Washington, DC to Niagara Falls: Road Trip Guide

Summer road trips conjure a feeling of freedom for vacationers. But driving along busy interstates to get from point a to b as fast as possible can leave travelers missing out on some wonderful experiences. We’ve driven from Washington, DC to Niagara Falls many times, and have enjoyed charming destinations along the journey.

We appreciate exiting the highway and driving alternative routes. Meandering the back roads offers travelers picturesque country scenery and true farm to table eats. Jamming along to favorite tunes with your loved ones during a fun adventure reinforces positive connections. Here are our recommendations for fantastic stops during a road trip from Washington, DC to Niagara Falls.

From Washington, DC you can start your trip by taking the I-270 route or the I-95 route. They are different trips and we recommend picking one route going and taking the other returning home! The trip taken straight according to Google is around 7 hours. Time permitting, break up the trip and stay a night mid-way so you can take your time to enjoy rural Pennsylvania and New York. If you need great tips on DC, read our article on 25 Washington, DC Travel Tips to Avoid Missing Out.

View of horseshoe fall from the tower

I-270 Route out of Washington, DC to Niagara Falls

Frederick, Maryland

Frederick, Maryland dates to 1745 and has a charming historic center. We’ve stopped on our way home to Washington, DC here twice for dinner. This is a good plan for avoiding rush hour traffic on the return. It’s also worth pulling over to grab a coffee.

Frederick’s historic downtown has some great spots. Black Hog BBQ has the best collard greens we’ve ever eaten and their pulled pork is delicious. The service is great and fast, which is perfect on a road trip. The historic center of Frederick is just off I-270.

Raystown Lake, Pennsylvania

Raystown Lake has 12 public access areas across 29,000 acres of land. In summer, it’s a great place to picnic, go boating or fishing. Visitors can also hit the trails for a hike or go hunting. The Swigart Museum is the oldest automobile museum in the United States. While you’re in town, pop into Standing Stone Coffee; they serve premium coffee, along with sandwiches, soups and salads, in an inviting cafe, adorned with beautiful modern art.

The Edgewater Inn and Grill makes for a relaxing countryside getaway, as it hosts many weddings. The Alexandria, PA property is set along the Juanita River, 14 miles outside Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. The original farmhouse dates to 1762 and belonged to John Penn, grandson of William Penn – who was instrumental in creating the English colony of Pennsylvania. Read about all the things to do in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania in our previous article.

Front of the Edgewater Inn with clouds in the sky

Altoona & Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania

These two adjacent towns are a good mid-way stop between Washington, DC and Niagara Falls. They have some great restaurants and cafes and offer good highway side hotel value for those who do not want to drive straight.

We enjoyed breakfast in Hollidaysburg at Allegheny Creperie after a night at Wye Motor Lodge. If you enjoy finding quirky roadside attractions, Castle Halloween Museum fits the bill. It’s home to a unique collection of artifacts related to Halloween!

Bell with her eggs and potato breakfast

If you venture off US-219 and take one of the small alternative routes, you will find yourself driving through the beautiful Allegheny National Forest. The drive through the forest is gorgeous and a nice break from interstate highway driving. There are also a number of trails that you can hike and spots along the picturesque Allegheny River.


Kinzua Bridge

Kinzua Bridge State Park is a great place to get out of the car and stretch your legs. Inside the visitors center there is an interesting museum explaining the history of the bridge. When it was constructed in 1882 it was the world’s longest, and highest railroad bridge. In 2003, the bridge partially collapsed as a result of a strong tornado. Today there is a lovely skywalk on the remaining section, with a wonderful scenic overlook. The visitor center and bridge is accessible for all. If you are looking for a more vigorous leg stretch there are a number of hiking trails you can take.

Alex looking out over the valley and Kinzua Bridge

Seven Springs Mountain Resort

If you have more time, you can veer off onto Interstate 70 and visit Seven Springs Mountain Resort. While you might be familiar with this ski lodge, they also have wonderful activities year-round, and a beautiful golf course, spa or hiking depending on what you enjoy! Read on our recent Review of Seven Springs Mountain Resort to learn why this makes for a relaxing getaway destination in itself.

Alex looking down the golf green before teeing off

If you’re more comfortable on the bigger highways you can travel via Pittsburgh heading west on I-70, then north on 79. Then take I-90 past Erie. Just know there are tolls on I-70 and I-90. Taking this route, you could swing into the charming small town of Greensburg. In business since 1933, Sunset Italian Restaurant serves delicious Italian American dining in a charming and historic venue. Their “pizza burger” sounded gimmicky but it was extremely delicious!

There is also a lovely berry farm and winery called Sand Hill Berries. They do great wine tasting. But it is very family friendly with delicious food and desserts. Their strawberry shortcake is  very worthwhile to sugar up for some more driving. Often there is live music and the venue caters many weddings!

A burger patty between 2 slices of pizza with Bell in the background eating her meal

I-95 Route out of Washington, DC to Niagara Falls

If you’re traveling along I-95 from Florida, check out our article on Great Road Trip Stops from Florida to Washington, DC.

Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore was founded in 1729 and is packed with areas of historical interest and delicious food. Phenomenal crab cakes are just one of highlights. Highlights of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor include several historic ships, including the USS Constellation.

Baltimore’s massive National Aquarium is one of the best in the world. You’ll find 20,000 animal residents and rehabilitation patients there.

Fell’s Point dates to 1726 and pays tribute to Baltimore’s British nautical history. Many of the buildings in this neighborhood date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. There are great restaurants, bars, cafes, ice cream parlors and artisan shops to enjoy in Fell’s Point. .

Read more on what there is to do in Baltimore in our previous article.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Gettysburg is most famous for the epic US Civil War battle that sparked the Union’s victory over the Confederacy in 1863. This history is well documented in the small Pennsylvania town that attracts around 4 million visitors a year. Today Gettysburg is also receiving acclaim for its food and drink scene. Adams County is the nation’s fourth largest producer of apples, making varieties of cider a specialty. The Gettysburg area is packed with good breweries, wineries and distilleries along its Pour Tour, adding fun to the history.

Alex & Bell with wines on the Pour Tour in Gettysburg

Reid’s Orchard Winery is a great stop for both wine and cider tastings, ranging from dry to sweet. In business since 1975, Adam’s County Winery is one of Pennsylvania’s oldest wineries. It’s a wonderful place to kick back on the weekend on a beautiful property and listen to live music on their patio.

7,000 people died during the 3 day Battle of Gettysburg during the US Civil War. It was Confederate General Robert E Lee’s second attempt to push further into northern states, and the strategy backfired. You can experience the battlefield a variety of ways, including by guided Segway and bus tour. Licensed guides provide many interesting facts about the battle between the Union and Confederacy, many of the characters involved and the monuments.

Alex and Bell at dusk on the Gettysburg battlefield

We have previously stayed at the Wyndham Gettysburg, about 3 miles outside the historic center. Rooms are comfortable, spacious and warmly decorated. The hotel was built in 2006 in federalist style architecture. An antique canon in the lobby along with paintings depicting the 1800’s makes it a fitting stay in Gettysburg. Amenities include an indoor swimming pool for year-round swimming.

Read all about the many things to do in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in our previous article.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania. One of the highlights is a tour of the Pennsylvania State Capitol building. It is free! And the National Civil War Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, is the largest museum in the world fully dedicated to the American Civil War.

Hershey, Pennsylvania

Hershey is home to Hershey’s Chocolate World. Chocolate World is packed with delicious activities ranging from chocolate tastings, candy bar making to a free ride! There is also an amusement park and museum. If you are looking for a fun afternoon with the kids you can stop in for sugar-filled fun, which includes the option to build your very own Hershey chocolate bar!

If time is tight, you can pull in and purchase delicious milkshakes and cupcakes that are well worth the stop. Read about all the great things to do in our Hershey and Harrisburg: 2 Day Itinerary article.

Alex & Bell with their chocolate bars in the build your own chocolate bar factory

Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Williamsport is home to baseball’s Little League. Each year in the summer it plays host to the Little League World Series. There is also a fun and interactive Little League Baseball Museum that is worth visiting if you are a baseball fan.

We have loved staying at the Genetti Hotel and Suites due to the historic venue and wonderful staff. The location can’t be beaten as it’s right in the heart of Williamsport. It recently became part of Best Western so you can accumulate hotel points from a stay. Genetti Hotel offers great bang for the buck and that’s why we’ve stayed there on three separate trips.

Statue of a little leaguer in Willamsport

Towanda, Pennsylvania

Our favorite bed and breakfast that we’ve visited along this route is in Towanda, the Victorian Charm Inn. There you will be greeted by either Jack or Mindy and their friendly dog who just wants a belly rub! Each room is uniquely decorated and feels cozy. Included is a delicious breakfast, we enjoyed ours with Jack and another guest and had a wonderful Sunday morning conversation over breakfast.

Sayre, Pennsylvania

Sayre is another good mid-way stop between Washington, DC and Niagara Falls. Especially if you plan on visiting the Finger Lakes, in particular Seneca Lake. We highly recommend dinner and drinks at Bluestone Brewing Company in Sayre. Along with excellent craft beers, they serve great dishes.

Alex with a beer and a burger in a brewery
Side of the road produce shop selling pumpkins

In the morning on your way out on 220 north of Tivoli, stop at the Stove Shop to grab some fresh local produce.

Montour Falls, New York

Montour Falls has a charming main street that ends with the stunning Shequaga waterfalls. The main street has a couple of coffee places to stop in for before taking a short stroll down to the waterfall.

Montour water fall in Autumn

Finger Lakes – Seneca Lake Wineries

The Finger Lakes are a group of 11 narrow and long lakes. Conesus, Hemlock, Canadice, Honeoye, Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco, Skaneateles and Otisco are the lakes from west to east. Personally, we especially love Seneca Lake because it is dotted with a whopping 35 wineries!

We highly recommend stopping at Wagner Vineyards, family owned since 1979. It has beautiful views overlooking Lake Seneca. The climate is similar to the wine region of Germany so rieslings are a specialty. This is also a great stop for beer lovers as they have a delicious craft brewery, Wagner Brewing, on the property. Have lunch at their on site restaurant, Ginny Lee Cafe. If you don’t want to drink alcohol, Wagner makes delicious grape juice too.

Bell with the sun setting over Seneca Lake

Mark Twain’s Grave in Elmira, New York

Mark Twain's grave surrounded by autumn leafs

History and literary buffs may want to take a short detour to the town of Elmira, New York. This is home to Woodlawn Cemetery, the burial place of famed American writer, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, aka Mark Twain. Just enter Woodlawn Cemetery into google maps. When you arrive follow the signs leading you to Mark Twain’s grave. Buried next to him are his wife Olivia Langdon, who was originally from Elmira, along with their children.

Growing up along the Mississippi River, Clemens used his experiences to write his two most famous books, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. In addition to being an author, Twain was a journalist, miner, riverboat pilot and abolitionist.

There were flowers left at Twain’s grave when we visited, but another popular item people leave at the gravesite are pens. So consider bringing him a gift too!

Corning, New York

A highlight of visiting Corning, New York is the beautiful Corning Museum of Glass. The Corning Museum of Glass is a not for profit educational institution that houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of glass. It is also home to one of the world’s top glassmaking schools in the world. The gallery has an impressive collection of glass. And their gift shop is a great place to pick up unique glass blown gifts. There are also wonderful glass blowing demonstrations.

Niagara Falls

Read our article on tips for visiting Niagara Falls for more on the best things to do in the area! The Canadian side offers the better panoramic view of the falls. But you can take a misty boat tour to see the falls up close from both the American and Canadian sides.

Don’t miss out on Niagara on the Lake, because it is a wonderful place to visit for dining, shopping, wineries and a lovely view of Lake Ontario. Go up to the top of Skylon Tower for the incredible view of Niagara Falls and Toronto across Lake Ontario. However, pass on dining atop Skylon Tower!

Where to Stay in Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls offers a lot of accommodation options from luxury to budget. Many of the luxury options have views overlooking the falls. Here are a few great choices on both the American and Canadian sides. To cross the border between the United States and Canada you need a passport or an enhanced photo ID.

Niagara Falls, Canada

US falls light show at night with the moon over head

Several hotels in Niagara Falls, Canada, offer rooms with great views overlooking the falls. The Niagara Falls Marriott is one of them, with the conveniences that come with staying at a Marriott. The hotel is also very close to the Falls lookouts and attractions.

Kings Inn Near the Falls is a great budget choice to stay in Niagara Falls, Canada. We do not recommend for a Honeymoon in Niagara Falls! Accommodation is pretty basic, but the rooms are clean and include mini-fridges and air conditioning and heating units you can control in your room. Parking is free and Niagara Falls is only around a 15-minute walk from the hotel. Kings Inn is the closest you can stay to Niagara Falls without paying for parking.

Washington, DC to Niagara Falls Recap

There are lots of fun stops from Washington, DC to Niagara Falls. We have several road trip guides, including an I-95 road trip guide. If you have questions on planning a trip, leave a comment below or email me at [email protected].

You can also avail of our travel hacking tips that can save you huge money on your travels. We save thousands each year on travel thanks to credit card sign-up bonuses. Contact us to learn more about great deals currently available!

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  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

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4 thoughts on “Washington, DC to Niagara Falls: Road Trip Guide

  1. Hello,
    I am planning a trip this summer from Westminster, MD to Niagara Falls with my husband and 5 kids (11yrs-2yrs). I wanted something educational, fun and practical for our bunch. I read your blog and enjoyed the advice. I thought I would see if you had any other tips for places to stop with children.


    1. Hey Rachel, thanks for your comment and we’re glad to read you enjoyed the article! Among the places mentioned and what you’re looking for for your family – I would recommend visiting the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY. The glass art is very beautiful and the glass blowing demonstrations are really interesting. The drive north along Seneca Lake to the NY turnpike is really lovely too. If you all are able to visit the Canadian side of Niagara Falls consider visiting Ripley’s https://www.ripleys.com/niagarafalls/ if it reopens. Ripley’s museums are fun and educational for a variety of ages so all your kids should be entertained there. Happy planning and feel free to comment back if you need any more tips!

      All the best,

  2. Hello… I really liked your article. Congratulations! My husband and I are planning the Washington – Niagara Falls – Boston road trip. We would like to know which of the routes (I-270 or I-95) is more beautiful to get to Niagara from Washington? Our plan is to do WASHINGTON-NIAGARA in one day with stops on the way, including lunch.

    1. Hi Rita, thanks so much for the compliment! That means a lot. If you’re traveling from Washington, DC to Niagara Falls in one day – leaving on I-270 is probably the quicker and less congested route and it’s picturesque driving through the mountains of PA. If you leave early and can make it for lunch – I highly recommend having lunch at one of the wineries on Seneca Lake, NY, like Wagner Vineyards. The drive along Seneca Lake is lovely. Check google maps before you depart – use a combination of the interstate highways, state highways and county roads when you can. I recommend checking routes on google maps with the “avoid highways” feature turned on and seeing if you have time for a good chunk avoiding the interstates. Looks like your trip will take you in a circle, so you can drive back from Boston down to DC along I-95.

      The Canadian border has reopened to leisire travel. If you have time, cross over at Niagara Falls to see the Canadian side and take the short drive to Niagara on the Lake – it’s a lovely historic town with some great restaurants, cafes and wineries. Happy travels and have a wonderful time! Feel free to ask more questions as they arise too 😀

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