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 by a small island at their south end, from the narrow Bridal Veil falls.
Each side of the falls offers a different perspective, and it is always best to visit both sides to maximize your experience. The American side gives a side-on view of the American Falls, and an observation point only 20 yards from the top of the falls. Although the Canadian side is touted for having the best view, the American side is a State Park, the oldest in the nation, so efforts have been made 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.
Overview map of Niagara Falls
Buffalo-Niagara International Airport (IATA: BUF), in Buffalo is a major airport, with flights across the United States. It is about 30-40 minutes away.
Buffalo Airport Shuttle, 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.
Niagara Falls International Airport (IATA: IAG) is the closest airport to the falls, but it is served by only one commercial airline, charter, and private flights.
DirectAir  has regular direct flights to Ft. Myers, FL and Myrtle Beach, SC. On-site airport parking is free.
John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport (IATA: YHM) is about a one-hour drive west of Niagara Falls in the Canadian province of Ontario. The airport hosts low-cost Canadian carrier WestJet which offers frequent flights all over Canada. In addition, Transat Holidays offers weekly direct flights to Cancun, Mexico and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
Toronto Pearson International Airport (IATA: YYZ), in Toronto is about a 1 1/2 hour drive from the falls. However, expect to deal with heavy traffic in the Toronto area which could make the trip much longer.
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (IATA: CLE), in Cleveland is around 3 hours drive from Niagara Falls, but is a hub for Continental Airlines, and has direct flights to many destinations. It is another opportunity to seek out cheap fares into the region.
Amtrak's Niagara Falls station (NFL) is served daily by the Empire Service from New York City and the Maple Leaf from both New York City and Toronto.
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 Robert Moses 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 Robert Moses 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 Robert Moses Parkway. Continue until in downtown Niagara Falls.
NFTA bus line #210 runs every 2 hours between Buffalo Niagara International Airport and Niagara Falls. Currently it is scheduled until June 30th. See schedule at NFTA's website.
The City of Niagara Falls in winter
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 50¢ (both U.S. and Canadian currency accepted), paid on the Canadian side coming into the U.S. (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 wavier 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.
Car is a convenient option to get around, and to see the attractions surrounding the Falls.
There is ample parking on the American side of the falls, and 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.
If parking in the downtown falls area, there are clearly posted signs which should direct you pretty hassle-free to the tourist area. Most shops and attractions are within walking distance from the downtown falls area.
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 with Mexico, most national rental outfits don't have an issue with you traveling into Canada in it of itself - however there's a decent chance that Canadian travel is not included in your unlimited millage area, (unless the rental originated in New York State) and surcharges may apply. Remember, you can always park in downtown Niagara Falls, NY and walk across the Rainbow Bridge to enjoy the sights there.
NFTA bus #210 travels a little around the Falls area. Other bus routes run in the area, for example to Buffalo.
Downtown Niagara Falls
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.
Cave of the Winds, . An elevator takes you 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.
The Maid of the Mist and the American Falls
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.
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.
Aquarium of Niagara, 701 Whirlpool St, (toll free: +1 800-500-4609), . 9AM-5PM. The aquarium at Niagara Falls.$10.
Niagara Adventure Theater.
Niagara Scenic Trolley.
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 Wine Trail, . Not at the Falls, but within driving distance.
There are many operators offering tours of the area:
Bedore Tours, 1-800-538-8433, . Sightseeing tours of Niagara Falls USA and Canada.
Magic Mist Limousine, 1-800-689-8189, . Private Sightseeing tours of Niagara Falls USA and Canada by limousine.
The Mob Tours, . Historic sightseeing tours of former crime family homes, hideouts and people by bus.
Dare Devil Tours, 1-800-599-2088, . Limousine tours highlighting the real life stories of people who challenged Niagara.
Helicopter Tour,  - its an awesome experience though the charge of $90 may seem like a lot for a 15 minute ride.
Niagara Falls Walking Tours, Old Falls and Prospect Sts. (The corner of Old Falls and Prospect Streets, just outside the pedestrian entrance to the Falls State Park), ☎ (716) 880-6242, . See the funny side of the Falls! 90 minute walking tours of Niagara feature the humorous history of the region. Your guide is a former stand-up comic, so you'll laugh while you learn. The 1.3 mile walk is a gentle course that is handicapped accessible and kid friendly. $15.00.
Seneca-Niagara Casino, . Casino and hotel complex with stores and restaurants, a short walk from the falls.
There are outlet malls, which may be of interest to bargain hunters crossing the border.
Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls (Prime Outlets), 1900 Military Rd (I-190 to exit 22 and head S), ☎ +1 716 297-2022. Designer names like Coach.
There are numerous places to pick up gifts and souvenirs including:
Three Sisters Trading Post, 454 Main St, ☎ +1 716 284-3689, . A wide selection of unique gifts and souvenirs.
Collaso Taco II, 2440 Pine Ave, ☎ +1 716 284-1498. A high rated Mexican restaurant. They don't know what a burrito is - give this a pass!
David's, 7616 Niagara Falls Blvd (just south of the city proper), ☎ +1 716 283-3322, . Home of the cheesesteak hoagie. It has some of the best cheesesteaks in the area.
Great Wall, 8233 Niagara Falls Blvd, ☎ +1 716 283-2354.
Halal Mobile Foods, 102 Niagara St. The food is filling and is in a tourist location.
Mighty Taco, 18 locations in Western New York, . Way better than Taco Bell.
2591 Miliary Rd, ☎ +1 716 297-7198. 10AM-midnight daily, drive-thru Su-Th 10AM-1AM, F Sa 10AM-2AM.
Misty Dog Grill, 431 Main St, ☎ +1 786 285-0702. 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, ☎ +1 716 297-9318.
Twist O' the Mist, 18 Niagara St, ☎ +1 716 285-0702. 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, ☎ +1 716 285-8100.
Casa Nova Restaurant, 3041 Military Rd, ☎ +1 716 297-9544.
Chu's Dining Lounge, 1019 Main St, ☎ +1 716 285-7278 (email@example.com), . 11AM-11PM daily. $6-13 (Arrangements available for tour groups).
India Palace, 539 Main St, ☎ +1 716 282-2421.
Kohinoor Indian Restaurant, 200 Rainbow Blvd, ☎ +1 716 284-2414.
Michaels, 3011 Pine Ave (Little Italy), ☎ +1 716 282-4043, . Very good prices and big portions of American and Italian fare.
Royal India Buffet, 421 3rd St, ☎ +1 716 282-0444.
New Punjabi Dhaba, 26 Niagara St, ☎ +1 716 285-7479.
Passage to India, 441 3rd St, ☎ +1 716 285-2625.
Punjabi Hut, 26 Niagara St. Home-style cooking.
Fortuna's, 827 19th St, ☎ +1 716 282-2252 (fax: +1 716 282-1853), . 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-Niagra Casino and Hotel, (toll free: +1 877-8SENECA), . Su-Tu 5PM-9PM, F Sa 5PM-10PM, closed W Th. A fairly new fine dining Chinese place.
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.
Oliver Street was in the Guiness Book of World records for many years for having the most bars on one street. Upwards of 100 bars are still on Oliver. One of the best being Soos's bar (now called Witter's Sports Bar and Grill). Oliver Street is located in NT (North Tonawanda) about 15 minutes from the Falls. At the end there are many things to do, such as roller skating, tattoo shops, the Riviera Theatre and more.3rd Street is a little strip with clubs and bars.
Judi's Lounge, 2057 Military Rd, ☎ +1 716 297-5759. Townie bar specializing in wings.
Lewiston Village Pub, 840 Center St, Lewiston, ☎ +1 716 405-7017 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . M-Th 3PM-2AM, F 11AM-3AM, Sa noon-3AM, Su noon-2AM. 40 brews on tap, 150+ bottles.Beer $2-10, restaurant food $5-20, pub fare $3-9.
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&B's: Butler House, Park Place B&B, and the Elizabeth House. Lewiston also has a nice looking B+B, but this is a little drive from everything (very cute little town however). Niagara on the Lake is always worth the drive (Canada).
Niagara Falls Hostel, 1101 Ferry Ave, ☎ +1 716 282-3700, . About a mile from the Falls, but the neighborhood between the hostel and the falls is run down and feels less than safe.Beds start at $18.
The Red Coach Inn, 2 Buffalo Ave (I-190 N to Robert Moses Pkwy, third exit), ☎ +1 716 282-1459, . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 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. (43°05.07 N,79°03.79 W)
Wanderfalls Guesthouse & Hostel, 601 Spruce Ave (3 blocks from Portage Bus Station), ☎ +1 716 804-6235, . checkin: 4PM-9PM; checkout: 11AM. There are three dorm rooms (four beds per room) and one private room (twin bunk). Free WiFi, guest kitchen, BBQ grill, parking, laundry. Dorms $16-22, private room $36-55.
The Niagara Falls area code is 716 for the entire area.
The Niagara Falls zip codes are 14301-14305
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's Artpark State Park has a popular open-air auditorium in addition to the normal park activities. Lewiston also has The SandDocks and the Niagara Escarpment on Lewiston Rd.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!