New York City to Niagara Falls road trip

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Drive from New York City to Niagara Falls and do so exploring the gorgeous Upstate New York. Along the way, be enchanted by the Finger Lakes region, where small-city life feels as inviting as ever. Then, let Niagara Falls take your breath away.

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Getting out of New York City is the slowest part, especially during the (extra) busy morning and afternoon hours. When you have escaped the craziness, exit State Route 17 in Sloatsburg to feel the embrace of nature in Harriman State Park, abounding with outdoor opportunities.

Continue northwest to the peaceful Finger Lakes region, where you find fun things to do, great eats and comfy accommodation. We recommend an overnighter here to fully capture the charm of Upstate New York before arriving at the one-and-only Niagara Falls.

Map showing the scenic route from New York City to Niagara Falls
Click for interactive mode.
  • Total distance: 434 mi / 698 km
  • Total driving time: 9 h

1. New York City

Ready to head towards Niagara Falls? If not, tick off some New York City attractions before setting off.

Highlights:

  • Rockefeller Center – Marvel at the ever-changing skyscraper jungle from the three observation decks at Rockefeller Center — the Top of the Rock.
  • The High Line – Walk along a former freight rail line that has been transformed into a public park above the streets of Manhattan.
  • Brooklyn Bridge – Cross New York City’s most iconic bridge with your own two feet, stopping for epic skyline photos.

2. Harriman State Park

43 mi (69 km) / 1 h 30 min

Lower your windows and inhale the fresh air. Harriman State Park may be near New York City, but with 50,000 acres of lakes, streams and teeming wildlife, it doesn’t feel like it.

Park at the Reeves Meadow Visitor Center and ask the friendly rangers for any final advice. Then, embark on the perfect introduction hike, the 3.8-mile (6.1 km) Reeves Brook Loop Trail, leading past trickling brooks and up and down Chipmunk Mountain.

River flowing through a Harriman State Park colored in yellow during fall
Absorb the nature in Harriman State Park.

3. Ithaca, Finger Lakes

196 mi (315 km) / 3 h 30 min

Driving from New York City to Niagara Falls, you cut through the Finger Lakes, an idyllic winery-dotted region named after its 11 narrow, finger-like lakes. On Cayuga Lake’s southern shore, the local hub of Ithaca gives you plenty of reasons to linger around.

Highlights:

  • Cornell University – Stretch your legs on a student-led or self-guided tour around an Ivy League campus affording gorgeous leafy views.
  • Buttermilk Falls SP – Count waterfalls (yes, there are that many) in Buttermilk Falls State Park, conveniently located on the outskirts of Ithaca.
  • Cayuga Lake – Choose from boating, fishing, swimming or just strolling along the picturesque shoreline of one of the region’s largest “fingers”.
The McGraw Tower, home to the Cornell Chimes, on the central campus of Cornell University backdropped by Cayuga Lake
Discover Ithaca in the Finger Lakes.

4. Corning, Finger Lakes

42 mi (68 km) / 1 h

Continue through the Finger Lakes region to find an unparalleled passion for glass. Known as “Crystal City”, Corning is a glassmaking powerhouse that keeps evolving, from the 1879 light bulbs ordered by Thomas Edison to today’s ultra-thin fiber optics.

Highlights:

  • Museum of Glass – Immerse yourself in the planet’s largest museum dedicated to glass, focusing both on the science and art form of glassmaking.
  • The Rockwell Museum – Feel the inspiration at the Rockwell Museum, featuring an eclectic collection of American artworks.
  • National Soaring Museum – Detour to the nearby Elmira, maybe on your way from Ithaca to Corning, to uncover the rarely told history of motorless flight.
Exhibition at Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York
Marvel at glassmaking in Corning.

5. Letchworth State Park, Finger Lakes

71 mi (114 km) / 1 h 15 min

On the western end of the Finger Lakes region, hugging the Genesee River, Letchworth State Park has a big nickname to live up to. Pay the “Grand Canyon of the East” a visit and see if it matches the sky-high expectations.

Highlights:

  • Upper & Middle Falls – Admire these stunning adjacent waterfalls, the former complemented by an active railroad bridge.
  • Lower Falls – Tick off the park’s third must-see waterfall, a short drive or 1.5-mile (3.2 km) hike from the Middle Falls viewpoint.
  • Gorge Trail – Lace up your hiking shoes for more of the 7-mile (11 km) one-way Gorge Trail, connecting the “big three” waterfalls and taking you far beyond.
Upper Falls under the heights of Genesee Arch Bridge in Letchworth State Park
Letchworth’s Upper Falls, a highlight on the route.

6. Niagara Falls

82 mi (132 km) / 1 h 45 min

When entering Canada, look to the left as you cross Rainbow Bridge for a first peep of the magnificent Niagara Falls, consisting of the Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. A giant with the highest flow rate of all North America’s waterfalls, Niagara Falls can be experienced in an array of ways.

Highlights:

  • Table Rock – Begin by viewing Niagara Falls from the observation platforms at Table Rock Visitor Center — you never get tired of that view.
  • Boat ride – Hop onto the Hornblower (Canadian side) or Maid of the Mist (US side) for an unforgettable duck’s-eye view of Niagara Falls.
  • Cave of the Winds – Feel water pounding on your skin as you stand on the aptly named Hurricane Deck, mere meters from the Bridal Veil Falls.
Massive amounts of water crashing over the brink of the Horseshoe Falls of the Niagara Falls, New York/Ontario
Say hi to Niagara Falls!

Where to stay when you reach Niagara Falls

Although Niagara Falls straddles the USA-Canada border, you get the most iconic view from the Canadian side. Here, you find a wide range of hotels within walking distance of Niagara Falls, some even with fallsview.

For a special occasion, consider booking a room at Marriott Niagara Falls Hotel Fallsview & Spa. The best units in the house come with an unbeatable fallsview plus a jacuzzi, taking your stay to the next level.

Best time to go from NYC to Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is open every day around the year. However, the timing of your visit will affect your experience.

Spring arrives late at Niagara Falls; expect cold days and freezing nights throughout March. Typically, boat tours run from April and the full Cave of the Winds attraction from late May.

Summer is the time to see Niagara Falls in full bloom, with temperatures in the high 70s (26°C) and all attractions open. The drawback? Hordes of people making observation decks congested.

Early fall rewards those with a flexible schedule. In September, the mercury still reaches the low 70s (22°C), and boat tours and the full Cave of the Winds attraction remain open until October.

Sure, wintertime means bone-chilling weather and that many memorable attractions are closed. Yet, be sure that Niagara Falls is as pretty as ever, and for cuddling up in a (now less costly) fallsview room, it may be the best time of the year to visit.

Stops on your way back from Niagara Falls to NYC

Returning from Niagara Falls to NYC, too? These are some great spots to consider.

  • Be wowed by an aviation visionary in the shadow of the Wright Brothers at Glenn H Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport.
  • Enter the tasting room at Canandaigua’s New York Kitchen, filled with local wines, beers, ciders and spirits, along with non-alcoholic beverages for the designated driver.
  • Ride a boat, bike or walk along the Erie Canal, connecting the Hudson River with Lake Erie.
  • Plunge into the history of photography and appreciate a beautiful historic mansion at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester.
  • Set aside several hours, or even a full day, to laugh your way through Rochester’s interactive Strong National Museum of Play.
  • Unite with fellow baseball fans at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

New York to Niagara Falls FAQ

How long is the New York to Niagara Falls road trip?

This ultimate New York to Niagara Falls road trip is 434 miles (698 km) long, taking 9 hours excluding the time you need for the stops along the way.

Where should I stop between New York and Niagara Falls?

First, stop to soak up the nature in Harriman State Park. Then, explore the peaceful Finger Lakes region, home to the university town of Ithaca.

Can you do a day trip from New York to Niagara Falls?

No, it’s simply too far to drive from New York City to Niagara Falls and back in one day. At a bare minimum, spend one night at Niagara Falls.

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