NYC to Niagara Falls Road Trip Itinerary With Essential Stops

There’s nothing quite like the beauty of Upstate New York. That’s why if you’ve got Niagara Falls on your Bucket List for a Lifetime, there’s no better way to make the trip than by driving from New York City.

With the natural beauty of the Hudson Valley, Adirondack Mountains, and the shoreline of Lake Ontario to experience, the drive to Niagara Falls will be just as memorable as the final destination. The entire family will have a blast on this epic road trip to Niagara Falls from New York

They’ll love doing things like traveling deep into the caves of Howe Caverns, riding scenic railroads, and exploring historic towns before experiencing the power of Niagara Falls.

Distance From New York To Niagara Falls

The distance from New York City to Niagara Falls is just over 400 miles. Depending on which route you take it could be even over 500 miles. But no matter how you get there, the drive to Niagara Falls will take you through the gorgeous landscape of Upstate New York. 

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
New York to Hudson Valley166 kms (103 miles)2 hours 7 minutesHudson Valley
Hudson Valley to Albany93 kms (58 miles)1 hour 1 minutesAlbany
Albany to Utica153 kms (95 miles)1 hour 27 minutesUtica
Utica to Oswego135 kms (84 miles)1 hour 23 minutesOswego
Oswego to Rochester 119kms (74 miles)1 hour 25 minutesRochester
Rochester to Niagara Falls138 kms (86 miles)1 hour 24 minutesNiagara Falls
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

How Long is the Drive From New York to Niagara Falls

If you’re looking to get to Niagara fast, it could be done in just over 6 hours. But that’s if you’re planning to drive when no one is on the road (like the dead of night) and without stopping. Let’s be realistic, though. That’s no fun! 

Making it a true road trip to Niagara Falls from New York is the way to go. This way, you can stop and enjoy the wonderful places along the way, like the Hudson Valley and Lake Ontario. So, instead of putting the pedal to the medal, it’s recommended to take anywhere from three days a week to drive to Niagara Falls. 

Best Time of Year to Drive From New York to Niagara Falls

The best time of year to do a road trip to Niagara Falls from New York has to be the summer. You’ll be able to escape the stifling heat in the city and head up into the beautiful, cooler landscape of Upstate New York. Summer is also the best time to get out of the car, stretch your legs, and enjoy Mother Nature on the drive to Niagara Falls. 

Another fabulous time to consider driving from New York to Niagara is autumn. You’ll love the cooler temperatures and the gorgeous fall foliage throughout the entire drive.  

Best Stops on a New York to Niagara Falls Road Trip

On this epic road trip from New York to Niagara Falls, we’ve mapped out the best stops to make along the Hudson Valley, through Albany, and along the coast of Lake Ontario. 

Hudson Valley (Beacon, Poughkeepsie, Kingston)

Just to the north of New York City is the incredible Hudson Valley. Indeed, this beautiful place starts only about 50 miles north of the city, but depending on traffic, it might be the best place to get out and stretch your legs after a few hours in the car.

Cherished for its gorgeous landscape on the banks of the Hudson River, there are several lovely places to visit in the Hudson Valley.

Beacon has a bustling village center with quaint boutiques, antique shops, and places to eat. Go for a hike on Mount Beacon for a great view of the valley. Dia Beacon, a contemporary art museum, is a must-see for anyone interested in the arts. 

Home to three different colleges, including Vassar and Marist, Poughkeepsie is a must-stop on any New York to Niagara road trip. There are plenty of places to eat, shop, and explore, including the Walkway Over the Hudson. For a bit of history, check out Locust Grove Estate, home to inventor Samuel Morse. 

Kingston is a city with a vast history and character in the Hudson Valley. Not only does it date back to the 17th century, but it was the first state capital of New York. Today, you’ll find tons of great shops, restaurants, and bars. Consider taking a ride on the Catskill Mountain Railroad or a Hudson River sightseeing cruise.

Pro Tip: Everyone knows there’s going to be traffic getting out of NYC. So, no matter what time of day or night you plan to go, use a navigation app to avoid massive delays. And if you get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, don’t lose your cool. Just go with the flow. You’ll get there, eventually. 

Albany

One hundred and sixty miles to the north of New York City the next major stop on this New York to Niagara Falls road trip is Albany, the state’s capital city. To learn all about the impressive building and state legislation, you can take a tour of the State Capitol building. 

USA New York to Niagara Falls Road Trip - New York State Capitol Building

The New York State Museum has something for everyone, including a hands-on center for kids. The Crossings at Colonie is a great park where everyone in the family can have fun hiking, biking, and being kids on the playground.

Stroll the colorful Lark Street, which is full of shops, restaurants, and galleries. To get into the beautiful wilderness of Upstate NY, don’t miss the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, one of the remaining pine bushes in the country.

As a major city, there are plenty of places to stay in Albany on your drive to Niagara Falls, like the Morgan State Inn or the Renaissance Albany Hotel. Folks who are RVing check out Thompson’s Lake Campground at Thacher State Park. 

Utica

Nestled at the foot of the Adirondack Mountains is the city of Utica. Although the drive west from Albany takes about an hour and a half, it’s totally doable, with a couple of super cool stops along the way.

In less than an hour’s drive west of Albany, you’ll be able to travel deep underground to discover the wonders of Howe Caverns. Fun for everyone in the family: seniors and children enjoy discounted tickets. Children four and under are free. Just make sure to reserve tickets ahead of time. 

Another great stop-off on the way to Utica is the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Open daily, you’ll love learning all about the history of America’s pastime and seeing priceless artifacts. Discounts are offered for children, seniors, and veterans. Active military and children 6 and under are free.

Once in Utica, it’s easy to find tons of stuff to do. If you’re hoping to see more of the beautiful landscape, hop on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. Kids will also love seeing the animals at the Utica Zoo.

Oswego

Known as “The Port City,” Oswego is a beautiful city on Lake Ontario with history, culture, and fun. History buffs will love exploring Fort Ontario and learning about its long history. Open Wednesday through Sunday, from spring until early fall.  

USA New York to Niagara Falls Road Trip - Chimney Bluffs State Park

Other cool things to do in Oswego include checking out the murals along the Oswego River Walk and experiencing the awesome view from Flat Rock. Let the kids be kids at the Children’s Museum of Oswego, which is open Tuesdays through Sundays. 

Families looking to max out the fun in Oswego on a drive to Niagara Falls should consider staying at Splash Indoor Water Park and Resort. The fun never stops at this Clarion Hotel with its indoor water park and arcade. 

Heading west from Oswego towards Rochester, definitely make a stop at Chimney Bluffs State Park. With incredible land formations and views of the lake, you’ll be happy you made time for this awesome park. Entry fees are $5 per vehicle and only collected April 1–October 31.

Rochester

Traveling west along Lake Ontario for only an hour and a half, you’ll arrive at the next destination on this New York to Niagara Falls road trip, Rochester. There’s always something interesting to do in Rochester. That’s why it’s a no-brainer when deciding where to stop when driving from New York to Niagara Falls. 

Kids of all ages will love spending time at The Strong National Museum of Play (open daily), the Seneca Park Zoo (open daily), and the Rochester Museum & Science Center (closed Mondays). 

For outdoor adventure, head out on Lake Ontario or kayak on the Genesee River. There are plenty of places to stroll or walk in Rochester, like walking along the Erie Canal and enjoying Cobb’s Hill Park. 

To appreciate the magic that is a camera (even if it is just a simple function on your smartphone), definitely visit the George Eastman Museum while in Rochester. You’ll learn about how, as the founder of the Eastman Kodak Company, he revolutionized photography. 

Discounted tickets are available for children, students, and seniors, but make sure to reserve tickets in advance. If you’re looking to camp or RVing on your New York to Niagara Falls road trip Webster Park and Hamilton Beach State Park are great options in Rochester.

Niagara Falls, NY & ON

Once you’ve had your fill of Rochester, it’s time to hit the road again, onto the final destination: Niagara Falls. Although it’s been an epic road trip driving from New York to Niagara, there’s nothing quite like getting to see the incredible falls and experiencing everything the area has to offer. 

USA New York to Niagara Falls Road Trip - Niagara Falls

There are so many different ways to experience the falls. You can see it from observation decks, boat tours, or even venture behind the falls for a truly unique experience. 

For a full bird’s eye view of all three falls, head up to the Niagara Falls Observation Tower on the New York side of the falls. Or get your adrenaline pumping by ziplining over the falls on the Canadian side. No matter which way you choose to experience the falls, you’ll be making memories to last a lifetime. 

Another awesome idea is to hike the Niagara Gorge State Hiking Trails. With various hikes, from beginner to challenging, just about everyone in the family can enjoy the beauty of Niagara on foot.

When considering where to stay in Niagara Falls, great options are available on both the US and Canada sides. The same goes for places to eat, too. If you’re looking to try your luck, there are several casinos in Niagara Falls, Canada.  

Pro Tip: There’s so much to see in Niagara Falls on either side of the border. So, it’s highly recommended to bring your passport on this road trip from New York to Niagara Falls. This way, you can easily cross the Rainbow Bridge without problems. 

More Tips for Road Tripping New York to Niagara Falls

  • Get up-to-the-minute road conditions throughout the drive to Niagara Falls on 511NY.org
  • Remember to bring your passport. Even if you don’t plan to cross the border into Canada, it’s always nice to have that option. 
  • Know the rules and regulations for crossing the US/Canada border in Niagara Falls – Rainbow Bridge (cars and pedestrians).
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© Family Road Trip

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