A visit to Niagara Falls might be the best day excursion from New York City. These giant waterfalls are wonders of nature in the truest sense of the word. The view of the falls is magical, and it only gets better at night when everything becomes illuminated with colorful lights. A day trip to Niagara Falls thus is an absolute must-do when in New York!
- Hotel pickup and drop-off (Midtown hotels)
- Airfare to Niagara Falls from NYC and back
- Airport transfer to the Niagara Falls State Park
- WiFi and a charging unit on the bus
- Guided tour
- Buffet lunch
- Cruise (May-Oct) or Journey Behind the Falls (Nov-Apr)
Our 1-day trip to Niagara Falls
We had to try this tour as seeing the iconic Niagara Falls had long been our dream. At 6:00 am, the luxurious minivan left the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel in Manhattan (Times Square) and headed toward Long Island. The hour-long drive passed quickly, there hardly is any traffic this early. Our luxurious mode of travel continued as the minivan took us directly onto the tarmac where a plane waited for us (yup!).
Actually, Niagara Falls have their own airport: Niagara Falls International Airport. So this is where we were headed. The flight was super enjoyable, and we loved the included breakfast on board. Because, if you’re like me, touching any food really early morning (like I said, we got picked up by the limo at 6 am…) just isn’t in cards. The flight to the airport took roughly 1.5 hours.
10 am: Arrival at Niagara Falls
Once we got off the plane, a minibus took us to the Niagara Falls State Park, the oldest State Park in the US (opened in 1885!).
During the booking process ahead of your trip, you are given a choice of either visiting the (US) American side or the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. If you pick the Canada option, your trip across the border will roughly take about 30 minutes. Upon leaving the bus we picked up our wristbands for the trolley (a small open-deck bus) that takes you from one attraction to the next within the park. Our friendly bus driver informed us that we would have until 4:00 p.m. to explore the expansive park.
Niagara Falls State Park Attractions
We had booked tickets to the American side of the park, where we experienced every attraction available as they were all included in the ticket price. We particularly liked the Maid of the Mist boat tour and the Cave of the Winds. You will have plenty of time to experience everything so make sure not to rush through each attraction and enjoy the views of the falls, the surrounding nature, and the Niagara River. One thing which we were amazed by was the size of everything – although we knew beforehand how huge the falls were on paper, their true size up close still took us by surprise.
- “Maid of the Mist” boat tour:
The sightseeing boat “Maid of the Mist” allows you to enjoy a misty 30-minute boat tour that will take you to the base of the American Falls as well as the turbulent waters of Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. This historic boat tour has been operating since the middle of the 19th century and is among the most popular attractions in North America.
- “Cave of the Winds” Tour:
Geared-up in a rain poncho and specially designed sandals, you can follow wooden walkways along Niagara River to the Hurricane Deck which is just a few breathtaking feet from the torrents of Niagara Falls. One thing is for sure, you’re gonna get wet! This is a truly amazing experience which you will not be forgetting any time soon.
- “Niagara Adventure Theater”:
At the Niagara Falls State Park Visitor Center, you can watch a 40-minute informative video to learn more about the history of the falls. You can also request a headset to listen to the narrative in the following languages: French, Spanish, Mandarin, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and German. This is actually a great way to start the tour through the park as you will get a good overview of the history of the falls and the park.
- “Aquarium of Niagara”:
This attraction in the park is great for kids. In a relatively small space, the aquarium offers displays of various sea inhabitants. You can see penguins, sea horses, and sea lions as well as 1,500 other types of sea life, ranging from the ecosystems of the Great Lakes to the coral reefs.
Highlights on the Canadian Side
Several of the people in our group visited the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. The only difference was that these individuals had 2 hours less time to view the sights as they arrived later and had to leave earlier. The Canadian side is slightly more scenic than the US side, especially since the Horseshoe Falls are one of the most iconic images of the park.
- “Hornblower Niagara Cruise”:
Get on board this modern tour boat and enjoy a 30-minute boat tour through Niagara Great Gorge. Keep your camera handy to take close-ups of the roaring American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and the famous Horseshoe Falls.
- “Journey Behind the Falls”
This was one of our favorite attractions! Go to the Table Rock Welcome Centre near Horseshoe Falls and take the elevator 46 meters down to the observation platform behind the roaring falls. Once you have walked through the tunnel, and the Cataract and Great Falls Portal, you will get to the upper and lower observation decks. You will understand why this was our favorite part when you see the incredible volumes of the waterfall into the deep right in front of you.
- “Niagara’s Fury”:
For this attraction, you stand on a moving platform in a 4D cinema and see the forces of nature at work at Niagara Falls. You also get a load of information about this natural phenomenon. While you are listening to the falls’ history, you will feel the temperature drop and water and snow will be sprayed in the air around you – a great experience for the senses!
- “White Water Walk”:
Take the elevator to the base of Niagara Gorge and walk the boardwalk along the mighty rapids of the Niagara River.
Enjoy the expansiveness of nature and the magic of the waterfalls
After we visited all the attractions (which didn’t take long at all as there was barely any queues), we took a walk in Niagara Falls State Park. The park offers several opportunities to relax on a bench or grassy spot, to listen to nature, and to see the falls up close.
What we didn’t know was that the falls are used for power generation locally – this means that the city of Niagara can regulate the falls with more or less the touch of a button to alter the amount of power produced. This was really impressive and a great new tidbit of information that blew our minds. A nice spot for a break to think about all of this was Luna Island. In close proximity, you will also find the restaurant Top of the Falls where you can grab a bite to eat. Unless you have your heart set on hot dogs and fries, the restaurant offers healthier options than the snack booths in the park.
4 pm: Getting ready to leave Niagara Falls
At 4:00 pm we meet up with our bus driver who takes us back to Niagara Falls International Airport. After boarding the aircraft we immediately take off. There was no waiting involved like at a regular airport – in fact, they were waiting for us. There was one more highlight in store for us: the pilot made an extra loop over Niagara Falls – the perfect ending to an exciting day. We arrived in Long Island around 6:30 p.m. We encountered a bit more traffic in the evening than we did early in the morning but made it to the Marriott at Times Square by 8:15 pm.
Our Review: Efficient, but not exactly cheap
Our bottom line: The day-trip to Niagara Falls is for travelers who want to use their time effectively and have a flexible travel budget. The relatively short travel time to get there, six hours to see the sights, and a short return trip, allow you to make the most of the day. Of course, that convenience has a price – if this trip is too expensive, another option is a 2-day bus tour, or driving there yourself in a rental car.
Entry to the park is free and tickets to all attractions can be purchased individually. Personally, I would book the tour again. All travel arrangements were handled professionally and the trip went smoothly. All in all, we highly recommend this trip!