You've sampled some of the best nightlife in New York City and are ready to venture into the great outdoors. On the other side of New York state is something just as breathtaking as the City That Never Sleeps: Niagara Falls, a natural marvel surrounded by history, culture and culinary delights.
Located in western New York between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, Niagara Falls is about 640 kilometers northwest of New York City. Like New York City, Niagara Falls has cold winters followed by hot summers, but is a popular year-round destination. From New York City, travelers can access Niagara Falls by bus, train and car. Since buses and trains make several stops, renting a car and driving is the most direct way to reach Niagara Falls. It takes about six and a half hours from New York City, with the most direct route cutting through Pennsylvania and into central New York's Finger Lakes region, a scenic hilly area cut by glaciers centuries ago. Today the region is home to more than 400 wineries.
Get to Know Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls consists of three major waterfalls that straddle the U.S.-Canada border between Ontario, Canada, and New York State. They are Horseshoe Falls (almost 51 meters tall), American Falls (53.6 meters tall) and Bridal Veil Falls (53.6 meters tall). Every second, 3,160 tons of water flow over Niagara Falls, which produce more than 4 million kilowatts of electricity shared by the United States and Canada.
To preserve this natural wonder, Niagara Falls State Park was established in 1885, making it the oldest state park in the U.S. The park includes paths and viewing points, but one of the best ways to truly experience the thunder and splash of the crashing water is to ride the Maid of the Mist, a boat service that has been operating since 1846. The Maid of the Mist steers so close to the falls that passengers are outfitted with water-protective ponchos to wear during the ride. Prepare to get wet and be wowed.
You’ll even be wowed in the winter – the frozen landscape can be gorgeous – and in the dark. Every night, year-round, the falls are illuminated in a kaleidoscope of colors. Catch fireworks over the falls during the summer and on select holidays, including U.S. Independence Day (July 4) and Canada Day (July 1).
Need more watery adventure? Niagara Jet Adventures offers a different kind of boating experience year-round. Passengers speed across the Niagara River Gorge's whitewater rapids in small, enclosed, climate-controlled boats. If you stand out on the "wet deck," be prepared to change into dry clothes after your tour.
Where to Eat, Drink and Shop
After taking boat tours and toweling off, see the rest of Niagara Falls. The area is home to many hotels, restaurants, shops and, a little farther away, wineries. Begin at Old Falls Street, a three-block cobblestone way connecting the entrance of Niagara Falls State Park with the convention center. The street features life-sized family games such as giant chess boards, live music, outdoor movies, bike rentals, food and craft vendors, and street festivals.
Have lunch or dinner at the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute or try other options, including Savor, a student-run, fine-dining restaurant; La Patisserie, a European-style cafe specializing in pastries; and Old Falls Street Deli, a great place to enjoy New York-style sandwiches, made-to-order meals often featuring pastrami, corned beef or salami. If you’re in the mood for a drink, Wine on Third mixes unique martinis, with flavors such as cheesecake, cucumber and pumpkin spice.
Explore Wine Country
Just outside downtown Niagara Falls begins the Niagara Wine Trail, which stretches three counties east toward Rochester, New York. Limousine and guided bus tours are available, but many people select a few wineries to visit and travel by car. The cool climate makes the region ideal for growing grapes used in Rieslings, Chardonnays and Pinot Gris.
Where to Stay in Niagara Falls
After a day of sightseeing, eating and drinking, you may be tired and ready to rest. Niagara Falls has a wide range of lodging, from budget chain hotels to bed-and-breakfast inns to casino resorts. Several hotels offer excellent views, including the Four Points by Sheraton on Buffalo Avenue, where guests can dine overlooking the magnificent falls.
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