Niagara Falls & Canada.
The second part of day 1 is dedicated to loud waterfalls. Get your waterproof gears and swim goggles and let's go!
+ Getting to Niagara Falls, NY from Buffalo
Take bus #40 from the NFTA bus terminal in Buffalo (181 Ellicott Street), it goes directly to the Niagara Falls State Park (buses leave every 40-60 min roughly, first at around 6 am, last at around 11:20 pm, schedules vary). The travel time is slightly less than an hour (ca. 33 km/21 mi), the route goes from streets with beautiful gardens and parks into abandoned factories and back. The bus stops a few meters from the entrance of the Niagara Falls State Park. The bus stop for the return bus to Buffalo is on the opposite side (last bus at 12:30 am) of Rainbow Blvd. Check current bus schedules here (PDF). One bus ride is $2, day pass (bus & metro in Buffalo) is $5. [status 2014]
In Europe we tend to pronounce "Niagara" as "nee-yaw-géh-rah". Buffalonians (and Niagarians, doh!) however pronounce it "nai-égg-rah". I had to correct myself several times before locals started to giggle. On my defense I had to associate the correct word with those tiny blue pills... Who's giggling now, huh?
1. Niagara Falls State Park, American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Horseshoe Falls, Goat Island
The entrance to the park and the waterfalls is free of charge. The Niagara Falls consist of three drops: American Falls, the tiny Bridal Veil Falls and the bigger one, Horseshoe Falls. Inbetween there is the Goat Island: there you'll find shops, restaurants and enough walking paths. To the north part of the island the viewing terrace offers a great glimpse to the American Falls. The south part is where you can view the Horseshoe Falls. Some smaller islands can also be visited, like the Luna Island (separating the Bridal Veil Falls from American Falls), the Green Island (the trail to the Goat Island leads through it) or the Three Sisters Islands (south-east of Goat Island)
2. Niagara Falls Observation Tower
The tower is on the US side. The access is $1 and you get to see the falls from a higher point into the Niagara River.
3. Cave Of The Winds
Ok, you won't see a cave here (anymore). But you will get very close to the water masses of the Bridal Veil Falls: The elevator will bring you down to the wooden bridges in the base of the waterfalls: You will get the opportunity to nearly touch the falls (and get really wet in their turbulent spray while walking on the wooden deck). Raincoats are provided, they won't help much though. Admission fee: $14. Keep your photo equipment dry!
+ Wooden Bridges at Cave of the Winds
The wooden bridges that bring you closer to the waterfalls are removed every winter because of the icing conditions in Western New York/Ontario. Did you know that they are not secured to the rocks? Moreover the bridges are fixed to the solid ground through their own weight.
4. Maid Of The Mist Boat Tours / Hornblower Tours
Another way of seeing the majestic waterfalls is from a boat. The "Maid of the Mist" boat tours start and end at the US side. The boats bear the name "Maid Of The Mist" and that's because they will take you pretty close to the waterfalls. The base is however unreachable due to the accumulation of huge rocks. One ride is $17, the service doesn't operate in winter (check schedule). The "Hornblower" tours start and end on the Canadian side. One tour is around CAD 20 (Canadian Dollars, around $15.50). Boats leave every 15 minutes. See next point for access to Canada.
5. Rainbow Bridge (US/Canada border crossing)
The Rainbow Bridge connects Niagara Falls, NY with Niagara Falls, Ontario (Canada). The bridge can be crossed either by car (toll apply) or on foot (toll apply, too!). Mind that there's a border requiring a valid passport and documents. The toll for pedestrians and bicyclists is $0.50 and is paid upon leaving Canada via automated turnstiles (Canadian authorities don't require entry toll but you are obliged to drink a cup of maple syrup... ok, that was a joke). The toll for vehicles is $3.50. From Niagara Falls, ON you will have a cool overview of the falls. The Canadian Niagara Falls looks a bit like a mini-version of Las Vegas.
+ Entering Canada/Re-entering USA
Before leaving for Canada over the Rainbow Bridge check with your embassy and Customs and Border Protection about travel regulations for Canada and re-entry procedures to the US. Even though Canada might seem so close and easy-to-reach, standard entry requirements apply. German nationals travel visafree/via Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)/Visa Waiver Program to the USA and Canada up to 90 days.
Enjoy the mighty Niagara Falls! One more thing: By night the Falls are lit in different colors and feature beautiful fireworks (weather-related). And if you visit Luna Island (between the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls) at full moon by night you might see a lunar rainbow.