New York City is amazing in itself, but the world famous Niagara Falls are actually not that far away! You can perfectly add this piece of natural beauty to your trip. Driving there takes about 7 hours (without traffic), but as I didn’t feel like renting a car, I took the train together with a Kiwi friend of mine! It is a super relaxed ride with some beautiful scenery to enjoy along the way. The trains depart 3 times a day from New York City and it is just a very convenient way of getting there. With comfortable seats, a food car and free WiFi, it gets you there in 9 hours. All aboard and enjoy the ride!
About The Falls
The Niagara Falls consist of 3 huge waterfalls and they form a piece of boarder between the United States and Canada. The Horseshoe Falls are the highest ones, with a drop of 57 meters (188 ft). They are the most powerful ones in North America and very spectacular to see (and hear!). They have even been used to portray ‘The World’s End’ of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: At the World’s End’! On either side of the falls, there is plenty of touristic stuff you can do. The Maid of the Mist boat tour is probably the most famous activity. While covered in the famous blue poncho’s, you’ll get really close to the falls and experience them in the best possible way! There are also casino’s on both sides, and specific tourist areas with many side activities and fun.
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How To Get There
Amtrak is the National Railroad Passenger Corporation and has trains running throughout pretty much the entire US. In New York City, their trains depart from Penn Station, which is located on 7th & 8th Avenues, between 31st and 33rd Streets (Subway lines 1,2,3 and A,C,E get you there). Penn Station is HUGE, so make sure to get there in time to find your way around.
Niagara Falls Train
Trains to the Niagara Falls depart 3 times a day at 7:15am, 10:20am, and 1:20pm and will take you directly. You can book your tickets online at www.amtrak.com and at the counter at the station. However, tickets often sell out quickly, so I would recommend you to book as far as possible in advance and definitely don’t count on finding a (cheap) ticket at the counter. The cheapest one way tickets are (at the time of writing) $62 (€47). If you have an ISIC Card, you receive 10% discount, but you must book at least 3 days in advance. After checking in with Amtrak at Penn Station, there is a launch where you can hang out before departing and some small shops to buy some (overpriced) snacks and drinks.
Niagara Falls Train
The Amtrak train is very nice and provides a comfortable ride. It’s pretty much like an airplane, but with some additional perks. Every seat has a power outlet, a reading light, a fold down tray, overhead storage and there is free Wifi. Well, supposedly, that is. I’ve traveled on Amtrak trains a fair amount of times and usually the Wifi works fine, but not on my trip to the Niagara Falls. It only worked in the food car. Unlucky, as it usually works fine. The food car provides a nice assortment of foods and drinks. It’s very overpriced though, so if you’re on a budget it’s best to bring your own. During the 9 hours on board, you’ll cross some pretty landscapes, such as of the Hudson Valley, and get to see a bit more of the USA than just NYC.
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The Canadian Or American Side
The Niagara Falls form part of the boarder between the US and Canada, and so you can visit them on either side. Each have their own activities and things to do. The Maid of the Mist has docks on either side, so that shouldn’t be a reason to choose one or another. I went to the Canadian side, and I had the feeling there was a lot more to do and see on that side than on the US side. It has a super touristic Hollywood-like tourist area with a mini walk of fame, famous restaurants, some sort of movie sets, a Ferris wheel, etc. The Canadian side also has the iconic Skylon tower which offer a great view across the falls. Furthermore, there are some casino’s on both sides.
Train wise, it doesn’t really matter where you go. The train from New York City passes both the Niagara Falls NY station and the Niagara Falls Canada station. Make sure to book the right ticket, as the stations are not close to each other. If you want to visit the Canadian side, you will cross the boarder, so take that into account.
Niagara Falls Train Niagara Falls Train
Boarder Crossing & Visa Questions
Crossing the boarder to Canada and back at the Niagara Falls isn’t a super big deal. If you are a US citizen, you need to show your passport, or an enhanced drivers license. Internationals traveling from the US under the Visa Waiver Program, so with an ESTA approval, don’t have to do anything additional either. Just bring your passport. The Visa Waiver Program allows you to make a short trip to Canada (or Mexico) and return to the US with the same approval. Be aware, however, that your ESTA approval allows you to visit the USA for 90 days max. When visiting Canada (or Mexico), these days will be included in your 90 days. So if you make a side trip to Canada for, lets say 5 days, you only have 85 days left! Same story for those traveling on a J-1 visa, like camp counselors. Nothing additional is required, just bring your forms and passport. The days spent in Canada are part of your 30 days. For more information make sure to check with US Customs and Boarder Protection.
If you want to cross the boarder by walking across the bridge, it’s just like at the airport, including finger prints, photo’s etc. There may be a long line. From personal experience I can tell you it’s not worth crossing the boarder solemnly for the sake of joking around and getting another stamp haha. When crossing the boarder by train your documents will be checked by boarder officials at the station.