How To Plan A One-Day Trip To Niagara Falls, NY

One Day Trip To Niagara Falls New York

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Last Updated on September 23, 2020 by Lori

One place that seems to be on everyone’s bucket list is Niagara Falls.  If you could spend just one day in Niagara Falls State Park – I promise you will not regret it!

Niagara Falls USA is America’s Oldest State Park and is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

There are two sides to Niagara Falls – The Canadian Side and the New York Side. No matter which side you view the falls from, Niagara Falls is simply spectacular!

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View of Rainbow Bridge and Niagara Falls

Where Is Niagara Falls, NY

Niagara Falls, New York is located 420 miles from New York City, 475 miles from Boston, 90 miles from Toronto, and 20 miles from Buffalo.

When planning our camping trip to Letchworth State Park, which is located in western New York State, we discussed taking a quick trip to Niagara Falls but decided not to put it in our itinerary.

After our first night at the Houghton Letchworth KOA campground, we looked at our map of New York State and saw that Niagara Falls was only an hour and a half drive from the campground.

Because Niagara Falls was so close to where we were camping, we decided that we would be crazy to pass up the opportunity to visit the falls!

It turned out to be a beautiful day, and we were so happy we decided to go.

Road Entrance To Niagara Falls State Park

Since I am a planner, the first thing I did while sitting by the campfire was to research the best things to do in Niagara Falls and created a one-day Niagara Falls Itinerary.

Maid of the Mist boat tour at Niagara Falls NY

Here’s the list I came up with of the top fun things to do in Niagara Falls!

15 Fun Things To Do In Niagara Falls:

1. Niagara Falls State Park

2. Cave of the Winds & The World Changed Here Pavillion

3. Maid of the Mist

4. Niagara Adventure Theater/State Park Visitor Center

5. Niagara George Discovery Center and Trailhead Building

6. Observation Tower

7. Aquarium of Niagara

8. Crow’s Nest

9. Goat Island

10. Bridal Veil Falls

11. Horseshoe Falls

12. Three Sisters Islands

13. Luna Island

14. Terrapin Point

15. Schoellkopf Power Plant Ruins Site

After I made my list of Niagara Falls attractions, I knew I had to narrow down the list.

There was no way to see everything on my list – in one day.

Another thing I had to research before we committed to this day-trip to Niagara Falls, was to find out if dogs are allowed at the park.

Buddy our Golden Retriever travels everywhere with us when we go camping. 

We only leave him in the travel trailer if we are running to the store or making a quick stop. If we decided to drive to Niagara Falls, we would be gone most of the day.

Things To Know About Visiting Niagara Falls, New York

Prospect Point at Niagara Falls State Park
Niagara Falls New York. Photo by: Livin’ Life With Lori

Are There Any FREE Things To Do In Niagara Falls?

Since we did not budget for this one day trip, I started looking to see if there were any free things to do in Niagara Falls. 

Viewing the American Falls (located in Niagara Falls State Park) and walking around the Niagara Falls State Park is free.

Parking, however, is not free. 

The Discover Niagara Shuttle is free and will take you to 15 destination sites along a 14-mile route.

Parking At Niagara Falls State Park

Parking at Niagara Falls State Park is $10 if you can find parking in the three main lots connected to the scenic viewing areas.

Since we are always EARLY to everything (again – me…the planner), we found parking easily!

These lots are also very close to the Niagara Falls Visitor Center entrance.

There are additional Niagara Falls city lots and ramps which cost $30 and street parking is $5 per hour.

Niagara Falls State Park Signage

Tip – Get to the park early! During the summer, you will have a better chance of finding parking, and the crowds near the falls will be less!

Do You Need A Passport To Visit Niagara Falls?

Because we were only visiting the New York side of Niagara Falls, we did not need a passport. 

If you plan to cross the border into Canada and return to the United States, you will need a U.S. Passport, Passport Card, or Enhanced Driver’s License to cross the border into Canada unless you are age 15 or younger

Are Dog Allowed In Niagara Falls State Park?

Buddy the Golden Retriever at Niagara Falls State Park
Buddy the Golden Retriever at Niagara Falls, NY. Photo by Livin’ Life With Lori

Niagara Falls is a pet-friendly park.  Household pets must be on a 6 ft leash, be up to date on their rabies vaccination and pet owners must clean up after their pets.

Pets are not allowed inside any attractions or buildings.

As you can see from the photo above, Buddy was allowed to come with us to Niagara Falls State Park. He was also the center of attention wherever we went!

One Day Itinerary Niagara Falls

What were some of our favorite things we saw at our Niagara Falls day trip?

Because we had our golden retriever with us and couldn’t go on the Maid of the Mist boat tour or the Cave of the Winds, we decided to just enjoy walking around Niagara Falls State Park and viewing the falls.

We were NOT disappointed!

Skylon Tower Ontario Canada
View of Skylon Tower – Ontario Canada from Niagara Falls, NY
Photo by Livin’ Life With Lori

Best Things To See In A One Day Tour of Niagara Falls, NY

Here are our picks for the best things to see if you only had one day to spend at Niagara Falls, NY.

Niagara Falls Park Map
Map of Niagara Falls State Park

Prospect Point

Prospect Point is THE prime viewing area for the American Falls and Rapids.

Maid of the Mist heading into the falls
American Falls at Niagara Falls State Park, NY. Photo by Livin’ Life With Lori

We spent quite a bit of time here just taking in the views. 

It was a very hot day (above 100 degrees), but near the falls, you didn’t notice just how hot it was!

Niagara Falls Boat Tours
Maid of the Mist tour boats – Niagara Falls, NY. Photo by Livin’ Life With Lori

From this point, we were able to see and follow the Maid of the Mist tour boat as it went toward the falls and then again back to dock!

Maid of the Mist

Boat tour at Niagara Falls
Maid of the Mist – Niagara Falls, NY. Photo by Livin’ Life With Lori

Maid of the Mist tour carries up to 600 passengers and operates only on the U.S. side of the Falls.

The tour is a half-hour and takes visitors into the basin of Niagara Falls State Park’s Horseshoe Falls.

Niagara Falls Maid of the Mist boat tour
Niagara Falls, NY – Boat tours. Photo by Livin’ Life With Lori

While on the Maid of the Mist, passengers are up close to the 600,000 gallons of water thundering over the falls!

Be prepared! You will get wet and the tour provides a blue rain poncho.

Here’s more information on tickets and times of the Maid of the Mist

Cave Of The Winds Tour

Cave of the Winds tour

If you’re visiting Niagara Falls from May to October, you might enjoy the Cave Of The Winds Tour

This is a timed ticketed attraction where you will be outfitted in souvenir sandals and ponchos to experience the tropical storm-like conditions of The Cave of the Winds.

After taking an elevator 175 feet down into the Niagara Gorge, you will experience wooden walkways that bring you to the “Hurricane Deck” where you are within feet of the crashing Bridal Veil Falls!

Find out more information about the Cave of the Winds Tour

After taking in all the views at Prospect Point, we decided to cross the American Rapids via the pedestrian bridge to Bridal Falls and Luna Island.

This is an awesome photo that I took of the Ontario skyline and the American Rapids while walking to the Crows Nest.

Canada Skyline from Niagara Falls NY
American Rapids at Niagara Falls, NY. Photo by Livin’ Life With Lori

If you walk behind the Crows Nest restaurant, you will see some of the best views of the Rainbow Bridge which crosses into Canada and the American Falls! 

This is where I think we found the “secret” spot for photographs of Niagara Falls

Walk further down the stairs to Luna Island for an awesome up-close view of the falls.

Plus we were able to get cooled off from the mist of the falls!

View of Rainbow Bridge and Niagara Falls
Looking at the Rainbow Bridge and Niagara Falls, NY. Photo by Livin’ Life With Lori

Niagara Falls USA Observation Tower

The Observation Tower is the only place that you will be able to see a panoramic view of all three Niagara Falls – Horshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls.

Here is where you take the elevator to the base of the gorge to board the Maid of the Mist boat tour

Niagara Falls Trivia

Here are a few interesting Facts about Niagara Falls!

Maid of the Mist heading into the falls
Photo by Livin’ Life With Lori

Niagara Falls:

•        3,160 tons of water flows over Niagara Falls every second. This accounts for 75,750 gallons of water per second over the American and Bridal Veil Falls and 681,750 gallons per second over the Horseshoe Falls.

•        The water falls at 32 feet per second over the Falls, hitting the base of the Falls with 280 tons of force at the American and Bridal Veil Falls and 2,509 tons of force at the Horseshoe Falls.

•        Niagara Falls is capable of producing over 4 million kilowatts of electricity, which is shared by the United States and Canada.

•        Four of the five Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Erie) drain into the Niagara River before emptying into Lake Ontario. These five Great Lakes make up almost one-fifth of the world’s fresh water supply.

•        In November 1896, electrical power was transmitted from the Adams Power Plant in Niagara Falls, New York to Buffalo, New York. This was the first time in the world that alternating current was transmitted over a long distance.

•        In 1969, an earthen dam was built across the head of the American Rapids, de-watering the American Falls. For six months, geologists and engineers studied the rock face and the effects of erosion. It was determined that it would be too costly to remove rock at the base of the American Falls, and that nature should take its course.

If you are interested, here’s where you can learn more Fun Facts about Niagara Falls.

Best Times To Visit Niagara Falls, NY

The best times to visit Niagara Falls is during the summer – June – August.  The temperatures average in the low 80s but when standing near the falls, the mist and breezes will cool you off on a hot summer day!

While summer is peak season and the crowds are larger, you will be able to enjoy all the attractions.

Best Places To Eat in Niagara Falls

Top of the Falls Restaurant

Top of the Falls Restaurant is the only restaurant overlooking Niagara Falls.  Located on Goat Island, the restaurant overlooks Terrapin Point and with their floor-to-ceiling windows and outdoor dining decks, you will dine with panoramic views of Horseshoe Falls.

Beer and wine is also served at the restaurant.

In-Park Dining – Niagara Falls, NY

There are plenty of places to eat inside Niagara Falls State Park too!

Prospect Point Café

The cafe serves deli sandwiches, wraps, salads, pizza, and snacks.  Located on the lower level of the Visitor Center.

Prospect Point Grill

The grill is located on the outside patio of the Visitor Canter and serves flame-grilled sandwiches and soft drinks.

Prospect Point Coffee and Ice Cream Shop

The shop serves hand-dipped ice cream cones, gourmet coffee and frozen drinks. The shop is located on the lower level of the Visitor Center.

Cave of the Winds Snack Bar

The snack bar serves grilled sandwiches, French fries, pizzas and ice cream.  The snack bar can be found in the Cave of the Winds building on Goat Island.

Other Niagara Falls Attractions

Here are some other attractions and tours you might be enjoy on your visit to Niagara Falls!

Niagara Scenic Trolley

This guided Niagara Falls Trolley gives passengers an overview of the park and offers historical anecdotes, fun facts, and tips for checking out the park’s most popular attractions.

Niagara Adventure Theater

The air-conditioned Niagara Adventure Theater auditorium features stadium seating for 314, and is located at the Niagara Falls State Park Visitor Center. “Niagara: Legends of Adventure” screens every 45 minutes, so be sure to check the schedule in order to plan accordingly.

The ScheSchoellkopf Power Plant Ruins Site

The Schoellkopf Power Station was constructed in three sections between 1905 and 1924, and at the time of its completion was the largest hydroelectric power station in the world.

The complex included offices, gatehouses, and other buildings at the top of the Niagara Gorge, and turbine-generator stations located at the base. Water was diverted from the Niagara River above the falls, by a 4,600′ canal that ran through the city to the edge of the gorge.

Niagara Falls Fireworks Displays

Niagara Falls Fireworks

If you’re in Niagara Falls at night, you might see a spectacular display of fireworks! Check the website for more information about Fireworks Over Niagara Falls.

Aquarium of Niagara

The Aquarium of Niagara has more than 30 exhibits including the Aliens of the Sea jellyfish exhibit, the state-of-the-art Penguin Coast exhibit, and the soon-to-open M&T Bank Shark & Ray Bay featuring sharks and stingrays (opening Fall 2020).

The Aquarium has more than 120 aquatic animal species, daily penguin and seal feedings and sea lion shows.

Niagara Falls One Day Itinerary

I hope you will love Niagara Falls, NY as much as we did.

We hope to return to Niagara Falls one day to experience the tours and explore the surrounding area.

But for this one-day trip, we were fine with just standing by the falls, mesmerized by its magnificent power and beauty.

What were some of your favorite experiences at Niagara Falls, NY?

Send me an email! [email protected]

How To See Niagara Falls In One Day
What to see on a day trip to Niagara Falls, NY
One Day Niagara Falls

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