From New York City to Niagara Falls: 5 Best Ways to Get There

Written by Lavanya Sunkara
Updated May 26, 2022
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Straddling the border between the United States and Canada, the powerful Niagara Falls is a must-see for anyone visiting New York City. Located 400 miles from the Big Apple, Niagara Falls can be reached in several ways: You can choose to go with an organized tour or travel on your own by way of a car, bus, train, or plane.

Niagara Falls, cascading 167 feet into the Niagara Gorge, consists of three waterfalls: Horseshoe Falls (also known as Canadian Falls), Bridal Veil Falls, and American Falls, all of which are located in Western New York. The latter two and part of the Horseshoe Falls are part of the Niagara Falls State Park, the oldest state park in the state. Although the view from Canada is considered to be better, you can experience the splendor of 3,160 tons of water gushing over the crest every second on both sides of the border from various vantage points.

You may want to give yourself more than a day to enjoy the falls and explore the surrounding region in a leisurely manner, and don't forget to bring your passport or an enhanced driver's license to walk or drive across the border on the Rainbow Bridge.

Here are four of the best ways to get from New York City to Niagara Falls to help you plan an unforgettable trip.

1. From New York City to Niagara Falls on an Organized Tour

Tour boat under a rainbow at Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls
Tour boat under a rainbow at Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls

Go on an overnight Niagara Falls and Tannersville Tour to explore the falls from both the American and Canadian sides. This organized, guided tour allows you to get up close to the falls and explore the state park. Start your day at 7am and embark on a bus or van journey from Midtown Manhattan at the Gray Line New York tour company and travel through Upstate New York, Delaware Water Gap, and the Watkins Glen State Park in the Finger Lakes region on your way to Niagara Falls.

The tour involves a Niagara Falls State Park Tour, along with a chance to see the illuminated falls from the Canadian side and an overnight stay at the Ramada by Wyndham with continental breakfast the next morning. The second day involves a Maid of the Mist boat cruise (May through October) into the basin of the Horseshoe Falls to experience its powerful spray and thundering waters.

On your way back, stop in Pennsylvania at one of the largest outlet malls, the Crossings Premium Outlet Mall, for bargain shopping. You may still go on the tour, even if you don't have proper documentation to cross the border, but be prepared to stay at the hotel during the Canadian excursion; you may still enjoy the cruise as it departs from the American side.

Consider doing a same-day organized tour from Manhattan to Niagara Falls, like the Niagara Falls in One Day from New York City tour. It packs a lot into a one-day tour, and you get to see the falls from multiple viewpoints (close enough to feel the mist), have some time on your own in Niagara Falls State Park, and get some time for lunch and souvenir shopping. You can even upgrade to a Maid of the Mist boat ride or Cave of the Winds visit, both must-do tourist experiences.

You'll be picked up early (4am departure time) in Times Square, and then take a luxury motor coach to Niagara Falls. The bus has a restroom and makes a rest stop along the way. You'll then be taken back to the same Times Square pickup location between 11pm and midnight.

2. From New York City to Niagara Falls by Plane

Aerial view of Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls
Aerial view of Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls

Bypass the hassle of driving by hopping on a quick plane ride from New York to Buffalo to reach Niagara Falls. JetBlue, United, and Delta offer non-stop flights from NYC area airports that last less than an hour.

The Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF) is a half-hour drive from the falls. Visitors may also fly directly to Toronto Pearson International (YYZ), and drive about 90 minutes to the Canadian side of the falls. Overall time of reaching Niagara Falls by plane is anywhere from three to four hours each way, making flying the fastest way to reach the falls.

If you fly into Buffalo airport, there are a few options for transportation to the falls. You can take a shuttle van, taxi, or an Uber or Lyft. You can also make the trip from the airport to the falls on a public bus. The cost is only $4, but you will need to take two buses, transferring in downtown Buffalo. The journey will take about two hours.

If you fly into Toronto, you can take a shuttle van or a train. GO Transit is the regional transportation provider and has frequent, inexpensive trains to Niagara Falls. VIA Rail, Canada's national rail carrier, has two direct trains each day.

3. From New York City to Niagara Falls by Train

American Falls, Niagara Falls
American Falls, Niagara Falls

Two major Amtrak lines connect the Niagara region to cities on the East Coast of the U.S. and Canada. Those traveling from New York City can get on the Empire Service train to the Niagara Falls International Train Station and Intermodal Transportation Center from Penn Station in Manhattan. The Empire Service train operates daily and has Business Class and Reserved Coach Class. The scenic ride takes about eight hours, with stops along the way in Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo.

Alternatively, visitors can take Amtrak's Maple Leaf train, which connects New York City with Toronto, with stops at Albany, Syracuse, and Niagara Falls. The total journey is 12.5 hours. Both trains come with free, basic Wi-Fi and Cafe cars. The Maple Leaf train stops at both Niagara Falls, NY and the Niagara Falls, Ontario stations. To get from the train stations to the falls, just hop on the free Discovery Niagara Shuttle.

Once there, the Niagara Falls State Park is less than a 10-minute drive from the station. Niagara Falls State Park is open year-round and offers interactive exhibits, hiking trails, and dining at the Top of the Falls restaurant. The state park's Discovery Pass allows visitors to enjoy the falls on the Maid of the Mist boat cruise.

You can also take the free, hop-on/hop-off Discovery Niagara Shuttle. The shuttle stops right at the train station. The 14-mile "Falls to the Fort" route stops at highlights such as the Niagara USA Visitor Center, Niagara View Points, Old Fort Niagara, Aquarium of Niagara, and Castellani Art Museum, among others.

4. From New York City to Niagara Falls by Car

Niagara Falls at night
Niagara Falls at night

Traveling by car allows you the freedom to stop and explore New York State's attractions on your way to its most treasured natural wonder. The drive from New York City to Niagara Falls, involving 400 miles, takes anywhere from seven to eight hours depending on traffic; add more time to cross the border if you are visiting the Canadian side. Drivers can take the I-80 West or go via I-81 N and connect to I-90 West. It's best to leave early in the morning to beat rush hour traffic.

On your drive to Niagara Falls, optional activities include hiking in Harriman State Park (the second largest park in the state), visiting the largest arcade in the state at Robot City Games, and having a stopover in Canandaigua, a charming town ideal for couples.

You can rent a car in New York City for the drive to Niagara Falls. Rental car companies like Hertz, Alamo, Budget, Thrifty, and Avis all have locations at the three NYC airports, as well as in and around the city. The non-airport locations usually have lower rates than airport locations. Keep in mind, most rental car agreements do not allow you to drive the car across the border into Canada, so stay on the U.S. side. Also your personal car insurance may not cover you in Canada, so be sure to research your coverage before your trip.

New York and 19 other states use the E-ZPass cashless toll system and in-car device. If you have one, bring it, and if you don't, consider buying one before your trip. Most rental cars come with an E-ZPass but be sure to review the rules and charges carefully before using it. Drivers in NY can use the website to pay their tolls online within 48 hours of incurring them to avoid extra charges from the rental car company.

5. From New York City to Niagara Falls by Bus

Aerial view of Niagara Falls and Rainbow Bridge
Aerial view of Niagara Falls and Rainbow Bridge

You can also take a bus to get from New York City to Niagara Falls. Greyhound has a daily direct bus that stops in Syracuse and Buffalo. The trip takes about 11 hours and also stops at the border and at the Niagara Falls bus station on the Canadian side. The bus leaves from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown.

FlixBus picks up in Midtown, near Penn Station, and drops off in downtown Niagara Falls, NY. Both companies have buses with restrooms, free basic Wi-Fi, reclining seats, and the ability to carry a lot of luggage. Buses typically emit less CO2 than passenger cars, so it's a greener way to travel, as well as being easy and less expensive than other options.