What to do: winter evenings in Niagara Falls, NY
January 3, 2014 11:54 AM   Subscribe

I am traveling to Niagara Falls, NY, for business next week. I will be there for four days. What shall I do with myself when I am not working?

I’m staying near the falls because it is convenient for work. I’ll have a car. I’ll be busy during standard business hours. I would really like recommendations for where to eat and how to spend my evenings.

More details: I’m normally a foodie, but understand there may not be very many options--suggestions for places with relatively healthy options that are not tourist traps would be very appreciated. I’d like to know about places that are convenient to downtown for when I just need food quickly, as well as places further afield for when I have more time off. I understand there are a number of Indian restaurants--any specific ones that are good? I love spicy food. What about laidback bars? Coffee shops? I will mainly be on my own.

Other than food, what about activities? I know about the Fashion Outlets. Are there decent movie theaters? Used bookstores? Independent boutiques? Museums with late hours? If I weren’t going in January, I would be interested in outdoorsy options. Anything I absolutely must see in that vein, even in the cold? If daylight is important, I may have some time before 10 am for that sort of thing.

I would prefer to stay on the NY side of the border, though I’m willing to drive to Canada once or twice. Also willing to head to Buffalo if that’s the only feasible option. Thanks!
posted by CiaoMela to Travel & Transportation around Niagara Falls, NY (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
With the intense cold we've been having, the falls could be half-frozen and really RILLY purty, but OTOH I don't know that the Goat Island parks will be open. But apart from the falls, gorge, and casino, and some stuff immediately surrounding them, I don't think there's a whole lot to do in NFNY. Not nothing, and I'm sure others who spend more time there can tell you whether Punjabi Hut is good or meh and where the decent bars are, but there might not be enough variety to keep you amused.

The usual source for food reviews in western NY is Bill Rapoport's Restaurant Guide.

An evening in Canada could be nice, and that side does have better views of the falls. But NF, Ontario is a giant tourist trap with wax museums and arcades and suchlike. Charming in its own way, but there you go.

An evening in Buffalo could also be nice; there are lots of good restaurants and shops in the Elmwood/Delaware/Allentown areas.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:45 PM on January 3, 2014

Niagara Aerospace Museum has some unique aircraft, including a rocketbelt.
posted by Sophont at 12:46 PM on January 3, 2014

There's this resource: http://www.niagara-usa.com/

But Buffalo really is 20 minutes away and has so much more to offer, though used bookstores might not be open very long into the evening. You might also visit Lewiston, which has a sweet little downtown for strolling.
posted by Riverine at 12:56 PM on January 3, 2014

Niagara-on-the-Lake ON has several excellent restaurants.
posted by brujita at 1:00 PM on January 3, 2014

My first and only time visiting the Falls was about this time of year six years ago. The Falls were mostly frozen and quite pretty. We went just at sunset. What I remember most, though, was the trees in the park above the falls on the U.S. side. All the branches were covered in 1-2 inches of ice from the spray the comes up from the falls, and I just thought it was a beautiful scene. I could have stayed in that park for a good long while, because it was so peaceful and pretty. There was almost no one there. It was ripping cold, so make sure you're extremely bundled up if you're going to do stuff outside.

I will also say--and I know this will sound trite, but it's true--that the best Buffalo wings I ever had were indeed in Buffalo. And that was just at the bar down the street from my friend's house (sorry, don't know the name). Go grab some wings (with bleu cheese) and a Labatt or Molson at a local bar.

I was only there for less than a day, so I'm no expert, but my friend and I did a lot of stuff in Buffalo and also briefly spent some time at the casinos on the other side of the border. Niagara Falls, Ontario is indeed a total standard tourist trap as ROU said above. Best parts of it for me were those trees at the falls and those wings at the bar.

Oh, and since it's Buffalo, be prepared for a ton of snow.
posted by KinoAndHermes at 1:29 PM on January 3, 2014

It's been a few years since I've been there but other than the casino right next to the Rainbow Bridge, downtown Niagara Falls, NY (about a half-mile from the bridge) is pretty rundown. Lots of empty storefronts and boarded up buildings. You'll have much better luck visiting Buffalo or the tourist schlock of the Ontario side. (Don't forget you do need a passport or enhanced driver's license to cross the border).
posted by plastic_animals at 1:56 PM on January 3, 2014

My recommendation is to leave. Niagara Falls NY is a dump. You will figure that out pretty fast and want to get out of there. Abandoned buildings and generally gross people downtown. If it's snowing, the roads will be slushy and unplowed because Niagara Falls is the most inefficiently operated city ever, so be careful. If there is no snow, you will get to experience the massive amount of potholes that exist in Niagara Falls and have reached legendary status in the area. Seriously, drive slowly until you get out of Niagara Falls. The only attraction you could maybe go to is the Seneca Falls Niagara Casino. It has the nicest restaurants in Niagara Falls, but that's not exactly an accomplishment.

I'd look for stuff to do in Buffalo or head to Canada. In Buffalo there's plenty to do. Lots of excellent food, especially if you like bar foody-type stuff (the local specialties are buffalo wings, beef on weck, chicken finger subs and loganberry). Buffalo has strips of bars and restaurants, depending on what you're into, but also theatre with plays and other stuff to see. Definitely go to Buffalo. Do not stay in Niagara Falls.
posted by AppleTurnover at 3:34 PM on January 3, 2014

though used bookstores might not be open very long into the evening

Used bookstores are pretty thin on the ground in Buffalo in any event.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:23 PM on January 3, 2014

If you want to go to the Canadian side and want something kinda hokey, kinda touristy but still fun, try the Skylon Tower.
posted by freakazoid at 7:29 AM on January 4, 2014

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