There is passenger train service from Niagara Falls to NYC, but it is a long slow ride and has a tendency to run behind schedule, as the tracks are shared with freight trains. Have a look at VIA Rail’s or Amtrak’s website. VIA Rail runs the train on the Canadian side and Amtrak runs the train on the American side.
NYC is 225 miles / 361 km northeast of Washington. Niagara Falls is 406 miles / 654 km northwest of Washington. If I may suggest, you may want to go from Washington to NYC, and then from NYC to Niagara Falls.
The closest airport to fly into from Washington would be Buffalo, about 15 miles from Niagara Falls. The cheapest flight would probably be Jetblue at around $200. You would then have to get a taxi or shuttle to Niagara Falls, around $60-$75.
The Amtrak train from Niagara Falls to NYC is not particularly scenic and takes 9-9 1/2 hours. You could probably get a flight for not a whole lot more.
Weekends are always busier than weekdays. During the summer, weekdays have less crowds and cheaper hotel rates. During the off seasons, when crowds are less anyways, weekends might be better since there may be more things happening than on weekdays.
Thanks for the train trip advice - doesn't sound like a good idea - flying may be the answer again. We are planning for late October visit - first time.
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