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      09-18-2022, 12:16 AM   #1
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Tourist to USA - driving in December: NYC -> Niagra Falls -> Lake Michigan?

Hi we are flying into NYC from the Southern Hemisphere and staying a week in Times Square

- what is it like to hire a car and drive from New York City to Niagra Falls to Lake Michigan. between 15 Dec - 25 Dec

friends at Lake Michigan will be hosting us and then driving us to Chicago after new year.

wondering about road conditions and which hire car company?

if not I'm happy to take a bus or something ... but not sure how that would work

thanks for any tips
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      09-18-2022, 01:41 AM   #2
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Cold.

Upstate New York (Niagara area), Michigan and Chicago will be cold. Not a reason to avoid, but pack a warm coat. And hat and gloves if you plan to do any walking in Chicago.

Any major car rental company is fine: Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, Budget. They really aren’t much different except for price. Pick the vehicle category you need and the price that fits your budget.

I have lived in the upper Midwest (your travel area) most of my life. There could be zero snow with dry roads, or there could be a blizzard with blowing snow and zero visibility, or wet snow with rain mixed with ice. It’s unpredictable. It’s reasonable to expect that weather will delay your driving, especially with the relatively long distance your itinerary contemplates. Be sure your itinerary includes flexibility for unexpected delays. If you plan a tightly packed wall-to-wall schedule it will be stressful for you and your group. Speaking from experience.

Bus and train transport over long distances in the U.S. is miserable. I would avoid it. Fly or drive. Bus and train in the U.S. is neither cheaper, faster nor more convenient nor comfortable. It’s worse on all accounts.
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      09-18-2022, 07:49 AM   #3
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You have many options to go between the 2 places. The shore line of Lake MI is a massive area and touches 4 states. I'm assuming you're visiting Holland, MI area in my travel scenarios. If travel to North Chicago, Milwaukee, Door County or Upper Peninsula MI I'll start over.
1. Rent a car is easy around Time Sq, getting out of NYC in traffic takes a bit of white knuckles most of the time. cost reasonable most times for NYC rates however the week of Xmas will be quite expensive.
2. Train out of NYC Penn Station on the Lake shore limited leaving the 20th to South Bend is very reasonable coach ticket is only $55per person and Roomette for 2 on 12/20 $736, 21st $810. I enjoy taking this train if no hurries, if you're social, swapping stories in the lounge or dinning car as an Aussie I'm sure would be worth it. This train is laced with delays most days running 2-5hrs behind schedule regardless of weather
2a. Not knowing where along Lake MI, there is rail and bus option from South Bend to Michigan City however if your buddies plan to drive to Chicago they'd be able to get to South Bend far easier(stress-less).
3. Fly, getting from NYC to this area of the midwest has lots of options and nearly all will have connecting flights thru Chicago or Detroit. again the same issue of the rental car the week of Xmas it's above normal pricing.
4. Bus, I've never done it and prob never will.

edit: just noticed the Niagara Falls part, well good info if only...
train to the destinations I'd prob choose just Amtrak the trip
https://www.amtrak.com/routes/lake-s...ted-train.html
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Last edited by Tuxedo; 09-18-2022 at 08:02 AM..
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      09-18-2022, 07:55 AM   #4
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born and raised in Detroit
spent 4 years living in Chicago
have lived in NYC for 16 years.

NYC winters are very mild
Upstate NY is not mild
Canada is not mild
Michigan is not mild
Chicago is not mild

chances are you will find snow
through most of your trip with
times of no snow…

oh and Times Square is lame! :P
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      09-18-2022, 08:16 AM   #5
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Canadian Niagara falls is the best side. Just saying.
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      09-18-2022, 09:40 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by freakystyly View Post
Canadian Niagara falls is the best side. Just saying.
Truth. The NY side is a waste of time
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      09-18-2022, 11:31 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Efthreeoh View Post
So, to make sure we understand, by "hire" you mean "rent" an automobile. You didn't indicate where in the southern hemisphere you are heading from, which is important. Do you have experience driving in snow? If not, then it will be a tricky adventure for you. I've taken numerous driving trips at the end of December to New England and New York State and the mid West for the purpose of finding snow (it's my wife's thing). Expect to drive in snow while in New York state and Canada and Michigan. The weather can be severe.

A week in NYC? Give it 2 days max, maybe 3. NYC used to be nice in the wintertime/Christmastime; decorated pretty and didn't smell so bad. But American politics now doesn't allow celebration of Christian holidays anymore and they've let the crazy people out of their rooms, so I'm not sure how great NYC will be these days at Christmastime.

Niagra Falls is a great place to visit. The sheer mass of water that falls is incredible. And you can stand right next to the fall line on the Canadian Side and take the tour behind the falls.

Good luck with your trip!
+1 I wouldn't spend a week in NYC. It's unnecessary, loud, expensive and hard to get around if you are in Manhattan, Queens or Brooklyn.
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      09-18-2022, 01:36 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by freakystyly View Post
Canadian Niagara falls is the best side. Just saying.
i read on the US customs website that due to travelling with my Visa Waiver I cannot go into Canada and re-enter?
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      09-18-2022, 01:37 PM   #9
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+1 I wouldn't spend a week in NYC. It's unnecessary, loud, expensive and hard to get around if you are in Manhattan, Queens or Brooklyn.
I have a meeting there. noted!
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      09-18-2022, 01:51 PM   #10
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thanks everyone. Michigan bit is the north tip, near Boyne City.

makes me not want to drive north!

how about drive towards Washington or Boston and fly to Niagra?

and fly to the nearest place to Boyne City?
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      09-18-2022, 01:58 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chassis View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Efthreeoh View Post
So, to make sure we understand, by "hire" you mean "rent" an automobile. You didn't indicate where in the southern hemisphere you are heading from, which is important. Do you have experience driving in snow? If not, then it will be a tricky adventure for you. I've taken numerous driving trips at the end of December to New England and New York State and the mid West for the purpose of finding snow (it's my wife's thing). Expect to drive in snow while in New York state and Canada and Michigan. The weather can be severe.

A week in NYC? Give it 2 days max, maybe 3. NYC used to be nice in the wintertime/Christmastime; decorated pretty and didn't smell so bad. But American politics now doesn't allow celebration of Christian holidays anymore and they've let the crazy people out of their rooms, so I'm not sure how great NYC will be these days at Christmastime.

Niagra Falls is a great place to visit. The sheer mass of water that falls is incredible. And you can stand right next to the fall line on the Canadian Side and take the tour behind the falls.

Good luck with your trip!
+1 I wouldn't spend a week in NYC. It's unnecessary, loud, expensive and hard to get around if you are in Manhattan, Queens or Brooklyn.
you must be from the Midwest
that's where the intolerant root! 😂

NYC is an incredible place to visit
nowhere else like it on earth—
the opposite of the Midwest!
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      09-18-2022, 03:32 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Efthreeoh View Post
My wife, then girlfriend, lived in Manhattan (51st & 2nd) in the mid-1990s for about 2 years then moved North, closer to her employer. I visited her every other weekend. It's a fun place to visit, but it got old after a while. New Yorkers are very nice people one on one in a personal setting like a bar or restaurant. I've heard it's a bit more crime ridden now than in the mid-'90s.

Food is great almost everywhere. OP, get a pizza while you are there.
NYC is relatively safe nowadays, safer than almost any other big city in US. Now if he decides to visit Philadelphia, that's a whole other story.
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      09-18-2022, 08:31 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by G99M5 View Post
i read on the US customs website that due to travelling with my Visa Waiver I cannot go into Canada and re-enter?
Sure you can, nothing stopping you. A few things to consider, i am en expat living in Toronto so just a few notes.

- Have you been anywhere cold before? No, not Canberra mid July.... proper cold? If not, fuck me dead,it's going ot be colder than you imagined humanly possible. So make sure your car is well equipped, two most important things are good gloves and dry socks.

- Have you driven on ice and snow? If not, be sure to rent a car with snow tyres. Driving on snow/ice with all seasons with family in the back...... gonna be a bit sketchy, i mean you can do it but go VERY slowly.

- As soon as you hit the US ask for an exchange of $100 in $1 notes, you will burn through that in the first few days with all the tipping but it is what it is.
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      09-18-2022, 08:37 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Efthreeoh View Post
A week in NYC? Give it 2 days max, maybe 3. NYC used to be nice in the wintertime/Christmastime; decorated pretty and didn't smell so bad. But American politics now doesn't allow celebration of Christian holidays anymore and they've let the crazy people out of their rooms, so I'm not sure how great NYC will be these days at Christmastime.
I hope potential visitors don't take this rant seriously. I had two daughters living in NYC for ten-years. A fantastic place to visit; Broadway, Museums, etc. No other city like it. See it once, then decide for yourself.

I love Michigan, too, but I save those visits for the months of July and August so I can enjoy the water!
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      09-18-2022, 08:44 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by G99M5 View Post
thanks everyone. Michigan bit is the north tip, near Boyne City.

makes me not want to drive north!

how about drive towards Washington or Boston and fly to Niagra?

and fly to the nearest place to Boyne City?
if possible, fly from JFK nyc to Buffalo and rent a car there then drive to Niagara. It's only about 45 mins drive.

Make sure to bring ski clothing, covering body completely and water repelling if possible. You may get soaked by the falls if temp is above 0 deg C and it's windy. The best scenario would be a calm cold day.

Then try to fly from Buffalo to Deroit or another small airport closer to your final destination.

This is what I would do.

Also, there is lake effect possible in Buffalo and Niagara, meaning that massive amounts of snow can fall within 3-4 hrs. Sometime they get 5-6ft overnight. It's not a joke and in many areas they shut down roads for clean up. This must be taken seriously in the planning. The silver lining is they know how to deal with it and have equipment. If cars are stuck on roads, some residents will come out with snowmobiles and rescue folks. Highly recommend 4wd when driving up north and make sure the car has good tires and bring always dry food with you.
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      09-19-2022, 06:05 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by G99M5 View Post
thanks everyone. Michigan bit is the north tip, near Boyne City.

makes me not want to drive north!

how about drive towards Washington or Boston and fly to Niagra?

and fly to the nearest place to Boyne City?
What do you want, really? What is your departure airport leaving the US?

Niagara is OK. That’s all. It’s a 2 hour look at the falls endeavor, and in the winter you may not last that long outdoors (cold).

Boyne is pretty. And snowy. As already mentioned, plan for travel delays in upstate NY, Michigan and Chicago. You may have no delays, or you may have big ones.

If you are arriving by plane to NYC, do your Manhattan thing then stay in a bed/breakfast or inn in the Hudson Valley or western Massachusetts. If you can find a place. This is the densest population center in the US and if you haven’t booked now, it will be challenging and expensive to find lodging.

Another suggestion for a few days of winter experience is a hotel or b/b stay in Ithaca, NY. Google it.

Another suggestion is to stay in DC or on/near the Chesapeake. The Line Hotel in DC is one idea. Look also at b/b lodging in Havre de Grace, Maryland.

Look into the Bavarian Inn in Sheherdstown, West Virginia.

Regarding 10" comment, NYC is the best city in the world. If you don’t live there, and are a visitor, a week is far too long to visit. It is loud, hard to move around and expensive. I have lived in the mid-Atlantic; I speak from first-hand experience with many business- and tourist-related visits.

Unless of course one stays in 5-star accommodations for a week, but the OP has not disclosed his lodging budget, so the assumption is not 5-star accommodations.
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      09-19-2022, 06:27 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Alfisti View Post
- As soon as you hit the US ask for an exchange of $100 in $1 notes, you will burn through that in the first few days with all the tipping but it is what it is.


So sad but so true....
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      09-19-2022, 06:35 AM   #18
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As for all the New York comments. I've lived in Chicago for quite a while now, and just recently went on a short 4 day trip to New York. It's definitely something worth seeing. Yes it's loud and chaotic, but that in itself is a sight to see. Plus with great food options and plenty to see and do, I'd highly recommend checking it out.

I also echo some comments about hiring a car that'll put you in a better position to drive in snow. Definitely look for an AWD, SUV type, and preferably with snow tires. Midwest winters can get very unpredictable. And if you're driving through a lot of Michigan, some of the rural roads off the highway can remain unplowed after a snowstorm.

Also something to consider, if this is a one-way trip through the midwest, car hire prices can skyrocket if you don't return the car back to the same place you hired it. So unless you really want to road trip the midwest United States, you might also consider public transportation options (flying, trains, etc). Those would also be much safer options than driving given the unpredictability of the weather.
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      09-19-2022, 07:01 AM   #19
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Early/Mid December we may not even have snow that sticks on the ground. There's always a chance and it lately it's been getting later and later in the year before the first actual snow... though I think I heard this winter was supposed to be colder and snowier.
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      09-19-2022, 08:29 AM   #20
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Be ready to be C-O-L-D. Damn - it'll be cold up there that time of the year!
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      09-19-2022, 09:32 AM   #21
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I'd like to know where he is from, melbourne is one thing, or NZ, but fuck me if he's coming from Queensland to northern michigan in december, that's a HELL of a swing.
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      09-19-2022, 02:42 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tuxedo View Post
You have many options to go between the 2 places. The shore line of Lake MI is a massive area and touches 4 states. I'm assuming you're visiting Holland, MI area in my travel scenarios. If travel to North Chicago, Milwaukee, Door County or Upper Peninsula MI I'll start over.
1. Rent a car is easy around Time Sq, getting out of NYC in traffic takes a bit of white knuckles most of the time. cost reasonable most times for NYC rates however the week of Xmas will be quite expensive.
2. Train out of NYC Penn Station on the Lake shore limited leaving the 20th to South Bend is very reasonable coach ticket is only $55per person and Roomette for 2 on 12/20 $736, 21st $810. I enjoy taking this train if no hurries, if you're social, swapping stories in the lounge or dinning car as an Aussie I'm sure would be worth it. This train is laced with delays most days running 2-5hrs behind schedule regardless of weather
2a. Not knowing where along Lake MI, there is rail and bus option from South Bend to Michigan City however if your buddies plan to drive to Chicago they'd be able to get to South Bend far easier(stress-less).
3. Fly, getting from NYC to this area of the midwest has lots of options and nearly all will have connecting flights thru Chicago or Detroit. again the same issue of the rental car the week of Xmas it's above normal pricing.
4. Bus, I've never done it and prob never will.

edit: just noticed the Niagara Falls part, well good info if only...
train to the destinations I'd prob choose just Amtrak the trip
https://www.amtrak.com/routes/lake-s...ted-train.html
for the record #49 (Lake Shore Ltd) does not go to/thru Niagara Falls, there are other options in Amtraks Empire Service that do though
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