MORNING: Soak in the Views
The thunder of Niagara Falls is nature’s best wake-up call. To experience the most epic morning views — and to have those views largely to yourself — grab a coffee and set out at sunrise. Start at Luna Island, which is dramatically perched between the American and Bridal Veil Falls, and then wander over to the viewing ledge at Terrapin Point on Goat Island, where you’ll be wowed by standing on the closest point to the Horseshoe Falls. Complete your jaw-dropping-view triumvirate at Three Sisters Island, where you’ll witness a panorama of the upper rapids as the Niagara River rushes toward the Falls.
Fuel up on breakfast, and then you’ve got options. Want to get in a morning workout? The hiking trails surrounding Whirlpool State Park offer an awesome backdrop to get your steps in, but you’ll be forgiven for being stopped in your tracks by the Niagara River’s spectacular rapids along the way. Nearby Devil’s Hole State Park offers great hiking, too, as well as spectacular vistas of the lower Niagara Gorge. If you’d rather tour the town on two wheels, Reddy Bikeshare makes it easy to hop on and off — all you need is their app and access to one of their cute-as-can-be basketed (and GPS-enabled!) bicycles.
Breakfast & Brunch: For classic diner fare, hit local favorite Marketside, which has been fueling generations of Niagara Falls denizens since 1939. For a quick coffee-and-pastry situation, head to Power City Eatery for freshly made New York bagels, or to Amy & Co Cafe for the sweeter side of things.
AFTERNOON: Get Educated
As you can imagine, the Falls are overflowing with history, from French expeditions to Nikola Tesla’s electrifying invention. Get schooled in all things Niagara Falls at the World Changed Here Pavilion in Niagara Falls State Park’s Cave of the Winds. If it’s summer, you can get the full experience by venturing out along the Cave of the Winds’ Hurricane Deck; during shoulder seasons, you can get up close to the Falls via Cave of the Winds’ Gorge Walk experience. (If it’s winter, you’ll be able to take an elevator into the gorge to witness the Falls in their frosted glory.) Afterward, take a stroll through America’s oldest state park, designed in 1885 by the legendary Frederick Law Olmsted.
It’s then time to immerse yourself in the local arts scene by enjoying the exhibits at the Niagara Arts & Cultural Center. Street art more your vibe? Wander downtown’s Art Alley where you’ll find a streetscape of murals that has evolved as a popular photo-stop for visiting Instagrammers. And be sure to stop by Old Falls Street for the perfect photo opp in front of the 150-foot-long “Let’s Fall in Love” mural.
Lunch: Use your lunch break to continue your Niagara Falls education by seeking out the local specialties. The Western New York sandwich mainstay is beef on weck, which is a pile of roast beef on a caraway-flecked roll. You’ll find good beef-on-weck opportunities at friendly downtown pub Gadawski’s, as well as Taylor’s Tap & Grill and Judi’s Lounge. If it’s Buffalo wings you’re after, snag a seat at Anchor Bar (which claims to be the origin (circa 1964) of the spicy snacks) or at cozy pizzeria Mister B’s.
EVENING: See the Lights
Grab a glass of local wine or a local craft beer before dinner, maybe at the cozy Wine on Third, and then settle in for a meal to remember at one of or local restaurants. Make sure it’s an early dinner, though — or at least early enough that you can take full advantage of the Falls at night. The nightly illumination display showcases the cascades in an epic kaleidoscope of color, providing the ultimate crescendo to any day in the city.
Dinner: The historic Red Coach Inn, with its fireside tables and steak-centric menu, puts you in close proximity to wander over to the big show. Also in strolling distance: Rainforest Cafe, serving scratch-made entrees and specialty cocktails; Parkway Prime Steakhouse & Lounge; and — if you’ve got New York-style pizza on the brain — Donatello’s. LoxStock & Barrel Saloon offers a great place for a nightcap, local-pub style.