With plenty of outdoor activities, cool restaurants and -- of course -- those epic waterfalls, Niagara Falls is a great weekend getaway. For first-time visitors to the upstate New York destination, located less than an hour outside of Buffalo, here's a short list of must-sees.
Where to go
You'll likely spend most of your time at Niagara Falls State Park. Maid of the Mist (May-November, $17 adults, $9.90 ages 6-12, free 5 and under; 1 Prospect St., 716-284-8897) has been the park's "it" attraction since 1846. The 20-minute boat tour passes by all three waterfalls -- American, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe. A blue poncho is provided, but be prepared to get a little wet.
If you're craving a closer falls experience, the Cave of the Winds (mid-May-late October, $14 adults, $11 ages 6-12, free under 6; 332 Prospect St., 716-278-1796) self-guided walking tour starts 175-feet down into the Niagara Gorge at the bottom of Bridal Veil Falls. The park provides sandals and yellow ponchos for the wet, windy experience.
For a great photo opp from 3,000 feet above, hop on a Rainbow Air chopper (April-October, $105/person, $90 children 40-50 inches, 5% cash discount; 454 Main St., 716-284-2800). The 10-minute flight provides an aerial view of Niagara Falls State Park, including the three waterfalls, Rainbow Bridge, which connects to the Ontario side of the falls, and parts of Canada, for 2-4 people.
For those looking to earn their view, there are several hiking trails in the area that start at the Discovery Center's Niagara Gorge Trailhead Center (200 Robert Moses Parkway N., 716-278-082), including the Great Gorge Scenic Overlook Hike, an easy, hourlong hike.
Where to eat
Between waterfall excursions, eat inside or out at Top of the Falls (716-278-0340, niagarafallsstatepark.com). The Goat Island restaurant has panoramic views of Horseshoe Falls and serves a menu of American cuisine like burgers and fries. For a local dinner favorite, Carmelo's Restaurant (425 Center St., 716-754-2311) in nearby Lewiston serves farm-to-table fare featuring entrees like Atlantic cod and lamb chops.
After-hours in Niagara, Wine on 3rd (501 Third St., 716-285-9463) offers an impressive wine list as well as a roster of flavored martinis includes banana chocolate, pumpkin spice and cheesecake, for curious sippers. The bar also offers complimentary shuttle service within the area.
For more food options, including breakfast, head to Lewiston for the charming Orange Cat Coffee Co. (703 Center St., 716-754-2888), the go-to spot for baked goods and coffee, or the quaint Mangia Café and Bakery (621 Center St., 716-754-1517) for a more substantial sit-down breakfast.
Where to stay
The 39-room boutique Giacomo Hotel (222 First St., 716-299-0200) is a quick walk from the state park as well as the area's casinos. The hotel features fitness and business centers, plus complimentary breakfast and cookies at night.