nutty flavor, and a sauce that is subtly seasoned with oregano and has a faint tinge of sweetness (though nowhere near as assertively sweet as on Buffalo pizza). The cheese is thin and sparse — generally there's just enough to fully cover the crust — with pepperoni baked underneath and any other toppings (generally there are none) on top. If you're intrigued, the stretch of Niagara Street between Portage Road and Hyde Park Boulevard is where you'll find the two best exponents of the style: Frenchy's and The Pizza Oven. Or if that's too rough of a neighborhood for you, head north to Mr. Ventry's on Pierce Avenue.
The drinking age in New York is 21, however, due to the fact that Niagara Falls straddles the border, 19 and 20 year-olds may cross the border into Canada to legally drink. Alcohol is more expensive in Canada.
- 1 Judi's Lounge, 2057 Military Rd, ☏ . Townie bar specializing in wings.
There are not really any major luxury hotels in the area, but a new hotel is now at Seneca Niagara Casino. There are several other nice-looking hotels downtown by the Falls, and then a series of motels on Niagara Falls Boulevard, including several $20/night fleabag specials (where they really always charge you more than that anyway).
Downtown, the best hotels are Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel, Doubletree Hotel & Conference Center, and The Red Coach Inn. Radisson on the River is coming soon on Buffalo Avenue and is located on the Niagara River overlooking the North Grand Island Bridge.
There are several B&Bs: Butler House, Park Place B&B, and the Elizabeth House.
- 1 The Red Coach Inn, 2 Buffalo Ave (at Main St), ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Historic bed and breakfast inn since 1923. Modeled after the Old Bell Inn in Finedon, England. Overlooks the Upper Rapids. Two-bedroom suites, one-bedroom suites and guestrooms, uniquely decorated with period antiques and reproductions, kitchens, fireplaces, canopy beds, air conditioned, other luxury appointments. Continental breakfast and newspaper are provided daily in the restaurant, plus champagne with fruit and cheese in your room upon arrival. Smoke-free. Pets are not allowed. $99-199.
- 2 Wanderfalls Guesthouse & Hostel, 601 Spruce Ave (at Main St), ☏ . Check-in: 4PM-9PM, check-out: 11AM. There are three dorm rooms (four beds per room) and one private room (twin bunk). Free Wi-Fi, guest kitchen, BBQ grill, parking, laundry. Dorms $16-22, private room $36-55.
- 3 Gorge View, 723 3rd St, ☏ , fax: . Hostel with male, female, and co-ed dorms, along with private rooms. All bathrooms en-suite. Reception hours from 9AM-7PM daily; late check-in is possible if arranged in advance. Free wireless internet, laundry facilities. Dorms $25+, privates $60+.
- The Niagara Falls area code is 716 for the entire area.
- The Niagara Falls zip codes are 14301-14305
Downtown Niagara Falls — that is, the area immediately surrounding the falls themselves — is undergoing something of a renaissance, with a small boom in new hotels being constructed, new shops and restaurants on Old Falls Street, and a general sprucing up compared to a few years back. However, many of the residential neighborhoods surrounding downtown remain rundown, a victim of the economic malaise that swept over the region as a whole in the late 20th Century, a time when many of the chemical plants and other industries that employed residents shut down. If you're straying outside of downtown, common-sense rules for any urban area apply: lock your car doors, avoid flashy displays of wealth, keep your wits about you. Exceptions to this rule are the DeVeaux neighborhood as well as adjacent areas along the lower Niagara River north of downtown, which are quite well-to-do residential neighborhoods, as well as the busy commercial strip of Niagara Falls Boulevard and the adjacent middle-class neighborhood of LaSalle, near Niagara Falls International Airport.
There are numerous other waterfalls in western New York (all much smaller), notably the 3 falls of the Genesee River within Letchworth State Park. Old Fort Niagara, a historical site, is around half an hour to the north, and Buffalo is about half an hour away.
You can travel to the Canadian side for a closer view of Horseshoe Falls and to visit the other attractions in Niagara Falls, Ontario and Niagara-on-the-Lake, although you will need a passport or another document proving both identity and citizenship, the main Canada article covers documentation requirements and crossing the border by land in depth.
Lewiston is just to the north, and is usually visited as part of a trip to the Falls. Lewiston sports a cute village center filled with shops, restaurants, and bed and breakfast inns. Lewiston is also home of Artpark State Park, with a popular open-air auditorium in addition to normal park activities.
|Routes through Niagara Falls|
|END ←||W E||→ Buffalo → Albany (Rensselaer)|
|Toronto ← Niagara Falls (Ontario) ← ←||W E||→ Buffalo → Albany (Rensselaer)|
|Niagara Falls (Ontario) ← Lewiston ←||N S||→ Grand Island → Buffalo|
|END ←||N S||→ North Tonawanda → Buffalo|
|END ←||W E||→ Lockport → Rochester|
|END ←||W E||→ Lewiston → Rochester|
|END ←||W E||→ Grand Island → Clarence|
|Ends at ← Niagara Falls (Ontario) ← ←||W E||→ END|