The Ultimate Guide to the US side of Niagara Falls (Things to do, where to stay, & MORE!)

Niagara Falls is a MUST visit in the United States! And in this guide we’re sharing the best things to do on the US side of Niagara Falls, plus where to stay, places to eat, and more!

On our way to New England for the fall, we noticed that our route would be taking us pretty close to the iconic Niagara Falls, which as waterfall lovers, is a place we had always wanted to visit. So we knew we’d have to make a pit stop!

Due to COVID regulations with crossing the US/Canada border, we stuck solely to the US side and spent a full day exploring as much as we could of Niagara Falls. And while we hear that the Canadian side has better views, we absolutely LOVED the US side of Niagara Falls!

Watch our experience on the US side of Niagara Falls and eating iconic foods in Buffalo, New York!

Our day was filled with non stop laughter and smiles, as we got absolutely drenched (multiple times) while experiencing the falls. It turned us into little kids and was truly one of the most joyful, fun days we have ever had!

In this guide we’re sharing everything you need to know before visiting the US side of Niagara Falls, including what to expect during different seasons, where to stay, things to do, and more! We hope that Niagara Falls brings you as much joy as it brought us…we already cannot wait to go back and experience it again, but on the Canadian side!

Looking for more things to do in New York and New England?

Note: this guide contains affiliate links, which means that if you use the links provided and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!

About Niagara Falls

US side of Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is made up of three waterfalls, American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls, and is located in both New York in the United States and Ontario, Canada. These falls are made up of water from four of the five Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie), which drain into the Niagara River, forming the falls, which then flows into Lake Ontario. 

Both Bridal Veil Falls and American Falls are located on the US side of Niagara Falls, while Horseshoe Falls (also called Canadian Falls), is located on the border of the US and Canada, with the majority of the falls being in Canada.

Horseshoe Falls is the largest of the three falls and arguably the most iconic and while we have read a variety of numbers about its size, it’s around 167 feet tall and the crestline is around 2,500 feet wide. And during peak flow, almost 700,000 gallons pour over it per second!

Niagara Falls State Park

For this guide, we’re focusing on Niagara Falls State Park in New York, which was established in 1885 and is actually the oldest state park in the United States! This beautiful park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York City’s Central Park, and has many overlooks of all three falls, fun activities, and interesting history to learn.

There are two main areas to explore at Niagara Falls State Park. There is Goat Island, which is on the Niagara River and is surrounded by the falls. Goat Island also has a pathway to Luna Island, which is between Bridal Veil Falls and American Falls. The other main area is on the “mainland,” which is where you can find the city of Niagara Falls, various activities, and take the Rainbow Bridge to Canada.

Getting to + around Niagara Falls

One of the best things about Niagara Falls is how accessible it is! Unlike many waterfalls we have visited, which are tucked into forests and require hiking, Niagara Falls is a very urban waterfall, just 30 minutes from Buffalo, New York and 1.5-2 hours from Toronto, Ontario.

Flying to Niagara Falls

If you’re visiting from the US, the best airport to visit Niagara Falls is the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport (BUF). American, Delta, United, and Southwest all fly into this airport and have non-stop flights from many major destinations like Chicago (O’Hare), Boston, Denver, Atlanta, Washington, and Los Angeles, to name a few. 

For Canadians, you could definitely fly into this airport as well, as it is the closest to both sides of Niagara Falls, but the Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) may be cheaper and easier for you.

Driving to Niagara Falls

The US side of Niagara Falls is located very close to I-90, a major US Interstate highway that runs through many US cities (including Buffalo), making it a convenient road trip stop. Here is how long you can expect to drive from nearby cities in the US.

  • Rochester, NY: 1.5 hours (86 miles)
  • Syracuse, NY: 2.5 hours (163 miles)
  • Cleveland, OH: 3 hours, 15 minutes (213 miles)
  • Pittsburgh, PA: 3.5 hours (238 miles)
  • Detroit, MI: 4 hours (242 miles) This route goes through Canada
  • New York, NY: 6.5 hours (408 miles)
  • Boston, MA: 7 hours (467 miles)

Note: Many highways in this area have tolls, so if you do not want to take a toll road, make sure to turn off tolls on Google Maps. The times above include if you do take the toll road, which can be worth it depending on where you’re coming from and how much time it saves.

Getting around Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls at night

You have a few options of how you can get around Niagara Falls. If you drive to Niagara Falls, there are four large parking lots, one of which allows RVs and buses.

If you flew to Niagara Falls, you could either rent a car or take a Lyft or other taxi service to get to the park. Depending on where you’re staying, a Lyft or taxi may not be super cheap, but it may be cheaper than renting a car. We suggest using the Lyft Fare Estimator to see how much you could expect to spend and compare that to rental car costs. 

Once actually in Niagara Falls State Park, it is very walkable and you can easily park your car in one spot for the entire day and then walk to all of the sights. We will share more info on parking costs (and how to avoid them) further down on this guide!

However, you do have one other option! For $3 per adult (and $2 for children over 5), you can ride the Niagara Scenic Trolley, which will take you around the park, with history shared along the way. The best part is that you can hop off and on, so if you want to keep your car parked in one spot, but not walk around all day, this is a good option!

When to visit Niagara Falls 

Niagara Falls State Park is open year round, but your experience will vary depending on which season you visit. 

Winter

When you think of the Buffalo, New York area, you may think of snow! And that is probably because the area gets around 85 inches of snow per year! The snow and frigid weather provides a very unique experience at Niagara Falls, with the falls covered in snow and ice and WAY less crowds. 

If you visit in the winter, some activities will be inaccessible or limited, like Maid of the Mist, which is closed in the winter, and Cave of the Winds, which is open, but is a modified experience. But it will be a quiet, magical winter wonderland!

Spring

Spring can bring continued snow to the area, but in the late spring, the weather starts to warm up and attractions, like Maid of the Mist, begin to reopen. And if you visit before Memorial Day and summer vacations begin, you can expect to beat the summer rush as well.

Cave of the Winds | US side of Niagara Falls

Summer

The busy season is definitely during the summer. The temperatures will be in the low 80s and the mist and water from the falls will feel heavenly! We visited after Labor Day on a weekday and while the weather wasn’t hot, the falls still felt pretty good. 

And since we visited on a weekday once kids were back in school, the park wasn’t terribly busy. It was busier than we had hoped mid-day and at night, but in the morning it was pretty peaceful. 

Fall

The fall brings cooler temperatures, fewer crowds, and fall foliage, making it a great time to visit Niagara Falls! To have the best experience in the park, try to visit before November, so you can ride the Maid of the Mist boat and enjoy all of Cave of the Winds. Both of these tend to shut down their full operations at the end of October or early November.

Where to Stay to visit Niagara Falls

When visiting the US side of Niagara Falls you have a couple options of where you can stay. You can either stay in Niagara Falls, New York or you can stay in Buffalo, New York.

If we are being honest, while we felt totally safe in Niagara Falls State Park during the day and at night, when we were driving outside of the park at night trying to find a gas station, we had a pretty uneasy feeling. It may have been a weird, one off experience. We were were away from the tourist area, so the tourist area may be a safer experience at night, but we wanted to mention it anyway. 

Staying in Niagara Falls isn’t your only option though. We really enjoyed Buffalo and think it would be a great place to stay, as it is only 30 minutes away. We will include options for both areas below!

Hotels 

Niagara Falls

Buffalo

Airbnbs

To be honest, there aren’t many affordable Airbnbs in Niagara Falls with really good reviews. If you want to stay in an Airbnb, we suggest staying in Buffalo instead, which has more options.

Beautifully Updated Elmwood Village 2 Bedroom Apt (2 bedrooms 1 bathroom): This apartment was built in 1900 and has been recently redone, but retains its original charm. And with its location in the cute neighborhood of Elmwood Village, it is close to shops, bars, and restaurants.

West Side Retreat (2 bedrooms 2 baths): This super bright home has a nice granite kitchen with new appliances, high speed internet, and is beautifully designed.

Adorable Loft in the heart of Allentown (1 bedroom 1 bathroom): with a large kitchen, office area with high speed internet, and a very cool spiral staircase up to the loft area that is set up as a reading/hangout space. 

Quiet Apartment in Historic Allentown (1 bedroom, 1 bathroom): This apartment is within walking distance to coffee shops and restaurants and has everything you need for a comfortable stay!

Camping

There are a handful of campgrounds right by Niagara Falls if you’re visiting in an RV or van:

While not super close to Niagara Falls (1 hour drive), we camped at Evangola State Park for a couple nights before visiting Niagara Falls. We were able to get a campsite the day of our visit just fine and the campground was nice!

Boondocking

There are not many free camping options in this area, but during our visit, we slept at the Walmart in Niagara Falls the night before visiting the falls. Despite our comment earlier about not feeling 100% safe at night in Niagara Falls, we had no issues here. There were many others sleeping here in RVs and at the time of our visit, sleeping here was totally allowed.

Things to know before visiting Niagara Falls

Before visiting Niagara Falls State Park, here are a few key things to know to ensure you’re prepared for your visit and have a great time!

You will probably get wet

Both the Maid of the Mist boat tour and the Cave of the Winds got us SOAKED, which was the best part of visiting Niagara Falls, in our opinion! If you’re just visiting overlooks, you won’t get wet most likely, but if you do any activities, be prepared to feel the mist (or more) of the falls!

The park is FREE

While there is a parking fee depending on when you arrive (more on that next), the park itself is free to access! And there are many free overlooks to check out while in the park, as well as some paid options. So you can make Niagara Falls as budget friendly or expensive as you’d like!

Parking

There are four large parking lots in Niagara Falls State Park, which cost $10 for the day ($15 on Fridays-Sundays). But if you arrive before or after the parking lot hours (you can see the times here) or walk into the park, you do not have to pay! 

Since we arrived before the parking lot was manned, the gate was open and we were able to park for free during our entire time at Niagara Falls. The only thing to be aware of is if you leave and come back during the manned hours, you will have to pay then.

The most convenient parking lots are Parking Lot #1 and #2. We parked in Parking Lot #2 for our daytime activities and it was super convenient to walk to everything we did the first half of the day. For the evening, we parked in Parking Lot #1 and it had plenty of spots at night.

Note: the only parking lot that allows RVs is Parking Lot #3. Our 22.5 foot Sprinter didn’t have issues parking in the other lots.

Dogs are allowed

Niagara Falls State Park is pet friendly, as long as they are on a leash, but having your pup with you will limit you some. Dogs are permitted on green space and footpaths, but are not permitted inside attractions (like Maid of the Mist or Cave of the Winds) buildings, or on improved walkways or boardwalks. 

So if you only want to do free, outdoor activities it would be fine to bring your dog, but if you plan to do paid activities, make sure you have somewhere safe to leave them.  

Learn what we do with Kona if she cannot join us during our travels. For Niagara Falls, she napped in the van for our two paid activities since it was cool enough out and we were never gone long. She did enjoy the overlooks and the falls at night!

Accessibility

The park is very accessible for those that use wheelchairs. All of the attractions, minus some areas of Cave of the Winds, and most walkways are fully accessible with excellent views of the falls. Wheelchairs are also available for free on a first-come, first-served basis at the visitor center. 

No Drone Zone

While drone shots of Niagara Falls would be cool, Niagara Falls State Park is a no drone zone. So please leave the drone in the car, at home, or at your accommodation. 

How long do you need at Niagara Falls?

Niagara Falls at night

We recommend spending at least a full day at the park to get the true experience of the US side of Niagara Falls, including going back at night to see the falls lit up. However, if you want to visit the Canadian side of Niagara Falls or some of the other sights nearby (which we will share later in this guide), two full days would be better.

You could likely visit the US and Canada side in one day, but since we did not cross the border, we cannot speak to how long that process may take.

What to bring with you to Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls State Park

Clothes that dry fast

Despite wearing ponchos for both the Maid of the Mist and the Cave of the Winds, there is still a real good chance you will get wet. The ponchos for Cave of the Winds proved to be pretty useless, especially if you go onto the Hurricane Deck, so we suggest bringing clothes that dry quickly.

Sandals

We wore our Chacos to Niagara Falls and they were the perfect shoe! They are made for water and have great grip, so our feet were comfortable all day. Kathryn wears the Chacos ZX/2 and Adam wears the Chacos Z2.

Cave of the Winds does have sandals you can wear, which were free at the time of our visit. But since we had our Chacos, we did not need them. If you do use their sandals, you will need to hold onto your shoes.

Waterproof bag 

We highly recommend bringing a waterproof bag to Niagara Falls. We have this waterproof rolltop backpack and it worked perfectly for keeping our cameras and other gear dry when getting soaked on the Maid of the Mist tour and at the Cave of the Winds.

GoPro

While we saw people filming and taking photos on their phones, there is a good chance it will get wet, so a GoPro would be a great camera to bring (if you have one) so you can capture the scenery and your reactions while getting soaked!

Passport + COVID Documentation

If you plan to visit the Canadian side as well (or if you’re visiting from Canada), make sure to pack your passport and your COVID vaccine card and/or negative COVID test results. The requirements to cross the US/Canada border can change, so check here for the latest regulations.

The best things to do on the US side of Niagara Falls

Now that you’re hopefully prepared to visit the US side of Niagara Falls, it’s time to plan your day there! Here are all of the best things to do in Niagara Falls, both free (which is the majority) and paid, at Niagara Falls State Park. But we will include additional things to do nearby later on in this guide as well!

Watch our experience on the US side of Niagara Falls, including riding Maid of the Mist and experiencing Cave of the Winds!

Terrapin Point

Terrapin Point at Niagara Falls

Terrapin Point is the closest and best viewpoint of Horseshoe Falls on the US side and is located on Goat Island, just a quick walk away from the second parking lot.

At one point in the 1800s, Terrapin Point was a group of large boulders on the brink of the falls, separate from Goat Island. The rocks looked like tortoises so they gained the name Terrapin Rocks. In the 1950s, when work was done to spread the flow of Horseshoe Falls more evenly, some of the rock was filled in to create a more stable viewing platform.  

We visited this spot first thing in the morning and it was pretty empty and beautiful! There was a TON of mist from the falls, almost so much that we couldn’t even see them, as well as rainbows. 

Nikola Tesla Monument

Just a short walk from Terrapin Point is the Nikola Tesla Monument, which not only has some nice views of Bridal Veil Falls and American Falls, but also features a statue of Nikola Tesla. 

Nikola Tesla was an electrical engineer and in the mid 1890’s, he developed a system of alternating current, which converted the energy of Niagara Falls into electricity and was transmitted over 21 miles from Niagara Falls to Buffalo. This led to Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse creating the first major hydroelectric power plant in Niagara Falls.

Today, Niagara Falls can generate 4 million kilowatts of electricity, which is enough to supply over a quarter of the power used in New York State and in Ontario, Canada…crazy! 

So while Niagara Falls is really jaw dropping to look at, it also plays a much bigger role for the area, which makes it even more interesting to visit. 

Luna Island

Luna Island is an island between Bridal Veil and American Falls and can be accessed from Goat Island, via a bridge. Once on the island, there are viewing areas on three sides of the island, letting you see Bridal Veil Falls from above (as well as the Cave of the Winds decks below) and a great view of the top and side of American Falls.

Goat Island Scenic Walk

Miles: 1.8
Elevation Gain: 82 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions

If you want to walk the entirety of Goat Island, there is an almost 2 mile pathway around the island, with opportunities to add on Luna Island for some extra mileage as well. Along this walk you will go by Terrapin Point and get to see different views of the Niagara River, which during our visit had tons of rapids and was insane to view on its own, even when not falling down over a hundred feet!

For those short on time, we’d suggest skipping this entire walk and just doing the overlooks above, but if you want to get extra steps, this will be a nice stroll.

Cave of the Winds

Cave of the Winds | US side of Niagara Falls

Cost: $19 per adult, $16 for children (cheaper in the winter)

While Maid of the Mist may be the more popular paid attraction on the US side of Niagara Falls, Cave of the Winds was probably the #1 thing we did during our day there! 

Cave of the Winds is located on Goat Island and despite its name, it is not actually a cave. In the 1800’s there was a rock overhang which felt like a cave and allowed people to stand under the falls. However, the “cave” collapsed in the early 1900’s, but they continued calling it a cave.

The attraction is now a series of wooden walkways, which they rebuild every year, that you can walk on to get right up to Bridal Veil Falls, including a Hurricane Deck where you get absolutely drenched by a rushing section of the falls. We giggled and smiled nonstop while here…it was an absolute blast!  

While it does cost to visit the Cave of the Winds, we think it’s worth every penny, not only for the experience at the falls, but for everything else it includes. 

Cave of the Winds museum

Before you get to the walkways, you will wait in a room that is sort of like a small museum exhibit, as well as watch a video about the history of Niagara Falls, which we found to be very well done and interesting. They will also give you a poncho and sandals (if needed), but we recommend bringing a dry bag as well.

Once on the decks, you can stay as long as you’d like, which made the experience even better for us and more worth the cost. Unlike Maid of the Mist, where the ride is a set amount of time, at Cave of the Winds you don’t feel rushed. We also found the crowds to be MUCH smaller at Cave of the Winds, especially compared to Maid of the Mist, where we were shoulder to shoulder on the boat.

Cave of the Winds | US side of Niagara Falls

Cave of the Winds is open every day of the year except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day (you can see the hours here), but your experience will vary depending on the season.

In the winter, some of the wooden walkways are closed, so you can’t get as close to the falls (plus they are likely ice cold or frozen anyways). We suggest visiting between the end of May to the end of October for the full experience!

Also, you cannot get tickets in advance. We walked up to the window to buy our tickets and within 20 minutes or so we were on the wooden decks. 

Maid of the Mist Boat Tour

Maid of the Mist | US side of Niagara Falls

Cost: $25.25 per adult, $14.75 for children (5 and under are free)

The Maid of the Mist Boat Tour is the most iconic attraction on the US side of Niagara Falls and is the best way to “explore the roar” of Horseshoe Falls! 

The first Maid of the Mist boat hit the water in 1846 and started as a side-wheel steamboat ferry with twin smokestacks and over time has evolved, with many different boat types and today they are now using all-electric, zero-emission passenger vessels, the first of its kind in the US.

To ride the boat, you can buy tickets in advance (these are not specific time reservations), but it honestly doesn’t matter, since you’ll still have to wait in the same line to enter and you won’t have priority. We had heard it was best to arrive early, so we arrived about 30 minutes before they opened and were one of the first 10 people in line. 

After paying for our tickets (they had a few booths open to manage the line), you go down an elevator to the boarding area, where you will get a poncho and line up again into two different lines. Once they let people on the boat, it was a mad dash to get the best spot. I joked it felt like the Hunger Games. 

There is an upper and lower deck, with room to stand (we do not recall any seats) and we chose the upper deck because you have higher up views. We stood in the front, on the left side, but don’t necessarily worry about what side of the boat you’re on, they turn the boat so everyone can experience it. 

We will say though, despite getting there early, on a weekday after Labor Day, and getting on the first boat, it was PACKED. We were all shoulder to shoulder at the front of the boat, which is not necessarily what we had hoped for, but with a tourist attraction like this, it is to be expected. 

US side of Niagara Falls

Once the boat took off, we started to care less about being packed in like sardines, as the views from the boat were incredible! On this 20 minute boat ride you first go by American and Bridal Falls, before going right up to Horseshoe Falls, which will soak you with its mist. It was wild how close we felt to the falls and how powerful they are! 

Similar to Cave of the Winds, we smiled and laughed so much while on the boat. Getting to ride on a boat at Niagara Falls has always felt like a bucket list experience for us, especially as fans of The Office (#TeamJimandPam).

And despite the ride sounding short, it did feel like a good length of time. Any more than that and we may have started to get really cold. Although, we wouldn’t have complained if it was longer either. 🙂

After the ride, make sure to go up to the Crows Nest, which are stairs you’ll see to your right after getting off the boat. It’s a fun, miniature version of Cave of the Winds, but at American Falls. Your boat ticket also includes the Observation Tower, which is just at the top of the elevator you’ll ride up, so don’t forget to stop and enjoy the views from higher up too!

Maid of the Mist | US side of Niagara Falls

While we will say we enjoyed Cave of the Winds slightly more (mostly due to less crowds and getting more soaked), if it’s in your budget, we highly recommend experiencing both of them. They both provide different experiences, take you close to different falls, and are guaranteed to put a smile on your face!

Observation Tower & Crow’s Nest

US side of Niagara Falls

Cost: $1.25 or FREE if you ride Maid of the Mist

Right above the boarding area for Maid of the Mist is an Observation Tower that provides the only panoramic view of all three falls that make up Niagara Falls. 

The Observation Tower includes a deck that extends over the gorge, with views on three sides, as well as access to the Crow’s Nest, which is the staircase we mentioned above that takes you next to American Falls. 

And since it’s part of the Maid of the Mist attraction, access to both the Observation Tower and Crow’s Nest is free if you ride the boat, but you can visit both without riding the boat for only $1.25 per person, which is a steal in our opinion!

Prospect Point

US side of Niagara Falls

If you want to see a good view of the three falls, but without paying, Prospect Point, which is located right by the Observation Tower, provides almost as good of a view for free! We suggest stopping by this overlook regardless of doing the Observation Tower or not, since you’ll likely walk by it anyways!

Ride the Niagara Scenic Trolley

Cost: $3 for adults, $2 for children (5 and under are free)

As we mentioned earlier in this guide, the Niagara Scenic Trolley is a fun way to get around the park, while hearing historical anecdotes, tips, and fun facts. You can also hop off to check out all of the sights and then hop back on to get to the next major attraction! 

The hours vary slightly throughout the year, so we suggest checking this page before you go. You can also see a map of the route and stops here

See Niagara Falls at night

Niagara Falls at night

After having fun at Niagara Falls during the day, make sure to return at night as well for a completely different experience! Every night they light up the falls from dusk until 2 AM, often with different colors signifying different charities or causes. 

The best spot to see the falls at night on the US side is Prospect Point. And we will say, this was hands down the busiest we saw the park during the entire day, but it was gorgeous to see the falls lit up green, red, and blue!

They also have a show called “Inspired by Nature,” which is a five-minute lighting display that starts at 9:30 PM each evening, but we were honestly a bit too tired to stay this late.

Additional things to do near the US side of Niagara Falls

If you are in the area for longer than a day or just want more ideas of things to do nearby, here are some additional things to do near Niagara Falls, New York!

Tip: There is a shuttle called the Discover Niagara Shuttle, which is a free hop on, hop off shuttle that runs on a loop to many of the most popular attractions and parks in the area. The Falls to the Fort Route runs from Old Fort Niagara to the Niagara Falls Visitor Center with stops at Whirlpool State Park, Aquarium, Downtown Niagara Falls, and more. So if you want an easy way to get around, check out this shuttle!

Whirlpool State Park

This 109 acre FREE state park is home to a natural whirlpool in the river, which you can see along the 3.5 mile Niagara Gorge Rim Trail and Whirlpool Rapids Loop.

This park is located only about 10 minutes north of Niagara Falls, but is much less visited by tourists. And if you want to hop over to Canada, you can ride the Whirlpool Aero Car over the whirlpool, which looks awesome!

Devil’s Hole State Park

Devil’s Hole State Park is another FREE state park that offers more views of the Niagara River and Gorge. It’s very close to Whirlpool State Park with a popular hike between both parks along the 5 mile Devil’s Hole and Whirlpool Trail.

Fort Niagara State Park

Cost: Varies depending on what you’d like to do.

Fort Niagara State Park is located on both the Niagara River and Lake Ontario and is home to Old Fort Niagara, which is the oldest continuously occupied military site in North America. The fort was important for many years due to its location on the Great Lakes, but with the completion of the Erie Canal, it became less utilized, although it still remained an active military post.

The fort costs $15 per adult and $10 per child (6-12 years old) to visit and while you’re there you can visit original buildings, see demonstrations, go on guided tours, and more!

Ride the Whirlpool Jet Boat

Cost: $65 for adults, $40 for children

If you’re looking for a fun activity out on the water, ride the  Whirlpool Jet Boat! This 45-60 minute ride goes through the Devils Hole rapids! They have both a wet (fully exposed) and dry (covered) boat option, but we think the wet option looks extra fun!

Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center

Cost: $10 for adults, $6 for children (senior and student discounts available too)

The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center is an importance piece of history, sharing stories from the Underground Railroad in Niagara Falls. This museum has interactive exhibits than can be explored in about an hour.

Visit Buffalo

We spent a full day eating our way through Buffalo and really enjoyed the city! We will share some of our favorite foods we ate below, but as for things to do, check out the Elmwood Village and Allentown neighborhoods, Canalside Park, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, Buffalo Naval Park, and see the art deco buildings downtown. 

Where to eat before and after visiting Niagara Falls

If you get hungry while visiting Niagara Falls, here are some options of places to eat, both in the park, as well as in the surrounding area.

Niagara Falls State Park

If you don’t feel like leaving the park, Niagara Falls State Park has a handful of dining options, ranging from a snack bar, grill, cafe, coffee and ice cream, and a full-service restaurant.

Niagara Falls

There are a handful of good options of places to eat in the town of Niagara Falls, such as Mother Cluckers (chicken food truck), Power City Eatery (coffee and sandwiches). Donatello’s (pizza), and The Craft Kitchen & Bar (pub food and beer).

Buffalo

We highly recommend grabbing some food in Buffalo while visiting Niagara Falls! Buffalo has a really great food scene, with a handful of iconic and unique items. Here is where we ate while in Buffalo:

Paula’s Donuts

Paula’s Donuts is a beloved donut shop in Buffalo that is famous for an item called a Peanut Stick. These are a specialty of Buffalo and originated from a spot called Freddies Doughnuts, which was open between 1935-1989. A Peanut Stick is a cake donut, which is dipped in glaze and then rolled in crushed peanuts. 

The peanut stick was really good and very hefty! We also hear the cannoli donuts are delicious!

Buffalo Style Pizza

Buffalo is also home to its own style of pizza! Buffalo pizza has a light, fluffy crust, kind of like focaccia, a sweeter sauce and tons of cheese, which both go to the edge of the crust, and cup and char pepperoni, which is pepperoni that curls up when cooked, making sort of a little cup for the oil.

We went to Imperial Pizza for our Buffalo pizza and LOVED it! It was so greasy and delicious. A couple other popular spots are Bocce Club Pizza and La Nova.

Wings

When you think of Buffalo, you likely think of Buffalo wings (just called “wings” in Buffalo). Wings are said to have originated here in Buffalo, but there are two different origin stories. One story says that they originated in 1964 at Anchor Bar, while the other says that John Young, who moved to the area from Alabama was serving fried wings with his special “mambo” sauce in 1961.

For our wings, we went to Bar-Bill Tavern, which we heard was a popular local spot a bit more off the tourist path. And we loved it! Their hot level is VERY hot though, so we recommend the medium-hot. A few other popular places are Anchor Bar, Duff’s Famous Wings, and Gabriel’s Gate.

Beef on Weck

Beef on Weck is another classic Buffalo food item and is a roast beef sandwich on a kummelweck roll, which is basically a Kaiser roll topped with lots of pretzel salt and caraway seeds. 

Similar to wings, there are  two stories of how it came to be an iconic Buffalo area dish. One story says that in the 1800s, a baker named William Wahr came from the Black Forest of Germany and brought the recipe with him. Another story says that a local restaurant called Schwabl’s created it, but there is no documentation to prove that either.

We got our Beef on Weck at Bar-Bill Tavern, which was super delicious, but we hear Charlie the Butcher’s Kitchen is another solid spot too!

Sponge Candy

The final iconic Buffalo food item we tried was sponge candy. While not fully exclusive to Buffalo, it has been popular in Western New York since the mid-1900s. Sponge candy is chunks of caramelized sugar that is covered in a chocolate coating. We hear it’s called seafoam candy out West, cinder toffee in the UK, and also referred to as honeycomb.

We went to Watson’s Chocolates to try sponge candy and it was unlike anything we have ever had before! It felt like sugar sand wrapped in chocolate and instantly dissolved in our mouth. It was a very unique sweet treat!

Ready to experience the roar of Niagara Falls?

Pin this guide to the US side of Niagara Falls to help plan your trip!

about us

Hi y’all! We’re Adam, Kathryn, and Kona, an adventurous married couple (+ pup!) living on the road in our self-converted sprinter van! You can often find us driving all around the US and Canada, scoping out the best coffee shops, eating tacos and ice cream (we’re a 5+ taco and 2+ scoop household), and enjoying nature.

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2 Comments

  1. Ron Carlson

    Great guide to Niagara Falls, but I have never heard about the story of John Young, and as a native Buffalonian, who has been eating wings since 1970’s, the Bellisimo’s and Anchor Bar story is the one we all know. John Young, really?, never heard of him so I doubt that story. I can tell you though, that wings were there in the 1970’s, because you could eat all that you wanted for $3 I recall, of which I had 50.

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