Disclaimer: This post might contain affiliate links, which means we get a small commission if you make a purchase (at no extra cost to you).
Every year, millions of tourists flock to Niagara Falls and there’s no wondering why. Niagara Falls is considered on the top natural wonders to visit in the United States because of its size and beauty.
During both of our weekend getaways to Niagara Falls, it wasn’t in the cards for us to visit the Canadian-side of Niagara Falls. So we had plenty of time to explore the American-side! The American side differs from the Canadian side in terms of the view and the natural landscape. While the American side of Niagara Falls doesn’t have the panoramic view that the Canadian side has, it features additional natural wonders you can’t see from Canada (keep reading to find out!). On the Canadian-side, you’re in the heart of the city, while on the American-side, you’re in the heart of a state park. Two very different atmospheres.
Visiting the American-side of Niagara Falls for a weekend getaway is a perfect idea if you’re looking to get outside and exploring! In this guide, we highlight the top things to do in Niagara Falls and nearby Buffalo during the summer.
Three Days in Buffalo New York and Niagara Falls from the American Side: Top Things to See and Do
If you’re interested in avoiding the crowds at Niagara Falls, consider visiting Buffalo during the winter. While some of the natural attractions like Maid of the Mist or the hiking trails are not accessible, seeing Niagara Falls in the snow is beautiful!
Fun Things to Do in Buffalo During the Summer
See What’s Happening on the Canalside
The Canalside, or waterfront of Buffalo, has recently become a hot spot for local events and festivals and enjoying green space. On the waterfront, you can walk, bike, rent a kayak, or take a boat tour! Along the canal, you can see the silos of Silo City, the Buffalo Lighthouse, and visit the Naval and Military Park.
The Buffalo and Erie Naval Park and Museum exhibits military artifacts, uniforms, photographs and provides tours of military vessels to preserve US military history.
During a visit to the Naval Park, You can tour the USS the Sullivans, USS Little Rock, and USS Croaker. The USS Little Rock is the lone survivor of the U.S. Navy’s World War II Cleveland class of cruisers. Interestingly all Navy cruisers were named for U.S. cities and towns! In each of these ships, you’ll get to see what life was like for the Navy.
Before visiting the Naval Park, don’t forget to check Groupon for deals because they occasionally have discount tickets!
Tour Silo City
Silo City is the recently revitalized area of Buffalo full of historic grain silos. Silo City is a site for historic preservation, ecological restoration, and movie filming. This now-edge area of Buffalo hosts events, grain silo tours, and river history tours for people of all ages to enjoy!
Visit Shark Girl
Shark Girl, a public art piece created by Casey Riordan Millard is located near downtown Buffalo. This “fish out of water” piece invites visitors to come to take a silly photo with this interesting girl.
See Buffalo Bisons Baseball Game
Buffalo is home to the Buffalo Bisons, the MLB minor league team to the Toronto Blue Jays! Buffalo Bisons games are a lot of fun and feature themed nights throughout the year, adult happy hours, games, and exciting baseball! If you’re looking for something fun to do in Buffalo with the whole family, consider a Buffalo Bisons game!
Visit the Buffalo Zoo
Located on what was previously school grounds, the Buffalo Zoo does not disappoint! As the nation’s third oldest zoo, the Buffalo Zoo is home to a diverse population of animals including lions, polar bears, sea lions, and bison. The Buffalo Zoo is an AZA-accredited zoo with a mission of education and conservation.
Hike and Explore the Natural Attractions at Niagara Falls American Side
During our summer weekend away to Niagara Falls, we look more a non-traditional approach to visiting the falls. While the main falls are stunning on their own, there are a lot of other natural wonders and attractions on the American side of Niagara Falls as well! All of these natural scenic views make for a full day of hiking! It’s possible to hike between all of them if you want to get your mileage in for the day, but each is easily accessible from a parking lot as well!
The surrounding geology of Niagara Falls is quite remarkable. Niagara Falls is located on the Niagara River which empties Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. The Falls were formed from glaciers that receded during the last ice age. When the ice melted it formed the Great Lakes and the water emptied into the Niagara River.
Visit Niagara Falls
On the American-side, Niagara Falls are encompassed by Niagara Falls State Park. Here, you can view the falls, hike, picnic, have a meal at the restaurant, and enjoy the outdoors.
The top thing to do when visiting Niagara Falls is quite obviously visiting the main three waterfalls: The Horseshoe Falls, also known as Canadian Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls, and American Falls. At the Niagara Falls State Park on the American-side of the falls, you can walk between each of the falls the islands of land separating each! Being able to see the falls from the above perspective is a unique experience!
The Niagara Whirlpool is a natural whirlpool formed by upstream erosion of the Niagara Escarpment by the Niagara River.
There are two state parks located alongside the whirlpool. The one on the American-side is the Whirlpool State Park, while the one on the Canadian side is the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve. From the American-side you can see the Whirlpool Aero Car, which crosses the river above the whirlpool from the two edges of the Canadian-side. You can easily access viewing the Whirlpool from the state park by a short walk from the parking lot.
Devils Hole Gorge
Devils Hole State Park features a trail system that winds you up and down the Niagara Gorge so you can hike along the river and get scenic views of the rapids below. This trail system isn’t heavily trafficked so you’ll feel one with nature as you explore this area. One of the remarkable things about hiking this trail system is that you can see how blue the river water is!
Caution: the hike down Devil’s Hole Gorge contains steep steps and on a rainy or wet day they are slippery, so wear good shoes and exercise caution!
Three Sister’s Islands
The Three Sisters Islands are nestled along the main island at Niagara Falls, Goat Island. The islands are named after Celinda, Angelina, and Asenath Whitney, the daughters of General Parkhurst Whitney one of the more prominent early settlers of Niagara Falls, New York. Here you can take a nice walk between the islands and get a more up-close view of the Niagara River.
Maid of the Mist Tour
When visiting the American side of Niagara Falls in the summer, doing the Maid of the Mist Tour is a must! While some might argue it’s a tourist trap, we personally found it to be so exciting! It was definitely a one of a kind experience. When doing the Maid of the Mist Tour, make sure to carefully book your timed ticket and arrive early if you want to get a spot on a specific part of the boat. A lot of people fit on the boats!
The tour is about 20 minutes, but every minute is exciting! Hearing the rush of the water and the feeling the mist was so thrilling!
Be prepared to wait in line, Maid of the Mist Tours get very busy. So if you’re with older people or very young children be prepared to stand in line. While we don’t have children (so it’s hard for us to judge), we saw kids on the tour and seemed to be having a much fun as us!
During our boat ride, we brought a camera along. If you’re trying to photograph or video your experience, definitely waterproof your equipment! This is the perfect time for a GoPro.
The Quest to Find the Best Buffalo Wing in Buffalo
During this summer trip to Buffalo, we decided to check out some of the top-rated buffalo wing spots in the city! After consulting the internet, locals, and friends, we decided to try what is considered the triad of buffalo wings in Buffalo: Anchor Bar (the OG), Duff’s, and Bar Bill.
Even after trying two other top recommended Buffalo wing spots in Buffalo, Anchor Bar still won in our eyes. We had visited Anchor Bar the last time we visited Buffalo in the winter and loved it back then. So even after giving it a second try, we concluded it’s our favorite. Additionally, Anchor Bar had amazing pizza logs!
In our eyes, Anchor Bar had the best wings in Buffalo because the sauce was hot and satisfying. And you weren’t searching to use the bleu cheese. I barely touched my bleu cheese because I enjoyed the spice and heat from the Buffalo sauce. The wings were super crunchy and they gave you extra!
To us, Duff’s had the best pizza logs, but their Buffalo sauce was average. The specialty wings won the plate though, like the smoked honey BBQ. The wings also had more meat!
Bar Bill isn’t actually located in Buffalo, but according to locals and food critics alike, Bar Bill is considered a top place to get Buffalo things. To us Bar Bill was kinda disappointing compared to Duff’s and Anchor Bar. Of the three restaurants, Bar Bill had the best bleu cheese (it didn’t fall off the wing once you dipped it!), but the wings were average. The sauce wasn’t memorable, and they lacked the crunch we got from Anchor Bar.
Where to Stay in Buffalo
During our two visits to Buffalo, we stayed at both a hotel and Airbnb. The Curtiss Hotel in Buffalo was a luxurious stay in Buffalo, while the Airbnb was more relaxed! Airbnbs are very common in Buffalo so there are a lot of choose from!
Visiting New York?
Read more about things to do in New York:
- Weekend Getaway to the Finger Lakes
- Visiting Niagara Falls and Buffalo during the Winter
- Weekend Getaway to Jamestown