Straddling the border between the United States and Canada, Niagara Falls is a viable day trip from New York City or the climactic destination of a longer road trip across New York state. Point to point is a little more than 400 miles. Visitors can either remain on the American side of the falls at the Niagara Falls State Park or cross into Canada via the Rainbow Bridge, bearing in mind that a valid passport is required to re-enter the United States.
Amtrak’s Empire Service runs from New York City’s Penn Station daily from 7:15 a.m., reaching Niagara Falls station just over seven hours later, with the service ultimately terminating in Toronto across the border. On the way, the train passes through some of New York state’s major cities, including Albany, Syracuse and Buffalo, making a stop en route a worthwhile option. Tickets need to be reserved in advance, and amenities include reclining seats, 120v outlets at each seat, restrooms and a dining car. Take a taxi from the Niagara Falls station, which is in an industrial part of town, to the falls.
For a no-frills trip, Greyhound Express takes from 8 ½ to 11 hours to Niagara Falls, picking up from several points in New York City, but many passengers might find the direct route a grueling one. A more leisurely alternative is the two-day bus tour, with numerous operators incorporating visits to museums and towns along the way and a tour of the falls at the end, with overnight accommodation in a hotel near the falls. Get Bus Tours, for example, picks up in Flushing and Brooklyn and makes a stop at the Corning Glass Center, the largest glass museum in the world, although entry to the museum is an extra charge.
Prepare for a seven- to eight-hour drive from New York City to cross the state and reach the falls, following the I-80, I-81 and I-90 roads. Tolls are payable at points along the route. For the scenic route, "The Daily Telegraph" recommends following the Hudson River Valley from Poughkeepsie, heading to the state capital of Albany and making a stop at Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, for a slice of small town American life. From Cooperstown, a further four hours on the road brings you to Niagara Falls.
The best way to make a whistle-stop tour of the falls is to take an air tour, with pick up from Manhattan hotels and transfer to the airport, followed by a short one-hour flight to Buffalo. From there, coaches with multilingual tour guides transport groups on a tour of the falls just a 25-minute drive away. Tours typically include a ride on the Maid of the Mist boat, a tour of the Niagara River Gorge, a buffet lunch and a trip back in New York City within approximately eight hours. While the Maid of the Mist boat runs from May to October, from November to April the Journey Behind the Falls tour takes groups up close to the cascading water. For independent travelers, Jet Blue flies out of New York City's JFK airport throughout the day for the one-hour flight to Buffalo.